Small Business

Book Shelf: Good for Them, Good for You


Titles explore corporate social responsibility, giving in belt-tightening times, and how to set up a foundation

Corporate Social Responsibility:

Doing the Most Good

for Your Company and Your Cause

By Philip Kotler and Nancy Lee

Wiley [$34.95]

During the Los Angeles riots of 1992, vandals caused tremendous damage to businesses in the area. Yet not one of the 60 McDonald's (MCD) franchises there was harmed. McDonald's executives attributed this good fortune partly to its Ronald McDonald Houses, which provide support for families of children with cancer, implying that what a company reaps is ultimately connected to what it sows.

This anecdote is one of many cited in Corporate Social Responsibility: Doing the Most Good for Your Company and Your Cause by Philip Kotler, a professor of international marketing at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, and Nancy Lee, president of Seattle consultant Social Marketing Services. Charitable acts, whether designed to build community goodwill, cement employee loyalty, or expand a customer base, have become a sine qua non even in lean times, the authors convincingly argue. This book is a comprehensive guide to the whys and hows of weaving good works into the fabric of your business.

It's organized into chapters that methodically explore the advantages and disadvantages of the six most common options for social initiatives: cause promotions, such as fund-raising walks for a specific organization; cause-related marketing, such as donating a portion of sales to charity; philanthropic contributions, such as cash donations or pro bono work; employee volunteering; socially responsible business practices; and behavior-change campaigns, such as antismoking ads. The authors discuss the criteria for selecting and designing an effective program. Best practices are illustrated anecdotally, and potential problems are explored. Each of the six social initiatives gets the same thorough treatment.

Although most of the initiatives are better suited to large companies, employee volunteering is feasible for outfits of all sizes. But the stories chosen by the authors still tend to be drawn from the likes of Timberland, which pays employees for up to 40 hours of community service per year and lets them choose their own causes.

The authors do have specific advice for small companies. One example they use is that of a home supply store that promotes natural gardening. That business might offer employees an opportunity to help build a native plant garden in a local park. The company could enhance its reputation and win loyal customers through the effort. The authors provide hypothetical guidelines for developing such a program, including in this case employee recognition and media exposure. The downsides: controlling outlays of employee time, tracking results (such as new business), and managing image. "It is particularly tough with this initiative to find the balance between publicizing our efforts and flaunting them," the authors write.

Whether you are considering starting a corporate social responsibility program or expanding your company's existing involvement, Kotler and Lee have put together a well-organized survey of the combinations of good works that can help you make a difference and, they say, benefit your business as well.

GIVING ON A BUDGET

Compassionate Capitalism:

How Corporations Can Make Doing Good

an Integral Part of Doing Well

By Marc Benioff and Karen Southwick

Career Press [$15.99]

Among other lessons, this book offers two key tips for giving-minded businesses: In tough economic times, start small—but start!—and if you have to cut back or eliminate programs, be creative. (You can tuck smaller versions of your initiatives under other budget umbrellas, or donate used equipment.) The book also aims to help corporations and entrepreneurs think through creative ways to do good without spending much money.

THE FOUNDATION

Corporate Giving:

Options and Strategies

By Sylvia Clark and Kate Dewey

Council on Foundations [$65]

This guide is indispensable for those thinking of setting up a corporate foundation. A publication of the Council on Foundations, Corporate Giving is the ultimate step-by-step planner, organized by topic, with bullet points, charts, and the occasional succinct paragraph. It provides all you need to know about grants and foundations, employee participation, budgeting, record retention, regulatory standards—for example, even the USA Patriot Act comes into play here—and the details of structuring your own foundation.

Marilyn Harris is a contributor to BusinessWeek SmallBiz.

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