Rethinking the Pin-up Campaign

Pin-up campaigns ask that a retailer’s customer donate a dollar to a charity during checkout. In exchange, the customer gets to put their name on a piece of paper and hang it within the store. I recently saw a press release that announced a pin-up campaign at a regional pawn store chain, of all things. Charity pin-up program at retailers are ubiquitous; you can hardly go into a grocery store, pharmacy, corner deli … or apparently even a pawn store without being asked if you want to participate.

alyson blog

By Alyson Genovese

Nonprofits love them. They are a fairly easy way to get their brand in front of a lot of consumers and they do raise a lot of cash. A ton of cash. Joe Waters at, for instance, noted that Children’s Miracle Network raised more than $100 million in 2014 from printing 75 million pin-ups reaching 65,000 corporate partner retail locations nationwide.

And corporations love them. The funds raised by these programs are included in the charitable giving totals reported by corporations, significantly boosting their rates with little to no cash outlay. They offer a highly visible in-store reminder of their commitment to philanthropy and there’s little risk to the company or its brand.

Win-win relationship, right? Not so fast.

Here’s why:

1. They allow corporations to use OPM to pad philanthropic totals

When starting out in the field of cause marketing, one of the first terms I learned was the value of OPM – Other People’s Money. A 2013 survey conducted by Cause Marketing Forum found that point-of-sale consumer donation programs like pin-up campaigns raised $358 Million from 62 corporate programs nationwide in 2012. This total represents just a fraction of the total programs happening everyday across the country. All of it is claimed by corporations as part of their philanthropic commitments, but all of it was donated by consumers. Allowing companies to lay claim to hundreds of millions of dollars of their consumers’ funds is disingenuous and creates an inaccurate perception of a company’s investment in our local communities.

2. It makes companies look lazy

Companies across the globe are thinking more creatively than ever about their role in the communities in which they live and work. In an earlier post, I examined how companies are using their assets strategically to help solve remarkably complex social issues. Companies – particularly retailers – are constantly trying to demonstrate distinctiveness. When your company is the fourth of the day to ask for a dollar donation, that is the exact opposite of a distinctive experience. Many companies that do use pin-up campaigns have remarkable and thoughtful philanthropic strategies. But what the consumer sees is an uninspired pin-up campaign.

3. It’s annoying to customers

When I walk into my local convenience store, I wish to get the closest cold caffeinated beverage and be on my way. Instead, I am asked if I want to donate $1 to the charity du jour, delaying my enjoyment of said cold beverage. I decline the donation, and am now feeling slightly annoyed and/or guilty. I doubt this is the experience the brand had intended for me as a customer.

4. It doesn’t help lift the brand

Perhaps one of the most important reasons why companies should just stop with the pin-up campaigns is that they ultimately don’t help reach business objectives. These pin-up campaigns are strictly transactional; they offer little “stickiness.” Ultimately, consumers don’t equate donations at checkout with feeling more affinity towards the retail brand. This is particularly an issue for companies that use pin-up campaigns for a number of different charities throughout the year. There’s no way for consumers to truly understand what you stand for if you don’t have a strategic tie-in or consistent presence.

But what alternatives are there? Understanding that companies wish to share the experience of giving with their consumers, what other models are there to consider?

1. Consider a “gift with purchase” model

Kohl’s and Macy’s have both effectively created point-of-sale-fundraising programs that allow dollars to be raised via their consumers, but unlike other programs, these offer actual value for each donation. Whether a book for their grandchild or a coupon for a special purchase day, consumers have a tangible reason to feel good about their small donation, and can reflect on that donation long after they’ve left the store. A number of online retailers such as Halo Pets also offer similar gift-for-donation opportunities.

2. Examine “matching dollars” options

Although this doesn’t eliminate the ever-annoying pin-up campaign entirely, it’s safe to say that consumers would feel better about making the donation if they knew that the company was matching their donation dollar-for-dollar.

3. Allow consumers to donate “loyalty rewards” to the charity

My local gas station offers me points for filling up at their location, but I never seem to be able to take advantage of the savings. Aggregating my small points with others, the company can donate those to a local nonprofit in need of gas cards or heating oil. I get to feel better about giving something away that literally cost me nothing. Target’s 20+ year old Take Charge of Education program allows you to use your Target card in store while 5% goes back to the school of your choosing. It’s an easy reminder for me to pull out that card at the register, and I feel great when the school newsletter tells us how much was raised by our collective spending.

