In today's economy, what you sell is only a small part of your business story. Technology, specifically social media, has created a much more transparent relationship between companies and customers, and product alone is not always enough to get noticed. Successful businesses understand that modern consumers trade in the currency of goodwill, and make philanthropic initiatives an integral part of their overall plans.

Understand that philanthropy is not a magic wand to improve optics. Doing good just for the well-timed social media photo or haphazardly throwing support behind the first charity you find will come across just as disingenuously as they really are. Regardless of your industry, it's imperative that your philanthropy aligns with your company mission and is genuinely important to your employees.

There are certainly good financial reasons for a company of any size to consistently find ways to give back. The tax incentives through write-offs would of course be chief among these. But you can't put a price on love, and that's exactly what your audience will feel toward you if you've chosen causes that they're also interested in, while reinforcing your own core values.

In fact, 85% of consumers think more favorably of and are more apt to support businesses that are charitable to their favorite causes. Passion breeds action, and with well-informed consumers (especially millennials) seeking experiences more than material goods, attaching to your brand might just the way to get involved with a movement.

Philanthropy doesn't only score points with potential customers. It also attracts the talent you'd be most likely to seek out on your own. Hiring for culture fit can be tricky if you don't have a well-defined culture in place, a problem that your actions can help fix automatically. What says more about your company's commitment to innovation: releasing version 2.0 of your technology platform, or supporting a local science foundation that gives scholarships to aspiring engineers?

Just as consumers would support your brand to participate in a shared movement, candidates will see an opportunity to be an active part in fulfilling a mission that's bigger than the day-to-day. Don't be put off by applicants who express more excitement about what you do than what you make - this is a sign of a tremendous company culture built on philanthropy.

As you continue bringing in the right people to work on your team, seek out new initiatives to support by consulting with them on a regular basis. Not only does it show tremendous leadership on your part and keep your company's core values top of mind, but it keeps you motivated in different ways than the business itself will.

Solving customer problems and pain points through your products is one thing, solving community problems through your support, energy and time is another. The moment you see your name and logo attached to a cause that's close to the heart of employees in your organization, you'll feel the extra sense of determination that will push you through any challenges.

It's more likely that your employees will be passionate about a smaller-scale local issue than an overwhelming global one. That makes the prospect of giving less daunting from an organizational standpoint because you can quickly develop relationships with the people involved in local causes, if you don't know them already.

If you're unsure where to start with your philanthropic efforts, look in your community first. This is especially sound strategy for smaller companies who stand to benefit greatly from the free publicity and social media advantages of such a partnership.

Thinking and acting locally also has a quicker payoff. Nothing sparks company morale and gets a buzz going about your culture of giving than seeing real-time results of an initiative. If you can help local organizations reach tangible goals by giving money or volunteering your time, it reinforces the message that your business is one that gets things done.

When tension in the office is high and your players aren't functioning as the unselfish team they should be, it's common to look inward for solutions. Philanthropy gives you the option of doing something outside of yourself and reminds your employees that there's always a bigger mission at play.

Consider taking a day in the near future to talk with your employees about the things they're passionate about outside of work, if you haven't done so already. Every company should be fortunate enough to have people who care on staff, and unlike job-specific skills, enthusiasm is less easily taught.

There's no hard and fast rule for how philanthropic your company should be, but as long as you've carefully considered where you align your support and take your employees' preferences into account, you'll never feel like giving back is just a thing you have to do.