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Why give only during Christmas?

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ONCE again, the season of giving is almost upon us.

During this time of the year, businesses in Singapore typically get into the Christmas spirit by giving money and presents to beneficiaries - one way businesses can spread good cheer, celebrate and bond as a team.

But can teams be incentivised to give throughout the year? Can giving help a business reach its goals?

Rather than giving being taken as a solely seasonal endeavour, businesses can work towards setting systems and policies where giving can take place monthly or quarterly.

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National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC)'s Corporate Giving Survey 2017 reveals that half of businesses in Singapore give and 31 per cent of others are keen to start. Of the 50 per cent that give, only one in four do it regularly, the rest give on an ad-hoc or occasional basis.

Corporate giving seems to be predictably seasonal because it is most convenient. The survey findings show that nine out of 10 companies in Singapore do not have employees with corporate giving as their primary function. This makes it challenging to set the strategy, time and resources to plan corporate-giving initiatives.

Seasonal giving is commendable. In fact, non-profits ramp up their fundraising efforts during the end of the year to capture the windfall. But ad-hoc or seasonal giving is highly dependent on the overall financial climate and the company's profit margin. When times are hard, giving easily becomes dispensable. This makes it difficult for non-profits to plan their operations, affecting their efficacy and impact on beneficiaries.

Giving can be practical and sustainable.

Businesses need convenience and non-profits need impact, so it is pertinent to find a win-win situation.

We learnt that 64 per cent of the companies that give have integrated giving into core business functions such as procurement (30 per cent), marketing and branding (28 per cent), and staff development (28 per cent). Such integration puts a company's corporate giving in the right direction and it fosters a shift in mindset.

Giving is readily perceived as an everyday business opportunity. Instead of being conditioned as an afterthought for a business, it is placed at the forefront. This way, corporate giving can extend the business into markets or segments it otherwise would not have attempted.

Here's a good example.

Spic & Span provides cleaning and maintenance services. The founder was planning his business goals when he found a way for doing good to be his competitive advantage.

To a business, it might seem that hiring is just a means to an end. But when Spic & Span decided to hire individuals from marginalised backgrounds, this was a meaningful gesture that helped them gain employment and training.

It is common for businesses to require cleaning and maintenance suppliers. By that, a business can purchase services or products from non-profits, since these are services that you need for your business operations anyway.

Developing human capital is crucial for businesses, and volunteering activities can also create the opportunity for employees to hone their skills. For example, while lending technical expertise to a non-profit organisation, employees can develop their soft skills such as communication while interacting with the beneficiary.

All businesses face different sets of challenges.

Integrating giving into a business should not create additional workload or stress in the long run. The "feel good" factor of giving during the Christmas season can be fostered as part of everyday workplace culture.

Based on in-depth interviews with corporate-giving practitioners across various industries, NVPC has co-created a corporate-giving roadmap to help companies identify where they are in their journey. The roadmap details the steps companies typically go through, with challenges and best practices at each step of the way.

Has your business ever thought of corporate giving as a journey? Perhaps at this time of the year, you can start with reflecting how corporate giving has been and will be done in 2018. Is there a way to evolve corporate-giving practices next year?

Gaining fresh ideas and crafting your corporate-giving journey may just be your new year resolution. Seasonal giving is great, but imagine having an all-season giving - that would be something to cheer about!

  • The writer is director of Knowledge & Advocacy at National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre.

It's Just Good Business: A Corporate Giving Guide to Align Profit and Purpose is based on Corporate Giving Survey 2017 findings. The guidebook can be downloaded at http://bit.ly/justgoodbusiness