I mentioned this article at a recent conference on corporate philanthropy and got some interesting visceral responses. What are your thoughts on pin-up campaigns? Are they the program that people love to hate but can’t part with? Are they here to stay? Ideas for alternatives? We look forward to hearing from you.

Alyson Genovese
Guest Blogger
Follow Alyson on Twitter
Connect with Alyson on LinkedIn

Is a Woman Worth More With an MBA?

This article was written on International Women’s Day on a flight from Indianapolis to Madrid.

Today is International Women’s Day and I find myself feeling proud and humbled as a woman traveling the final stretch of a long road to my first graduate degree. Friday the 13th (hopefully not an omen) is the day of the ceremony where I will receive a degree stating that I am a Master of Business Administration – whatever that means.

ang grad

By Angela Parker

Before I started this degree I wondered if I was making the worst decision of my life. I questioned whether I would drown in feelings of inadequacy and anxiety, if I would be able to manage work and life while studying, and if I was overestimating my abilities. Why did I want to study business in the first place? Aside from my terrible grades in high school and as an undergrad, I am not a typical businesswoman. I am an artsy girl who likes to read. I am great with kids and creativity. I spent the mid-2000s cleaning houses to make a living and only co-founded a consulting company in 2008 because I was surrounded by people who believed in me more than I believed in myself.

I know now that their belief in me was well founded. It’s true; I do have something to offer. But that was true long before I started business school, which didn’t give me anything I didn’t already have except, I suppose, a belief in myself. And that’s the part that disappoints me …

As a product of middle class America, I measure my value based on what I have been taught. Do I have the degrees that prove my words carry weight? Have I earned the right to your respect?

At Realized Worth, a fundamental part of our work involves designing corporate volunteer programs that double as self-perpetuating leadership development systems. What that means is that the design of each program is unique to the company it lives within, but the framework is consistent. It takes into account the natural behaviors and motivations of human beings and allows what’s already working to be even more effective.

But here’s the thing: that self-perpetuating leadership development system is not just governance or the delegation of responsibility; rather, it is a movement from transactional volunteering to transformational volunteering. Our aim is to take as many employee volunteers as possible along a continuum that gives them the opportunity to be changed by the experience of volunteering. The psychological effects of this process on individuals can make it possible to address major societal issues in ways that currently take place only on a very small scale.

If I can summarize that psychological effect into one concept, it is equality. And perhaps taking it one step further, it is a concept of value. As a product of middle class America, I measure my value based on what I have been taught: lessons that ask questions about where I’m from, what I drive, what I do, how much I know, and so on. Am I young enough, old enough, fit enough, humble enough, assertive enough to deserve your attention? Do I have the degrees that prove my words carry weight? Have I earned the right to your respect?

When we enter spaces outside our comfort zones where men and women live in the margins of society, we are faced with a cognitive dissonance … that can empower us to see that the person we are “helping” as no different than ourselves.

Like you, I know that these are not true measures of value. And like you, I am still knocked over by them on a regular basis. But there is one place, one consistent experience, where I find myself gently eased into a clear and calming reminder of my own intrinsic value as a human being, and more specifically, as a woman. It is the only experience I know where this reminder finds its way to everyone who is ready for it – and it happens again and again, without reserve. It is, of course, the experience of volunteering. When we enter spaces outside our comfort zones, whether at an animal shelter, disaster zone, environmental cleanup, or in my case where men and women live in the margins of society, we are faced with a cognitive dissonance. If we are ready – when the circumstances in our lives and the openness of our hearts allow it – that dissonance can empower us to see that the person or people we are “helping” as no different than ourselves. We are equal in value, separated only by upbringing, economic status, or maybe a series of unfortunate choices. When that moment happens to us, we remember our value – a value that cannot be earned or taken from us.

