As a marketing professional, I have been on both sides of the same equation. As a corporate leader for a global company, I made decisions to ensure our local community was supported by making charitable contributions to worthy nonprofits. Later, when I worked for the nonprofit Kelly Cares Foundation, this arrangement flipped. I was the one asking corporate executives for charitable contributions to my nonprofit. Now, as the Director of Marketing at Gibson, seeing both sides of the equation and matching those experiences with our own set of priorities has me seeing the whole arrangement from a new vantage point.
As soon as I joined the Gibson team, I asked myself: Are we fully embracing corporate giving? I knew right away, Gibson is an incredibly generous company. It’s very clear we have a culture of servant leadership from the top down and our donations and time prove this. But what difference is it making? Should we have a plan for giving, just like we have a plan for every other part of our company? Of course, the answer is yes.
Research shows nearly 90% of consumers say they’re more likely to buy from a company that supports activities to improve the community. With a statistic like that, do employers really have a choice when it comes to giving and their social reputation? I can enthusiastically say no! But this doesn’t mean throwing together a disjointed giving program that exists outside the bounds of your company’s primary goals.
Does your organization have its core values clearly outlined? At Gibson our core values are genuinely our fundamental beliefs, making it a natural starting point to establish a giving strategy. Your core values should align right along with your corporate giving dollars and time. Next time a nonprofit asks your company for a gift, the first thing you can do is see how partnering with that nonprofit fits into your core values.Leadership must buy into the benefits that come with being a good community steward. Establishing your company as a leader in corporate giving comes with its own set of challenges. You can start today by asking yourself: What is the motivation for my corporate giving? Recruitment, retention, relationships, making an impact? These are all great reasons to take part in giving.
In 2019, Gibson embarked on a path to take our corporate social investment very seriously. We partnered with Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors to measure and monitor our social impacts through surveys, auditing, research, and expertise. Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors sat with us to create our baseline and forge a clear path for future goals that are aligned with our priorities and culture.
During the process we found giving back doesn’t stop at sending in checks and sponsoring tables at charity events but extends into how we are treating our team members and valuing their time and efforts in and out of the office. When the numbers rolled in, we were astounded. When you read through our first-ever impact report or watch the impact report video, both produced in conjunction with Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors, you’ll see we found our company was more generous than we ever even knew. In fact, corporate cash contributions coupled with fundraising, volunteer service, and employee gifts added up to an astounding $869K community investment across all locations last year alone. We also found Gibson has invested in 91 nonprofits and our employees volunteer in 138 different nonprofits throughout Michigan and Indiana. This is resounding evidence the communities we live in need us and rely on us to be there for them in more ways than we ever imagined.
Gibson made a strategic decision—we want to be known as a leader in corporate giving. Looking for ways to innovate through giving, we listened to our employees and offered them the opportunity to volunteer at community nonprofits during the workday. This led to larger groups wanting to participate, allowing us to make an even greater impact while encouraging teams to grow together. In the end, is there really a better way to motivate employees or recruit new talent than being able to show the real impact we are making on those in need, our community, and one another?
Equally as exciting, I will be working with our current nonprofit partners to get creative. Instead of us supporting that annual dinner with just tickets to an event, we are asking the nonprofits to schedule tours and volunteer opportunities with our employees. We hope this will boost overall engagement amongst our team members and create a peer-to-peer bond that otherwise may never have existed. We are confident this will promote philanthropy among employees beyond what we give here as a company at Gibson.
We encourage you to join us in this endeavor into strategic corporate philanthropy. Be bold and dive deep! As you begin, keep these six quick tips from our partner Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors in mind.
THE DO’S AND DON’TS OF CORPORATE GIVING
If you want to dive into strategic corporate philanthropy, the first thing you need to do is consider your motivation. Is it networking and to generate new leads? To support causes important to you as an executive or your entire team? Is it to position your company as a good corporate citizen because you think it will help you in some other way? It is because it just feels like the right thing to do? There’s no right or wrong answer here. But asking yourself the “why questions” will lead you to the right strategy.
Whatever your motivation is, when nearly 90% of consumers say they’re more likely to buy from a company that supports activities to improve society, then you need to integrate corporate philanthropy into your marketing and sales strategy. (REFERENCE: Creel, Timothy (2012). “How Corporate Social Responsibility Influences Brand Equity.” Management Accounting Quarterly.)
You should also consider the benefits corporate giving has on your staff. Recruitment and retention will become increasingly more dependent on whether your company can give employees the sense their job is making an impact in some way.
No one can tell you how much time or money you should be giving. This is a decision for your executive team and completely dependent on your core values, size, revenue, and business goals. What we can say is that you need to make sure you are being strategic about every effort you make. If you do not take the steps to plan and have a calculated purpose for every donation and volunteer hour, these resources could very likely be wasted.
Once you know your WHY, the HOW will be more straightforward. Engaging in philanthropy as a HR recruitment and retention tool might lead you to surveying staff on their preferences and capacity. While engaging in philanthropy as a marketing effort might lead you to analyzing charitable giving opportunities as a path to developing relationships that will lead to sales.
Contact Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors today to get started on crafting a strategy today.
Written by Rob Clarfeld for Forbes
Americans are a generous people, giving away more than $410 billion in 2017, according to Giving USA, with more than 70% of that donated by individuals. Most people express their philanthropic desires by writing checks to the various charities that are important to them. Certainly direct giving is easy and convenient, but often lacks tax efficiency or a longer-term strategic focus.
