One Company's Year of Corporate Social Responsibility

Epic Expands Commitment to Philanthropy as a Good Business Practice

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Mike Sprouse
Mike Sprouse
Last year, I had the opportunity to pen an article about what my company, Epic Media Group, was trying to do to break new ground in the area of corporate social responsibility and philanthropy. Since then, I have cut my marketing budget in a few areas. But what was one of the areas I chose to increase our investment and involvement? Philanthropy.

We have now provided support, either financial or otherwise, for 30 different charitable organizations. They're not just any charities either; every one had to have been involved closely with one of our employees. We've expanded the program over the last year to include charities our clients and partners hold near and dear, too. We do this not because we like throwing money around. The reality is that our closest clients and partners are extensions of our own company. Since the expansion of the program, our largest beneficiary has been the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, which has close ties to one of our company's best partners.

Some people have called us crazy for everything we do in this area. These folks don't understand cause marketing and don't get the importance that charitable giving has on a company's success and overall performance. Most companies—even in the technology sector, or no matter how automated or turnkey they may be—rely on people. People who are happy and motivated tend to do better work and achieve far greater things. Few employees spend every waking hour at work. They have numerous outside interests that make them far more well-rounded than they might appear from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.

One of the best things you can do if you're an executive or a manager is to find out more about your people and how you can get involved. What do they stand for? What causes do they support? Where do they volunteer? How do they like to use their time outside the office?

There is a person at our company who volunteers two Saturdays a month at an animal shelter. I've been the chief marketing officer at Epic for almost four years now and have known this person for my entire tenure. I had no idea the person volunteered at an animal shelter until I was talking in the company kitchen about my new puppy. This immediately sparked a conversation about our common interests and sure enough led to a more substantive talk about how we could get involved and support this employee's efforts even in some small way. The whole conversation took less than five minutes.

I'm sure there are countless examples like this one from your own circumstances or perhaps a few examples of people in your workplace who are doing great things outside the workplace. Take a minute to get to know people and invest in them in that way. By actively pledging some level of support, you won't just be feigning interest or giving lip service to your team (which incidentally is a problem most large companies have—talking the talk but not walking the walk—and sadly is still more the exception than the rule).

I find there are two common fears for those who have called our efforts a little bit nuts. The first is (in the example above, for instance) "What does an animal shelter have to do with your business (online marketing)?" My answer: nothing, zero, zilch. But it has everything to do with our employees feeling like the corporate behemoth they work for has a real identity, supports them and is actively investing in them outside the workplace so that the good will translates to the workplace.

The second fear is cost. If I had a nickel every time someone told me they didn't have a budget for any philanthropic efforts, I'd have quite a sizable donation on my hands. Charitable efforts don't always have to be monetary; they can be volunteer work or grassroots movements. If you don't have a budget, create one. For instance, don't you think even small businesses can find $500 a month? Hold back on a few team dinners per month in lieu of a charitable donation and you will make a longer-lasting and more powerful impact on your staff, I guarantee it.

Mike Sprouse is a philanthropist and the chief marketing officer at Epic Media Group, an online marketing company.
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