I can only hope that on Friday the 13th, when I am handed a piece of paper that says I am more valuable today than I was yesterday, I will hold it lightly and refuse to display it as a label that demands deference. I hope that I will not separate myself from those affected by inequality, but I will intentionally put myself in situations that teach me we are all the same. I hope that I will use the privilege afforded me to fight the accepted objectification of marginalized people; educate against a deeply held belief that it is “us and them,” and refuse the temptation to believe that my education makes me worth more than I was before.

Angela Parker
Co-founder/Partner, Realized Worth
Follow Angela on Twitter
Connect with Angela on LinkedIn

Another 51 Great Sites for CSR, Corporate Volunteering, & Workplace Giving (UPDATED)

In 2009, Realized Worth’s Chris Jarvis published a list entitled 51 Great Sites for Corporate Social Responsibility. To this day, that article receives thousands of reads per week – and it’s high time we provided an update. Realized Worth is excited to present Another 51 Great Sites for Corporate Social Responsibility! This list specifically includes sites that provide resources practitioners can apply on a practical level in 4 categories: corporate volunteering, CSR news and organizations, CSR bloggers, and workplace giving.

Editor’s note: while this blog will continually be updated to list more and more great sites, the title will stay the same. We hope you don’t feel deceived when you realize there are, in fact, more than 51 sites. 

sites image

18 Corporate Volunteering Resources

1. Charity Village

A Canadian-based organization, Charity Village facilitates an online community where likeminded peers connect and share resources, best practices, and volunteering opportunities. The site provides readers information on topics ranging from work life to human resources to engaging volunteers.

2. Collective Responsibility

As a CSR consulting firm based in Shanghai, the Collective Responsibility blog is one of the few sources for digging into the sometimes complicated world of volunteering, giving, and strategic impact in China. As the field grows and companies learn to prioritize their global locations, this resource is becoming increasingly relevant.


As the organization that produces the annual study Giving in Numbers, CECP is leading the field in research and best practices. Their website provides a wealth of resources on topics including measuring value, disaster response, shaping the future, and corporate social investment trends.

4. Corporation for National and Community Service

Corporation for National and Community Service is the nation’s largest grant making organization. As the originator of initiatives like AmeriCorps and the Social Innovation Fund, CNCS is US-centric, but their blog is still a great resource for anyone with its inspiring videos, information on upcoming national service events, and stories of volunteering across the nation.

5. Energize, Inc. – Volunteer Management Resources for Directors of Volunteers

A site Realized Worth visits regularly for volunteer engagement resources, the intended audience of Energize, Inc. is specifically leaders of volunteers. Their A-Z on volunteer management is an extensive, searchable library of over 100 topics.

6. Engaging Volunteers

Engaging Volunteers is a blog provided by the Volunteer Match team for social change organizations. VolunteerMatch provides an online service that matches volunteers to nonprofits, but just a quick visit to their site will demonstrate that they do much, much more than that. Their blog, written by members of the team as well as third-party experts in the volunteering and technology community, is a must-have source for trends and best practices in the field.

7. HandsOn Network 

The HandsOn Network is a nonprofit organization focused on community service. The organization is based in Atlanta, Georgia but has a global influence. Their blog informs readers of awards in the field, great ideas for meaningful civic engagement, and stories of recent inspiring events. One of my favorites is a recent blog called 7 Reasons to Date a Volunteer.

8. International Association for Volunteer Effort

IAVE exists to strengthen and celebrate the development of volunteering worldwide. With global influence, IAVE’s resources span a wide range of useful topics including upcoming conferences and events, recently published studies, best practices, and trends in the field. Watch for IAVE’s upcoming events in your area.

9. Pro Bono Australia News

Australia has consistently proven to be ahead of the curve in all things volunteering and giving. This site provides news items focused on volunteering by business people and professionals as pro bono service. While the news items are locally based, the potential learnings are applicable globally. 

10. Pyxera Global

Pyxera is a global pro bono and international volunteering organization. Their “Borderless” blog allows the reader to filter by multiple useful topics organized into four categories: issues, services, signature initiatives and regions. Just click, search, and dig into a wealth of articles written by experts in the field.

11. Realized Worth

It’s us! As a for-profit consultancy that designs, implements, and manages corporate volunteer programs for major companies across the globe, we try to stay up on the issues and provide our blog as a resource for all types of CSR practitioners. Our blogs address major industry challenges, share key resources, and most importantly speak to “why” behind corporate volunteering and giving. 

