Recently, I had the chance to sit down with executives from a corporation based in Memphis that has manufacturing plants all over the United States. The company soon will be celebrating its centennial birthday – 100 years in business – and as part of the effort, their goal is to give back and help communities where their employees work and raise their families. Many of their plants are located in rural parts of the country and have generations of family members who have worked and continue to work for the company. The executives also seek to engage and empower employees, at all levels, to increase volunteerism and to become more strategic with their overall corporate philanthropy.
Hearing about the goals and new direction was exciting; but being able to share best practices and tips that could shape and magnify their efforts was rewarding. It reinforced that many companies, large and small, want to make a difference; but they need help with where to begin and how to create a strategy and process that will be effective and sustainable. So, let’s start with where to begin.
Just like in life, sports, and business, focus is fundamental to philanthropic success. It’s hard to move the needle, so to speak, in a larger social context if your resources and efforts are spread thinly versus taking a more focused approach. So, individuals and companies need to pick an area of concentration and define their philanthropic focus. For example, below is the philanthropic focus of FedEx, as found on their website:
“FedEx is committed to actively supporting the communities we serve through strategic investment of our people, resources and network. Our corporate resources include financial contributions, in-kind charitable shipping services and volunteer services by our team members. We have three core focus areas that our investments can impact in important and meaningful ways: Emergency and Disaster Relief, Child Pedestrian Safety, and Environmental Sustainability.”
Each of FedEx’s three core focus areas align with their business; and I like that they make it a point to include all methods of giving back with financial resources, employee volunteerism, and in-kind shipping. We’ll cover this in more detail in future columns, but look at your business and your personal skillsets. Define your philanthropic focus with one to three areas where you can start working proactively to align with nonprofits working in those fields. Having a focus will keep you on track and allow you to become even more successful with your efforts, overall.