By Angela Young 05 December 2017

There are plenty of ways companies can help worthwhile organisations without straining their own bottom lines.

It’s not all about the money. 

According to many charities that benefit from today’s plethora of corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, cold hard cash is way down the list of priorities.  

Voluntary work, event hosting and campaign promotions are often closer to the top of that list – welcome news for companies unable to devote financial resources to causes their employees are passionate about. 

And in further good news, it’s become quite routine for charities to see the relationships with donor companies as essentially reciprocal in nature. 

Nigel Harris, CEO of Mater Foundation in Brisbane, says that when his organisation partners with a corporation, he seeks to help that business affirm its relevance within its market segment.

“Cash is almost a transactional by-product of any association,” Harris says. It’s not uncommon, he suggests, for corporate cash contributions to total less than 10 per cent of a charity’s income.

Corporate participants at the Mater Foundation's Climb for Cancer.

Building alliances

One key way an organisation can help its chosen charity is by offering event venues. The Mater Foundation’s annual stair climb fundraiser, Climb for Cancer, takes place at Dexus’s Waterfront Place building in Brisbane, thanks to the long running relationship the property company has with the charity.

In offering such in-kind support for Climb for Cancer, Dexus “has enabled, in this instance, 10 times more than what’s actually represented by the gift,” says Harris.

Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation CEO Nicola Stokes also stresses the variety of ways different corporate sponsors can offer valuable assistance.

“Staff can volunteer with us and participate in workplace giving, a business’s networks can amplify our messages, and physical resources – such as event space or catering – can be put to good use by helping to underwrite the cost of fundraising.”

One substantial reward for companies participating in such mutually beneficial relationships, Stokes points out, is talent retention.

“The benefit of CSR is well established and helps attract and retain top talent,” she says. “It can translate to increased staff engagement, providing an increased connection to where they work as well as positive brand recognition with stakeholders.”

Sydney Children’s Hospital volunteers brighten up the outdoor seating.

A century of the Salvos

Corporate partnerships manager at The Salvation Army, Jill Summers, says the high-profile organisation’s 100 years in Australia means it can offer companies strong brand alignment through the public trust that it has built up steadily over decades of serving Australian communities. 

She agrees that the potential for encouraging staff loyalty is huge.

“Evidence shows that employees are more loyal to employers that have a conscience, and consumers are more likely to buy products with purpose.”

Samantha Hensman is one Sydney-based business development manager for whom philanthropy is very important. She spends her Friday mornings helping at the Exodus Foundation’s Loaves and Fishes Restaurant in Ashfield. The Exodus Foundation provides meals, medical care, legal assistance and other services to the disadvantaged. 

Hensman once persuaded a former employer to swap client gifts for a donation to this worthy cause.

“Rather than the large hamper we would often send out to clients at Christmas, we distributed small gifts with a card explaining that we’d instead make a donation to Exodus. It made people feel good, and the customer feedback was fantastic,” she recalls.

Corporate giving is about providing an experience and meaning to a staff group … leveraging the advocacy a company can have with its networks. Nigel Harris, CEO Mater Foundation, Brisbane

A two-way street

As the corporate giving movement grows and matures, what is becoming clear is that the benefits usually flow in both directions.

For Harris, it’s about “providing an experience and meaning to a staff group … leveraging the advocacy a company can have with its networks.” 

The Salvos, meanwhile, “connect our programs with organisations to help them seek mentors, work experience and work placement opportunities”.

And then there are those occasions when it’s personal.

“Sometimes there’s a personal connection because someone’s child has been cared for at Sydney Children’s Hospital, and they take that passion and desire to give back into their workplace,” Stokes explains. “They’re often our most powerful ambassadors, and they often act as the catalyst for their colleagues and their employer to get behind them.”

Whether it’s a children’s foundation, a soup kitchen or an animal shelter, the range of charitable organisations offering corporate partnerships and opportunities is huge, so there’s a fit for every kind of business. 

Can you really afford not to give? 

The Salvos enlist corporate partners to help with their Christmas appeal.
Expand your corporate giving - without paying extra

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