But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more. - Luke 12:48
How can we leverage corporate social responsibility for the Highest good? How do we extend our philanthropic initiatives from merely building up a company to building up the Kingdom of God? How do we pursue Kingdom philanthropy?
Corporate Social Responsibility vs. Cause-Related Marketing
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is generally defined as the integration of business operations and values in such a way that the interests of all of a company’s stakeholders (e.g., investors, customers, employees, and the community) are reflected in the company's policies and practices. Most of us are familiar with two common initiatives within CSR plans: corporate philanthropy and cause-related marketing (CRM), or cause marketing.
Corporate philanthropy refers to charitable initiatives that help a company increase visibility, attract loyal customers, and offer employees the opportunity to band together in support of major social and civic concerns. A number of companies oversee corporate philanthropy vis-a-vis their corporate foundation, public relations, or external affairs department.
In recent years, cause marketing has become more prevalent in business, as many companies are not in a position to simply donate checks in the amount of six and seven figures to charitable organizations. Cause marketing is defined as a commercial activity by which businesses and charities form partnerships with each other to market an image, product, or service for mutual benefit. Cause marketing is an initiative for addressing social causes and issues by providing resources and funding while simultaneously addressing business objectives.
Example: Marketing for a Cause
Cause marketing programs frequently link the purchase of a product with fundraising. Example: Let’s say you own or manage a fast-food restaurant. Your cause-marketing offer to the consumer might be: “Purchase a combo meal and a percent of the proceeds will be donated to the local children’s hospital.” As a result of your cause marketing program:
- Your restaurant benefits from:
- Increased sales particularly among socially conscious customers.
- Enhanced corporate image in the local community and marketplace.
- Improved employee satisfaction and engagement as a result of your team working for a socially responsible company.
- The local children’s hospital benefits from increased awareness and revenue/donations.
- The cause (i.e., children’s health care) benefits from heightened publicity.
The Case for Corporate Philanthropy
Leading companies have discovered that there is a strong business case for corporate philanthropy and community involvement. Empirical research studies from Harvard Business School, The Gallup Poll, and other leading organizations, have shown that:
- People looking to work for a particular company have admitted that they factor in whether or not they view the company as a good corporate citizen.
- Employees feel good in knowing that their company is engaged in giving back to the community.
The Case for Kingdom Philanthropy
Corporate social responsibility initiatives can generate significant rewards for all involved. Given rampant cases of terrorism, starvation, domestic violence, and health-related epidemics including HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, and obesity, there is certainly no scarcity of viable civic and social causes for any company interested in philanthropy.
While many of these epidemics are at national proportion, when it comes to addressing victims at the local grassroots community level, it’s usually up to the neighborhood churches and other civic organizations to support individual victims and their families. So where is the significant, public outpouring of support for churches from the business community particularly in Western society?
When we as Christian business leaders began to include formal support of God’s churches and Christian organizations within the context of our marketing plans and philanthropic outreach efforts, we will have begun the process of bringing corporate philanthropy and charitable giving to a Higher level. And when we are brave enough to publicly proclaim our support of these alliances and how we are working to glorify God in our marketing practices, then we will have truly begun to establish and execute a divine marketing plan.
When you use your marketing influence to help advance worthy causes, the Lord will reward you (Matthew 19:17; Galatians 6:9). Have the courage and fortitude to support churches and civic organizations in ways that are important and necessary, even if they are not always high profile and publicity generating.
By pursuing Kingdom philanthropy, your company will serve as a model corporate citizen for others in the community and a catalyst for drawing more attention to, and support for, important charitable initiatives. And for this, you and your organization will also be tremendously blessed by God.