Last week the Taproot Foundation surveyed 450 business professionals about their attitudes toward corporate philanthropy and community service. The research covered a wide range of related issues including the challenge companies face when cutting jobs while simultaneously engaging in community investment.
We will be distributing the report on Friday. This week I am sharing the results of key sections of that survey and sharing my sense of the implications. Today’s post covers the deeply emotional issue surrounding job cuts.
Part 1: Can you be charitable while doing layoffs?
This is a very stressful and confusing time for professionals. On the one hand increasing numbers of people want to raise their hands to help society as they are inspired by bold new leadership in DC and feel a need to support the people they witness suffering in their community as a result of the economy. On the other hand, job cuts have left many feeling like they are at risk of being the next one who needs help from others to pay the bills and support their families.
It is inspiring to see that despite the immediate danger of unemployment, business professionals believe that companies should continue to give to their communities.
Only 26% of professionals surveyed said that it is wrong for a company to give money to charity while at the same time eliminating jobs. Only one percent more (27%) said that their company should retain their own job before it gives another penny to philanthropy. That is a powerful statement. In fact, 71% said that they would be proud of their company for engaging in community investment activities right now.
Some companies have expressed concern about the impact on employee morale of sponsoring volunteer activities during layoffs. Another concern is that the media or shareholders will perceive the organization as bloated if engaging in these activities. Respondents rejected these ideas. Only 10% said it would hurt employee morale and only 8% saw corporate service as a sign that an organization is not as lean as it needs to be.
That said, when asked whether they would be angry if a company didn’t cancel a planned service event the week after one of their co-workers lost their job, the percentage almost doubles to 19%. To me this implies that when considered theoretically the vast majority of professionals see no problem with a company engaging in service during layoffs. However, when they think about the people they know and their workplace specifically their response rate alters, which demonstrates a sense of loyalty these professionals have toward their co-workers.
This same sentiment of loyalty was expressed in professionals response to whether companies’ giving should take care of the people it let’s go before it worries about helping others in the community. 39% of respondents agreed that companies should put first its employees and those let go.
These are important insights for companies creating new strategies for community investment during the recession. A company’s philanthropic activities will be best received if the cuts they have made are perceived as having been done in an ethical manner in the first place. Then a company should honor those let go by having a giving strategy that includes supporting the community services the former employees will need to get back on their feet. Examples of such services could include supporting workforce development and safety net programs that provide food and housing for the unemployed.
Tomorrow’s post will explore the relationship between corporate community investment and government bailouts.