Global CSR: How You Scale Your Giving Internationally

Global CSR: How You Scale Your Giving Internationally

Corporate giving abroad is now a level playing field. Because the cost is so low, anyone, at most any age, can become a donor. When I was growing up, people waited "until they were 50 to make it big." That's when they felt comfortable and started giving.

But we're experiencing a new trend where even the twenty-something set is giving early, not just the highest level executives or corporate foundations. Entry-level employees are setting aside a portion of their incomes to give to their favorite charities, and employees are passionate about giving back to their countries of origin.

A key trend is that managers are organizing volunteer trips as team building exercises. Before its annual President's Club event, a large financial institution took 240 employees on a team building trip to Maui, where they helped four non-profit organizations with restoration and infrastructure projects.[1] A grocery store chain sent staff to villages in Guatemala and Costa Rica that supply its bananas, and a large consulting firm offered financial advice to small businesses in Eastern Europe.[2]

So now you can give $40 or $100 and not only make a difference, but change a life. It can buy a cup of water, nutritious bowls of porridge, and in some cases, meals for an entire week. As a company it means your corporate philanthropy will be much more visible in a developing country. For very small sums of money, your company will gain prominence among country leaders, politicians, clients, employees, and of course, potential consumers of your product. For example, Yum! Brands, parent company of Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, pledges to donate $80 million over the next few years, which will support hunger relief for 200 million schoolchildren in the developing world. It's good, sincere image building, and it affects lives strategically.

Why Your Corporate Dollar Scales

So how can your corporate philanthropy have such an incredible impact? In many developing nations, the local people are earning only a few hundred dollars per year. GDP per capita in Haiti is $717. In Liberia, it's $219.[3]

So giving abroad allows everyone to make a difference--from an associate just out of school to your VP of Marketing. They don't have to wait. They can tangibly affect the quality of life--or even save a life--through a small, yet effective, donation. It's thrilling to know everyone has the opportunity to give and that your company can facilitate this incredible momentum.

But the thrill also has a business case. By giving, your employees are actually helping build corporate brand, positive good will, local buy-in, and new client adoption. Your company is creating an extremely positive and impactful image which directly affects your bottom line.

Scalability of the Dollar

If we look at the influence of giving in the United States versus abroad, the margin for impact is much greater. In the United States, you can buy an entree at a restaurant for $15. In Myanmar or Venezuela, your $15 will feed a child for a month. The donation scales.

If we are going to continue to be courageous in giving abroad, let's examine a more serious philanthropic investment. In the United States, if you want to buy a house, the median four-bedroom house is $363,401.[4] In Guatemala, a house can be built for $4,200. And in Uganda, it costs $2,700.[5] For one house in the United States, you can build approximately 86 houses in Guatemala, or 134 houses in Uganda.

What if your company could provide hundreds of homes for people? As a corporate foundation, this is a super value proposition.

So whether you want to give $10, $100 or $10,000--your corporate foundation or employees' donations will have a tremendous impact. It's an investment in people's lives beyond their day-to-day, and in your business long term.

Meaningful Impact

Finally, meaning just can't be underemphasized. To build a successful corporate entity, people have to believe that their 12 and 14 hour corporate days mean something. And while their day-to-day work might not be in corporate foundation work for you, they still want to be associated with that good within your company.

Let's think about that restaurant meal again. In the United States, people can get food from many different sources. People will give leftover meals to a homeless person. Homeless shelters provide warm lunches. There are churches which hold regular mealtimes and service agencies which provide groceries. We have food stamps, benefits, welfare payments, discount food stores, food donations and coupons.

In striking contrast, this proliferation of resources doesn't exist in Peru. In one of my volunteer trips, I went one hour outside of vibrant, historical Lima. There were no shelters. No food stores, coupons, discounts, churches, mealtimes. There was no safe haven, a place to run, an opportunity to receive guidance, an established shelter, much less a listening ear regarding the dire poverty one was facing. There was relatively little job training. How would one get a step up and out of poverty?

So here's where your "sandwich in Peru", has a meaningful impact. That sandwich can buy multiple meals, help launch an entrepreneur, or provide school supplies for a student. Your donation is rare, valued and cherished. There are limited other sources ... .and so a contribution has a serious impact on someone's personal life, their family, and the community. Equally important, it also provides a model for others in the community as well as other donors. The awareness about your company's donation scales and leads to more good.

Giving Applies to All Companies

International Giving is a strategic imperative for all companies. At any time, we can achieve scale and meaningful impact through giving on behalf of the company we work for. So you can start today, by giving through your corporate foundation, listening to your employees, and encouraging scalable giving. You'll have a business impact. And you'll have another type of impact which affects someone for a lifetime.

[1] Teams Give Back
[2] Endangered Eden
[3] United Nations Statistics Division
[4] Coldwell Banker
[5] Habitat for Humanity

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