Corporate Philanthropy and Innovation

This week marks the 9th Annual Global Philanthropy Forum Conference in San Francisco. It will bring together the leading voices from the NGO community, international aid organizations, and government and business. The conference is taking a “back-to-basics” focus on access to health, food and water. It’s all about survival, not revival. Still, there is considerable innovation going on in corporate giving. So much so that it may become a company’s smartest investment when it comes to delivering ways to try new things, reach passionate communities and make a meaningful connection between employees and customers.

Some of the trends I’m seeing in corporate philanthropy are fascinating. Many companies have finally seen the light that giving back has strategic value beyond reputation.

Here’s what I’m seeing:
1. Companies are doing product beta testing with grantee communities.
2. They’re creating market research programs to gather insights using grantee communities.
3. They’re selecting grantees that have advanced expertise and partnering to transfer knowledge about tactics such as social media and online community development.

Corporate philanthropy is growing more innovative–and for good reason. Consider that philanthropic programs provide value, not to mention tax credits, for pennies on the dollar compared to many marketing investments. What’s more, they deliver connections to communities that are passionate about changing things for the better. In a cynical world, that may be the most cherished of all assets–reaching people who care.