Part 3: For Benefit Giveback

This blog is the third in a series of blogs on what it means to be a for-benefit company.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

In the first two posts, we talked about two important kinds of benefits for for-benefit companies. The first of which is that your goods or services are a benefit to people-- something that creates a net positive good in the world. The second kind of benefit is creating a company culture that benefits the lives of employees, leaving them feeling fulfilled, happy, healthy, well-compensated, and a part of something greater than themselves.

Businesses that do these things are powerful companies that have high employee retention and satisfaction. Employees are satisfied, customer service is good, and product quality is high. While this is a great start, there is still another type of benefit companies can have.

The third kind of benefit that you can engage in as a company is what we call a “giveback” benefit. In this post we’re going to talk about the kinds of givebacks that a company can engage in, and how one might start looking at creating that in their organizations.


What is a giveback?

Now, most companies have some kind of charitable contributions that they give. There’s a small portion of money that they set aside for a charity or charities that they’re involved with. With one of our clients in Canada, we did a project that enabled employees to be able to give to charities of their choosing from a list of over 9,000 options. While the results were awesome, this is a pretty standard corporate thing to do with Corporate Social Responsibility groups. Overall, it has a pretty low impact on the organization. Even companies that do things like excuse employees for service days to go build a house or clean up a beach don’t rise to the level of what we would call a for-benefit giveback.

So what do we mean by giveback then? Essentially, we define a giveback as when a company is doing something to alleviate or make an impact on a problem that is systemic and, in many cases, worldwide.

This means dealing with problems like world hunger, giving children opportunities for future success and prosperity, or something else that is going to alleviate a major issue and improve the lives of many individuals. A giveback is something that has a large impact-- it’s solving a problem, particularly one that is aligned with the mission or greater purpose of the company itself.


Profit Sharing:  The First Type of Giveback

A great example of a giveback is THINX. They create an absorbent, leak-free underwear as a menstruation product for women. Their giveback is to support multiple organizations that provide menstruation products to young women in Africa-- women who would normally hide out during their “week of shame,” cutting them off from opportunities such as going to school. With access to these menstruation products that THINX and other organizations provide, these women have an opportunity to continue their education and their lives without disruption. They get to grow up feeling liberated from much of the shame that was associated with menstruation.

This is a clear giveback where THINX  uses part of the company’s profits to support a cause that is directly aligned with their mission.


Product-Service Sharing:  The Second Type of Giveback

For some companies, it makes more sense to provide their giveback in the form of services . At this time, for example, we’re working with a company called Qion. They  focus on fitness, health, and longevity content and products. Even in their early stages, they’re already building a giveback into their system to give single mothers and their children access to materials about health and fitness, and access to premium flat forms for free. This is  an example of directly giving goods or services instead of giving a portion of profits.  

Storyworks Give+ is an example of this kind of giveback.  We 10% of our time to projects that make a direct difference in people's lives. RiseUP The Movie, a film about for benifit companies and people who have made thier work about contributing to the world, is an example of how we our company giveback.   


A Giving Business:  The Third Type of Giveback

Then there are cases in which doing charitable work is a part of the business itself. TOMS shoes is a great example of this. As we discussed in the last blog post, TOMS shoes does a giveback of getting shoes to children around the world. But, when they do that, they’re not supporting or partnering with a particular charity. Instead, they have constructed themselves as both a for-profit and nonprofit business at the same time. They actually take up the activities of doing that impact work. In essence this third type of give back includes the first two as well.  

So, for giving back, there are basically three levels and a pre-level, so to speak.

  1. Pre-level: The giveback pre-level is simply giving some money to a charity or charities; think corporate CSR.

  2. The First Level: The first level is giving money to charities that are aligned with your company’s mission and values. This often focuses on targeting a specific charity or social problem.

  3. The Second Level: The second level is that you give goods or services to alleviate or make an impact upon a particular problem. This is less about partnering with a charity and more about giving access and/ or discounted (or, in some cases, free) rates to goods and services that help change or alleviate a problem.

  4. The Third Level: The third level of giveback is that you quite literally become your own nonprofit organization while maintaining your for-profit organization. You have both a for-profit corporation and all the activities and actions of a nonprofit going out, doing charitable work in the world.


Is Having a Giveback Right for You?

In this area of being for-benefit, companies often wonder how much they should do. Do we risk having some impact on the financial bottom line? If we have people out there working on these charitable projects, would it cost my company money? You might worry and say, “oh, my shareholders aren’t going to like me giving away a part of our profits.”

Well, we have good news and… more good news.

The first bit of good news is that doing good creates a world that’s better for everyone. It’s a use of your business that’s more noble than making profit alone. It creates a noble part, or noble expression, of your business.

The other good news is that the companies that consistently giveback outperform those that don’t.

In the book Firms of Endearment by Sisoda, Wolfe, and Sheth, you’ll see that their list of firms of endearment meet the top twenty-one great companies list in almost every area of performance, growth, sustainability, etc. You can literally grow your business, and do better as a business, by doing more good.


For-Benefit Company Tips

When looking at your company in terms of this third kind of benefit-- a give back -- you need to:

  • Look to see if your company propose and values align with the mission of a charity.  If you align then enroll your stakeholder community to talk about how you might support that charity.
  • If you purpose and values align with a broader cause, like gender equality or hunger, enroll your stakeholder community to see how you might directly impact that cause, either through donations or direct action.
  • Look at your goods and services to see if they could be of benefit to a cause or the community directly.  Look for a way you can can directly make a difference.
  • Finally if you know what difference you want to make, look to see if your company can sustain it’s own giving in a larger way and look to set up your own non-profit group in the company.


One of Storywork’s services is what we call “Grow the Good.” We help companies to not only see how they can grow good by increasing one or more of these three areas of benefit in their company, but also by understanding how they can connect that good that they’re doing in the world to the bottom line of their business-- to analytically and strategically look at how you can do good that does well at the same time.

We have seen that business that do good in the world are rewarded more than those that don’t. The strategies and mechanisms to having that impact on your business are clear. Rises in the realms of benefit that we’ve discussed correlate to a rise in worker satisfaction; rises in innovation and creativity in the workplace are tied to having your employees engaged with the purpose and passion of the business. And that is why we we’d be excited to help grow the good in your company.