12/31/2012 11:33 am ET Updated Mar 02, 2013

Sustainable Giving -- Leveraging Assets for Good and Maintaining the Good Year-Round

It feels crazy good to give back. So why is it that we're only reminded of this during the holiday season? We continue this annual tradition of contributing to something bigger than ourselves once a year, year after year... and though our hearts and intentions don't change, the bustle of a new year often moves charitable giving to the back seat.

It's often the same story with corporate philanthropy. Once a year, businesses host an employee giving campaign or organize a company-wide gift drive for the local community. But why limit this expectation to be "good" to just one season? How can we take the lessons of the Giving Season and apply them year round?

The challenge that current models face is that they're not sustainable -- for individuals or for corporations. When the benefits flow in just one direction, charitable giving is difficult to maintain ... unless you begin to let your giving work just as hard for you.

For Profit or For Purpose

The phrase "doing well by doing good" is cliché for a reason -- it's true! For-profit businesses that are built to last aren't successful despite their positive impact on the world, but because of it. At Groupon we use our greatest assets -- our platform, our subscriber base and our creative talent -- not only to connect small businesses with new customers, but also to introduce citizens to local causes through Groupon Grassroots.

We've amplified those efforts for the holidays via a new initiative, The Big Give, featuring matching fundraising campaigns for six national charities. Partners include, Feeding America, First Book, KaBOOM!, National Wildlife Federation and World Wildlife Fund. A variety of causes were carefully curated to enable our customers to choose based on their personal interests. People can also give donations as gifts on behalf of loved ones who are passionate about certain causes.

Additionally, this year we were honored to sign on as founding partners of #GivingTuesday: a new national movement to kick off the giving season following Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Since we've designed Groupon corporate philanthropy around our core strengths as a business, we're able to maintain this commitment year-round (not just during the holidays) featuring an average of 15 campaigns every week. It's a virtuous cycle; the better our communities do, the happier our customers are, and that's good for Groupon and the merchants we serve everyday.

Another crucial component for businesses is how we each measure success -- considering both social and business impact metrics. The Groupon Grassroots team carefully monitors how our initiatives aid customer activation, employee engagement and brand awareness as well as community partner satisfaction, project implementation and outcomes.

We take the same approach to our Employee Volunteer Program. As part of The Big Give we implemented a huge company-wide gift drive for Children's Home + Aid, an organization that serves children and families in need in the Chicagoland area. Our employees go all out and this year we'll grant more than 650 holiday wishes for families who would otherwise not have gifts this holiday season. During the rest of the year we think of our EVP as a leadership academy where we can leverage our diverse talent base to help the community while developing skills, fostering engagement, and building relationships across departments. By aligning social strategies with business objectives, we can justify growing the team and increasing the resources for our social innovation programs.

I encourage all of us to try this approach with our corporate and personal giving strategies. When we don't take the time to reflect and measure the personal return on investments, there's a greater risk our generosity will feel like a cost and drain. When we realize that we get just as much -- if not more -- out of giving, we're likely to keep it going year-round.