Let me start out by saying, all charity is good.
With that out of the way, a lot of charity could be handled much better.
This is especially true when it comes to corporate giving in China. Far too many companies still adhere to the age-old oversized check, fun run, and photo op styles of charity.
How do we evolve beyond this?
First, consider charity a strategic differentiator. Instead of philanthropic work being the pet project of a company’s founder, what unique benefits can an organization bring to a community? Can a pharmaceutical company provide much needed medicines or education to rural populations? How can food and agriculture firms help train new generations of farmers? What technologies can an IT player bring to close the distance between parent and child?
Looking at philanthropy strategically will help not only those in need, but also make charity relate better to one’s business and vision.
Second, think holistically and long term. In any conversation on charity in China, I inevitably bring up Hope Schools. These are rural schools sponsored by corporations throughout the country. The program has been wildly successful, so much so there is not enough infrastructure to support building more schools. There are too few qualified teachers, not enough books or electricity, or money for upkeep. Yet, companies still keep sponsoring new schools to say they’ve done it.
The holistic environment philanthropy operates within is just as important as the singular act of giving. In fact, consistent, ongoing giving has been shown to be much more impactful than one large check.
Third, turn inward. Used strategically, philanthropy can benefit your own organization as much as it does communities in need. In a country with a long-standing reputation of being the world’s least charitable, true corporate giving can improve reputation. It can also decrease turnover within an organization as staff have ways of getting involved in community service through channels that relate to the business itself.
There are of course numerous examples of companies who are doing philanthropy the right way. Walmart, Qualcomm, and Baxter all come to mind. Each has strategically positioned their philanthropic efforts to provide long-term benefits to local communities in ways that ensure the highest impact and return on investment.