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Lead Your Team Strategy

Giving Tuesday Social Responsibility Tips for Your Business

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Since 2012, Giving Tuesday has come around every year as an alternative to the holiday shopping frenzies of Black Friday and Cyber Monday and the urge to buy all your holiday gifts in one go. Giving Tuesday is an opportunity to remind everyone about the importance of giving back to communities and each other and supporting local causes that do good for the less fortunate. For entrepreneurs, Giving Tuesday is a chance to advance their social responsibility goals for their businesses.

"It isn't hard. It can be as simple as giving a hug, giving perspective, giving energy and, most importantly, giving time," said Tara Lundy, head of brand at LifeStraw. "Service isn't necessarily about 'heavy lifting;' it's a focus on the value of the little things – a smile, a kind word, thoughtful gesture or support."

In 2012, the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact at the 92nd Street Y created the Giving Tuesday campaign as a way to kick off the charitable season. They designed it to follow the more retail-driven and materialistic days like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

Trading consumerism for community and sales for social initiatives, Giving Tuesday aims to instill the spirit of giving in everyone at a time when the focus is on buying, buying and more buying of material items. Giving Tuesday celebrates kindness in all its forms, whether you choose a contribution of time, money or ideas, and encourages the spread of these acts through social sharing on platforms like Instagram and Facebook.

Giving Tuesday falls on Dec. 3 this year. If you're looking for a way to get involved, its website is full of ideas for how your business can join the movement.

Giving should be done without expectations of things in return, but that doesn't mean you can't reap the benefits of your charitable efforts. Not only do most millennials expect some sort of charitable focus from their employers, a majority of consumers expect it as well. Therefore, corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives ingratiate brands with their employees, customers and communities. Giving back isn't just the right thing to do – it's good for business.

"Today's workforce is significantly more interested in employers who actively pursue social initiatives, have a significant voice in making their communities stronger, and allow employees the time and opportunity to interact with causes important to them," said Blake Canterbury, founder of hyperlocal giving platform Purposity. "Employee retention is higher among companies that engage their workforce in these initiatives and allow for meaningful connections to giving, assuring they include employee voice in these initiatives."

With Purposity, charitable efforts and initiatives to donate also benefit a business's immediate community, connecting local people in need with those who can help, strengthening connections between businesses and local communities. According to Canterbury, this offers a unique opportunity for companies looking to meet their corporate social responsibility goals in new ways.

"There is a strong ecosystem created when there is a partnership between corporations, individuals and nonprofits working together, benefiting not only the local community, but also the improving health of its workforce and the company itself," he said.

The benefits, even small ones, can have a big impact for nonprofits.

"Giving Tuesday is the biggest giving day of the year around the world," said Dani Heckman from Kitchens for Good. "Nonprofits benefit because it gives them the opportunity to attract new donors and raise more money."

Encouraging your team members to feel as strongly about corporate social good as those in the C-suite do is a valuable and viable practice. Volunteer work can be a great way to start. Finding causes that you and your employees believe in creates a sense of higher purpose and offers team-building experience at the same time. A company's record of volunteerism and CSR priorities are often key considerations for job-hunting millennials.

To create an easy opportunity for your team to participate, consider setting up a Facebook fundraising campaign. Your company could set up a fundraising page for a charity or nonprofit of your choice, or your team could donate directly to one.

"Donations through Facebook are confidential, so you won't be bombarded with follow-up emails from your new causes," said Tiiu Lutter, director of development for behavioral health nonprofit Family First.

But how should you choose an organization to donate to or raise funds for? Getting your team involved means you must first offer them a campaign to join.

"If you have a cause in mind and you're looking for a charity, do a quick search for any scandals or fraud to find which charities to avoid," said Joseph Stinn, assistant professor of economics at the Farmer School of Business at Miami University.

While that suggestion might seem like a dark cloud for a positive day, it's important to know what lies behind the charity you plan on fundraising for. After all, you want your efforts to truly help support people in need.

"Choosing a charity based on how it spends money on salaries, administrative expenses and fundraising is not a good way to determine where to donate," Stinn said. "People focus a lot on keeping costs like salaries, other admin costs and fundraising down because that's money not going to the charity's recipients, [but] this money still helps the recipients. Higher salaries, training and organizational infrastructure can make the charity more effective at its mission. For example, higher salaries and better benefits will attract (and help retain) higher-quality employees."

Stinn said transparency and accountability are better ways to determine if a charity is trustworthy.

"Overhead ratios measure how much money is going to programs, but that alone doesn't tell you whether the programs themselves have any effect, or what that effect is," he explained. "Transparency and accountability measures are signals that the charity is open about its methods and financials. Charities that are fraudulent or wasteful aren't likely to be transparent about those facts."  

If you are looking to set up a fundraiser for a charity on Facebook, Lutter has a few simple tips.

"Just log in and follow their directions. If you are setting up for your own nonprofit, you need to register with Facebook first, which must be done ahead of time and involves sharing your 501(c)(3) documentation and bank information."

Offering a way for your employees and others to donate online could greatly help your cause. Facebook is also doing a little extra to sweeten the deal of fundraising and donating.

"Facebook has amplified giving through its social network by matching donations up to $7 million," said Mitch Ratcliffe, partner at Metaforce. "U.S.-based nonprofits can participate, receiving up to $100,000 in matching funds, and Facebook covers the transaction processing costs."  

Ratcliffe also mentioned that anyone with a Facebook account or a Facebook page for a group or business can create a Giving Tuesday campaign by visiting the fundraising link on their page. The Facebook Fundraisers page currently features Giving Tuesday campaigns.

Corporate social responsibility is more than rallying your employees to contribute to a cause one day a year. It is a practice of ethical behavior that should be practiced year-round, whether you're engaging in volunteer efforts or producing sustainable products. But if you don't know where to start with year-round habits, Giving Tuesday could be the inspiration you need.

"Giving on Giving Tuesday is the point of the day's namesake," said Lundy. "It's a day to think less about oneself and more about others, to remind us of the spirit of the community and the benefits of connecting ourselves with cause."

Nicole Fallon and Adam C. Uzialko contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Jennifer Post

Jennifer Post graduated from Rowan University in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. Having worked in the food industry, print and online journalism, and marketing, she is now a freelance contributor for Business News Daily and business.com. When she's not working, you will find her exploring her current town of Cape May, New Jersey, or binge-watching "Pretty Little Liars" for the 700th time.