Go Global: The 411 on International Corporate Giving

After mastering domestic employee and community engagement programs, the natural next step is to expand abroad. With a global CSR program, you can expand your company’s impact beyond your home state or national boundaries to include your international employees’ communities. Imagine the global philanthropic story you can tell by utilizing the skills of your entire employee population while addressing community challenges around the world!

Expanding internationally does provide a plethora of challenges including vetting of international NGOs, disbursements of funds, and compliance with national laws. Furthermore, managing a global CSR program with tens, or hundreds of thousands of employees is challenging especially if you are unfamiliar with the languages and cultures.

According to the 2013 Giving Beyond Borders study conducted by the Lilly School of Philanthropy,

  • 46% of corporations indicated a need for a global employee engagement strategy
  • 50% of corporations indicated a need for vetting services

In this two part series, Good Done Great will highlight each of these challenges and offer suggestions and insights into how to master them.


Prior to implementing any formal employee or community engagement program, you must evaluate the country’s cultural opinions on volunteering and service. Traditionally, Americans are naturally philanthropic either donating, volunteering, or performing random acts of kindness. However, in other countries, this is not always the common practice or the attitudes about doing these things in the workplace are different.

A study conducted by LBG Associates collected data from 36 multinational companies surrounding their experiences in launching global employee engagement programs. This study indicated that matching gifts, workplace giving, and volunteerism are viewed as benefits similar to vacation time or insurance. This stance indicates that corporate philanthropy is not a priority, or at the core of the business.

Consider these various viewpoints of volunteerism:

  • Employee A: “It’s not the company’s business if I volunteer. Volunteerism is personal and shouldn’t be associated with corporate programs.”
  • Employee B: “Volunteering should only be associated with church-related initiatives.”
  • Employee C: “The government should take care of its citizens.” (Brazilians often view volunteerism as such; however, they are apt to volunteer in instances where the government fails to intercede.)
  • Employee C: “If I volunteer on company time, my manager may look down upon me, and it may hurt job performance.”

Surveying and understanding employee viewpoints on volunteerism will impact program design and even whether a program is viable. Consult with employees, customers, and other stakeholders to determine social values prior to program launch.

Global CSR Solution Good Done Great

In addition to understanding employee opinions on giving back, managing a global program is challenging and will require collaboration. Consider implementing a volunteer council to lessen your workload. Their position in-country will provide invaluable insights into program design, implementation, and success. Host regular online meetings and plan to meet in person at least once a year for a brainstorming session.

Don’t allow differing viewpoints on philanthropy to prevent you from going global! As long as you take into account cultural differences prior to program launch, you will succeed in launching a global CSR program which will provide a holistic view of your company’s philanthropic story.