For every charity event, we can easily point to the sponsors supporting the cause. Sponsors are listed in the event program, with logos shown on the screen, and stories written in charity newsletters or perhaps there are 140-character posts expressing gratitude. It is clear charities want to properly thank companies who support them, so they shine a big light on their contribution. But is this the same for the company?
It's debatable whether companies really want to share how they're helping local causes. Do they believe in sharing the what, how and who of their philanthrostory? Are they telling their employees or customers? In large part, the answer is no and smaller companies communicate even less about philanthropy than larger corporations.
So, why don't companies want to share this information? We learned from an early age it's not polite to brag and talking about how your company's charitable giving looks, feels and sounds like bragging. The challenge for companies is to know the line between bragging and having some real pride in your community investment. Your commitment to helping others truly matters to your customers and to your employees. There is more data to reinforce that claim, but it's true for us personally. We tend to support businesses that support our community and your customers have their own personal connection with local charities.
If you'd like to start communicating your philanthrostory, then a good guiding principle is to distinguish your message from bragging to something you're proud of and sincerity is the key. Like many things, if we're not genuine, it shows and people tend to know when it's a self-serving promotion. We've all seen examples of insincere boasting, but each of us can probably also admit to being deeply moved by a CEO or a manager who talks about why they're involved with a certain cause or charity due to a personal story. Or how that propelled action to develop an employee volunteer program or to sponsor an event.
Some companies choose to keep their philanthropy private and do not disclose the list of charities they support or financial contributions. Often, this is to avoid getting solicited by other nonprofit organizations. Corporate sponsors can insist upon anonymity and this is a good route to take if you don't want anyone to know your charitable business, including your customers or employees. The best fundraising development managers, however, stay on top of the changing donor landscape to cultivate future sponsors. There is no real way to hide your charitable giving and, in general, transparency is good for your company.
Your company's philanthropic profile is also a part of a bigger picture. If it really does take a village to change lives, then why wouldn't every member of the village talk about how they are a part of the solution? How can we sustain real change, if we are not honest about what it takes for us to meet needs of those most vulnerable in our region? Also, what is the harm for a business to make generosity a part of their identity? If being "Minnesota nice" is a real identity trait, then perhaps "DuPage Do-GOODer" is true as well. Leaders set a philanthropic example and when your business proudly shares its story, you have the power to motivate other businesses to be more giving.
This is the year to share your philanthrostory because DuPage County and Giving DuPage have launched the biggest service project in the county's history called Do GOOD DuPage. The aim is to have 150,000 people do a few good things to transform our community through service and donating items. It will not be bragging, because we want to hear from you, so we may appreciate how everyone -- businesses, schools, families, faith & community groups and mayors -- in our community came together to do some good. We want to reflect upon the stories with pride, appreciate the positive impact and hope to inspire others by doing GOOD.
If you're not sure how your company can best communicate its philanthrostory or how to design an effective Philanthropy initiative, Giving DuPage is a resource for you. So, we hope your company is convinced to share your Do GOOD story. We can take some pride in community's generosity, if, in fact, it is something we claim together and if we feel it's a fabric of our society. Cynicism is easy but nobody is obliged to give back. It's voluntary and that's what makes it a special and inspired choice.
•Shefali Trivedi is the executive director of Giving DuPage in Wheaton, givingdupage.org. Share your PhilanthroSTORY at givingdupage.org/doGOOD-share.