12. The Huffington Post – Volunteerism

With the tag line “Some news is so big it needs its own page,” the popular daily news site has aggregated its volunteer related stories in a special section. Many posts are blogs from the HuffPo blog site. This section is guaranteed to provide a bump of inspiration on a day when the cubicle is getting you down.

13. Uniterra

Uniterra is a Canadian-based organization that provides voluntary cooperation and international development programs. Check out the site to learn how to participate with an international volunteering opportunity or simply browse the blog page for stories of hope and inspiration, upcoming Uniterra events, and avenues to involvement.

14. Voluntare

Voluntare is a global corporate volunteering network committed to providing resources, answering questions, and making connections for its members. Voluntare’s website is brimming with useful materials and their “contact us” page is worth utilizing if you’re looking for help related to corporate volunteering. This site is particularly useful for Spanish speakers as resources are provided in both English and Spanish.

15. Volunteer Canada

Volunteer Canada represents and advocates volunteering in Canada. The Corporate Citizenship section of their website focuses specifically on needs related to employee volunteering and giving, including information on Volunteer Canada’s consulting services as well as topics such as capacity building, knowledge exchange, and community engagement.

16. Volunteering England

Volunteering England is a membership organization for both nonprofits and corporations in the UK. While members have access to a more extensive array of resources, the website is meant to serve and assist anyone who works with volunteers including a section specifically focused on employer supported volunteering. Note the Case Studies tab and the long list of program examples available to read and download.

17. Virtual Volunteering Wiki

Virtual volunteering has become a significant enough form of volunteering that it now has its own Wiki! Opened in 2014 by Jayne Cravens and Susan J. Ellis as a virtual appendix to their new book, The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, the site is a platform for sharing news items, research papers, and other resources about online service.

18. Volunteering Is CSR: The VolunteerMatch Blog for Business Leaders

All about corporate social responsibility, Volunteering Is CSR is another blog provided by the VolunteerMatch team, but this one is intended specifically for the corporate audience. Subscribe to this blog to keep up on VolunteerMatch webinars, also a great resource for education in CSR.

19 CSR Organizations & News Resources

 1. 3BL Media

3BL Media is the number one reputable CSR news site. With content generated by hundreds of corporations who are engaging as responsible corporate citizens in innovative and meaningful ways, this site is absolutely necessary for keeping up with the latest in CSR.  

2. B Corporation

B Corporation provides a certification for companies intending to benefit society as well as their shareholders. While very focused on their own work, B Corp’s website provides a great resource for understand what it means to intentionally become a more responsible company, including the steps to begin the process of becoming a certified B Corp. 

3. Boston College Centre for Corporate Citizenship

As one of the prominent leaders in the CSR field, BCCCC offers services that range from “built-in research team” to “peer-to-peer networking and collaboration”. While some online resources are available only to members, even non-members can find valuable information on the site, particularly under the Conferences & Events and Knowledge & Events tabs.

4. Business for Social Responsibility

BSR is a consulting firm that seeks to help businesses operate in a way that contributes in the creation of  “a just and sustainable world” through implementation of their suggested strategies. The BSR website offers a robust insights section where case studies, research reports, podcasts, and the BSR blog can be found.

5. Business in the Community

Business in the Community is a British outreach charity promoting responsible business, volunteering, and CSR. Their blog articles are fun, informative, and cover a wide range of topics from inspiring stories from the developing world, to best practices examples of corporate social responsibility programs.

6. Business Respect

Business Respect offers articles and information on CSR events and semi-current CSR news. In addition to reviews, their resources section has a ranking system which is helpful for deciding what to read on topics ranging from child labor to philanthropy. 

7. Caux Round Table

Caux Round Table is an international network of business leaders working to develop ethical business practices. Caux provides intellectual strategies and management tools including downloadable toolkits and handbooks for practical use in companies.

8. Corporate Knights

Corporate Knights is a Canadian based “real” magazine (you can subscribe to the hard copy) that also provides an incredible, interactive website with a myriad of interesting and accessible resources on responsible business, corporate volunteering, best practices, thought leadership, sustainability, and more.  

