Image: Jennifer Leahy
Corporate giving has become a fundamental part of company culture around the globe. While it’s true that funding is a critical part of keeping charities operating, just throwing cash at causes isn’t enough if companies want to truly maximize these partnerships. Real partnership comes from companies investing their people’s time, energy and passion on the ground, as well.
Companies showing up to do real work opens opportunity for meaningful connections and bonds between people and partner organizations. Being physically present — whether it’s serving meals, mentoring kids or any number of on-the-ground actions — amplifies their impact and it unites like-minded people within the company toward a shared goal. They may not be on the same team when they’re back at their desks, but while they’re volunteering their time as a company team, they’re united.
In 2016, Built by Girls, an AOL initiative that inspires and supports girls who want to build careers in technology, teamed up with former first lady Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative. Together, they challenged young women across the U.S. to develop ideas about how the power of technology could advance girls’ education globally. When winners were picked, they weren’t just handed a cash prize. Instead, BBG helped the winning girls turn their innovative ideas into real solutions by connecting them directly to BBG’s network of technology experts.
Industry expertise and company skill set makes a real difference for giving causes access to unique support that can move the needle. “We’re all hands on deck when it comes to corporate citizenship, and we stay on deck,” Jamie Mittelman, Senior Marketing Manager of Citizen AOL, says. “We encourage employees and brands to put their whole weight behind the organizations we support. We don’t just give away dollars. We give away our time, expertise and passion.” Sara Lawrence, Director of Citizen AOL adds, “We’re able to give voices to certain projects because we have access to resources that can elevate causes.”
But before companies can go all in with their support, they need to agree on what they stand for and build those values into the DNA of their corporate culture. “If a company wants to leverage the power of digital to improve the world around us, they need to embody the message they want to send to organizations,” Mittelman explains. “We do that by threading citizenship into our company values.” But it can’t just be lip service. “We’re the only major publisher to donate space to nonprofits on our premium property, AOL.com, and our cause module is on the homepage every single day of the year, seen by five million daily users.”
To create a truly impactful corporate giving and citizenship program, companies have to remember to be human. Sharing expertise, leadership, access and time are just as important as writing a check and the act of bringing employees and organizations together builds a sense of love and community that benefits everyone.