As 2020 comes to an end, I think most of us are breathing a collective sigh of relief and looking forward to some type of normalcy and security returning in 2021. Personally, I would argue that security is a myth but that is based on my personal experience and perspective as a cancer survivor. But for most of us, a vaccine that allows us to at least live our daily lives like we used to, is a welcome (and comforting) thought.
A friend of mine brought up an interesting way, however, to consider the impact COVID-19 has had on others. We are all together facing this pandemic and are caught “in the same storm.” These things are happening to all of us, regardless of race, gender, geography, or social status. The thing we need to consider is that we are NOT all in the same boat. Some of us are riding out this storm in freighters and yachts, while others are in a dinghy or clinging to the edge of a hastily-constructed raft. Is the visual clear in your mind? It sure stuck in mine. This is also a clear picture of the difference between equality and equity.
Sameness vs. Fairness
The idea that sometimes sameness of treatment (equality) does not result in proportional fairness (equity) is one way that these words are distinguished from each other, even in similar contexts.1
The idea that someone who has been living through 2020 in a lifeboat is going to reach “shore” in 2021 and be ready to live fully in a vaccinated world is ridiculous. Think of debt, the lost jobs and/or homes, and in some families; the loss of a loved one. If you’ve made it through 2020 relatively unscathed, I’d like to challenge you as an organization to make community outreach, advocacy, and giving your company focus areas in 2021.
There are a number of ways to do this, with many of them benefiting your business as a bonus output. Here's the case for corporate giving.
The Case for Corporate Giving:
1. Employee Recruitment
In case you haven’t been attending virtual economic outlook sessions like I have, I want to remind everyone that we are just in the beginning stages of a serious talent crunch.2 Simply put; from a population perspective, we have fewer bodies to fill the jobs we’re creating, even though unemployment is elevated right now. Consider the post-pandemic rush back to work and then add to that the younger candidates’ shift in priorities from just earning money, to having a fulfilling career with a company that cares about more than just the bottom line (sorry Gordon Gekko).
Millennials, in general, prioritize working for a company that cares about and values the same things that they do. Imagine you’re recruiting a talented candidate for a job and they go to your website and social sites to see what your organization stands for. If you are not giving, or if you’re giving but not talking about it in the right ways online, you will lose that candidate to a competitor that is.
Don’t think of it as bragging about your generosity, think instead about how “like attracts like”… you want to recruit employees that care about and value the same things that you do. They are going to be a better hire! You can talk about and promote your organizational values all day, but it really only matters in how you live and work by showing your values in action. And there’s a right way to share what you care about and a way to spotlight the causes you support so that it’s about THEM and not you.
2. Employee Retainment
When your team cares about the same things as you, they are less likely to leave. If you haven’t already set the philanthropic pillars for your corporate giving, consider a simple project that lets your employees weigh in. We recommend that our clients survey their employees to find out what causes and charities they support outside of work, then compile the results, align them with the owner’s values and causes, and publish the top three to their website (typically under the Culture, or About us section).
You can make this a simple, one time project, or you can take it to the next level. The key is that it cannot be managed nor run by any member of the leadership team. It has to come from within the organization. To do this, you can start by:
- Assigning a “community outreach champion” or champions from your team to manage incoming requests for support and sponsorships, and all community projects
- Creating a community outreach committee that meets regularly to vote/decide upon future projects
- Setting a budget (both dollar and hours) at the beginning of the year for this committee to manage
- Adding a community outreach update to your internal newsletter and quarterly company updates
- Sharing the stories and pictures (again; highlighting the cause and not your generosity)
3. Tax Relief
I know it’s not a primary focus but you do also get deductions for donations of both money and in kind services if you account for them properly.
Our Philanthropic Pillars:
At 1 Bold Step, we focus our giving on organizations that are committed to building equity in West Michigan and fighting breast cancer. We also let each team member pick a non-profit or cause they’d like to support with their time. If you’re looking for a year end project, or for a list of great organizations to support in 2021, here’s a great start!
Standup for the Cure: Standup for the Cure is a nonprofit with the express purpose of raising funds and awareness for early breast cancer detection while building a compassionate, supportive community. Founded in 2011, Standup for the Cure is fully supported by generous donations from their presenting and title partners and a host of vendors and volunteers who take part each year. Standup for the Cure has now raised over $1,350,000. Learn More >>
Ronald McDonald House of Western Michigan (RMHWM): At the RMHWM, their mission is to provide a 'home-away-from-home' for 17 families traveling to Grand Rapids for critical medical and mental health treatment for their children. With the growing healthcare system in GR and people coming from all over the globe, it is important families have a place to stay while they stay with their loved one. Learn More >>
Pack Elephant: Pack Elephant curates, sells, and delivers gourmet gift bags sourced entirely from artisans and craftsmen local to West Michigan. Not only do they allow you to shop local, but they also allow you to choose curated gifts from businesses that support social equity, environmental wellness, and/or those who identify as black, LatinX, person of color, indigenous, women, LGBTQ+, veteran, and/or disabled business owners. Along with being able to shop their curated gifts online, we’d like to congratulate Pack Elephant on their new storefront located at 121 Ionia Ave SW #105, Grand Rapids, Michigan! Learn More >>
Euzen Connect: There are hundreds of programs in West Michigan that help people address barriers to advancing their careers and lives. However, using this analog network of support can be slow and unbelievably hard at times. At Euzen Connect, they combine the power of technology and community to connect people to good work that allow people to grow, organizations to prosper, and communities to thrive. Learn More >>
Festival of the Arts: Festival of the Arts is a free three-day community event in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that features several stages of performances, a juried Regional Arts Exhibition, and dozens of food booths run by non-profit organizations. At Festival, they believe in the value of the arts in the community; Festival provides many different arts experiences and cultural opportunities that promote excellence, cross-cultural understanding, and a strong community. Learn More >>
Local First: Local First exists to support a People First Economy through local ownership. They do this because communities with higher percentages of locally-owned companies are healthier by nearly every social, environmental, and economic indicator. Learn More >>
Talent 2025: Talent 2025 is a catalyst working to ensure an ongoing supply of world-class talent for West Michigan. Composed of over 100 CEOs from the region, Talent 2025 illuminates gaps, evaluates leading practices, and advocates for the implementation of those leading practices to make West Michigan a top 20 employment region by the year 2025. Learn More >>
I saved the best benefit of having a solid case for corporate giving for last. It makes you feel good. You can look at that benefit from many different angles, but there’s no denying that giving feels better than receiving. And if you’re not sure that you can make a difference given the scope of issues we need to tackle in 2021, remember this:
“If you’re feeling helpless, help someone.”
It has been scientifically proven that supporting others activates a neural pathway in the brain that boosts our wellbeing. At the same time, if the act involves direct support (face-to-face, for example), activity in the amygdala, a part of your brain associated with fear and stress responses, is lowered. Ultimately, this causes us to be happier and less-stressed. Helping others is a great way to combat that COVID anxiety.
With hope and bold wishes for 2021,
1 Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/equality-vs-equity-difference