9. Corporate Responsibility Magazine 

CR Magazine is the organization that generates the annual “100 Best Corporate Citizens” list! The website provides easily searchable information on topics such as business ethics, social responsibility, and socially responsible investing.   

10. CSR Europe

On their site, they state that they are the “leading European business network for Corporate Social Responsibility”. If you would like to learn more about what’s happening in the CSR field in Europe then this is the site to frequent. 

11. CSR News

As the title suggests, CSR News covers international news items related to corporate social responsibility. While the German site is updated more frequently than its English counterpart, both are great sources of current events and up-to-date information.

12. CSRwire

CSRwire, along with,, and, is part of the 3BL Media family of companies and platforms, raising awareness for CSR and sustainability initiatives around the globe. Their platform keeps you in the loop for CSR and sustainability issues. On the site you’ll find news, events, book recommendations, and more.

13. Ethical Corporation

Ethical Corporation serves CSR, compliance, risk and governance communities with topical and insightful business intelligence and meeting places. With frequent updates, lists of current events, interviews with CSR leaders, industry reports and more, this site is a must-have source of information. You can even sign up for a free weekly Ethical Corp update.

14. Ethical Performance

Originally established in the UK, Ethical Performance now provides CSR news worldwide. The website and monthly newsletter both provide extensive content, though a subscription is required to access or download full articles and reports.

15. Good Magazine

Good is unlike any other magazine as it focuses on new and inspiring stories internationally that offer practical and motivating steps toward become a “Good” global citizen. This site is brimming with inspiration for a day when the world feels a little dark. 

16. Harvard Kennedy School of Government (The CSR Initiative)

The CSR Initiative provides original content used by students for research papers and publications. Keep an eye on the site for CSR-related events typically held throughout the year and often open to the public.

17. Stanford Social Innovation Review

Stanford’s Social Innovation Review is an incredible resource for “informing and inspiring leaders of social change.” Smart, relevant, and current, SSIV publishes articles on social business, global issues, nonprofit management, employee volunteering, social entrepreneurship, and more. We recommend subscribing to the old-school, hard-copy magazine as well as checking out the podcast, Social Innovation Conversations.

18. TriplePundit

Triple Pundit is a new media company for highly conscious business leaders. With an interview series, lists of CSR courses, tweets on the current events, and insightful articles on relevant issues, Triple Pundit’s website is a resource treasure trove for all topics related to sustainability, ethics, volunteering, and corporate citizenship. 

19. UN Global Compact

The UN Global Compact is a “strategic policy initiative for businesses” that matches current strategies and operations with “ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption.” Both business and non-business organizations can collaborate here for better business practices or simply utilize the myriad of resources provided.

20. Points of Light

Points of Light is a nonprofit organization dedicated solely to the advancement of the practice of volunteer service globally. They work with both corporations and nonprofits to provide resources and guidance for increasing program effectiveness and overall impact. Between their website, blogs, conferences, and webinars, you can find everything you need to become an expert in all things volunteering!

7 CSR Bloggers

 1. Business Musings

Ramesh currently lives in Bangalore and provides his insights on business, CSR, and economic issues. As volunteering and giving become increasingly important topics as they relate to India and the recent policy changes, Business Musings is a timely and relevant resource. 

2. Coethica

David Connor, a longtime blogger and Director of CSR Wire, publishes insightful commentaries on issues related to corporate social responsibility. In his writing, he reveals a genuine passion for seeing business and people claim ethical practices as a natural and expected way of life. 

3. Crane and Matten

Dirk Matten and Andy Crane, respected authors and professors at Schulich School of Business out of York University, provide intelligent, insightful, and often subversive perspectives on topics related to CSR, shared value, sustainability, and current events. 

4. CSR Reporting

Elaine Cohen, renowned blogger, respected consultant, and published author writes this charming, personality infused blog on sustainability reporting. You’ll feel like you’re out for coffee with a friend while you learn better reporting practices.

5. In Good Company

Aman Singh is a CSR communications and social media expert, committed to advancing the field with critical analysis and forward thinking ideas. Her website, subtitled Connecting the Dots Between Business, Society & the Environment, is updated a little less frequently lately, but still a great source for a smart look at CSR related issues.

