As the coronavirus pandemic turns much of the business world upside down, numerous companies have pivoted while reevaluating their purpose, products, and relationship with customers.
One area of emphasis that has gained traction is philanthropy. Many CEOs see helping those in need as an essential element of a business, especially in these unprecedented times, says Vince Thompson (www.meltatl.com), founder and CEO of the marketing agency MELT and author of Building Brand You: How To Use Your College Experience To Find And Win Your First Job.
“Goodwill is good business,” Thompson says. “To whom much has been given, much is expected. As we are all dealing with the many effects of COVID-19, working from home, and enduring the mental strain of these stressful, uncertain times, seeking to do good right now is one of the most important things a person or a company can do.
“Goodwill reinforces a company’s purpose, which reinforces esprit de corps. Externally, philanthropy is good PR for your business, especially for small businesses that depend on their communities to keep them afloat. People are watching how companies respond in tough times, and that goodwill is reciprocated by new customers and the continued loyalty of regulars. Philanthropic actions strengthen both a company’s internal bonds and its ties with the community.”
Thompson suggests five ways companies can give back and help their own business at the same time.
Expand your reach. Thompson’s company welcomes college interns every summer. Part of the program includes engaging them with several national brands, through guest speakers and field trips. But last summer, due to the coronavirus outbreak, he evolved his business model into a remote platform, expanding into a year-round virtual series of classes and podcasts, and substantially increasing enrollment while staying connected with his business’ primary partners. “It was a way to share more career development advice with college students and give them some help they really need during these perilous times,” Thompson says.
Encourage employees to help. “A company can create positive change by leveraging its strong team culture,” Thompson says. “Allow employees company time to organize outreach activities. Find out what causes they’re passionate about. You’re then sending the importance of the philanthropic message to your workforce. Getting employee involvement from the strategic phase onward helps the philanthropic initiatives align with company goals.”
Launch a charity drive. Start a collection for a particular cause. Your company can collect non-perishable food items for distribution at food banks. Toy drives are popular around the holidays. “You can set up automatic donations through virtual giving platforms,” Thompson says. “You could even leave out a collection jar at your place of business and cash in the collected amount to send through an online portal.”
Provide selected pro bono work. Philanthropic planning must be precise, especially during a pandemic as companies strategize on what’s financially feasible and what is not. But Thompson says there’s usually room to do a few extra jobs for free, which could go a long way for someone without the means to hire you otherwise. “Research and reach out to people who can use your services but can’t afford them,” Thompson says. “Involve your team in the nominating process. These are win-win feel-good actions.”
Help other businesses. “Buying from local businesses is one of the best ways to give back, especially when so many are struggling,” Thompson says. “Leave nice reviews and link to your favorite local companies on your website. Look for beneficial cross-promotions that are good for your business and your partners.”
“More and more businesses are now realizing the importance of giving back,” Thompson says. “It simultaneously improves employee and customer engagement while making a great impact on people’s lives.”
Vince Thompson (www.meltatl.com) is the founder, chairman and CEO of MELT, one of America’s most successful sports marketing and branding agencies, and author of Build Brand You. An award-winning brand builder and sports marketer, Thompson has worked on brand strategies for some of the most famous brands in the world, including The Coca-Cola Company and Aflac. Thompson has been named one of Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “Most Admired CEOs,” among the “500 Most Influential Atlantans” by Atlanta Magazine, the American Diabetes Association’s “Father of the Year,” one of Sports Business Journal’s “Power Players,” and was listed by BizBash as one of the top 1,000 people in the event industry.