Purpose Is Key

by Alessandra Cavalluzzi

How well do you know your company’s purpose, its reason for existing? Knowing your company is more than just knowing what types of products you manufacture or sell, what kind of services you offer, or the benefit plan your employees receive. What you need to know are your organization’s goals and objectives. You must understand your corporate culture, and why your company does what it does.

The reason it’s so important to begin with understanding your company’s purpose is because your program’s goals and objectives will need to be aligned with your company’s goals in order for you to create measurable and sustainable impact in your community.  You should take the time to get to know the decision makers at your company if you don’t know them already. What is their leadership style? Are they receptive to new ideas? What do they think about charitable causes and community service? It’s time to start these conversations and ask questions. Think of it as a fact-finding mission to gather intel you’ll use to create a community involvement program that will engage your employees and create impactful and measurable change in your community.

If you’re in an HR leadership role, you’ll be able to tap your senior leaders for their input and for the data you need. If you’re not in human resources, a good place to start having a conversation about starting a charitable giving and volunteer program would be with your HR leaders. First find out what, if anything, your company is currently doing on the philanthropy front.  Your colleagues are another excellent resource, and knowing what they think will help you tremendously.  Charitable giving and CSR help strengthen the connection between employees and their company. So you’ll definitely want to include employee feedback as part of your strategy. It will also help you determine the type of program that would be best received by employees. Once your program launches, you’ll need supporters, and showing your peers that you value their thoughts and opinions early on will help create that support team. Those supporters will play a key role throughout your process, from program launch to embedding giving into your company culture. Tell a group of your peers about your ideas and ask them if you can pick their brains a bit.

A word of advice: begin at the beginning. If you’re starting your program from scratch (which is where I was starting from), you’ll probably want to hold off on going the full CSR route, as that would be like going from a bicycle to a Ferrari, and it’s likely to get nixed by your leaders.  I go into detail about the difference between charitable giving and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programs in my book, "A Million Dollars In Change".  Start small. Identify the resources you already have at your disposal, and build from there. The big splashes will come later. Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. If you want leadership to buy into your idea, you have to show that it’s doable, and more important, that it’s doable without breaking the bank. Remember, we’re going for a million dollars’ worth of positive, impactful change without having to actually spend a million dollars to achieve it!