6. Jayne Cravens

Jayne Cravens is a known expert in the fields of volunteering and corporate social responsibility. She was one of the earliest practitioners providing online resources and continues to be an incredible resource. Her blog provides commentary and information on volunteerism, community engagement, nonprofit development, communications, and more.  

7. The Business Ethics Blog

Chris MacDonald is a business ethics educator, speaker, and consultant. His blog features news and commentary about corporate ethics. Those who believe the sole purpose of business is to make money will probably not be a fan of this blog.

7 Workplace Giving Resources & Blogs

Note: the following is by no means a comprehensive list of workplace giving software providers; rather, these are providers who happen to host useful resources or blogs on their websites. Please watch for our updated list of workplace giving software providers soon.

1. Benevity

Benevity provides a workplace giving solution and helps corporations enhance their volunteer program interface across various online platforms. The Benevity Blog hosts articles written by experts in the field about the latest trends and most effective best practices in giving and program enhancement.  

2. Causecast

Causecast’s workplace giving software focuses on helping create “high-impact employee led programs” for companies. Their regular blog articles address the latest challenges and trends in the world of corporate social responsibility, employee engagement, and corporate volunteering. 

3. Charities@Work

Charities@Work aims to help companies maximize the efficiency of their employee engagement programs and to show them the different possible giving options. Their website provides educational resources, volunteering opportunities, insightful blog articles, and more. 

4. Double the Donation

Double the Donation helps nonprofits and schools increase the funding they receive from corporate matching and employee volunteer grant programs. Their site provides multiple resources for companies and nonprofits including blog and a benchmarking tool.

5. EarthShare

EarthShare is an employee engagement platform that raises awareness for important environmental causes and connects companies with partnering organizations. The EarthShare@Work program connects employees with partner environmental foundations. Start by clicking on The Issues to get oriented to the resources EarthShare provides.

6. Profits4Purpose

This online giving platform enables companies to implement a direct and efficient employee volunteering program instantly. What’s unique about this is that it matches your “employees’ skills and interests to local nonprofits so both parties will receive optimum value out of the interaction. Their blog provides research and ideas for effectively engaging employees in workplace giving. 

7. YourCause 

YourCause, a provider of a workplace giving software platform, provides a fun and quippy commentary on the issues they run into as they work with companies on providing engaging giving programs. Most articles include steps for easily applicable solutions to the challenges CSR managers face on a daily basis.

What sites did we miss? Please add the URL in the comments section or reach out to us on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Realized Worth is a for-profit company that designs, implements, and manages volunteering and giving programs for major corporations around the world. Contact us via to discuss your program’s next step!

Your #1 Stakeholder: Build a Giving Strategy through Your Employees

Ever buy a hot dog on the street?

Maybe the hot dog vendor grimaced as he passed you the dog. Thoughts you may have had:

  • Was that disgust?
  • Is there rat poison on this hotdog?
  • Is this even real mustard?

These perceptions then became the basis for your interpretation that the hotdog guy? He can’t be trusted. A guy who makes a face at his own hotdogs? There’s no way you’re eating that wiener. That’s sensemaking – when human beings take lived experience and construct meaning around it. And we do it all the time.

Teamwork. Three young architects working on a project

By Kelly Lynch

Employees sensemake a corporation’s intentions or rationale behind donating or grant-making in a similar way. How employees understand a company’s goodwill is based on how dollars are given and on how that donation is communicated, both of which help employees understand the why of the donation. If the hotdog vendor had been better at communicating that his hot dogs were totally fine to eat, if he’d personalized the experience and threw in a “have a great day!” you may have perceived the situation, and his wares, much more positively.

Another important thing to remember is that a corporation’s identity is decided on by its employees through critical mass. If enough people think the same thing, or make sense of giving strategies in the same way, it becomes truth. It becomes reputation. Which is why volunteer and matching programs are just as essential to a company’s giving strategy as corporate donations and grant-making.

A well-run employee volunteer and matching program fits with corporate culture, and provides diverse ways for employees to take part in volunteering and to give back to the causes they love. And it’s a must have.


Employees are your number one stakeholder.

