Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is becoming more important to businesses around the world for one simple reason: it’s both good for communities and for the bottom line.
As companies consider CSR programs, they must decide how best to serve people and communities. Community grants, partnering with nonprofits, and employee engagement are all common components of CSR programs. Perhaps less considered but equally impactful, are corporate scholarship programs. There are many unique benefits and new opportunities that you can access when you include a scholarship program in your CSR mix.
Here’s a look at 7 ways scholarship programs add value to CSR programs — some, of course, are more altruistic than others but there is no shame in admitting that one purpose of a CSR program is the positive impact on the business.
1. Help Students In Need
This is the best reason to launch a corporate scholarship program. You get to help students in need at a time when the cost of higher education has doubled in the past 22 years. By giving students a scholarship, you prevent or at least reduce the debt they could carry into their post-college careers, which is a fabulous gift to give — in addition to all the other benefits listed in this article.
Use your scholarship program to touch the lives of:
Students in your community
Your employees’ children
Students across the country
Students around the world
That’s the real beauty of a scholarship program. You can create and customize scholarships to help different types of students living in different places. Looking for inspiration? Read about how WizeHive clients the Gene Haas Foundation and Carson Scholars Fund provide scholarships that make a positive difference in their communities and the world.
2. Impact Communities
Companies can give scholarships to the types of students who can make a positive impact on their communities — students who are smart, talented, motivated, involved, community-focused, etc.
For example, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation (CCSF) gives 150 scholarships of $20,000 each year to applicants who impact their schools and communities through service and leadership. After CCSF Scholars reach their college campuses, they:
Get good grades: CCSF Scholars earned an average 3.75 GPA in 2020.
Take on leadership roles: CCSF Scholars served in 2,282 unique roles on campuses and in communities in 2020.
Serve as volunteers: CCSF Scholars reported 60,663 service hours in 2020.
Work as they learn: CCSF Scholars worked a collective of 101,207 hours for pay in 2020.
Some of these students will return to their hometowns and make positive contributions. Others will find jobs and relocate to other parts of the country or world, where they will also make positive contributions. The bottom line is that programs like the CCSF empower students to serve wherever they may be located for learning, working, and living.
It can be challenging to generate positive publicity in today’s world. This is especially true when any disgruntled customer, client, or employee can get on social media and bring negative attention to your business. Corporate scholarships present a great opportunity to generate positive publicity in a noisy marketplace. Particularly when you then build lasting relationships with your scholars, you can demonstrate the impact of your program and highlight their accomplishments.
What do you gain from positive publicity? The overall sentiment of your company will increase, which leads to more new customers. And the way your business is viewed in the recruiting world will change, too, helping you attract and retain the talent your company needs.
4. Reinforce Brand Values
Scholarships are highly customizable, which gives you the chance to create a scholarship program that aligns with and reinforces your brand values. For example,
A healthcare company can provide scholarships to nursing students.
An automotive manufacturer could provide a scholarship program to support advanced training for female students who demonstrate an interest in automotive repair.
A Philadelphia-based technology company that supports organizations in managing grants and scholarships to spread good in the world (you guessed it, we’re talking about WizeHive in this example) could create a scholarship program to benefit students at a local college who are pursuing degrees in nonprofit leadership.
When you align your corporate scholarship program with your brand values, you’re able to maximize the benefits shared in this post.
5. Boost Your Search Rankings
Google’s original algorithm was based on the number of domains pointing back to a site. If high-quality domains linked back to your site, Google would rank your content higher for relevant search terms.
While there’s more to Google’s algorithm today, backlinks are still an important part of the equation. When you launch a scholarship program and a related landing page, .edu websites around the internet link to it. These .edu backlinks make a huge impact on how Google views your website, and this improved backlink profile will help your content rise in the rankings.
6. Access Tax Benefits
Money given as part of corporate scholarship programs can be tax-deductible. What better way to offset your company’s end-of-year tax obligation than by helping students with funds for college?
Of course, corporate taxes are complicated and typically handled by a team of in-house and third-party experts. The IRS has in place strict requirements around corporate scholarship programs and when/if the scholarships awarded are taxable or not. Use your company’s existing tax resources to help evaluate this benefit before launching your scholarship program.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult for businesses to connect with younger generations that tend to be socially minded and skeptical of brands. Creating a college scholarship program for youth in your community provides your brand with a rare opportunity to connect.
Find the Right Scholarship Management Platform
To maximize the benefits of your scholarship program, it’s important to select the right scholarship management platform. Whether you’re launching a new corporate scholarship program or managing an existing one, when you use WizeHive’s Zengine™ for scholarship management, you can lean on a system that works with and for you. You’ll encourage more students to apply, ensure a fair review, and raise the visibility of your scholarship program.