Be A Do Gooder – Philanthropy In The Workplace

By May 16, 2013Business News

By Deborah Bullock. Creating a company culture of “doing good” is a great way to build a positive workplace environment. As a past executive director of a non-profit organization I understand the principles around philanthropy – love of people and doing good works for others. However, don’t let the word fool you.

Many people think that only rich people can be philanthropists, but philanthropy is something that everyone can do. Any donation of money or time to a charity is considered philanthropy. When I canvassed for the Heart & Stroke Foundation and Canadian Cancer Society my time was well spent going door to door even if all the person could give was the change in their pocket.

In my previous involvement with charities, I see philanthropy as an opportunity for individuals to be empowered; a way to give back to the community and to become leaders. Anyone can accomplish acts of goodwill toward others.

Here are some basic steps you can take to support charitable activities in your company:

Make it personal – One of the benefits of fostering workplace philanthropy is that you can align your workplace activities around an area of passion.

Embrace Local Connections –Another way that workplace philanthropy can be effective is if you decide to support a cause directly affecting the local community. This way you can put real faces and voices to what would otherwise simply be just words on a request for donations.

Make it Social – Instead of spending thousands of dollars on “team building retreats,” you can simply choose a worthy cause and go out into the field together.

Social Media – Encourage staff to go on line and post information about your charitable activities. This helps spread the word about the cause to get more people involved while promoting the philanthropic culture of your business. Be proud of what you have accomplished and let the world know how important giving back is to your company.

Experts weigh in on the best ways to build a philanthropic corporate culture.
If the Friday morning doughnut pickup is the extent of your office’s community interaction, it might be time to think outside the office. For advice on building a corporate culture of philanthropy and community outreach, BC Business turned to three experts: Catherine Clement, Vice-President of Partnerships, Public Engagement and Communications at the Vancouver Foundation; Derek Gent, Executive Director of the Vancity Community Foundation; and Michael McKnight CEO of the United Way of the Lower Mainland.

Make time to do good
“I don’t have time” is a common reason for not being involved in philanthropy. This sentiment is magnified in a busy office environment, so Ms.Clement advises that management has to free up the time to create that space for employees to get involved. “If your working nine–to-six without a lunch break you’re less inclined to go out and volunteer after.” Whether it’s extra days off in lieu of volunteer hours, or a vow to match all employee donations, Michael McKnight says “taking the time to incorporate and recognize philanthropy in the workplace motivates employees to give back”.

Philanthropy2Walk the philanthropy walk
No one likes a hypocrite, especially when it comes to giving. McKnight notes that one of the most common indicators of a successful corporate philanthropy strategy is strong leadership from an executive management team. Derek Gent adds that when employees see that their leaders and coworkers are involved in their community, “they get the sense that it’s not only OK, but it’s something we want to see and they go out and deepen those relationships even more.”

Play to your strengths
Would you hire a bull rider to balance your books? Finding the right philanthropic niche for your business is just as important as hiring the best person for the job. For Ms. Clement this means soliciting employee input to find a cause that aligns with staff passions, skills and interests. Similarly, Gent explains that many Vancity employees volunteer with financial literacy programs because a community initiative’s is more effective and manageable “when you’re able to map it to the values and purposes of the organization.”

You get what you give
While employers may fear that taking staff out of the office and into the community will decrease productivity, our experts believe there is a real business case for occasionally ditching the desk. Look for ways to turn external giving into internal development. For example, Gent describes how the hands-on experience and team building effects of community outreach make it “more of a professional development strategy than an expense.” Good corporate citizenship also gives organizations a competitive edge, notes McKnight, as discerning customers and employees are increasingly seeking out, “employers and companies that look to the social bottom line as well as the financial bottom line.”

Generation X & Y
There is a new generation of donors and entrepreneurs today who are seeking greater accountability from charities in an effort to gauge the good the organization accomplishes. Effective giving campaigns can take a variety of forms and can be adapted to meet the philanthropic need of employees, companies and communities.

Working to Fund Their Vision
Embracing the strengths in the BC Business article, a local young budding company of thirty something entrepreneurs Aaron, Alan & Devon- owners of Green City Cleaners, built Green City Green Future which holds a prominent place in their philanthropic strategic plan. On their website it states – “We envision a future where everyone has access to fresh organic locally grown produce and a future where all our energy needs are met at the community level.” GCGF strives to serve as a truly virtuous cycle – or as many business executives call it – Creating Shared Value – and there is not a single party involved that won’t benefit in some way, whether from increased funding and new supporters, the sense of satisfaction that comes through helping tackle a difficult issue, or a deeper connection on the part of the company and its values to help the communities they live and work in.

Green City Green Future’s mission is to be a valued partner in a social responsible strategy working with social and civil societies. “We want to partner with local municipalities and neighborhoods. We want to help families and communities gain access to organic garden plots, energy efficiency scholarships, and all the tools and training needed to live together as a community and eco-system.”

Responsibility in a Recession: The Gift That Keeps On Giving
In an era where everyone is trying to do more with less, the key is creating networks of people all pulling in the same direction in support of a single cause, that benefits everyone. You can see the effect on society that businesses can have when they empower people to solve big problems. Imagine what can be accomplished when that combined power is focused on the public good.
“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” Albert Pike

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