COVID-19 has changed how people work and interact with each other – from sales people being unable to hop on a plane to visit a customer to employees no longer meeting at the water cooler to build working relationships. Corporations have had to take a step back, look at the way they run their business, and adjust accordingly. These adjustments are also impacting organizations’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) opportunities. With the lack of in-person gatherings and employees often working remotely from home, companies are re-evaluating the way they support their employees as well as the communities they served pre-COVID.
One thing is clear: COVID will not stop corporations from giving. On the contrary, now is the time to step up and show employees, customers, and the rest of the world that they can help the less fortunate during these challenging times.
In this month’s post we provide a glimpse into the Corporate Social Responsibility world, and we’ll share our advice on how nonprofits can partner more effectively with companies through in-kind programs. More and more, donors are looking for tangible ways to contribute beyond simply giving cash. And especially because in-person projects are not recommended in the current climate, in-kind programs offer the opportunity to connect employees with causes on a deeper level than simply giving cash.
Why Are Corporations Interested in Engaging with Nonprofits?
Several reasons incentivize companies large and small to engage with nonprofits:
- It improves employee and customer engagement: The act of giving and being socially responsible to local communities has shown to increase employee satisfaction and improve customer loyalty. Studies show that increased customer engagement improves morale, reduces absenteeism, and is correlated with higher profitability. After all, who doesn’t want to work for (or buy from) a company that makes the world a better place in several tangible ways?
- It increases brand awareness: Engaging in giving programs generates positive awareness and brand image externally, and gives companies bragging rights to the good they help spread. According to Forbes, “roughly 82% of U.S. consumers actually consider corporate social responsibility when deciding what services and products to buy and from where.” And in another survey, a whopping 86% of Generation Y workers responded that they highly value corporate social responsibility programs and would leave their jobs if these programs were discontinued.
- It provides tax benefits: Goods donated to nonprofits are considered in-kind donations. Many resellers and/or manufacturers commonly donate aged or excess inventory to nonprofits, but goods can also be purchased specifically for nonprofit needs (like school supplies for back to school campaigns or gifts for holiday toy drives). You may find more information about the tax benefits here.
- They simply want to help out: Many companies have identified causes that align with their work or that they care about in their local communities. Despite all the other benefits that can motivate companies to do good, many are simply interested in helping those in need. In fact, and there’s a growing number of “social enterprises,” where their social objectives are just as important as their financial objectives.
Additional benefits of in-kind programs include:
- Allowing employees to actively engage in the act of giving, hence supporting the culture and the company’s core values.
- Improving collaboration among employees by bringing people together in a different light for a positive, common goal.
- Educating employees about the types of goods needed most from nonprofit organizations: any food banks are educating their clients about the importance of healthy eating, so many are requesting healthier food items from donors – including items such as canned protein. low sugar cereal, brown rice, and other healthier options.
Examples of Corporate In-Kind Programs
Below are a few short case studies of successful in-kind corporate programs facilitated by Roonga:
- United Way of Nashville’s Stuff the Bus: The United Way of Nashville runs a huge school supply drive every year for their community. A large part of its success is their corporate involvement – as many as 80 companies participate in any given year. To motivate their companies, they hold competitions and give awards for metrics like quickest to reach their goal, largest numbers donors, highest number of supplies purchased – across various company sizes so that large companies do not have an unfair advantage. They also create posters for each participating company to highlight their involvement and awards. In total, the program has become a great community event for all the companies and individuals involved, with strong support from their corporate community.
- Aetna School Supply Giveaway: Aetna’s Phoenix location and its employees provide backpacks and school supplies to low income children every year through their partnership with a local nonprofit. Typically, the company purchases the backpacks and challenges the employees to fill them with supplies – last year, they went completely online and asked all their employees to purchase through their online donation drive. In a normal year, the employees would then gather to organize the supplies and stuff the backpacks. Given the pandemic, last year, the backpacks and supplies were shipped directly to the nonprofit for processing and distribution.
- Heart of West Michigan United Way’s Stuff the Sled: With a hefty goal of assembling 1000 holiday gift bags, over 50 groups came together to support Stuff the Sled in 2020. The companies helped purchase age appropriate toys, books and winter clothing to bring holiday cheer to low income children in their partnering Head Start programs. Each company was responsible for supporting a specific classroom and had a designated web page for their initiative. The company Bissell, for example, was asked to support a preschool classroom led by teacher Lara Douglas:
"Our classroom, despite being separated into two sections, both are comprised of children who are equally engaged with one another. One class is comprised of almost entirely Spanish speaking children and the other class is more diverse. We have presented these challenges that we all are facing at this time as a way to keep one another safe. The children have all been very accepting of the new routine and have been more aware about how they interact with one another. Although we use this positive language in the classroom, we have been using it more often as a way of helping them understand how to treat one another."
Advice to Maximize Engagements with Companies
Once the engagement is underway, be sure to consider the following advice we’ve gathered from similar programs:
- Keep safety a top priority: Be clear on the measures being taken to ensure compliance with COVID-19 guidelines. Digital campaigns are idea for raising cash since they do not require in-person interactions, but they lack the personal touch. In-kind programs are a great option when employees are looking for a more tangible connection a cause. Because these programs can be conducted entirely online, remote employees can participate effortlessly from wherever they are, like they can with cash campaigns.
- Plan according to corporate budgeting cycles: This is critical to ensure that the appropriate budget will be set aside to support your organization. There are two key times to keep an eye out for:
- The annual budgeting cycle: Make sure you understand how and when the budgets are finalized – help either the CSR team or your functional contact understand your needs early enough to include potential donations or expenses in their budget. Timing is everything in making sure your programs are earmarked!
- The fiscal year-end: Many companies have a ‘use to or lose it’ budget policy, where funds must be spent by the end of a fiscal year. Understanding when the fiscal year closes for your corporate partners may result in some quick wins if there is “money left over” in their budgets. If they need to spend their funds, offer suggestions for specific supplies or goods needed. We have helped companies purchase supplies for nonprofits in this very scenario!
- Be flexible: Make it easy for companies to partner with you – provide them with a menu of different options throughout the year that they can choose from. Or, offer to partner on a custom project to meet their specific requirements and timelines.
- Provide necessary tax documentation in a timely manner: Remember that in-kind goods are also considered donations and are assessed for their market value. Equally important, this is also another touch point with your corporate contacts, an opportunity to showcase the achievements of the project. So while important to provide companies with correct and accurate tax information for their reporting needs, you can also show your appreciation and remind them of their results. You can learn more about how to acknowledge in-kind donations here. You can learn more about how to acknowledge in-kind donations here.
- Communicate Effectively: From planning to logistics to simply keeping in touch, help your corporate partners understand what is expected of them and when. Stay in touch on a regular basis, and keep them informed about new opportunities or changes at your organization that they may be interested in.
- Make it fun! Friendly competitions between teams, tracking progress with exciting announcements, and photo sharing on social media are just a few ideas to bring your program to life.
Especially during this time, employees need opportunities to rally together and participate in opportunities that break the day-to-day doldrums. In-kind campaigns are a great way to improve employee engagement and strengthen the company’s culture. The company can benefit from tangible incentives as well as a positive brand image. All of these elements are key to achieving increased profitability and long-term financial success, which make them perfect partners for nonprofits like yours.
We would love to hear about your successful corporate partnerships. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a note below. Reach out if we can help make your in-kind program successful!