When it comes to corporate identity and reputation, employees play a dual role. They are invested in the company and in their communities. If you give them a meaningful way to connect with and give back to the community through the company, you are creating the best face for your organization and your people are doing good. You’re also giving employees a way to take part in the giving process, helping them see firsthand how the company is investing in communities.

Corporate giving and public perception

Reputation also plays an important role in how employees engage with the business and take pride in what they do. Public perception (which you can think of as public sensemaking) of an organization shapes an employee’s work identity and how they perceive value in what they do and the services/products their company provides. If an employee can see internally that their company supports them, through giving programs and otherwise, they will bring that experience back to their communities. And more and more corporate giving is becoming an unquestionably important part of public perception. However, building goodwill can be especially difficult for corporations.

Why is it so tough?

If ever corporations were between the proverbial rock and a hard place, it surely must be now. Contemporary organizations must operate within a globalized economy that is not only characterized by rapidly changing technology and fierce competition but also plagued by turbulent financial markets, decreasing consumer spending, and plummeting public trust. Despite or perhaps because of these challenges, today’s companies are increasingly expected to be “good corporate citizens” and to “behave with a corporate conscience” (Mize-Smith, 2010, p. 369).

Corporations are often better known for making money than giving it, and when they do give back, they don’t talk about it in the right way. Often, giving isn’t celebrated in creative ways; talking only about dollar amounts doesn’t tell anybody anything about the impact those dollars have made. If the public sees a gap between how a business says it cares about its customers and communities and how it acts upon those statements, then you’re doing it wrong.

Corporate giving plays a huge part in building customer loyalty by giving back to those customers and their communities. It shows that the relationship is not transactional.

There’s such great wisdom in the saying, “to whom much is given, much is expected.” A corporation’s customers give significant dollars to that organization. But, what’s more important than the customer paying for a service or product is their loyalty. Loyalty is so much more valuable than dollars in exchange for service because it means longevity. People will keep paying for services and products and – gasp! – may actually come to trust an organization if their loyalty is gained and kept. Corporate giving plays a huge part in building customer loyalty by giving back to those customers and their communities. It shows that the relationship is not transactional. And this brings us back to employees again, because if they’re given the right tools and support, they help foster that loyalty from the ground up.

If employees see their organization seeking out what their community needs and actually providing it, they might sensemake like so:

Hey, the place I work is doing stuff in the community – good stuff. Community seems to play a big part in how my organization does business, and that makes me feel pretty good. It makes me want to participate in my community more. I can do community work with the support of my employer, and that makes me think my employer cares about me, too. I think I like where I work, and I’m gonna let other people know it!

Give your employees what they need to help, support them generously, and they’ll bring the goodwill they foster back to the organization tenfold.

Building reputation through corporate giving

The big question we’re left with is: how does a corporation build reputation through their giving activities? The answer is that there’s no secret formula – every business is different and, based on the services/products that business offers, its employees, customers, and communities will perceive or sensemake differently. But a few key things corporations should consider are:

  • Make community giving a standard, ingrained part of business strategy. Let it permeate corporate culture and it’ll do some of the work for you.
  • Involve your employees. Help them give back to the causes they love. Help them interact with and give back to the community through the company.
  • Find out what your employees, customers, and communities need, and what their expectations are when it comes to giving. Let this inform your strategy.
  • Talk to your communities. Respond to your communities. Talk to your employees about your communities. Communication should be consistent, constant, and should have input from all parties where possible.
  • Talk about impact. Tell everybody. Dollars are great, but impact is even better.
  • Ask yourself: Is your giving long term? Will the impact last? How is it helping people?
  • Align your grant making and employee giving strategies. The two can complement one another beautifully and will make for a robust overall corporate giving structure.
  • Always remember: With great power comes great responsibility.

If you’d like our help with your employee volunteering or workplace giving program, please feel free to drop us a line at, leave a comment below, or call us at 855-926-4678. You can also reach out to us on Twitter and Facebook.

Kelly Lynch
Consultant, Project Manager
Realized Worth


Mize Smith, J. (2012). All good works are not created equal: Employee sensemaking of corporate philanthropy. Southern Communication Journal(77)5. p. 369-388.