Choosing the Right Corporate Cause – It’s Better to Give and Receive

I wrote this article, which appears on page 38 of the Fall issue of “The Scrivener“, published by BC Notaries. It seems particularly relevant at this time of year when many organizations want to do a little something to help those less fortunate.

Research has shown that people would rather be associated with companies that give back in some way than those that don’t:  whether as an employee or buying a product or service. People like to do business with other people who share their values.

Traditionally, a business donated money to a cause, the recipient thanked them, the business got a tax receipt and both organizations carried on with their respective operations.

In today’s world of increased public expectation and a need for increased return on all investments, more and more successful organizations are creating charitable partnerships that benefit both the giver and receiver in multiple ways.

The most effective corporate giving goes beyond the giant cheque photo opp to support strategic goals, engage customers and employees and build a positive reputation for both partners.

Choosing the right cause is key. It should be relevant to your core constituents and, importantly, not conflict with your business or product.  (For example, a winery could open themselves to criticism if they aligned with a youth or child focused organization.)

Choose an appropriately scaled and relevant cause where your organization can make a difference.  Don`t spread yourself too thin.  Focus on one or two meaningful initiatives or you risk the success of all your efforts and outcomes.

Get to know the goals and objectives of the organization:

  • How will they spend your donation?
  • Do they only need money, or do they have other needs you could support such as awareness, education, governance, professional services or products?
  • What is their corporate culture and how does it align with yours?
  • Who are their other funders?
  • How can your employees and customers engage?


One of the best examples of this that I know is A&W Food Service of Canada’s “Cruisin’ to End MS” partnership with the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. (Full disclosure – A&W is a client and I’ve been proudly working with their team to support this partnership in a small way since its inception about six years ago.)

A&W did their research up-front to find a cause that was important to their guests and team, and where they could make a difference.  They identified that multiple sclerosis strikes more people in Canada than any other country – and typically young people who may have young families and are in their prime earning years.  Consequently, some of the most important MS research happens here in Canada.

The MS Society has staff and volunteers all across Canada, so all A&W restaurants and franchisees have the opportunity to participate. Finally, the money stays here in Canada and supports the communities where it’s raised.

A&W and the MS Society worked together to create a national fundraising event that combined the best of A&W—Teen Burgers, classic cars and enthusiastic restaurant teams—and the best of the MS Society—dedicated staff, passionate volunteers and heartfelt, vocal MS ambassadors. “Cruisin to End MS” is held on the third Thursday of August each year when $1 from every Teen Burger sold goes to the MS Society. A&W restaurants across the country hold classic car gatherings; Root Beer float sales; games, raffles and auctions; and even engage Facebook and Twitter followers, all with the help of the MS team. The partnership has raised over $6.5 million in its first six years.

The partnership has not only raises significant funds for MS, but also awareness of its prevalence and impacts, support and encouragement for those affected, a spirit of teamwork and shared accomplishment throughout both organizations and renewed hope for a cure.

There are, of course, a myriad of other examples of effective and mutually beneficial partnerships among both large and small organizations, on a local and national scale. It takes planning, hard work and some elbow grease but the pay off far exceeds the expenditure — like any great investment.

Next time you pick up your pen to sign a donation cheque, ask yourself what more you might do to enrich and extend the relationship. Creative and collaborative planning can create real, strategic and transformative benefits for everyone involved, making it better to both give, and to receive.