International giving boosts human resources’ return on investment.
Part One of a two-part series.
By Pamela Hawley
Here’s our corporate world situation: your Fortune 500 company is opening eight offices abroad next year. Or perhaps you’ve moved from the U.S. to open up a new office in silicon hotspot Bangalore. Even if you are a domestic company, your employees are increasingly from all over the world. So now your domestic company is global even if you don’t have offices overseas!
As a socially responsible company, international giving is no longer optional. Your company will need to expand its philanthropy in order to capitalize on increasing new business opportunities, new potential clients and personnel retention. It will supercharge your business life for the better.
First, you want the community you are entering to know you care. This means demonstrating commitment to the local community beyond simply selling your product, as important as that is. And through strategic giving, you can fortify your brand, reach more consumers, impress political officials and gain important buy-in with people on the ground in these new countries.
Secondly, your clientele wants to be allied with a company that is doing well in profits and philanthropy. They want to know you are a good citizen, in ethics, values and investing in the local NGOs in order to help others. Further, it’s part of a good strategy to attract new clients.
Finally, you as a leader, as well as your employees, will learn about a new culture and connect across political and cultural boundaries. And while your headquarter CSR objectives may focus your philanthropy on business-minded objectives such as technology or education, your employees on the ground live in a different reality. What are they seeing? Do they walk by starving children in a slum? Do they see a polluted river running through the city, with people bathing in it and washing their clothes, as I witnessed in Kolkatta? Then most likely, they are going to want your company to be a part of the solution and help feed these children or help clean up this river.
For business as well as humanitarian reasons, we should be responsive to these employees’ “eyes on the ground.” Helping rehabilitate a slum and the children who live there is not only positive brand building for you on the ground, but also a great way to keep your employees engaged, happy and committed to your company.
So with the above factors we have reason enough to give. But wait a minute, says the domestic company. “I don’t have employees abroad, and this doesn’t apply to me.”
Then the tsunami crisis in Asia hits, followed by the floods in Pakistan and now the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. And your employees want to be involved. Whether your company is there or not, the call to give internationally is a personnel imperative. Let your employees know your company cares.
To be even more strategic, I’d listen to your employees further. Take some time to sit down with your leader of HR and really understand the makeup of your workforce. What percent has emigrated from other countries? Estimates indicate one in 10 U.S. workers and 70% of migrant workers send some form of remittance each year. In 2010, remittances were expected to reach $325 billion, with India, China, and Mexico topping the list of recipients: they took in $55, $51 and $23 billion respectively. For smaller countries, remittances can contribute a staggering amount to GDP: 35% for Tajikistan and 28% for Tonga.
Even further, who in your company is a first generation American with parents from a particular country? Here, ties to family and community are very strong and the desire to give back to one’s roots is ingrained. It’s our instinct to honor our heritage – to connect with where we came from even if we haven’t visited.
So while giving is to help people, and your motives should be sincere, there is no doubt giving back to your employees’ homelands is part and parcel of a solid, listening HR retention plan.
A final note of encouragement: you’ll be making an extremely significant impact. We’ll cover this more in Part Two, How Your Giving Scales Internationally.
About Pamela Hawley
Pamela Hawley is Founder and CEO of UniversalGiving, a Web-based marketplace that helps people give and volunteer with the top-performing, vetted projects all over the world. Her blog is Living and Giving.
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