Philanthropy: A growth strategy for business?

By Pamela Dubin Beaty

Pamela Dubin BeatyTo gain market share, does a business need to ‘do good’, ‘look-like-it-is-doing­-good’ or does it even matter? This past week, CNBC  aired Philanthropy, Inc., an hour-long analysis and case study of philanthropy as a business strategy, to bring attention to the complexity of private sector /non-profit partnerships.

Fact:  Wal-Mart’s philanthropic leadership in the first days following Hurricane Katrina (outpacing the US government) catapulted Wal-Mart to #1 on the Delahaye Media Index  (tracks press coverage impact on business).  Then consider this:  Coca-Cola embarked on a new philanthropic partnership with the World Wildlife Fund in response to charges that Coca-Cola was depleting watersheds near their bottling plants in India.  Is this philanthropic partnership real or just an image-makeover?

Admirers of philanthropy-as-a–business-growth-strategy deem their efforts altruistic; a business and its consumers have ‘shared values’ enhancing a brand beyond the point-of-purchase.  Critics complain that businesses are using charities while not investing the time and effort necessary for sustainable outcomes.

Philanthropy Inc. analyses the challenges related to the leading symbol of a business/charity partnership – the pink ribbon of the Susan B. Komen For the Cure. Partnering across a wide range of businesses, from the Kentucky Derby to toilet paper — the pink ribbon is ubiquitous  – but are all the products tagged with a pink ribbon legitimate?  Does the pink ribbon always represent what is best for breast cancer?

While the gains for philanthropic partnerships can be enormous, the headaches can erase any gain if the business/non-profit partnership is handled with anything less than expert care.  To avoid pinkwash and greenwash  (donating to charities with disingenuous charitable outcomes) leadership teams should establish a holistic commitment to philanthropy as good business.

Does your business have a clearly articulated philanthropic strategy?  When you donate money, do you measure goals and outcomes?   Is your business ready to grow based on philanthropy as a business strategy for growth?

Want to comment or discuss? Comment here or contact Pamela Dubin Beaty at Philanthropy Concierge today.

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