For individuals and families that want their philanthropy to continue for generations or are concerned with income tax minimization efficiency, alternative options to direct giving include setting up a private foundation or contributing to a donor advised fund (DAF). There are positives and negatives to each.
Building a Legacy with a Private Foundation
For those with multigenerational wealth and the desire to leave a lasting legacy, a private foundation offers a lot of benefits. It adds prestige to the family name and can teach future generations the importance of being charitable and contributing to society. A private foundation also gives the donors total control over which qualified charities receive grants. Family setting up a private foundation can control the succession of trustees and board members for as long as the foundation remains in existence.
On the downside, private foundations are more complicated than DAFs. They require time-delaying filings and other paperwork to establish them, and there are upfront legal fees and annual maintenance costs for the required tax filings and recordkeeping. Private foundations also are required by law to distribute a minimum of 5% of their assets annually and must pay an annual excise tax of 1-2% of net investment income. Generally, those opting for private foundations endow them with a significant contribution and have multigenerational charitable intentions.
Let Someone Else Handle the Hassles
Conversely, donor advised funds are established immediately and at no cost, which explains their growing popularity. Most brokerage custodians—Fidelity, Schwab, TD Ameritrade, etc.—can have DAFs set up and running the same day. Once they are established, the fund sponsor handles all administrative functions. The tax benefits from donations to DAFs also are superior to that of private foundations. The limitation on deducting charitable donations (as a percentage of adjusted gross income on one’s tax return) is the same as for direct giving, 60% for cash donations versus 30% for private foundations, and 30% verses 20% for donated securities. Also, there is more privacy around DAFs, compared to private foundations that can be researched in publicly available databases, which often creates a flow of unwanted solicitations. As stated above, DAFs don’t pay an excise tax on investment gains.
A consideration that I’ve found to be more theoretical is that unlike a private foundation, although DAF donors advise on potential grants, the sponsor has the ultimate authority to approve or deny recommendations. There are also restrictions on what types of organizations are eligible for DAF grants.
Bunching of Deductions
The overarching benefit of both private foundations and DAFs is the ability to control the timing of when you receive a tax deduction and when charities receive funds. This can make a big difference in a year when one has an exceptionally high income – large bonus, vesting of restricted company stock, sale of a business, or winning the lottery – when charitable deductions are of greater value, and its beneficial to spread out payments to charities over several years. Both vehicles allow the deduction in the year you gift to the vehicle, while the charities receive the funds in the year you choose. Further, the recently enacted tax law, Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, may make the “bunching” of tax deductions into a single year adventurous for some taxpayers (See: Preserving Tax Benefits For Charitable Contributions)
Whether the desire to do good results in simply writing a check, contributing to a DAF or setting up a private foundation, maximizing the tax benefits of charitable contributions can be complicated and should be discussed with your tax or financial advisor.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ROB CLARFELD
Rob Clarfeld is founder of Clarfeld Financial Advisors, a leading wealth management firm with offices in Westchester, N.Y., and New York City that provides comprehensive financial and estate planning, sophisticated tax and compliance expertise, and investment management services. Rob is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Financial Planner® and Personal Financial Specialist with more than 30 years of experience advising financially successful families and family-owned businesses. With a focus on robust and individualized family office platforms, Rob has been Barron’s #1 Independent Wealth Advisor in New York for nine consecutive years, and is the #1-ranked New York independent advisor on the Forbes Top Wealth Advisors list. To find out more, visit: clarfeld.com ** Please Note: Rankings and/or recognition by unaffiliated rating services and/or publications should not be construed by a client or prospective client as a guarantee that he/she will experience a certain level of investment performance.
Written by Alina Dizik for Chicago Booth. Published June 11, 2018.
A company, if it clearly conveys during the recruiting process its intent to benefit society, can see lasting benefits, research finds. University of Chicago’s Daniel Hedblom, Queen’s University’s Brent R. Hickman, and List used data to track how advertising a company’s support of a nonprofit impacted recruiting and work quality.
To do this, they performed an experiment that doubled as a business venture, which involved launching a data-collection consulting company and hiring 170 part-time workers in 12 US cities. The initial job descriptions they posted were identical, but the researchers tweaked the job details in later emails. When people inquired about positions, they received an email saying the work would consist of either data entry or data entry to benefit underprivileged children. The researchers also varied pay rates, offering some applicants $15 an hour and others $11.
When hired, employees were assigned data-entry tasks that involved looking at Google Street View. Some were asked to tally the number of broken windows or potholes in each image, which produced data that was used in some cases to help identify safe areas near schools where administrators were trying to help students avoid gang violence, and in other cases to benefit Uber. (List is a consultant for Uber.)
Workers who expressed interest in a data-collection company, created as part of a study, were more likely to apply when the position’s social impact was advertised. 1
Helping schoolkids involved a social impact—and had a big effect on recruiting. When that social mission was mentioned in emails, the company saw 26 percent more people interested in the job, comparable to the 33 percent bump the company saw when it offered $15 an hour. Advertising jobs that had a social mission improved the pool of applicants, with no additional, and potentially expensive, recruiting tactics required. “This generation of young workers is more compelled than previous generations to do social good,” List says.
People who accepted a job originally advertised as CSR-driven were also more effective at work. Employees in the CSR group were more productive, analyzing images in a shorter amount of time than other workers. And while all employees could work any number of hours over a 10-day period, those in the CSR group worked longer hours.
Both women and men were affected by corporate responsibility, but in different ways. Women were 40 percent more productive in accurately analyzing Google Street View images as a result of CSR and worked an hour more per day. Men produced higher-quality results but did not increase the number of images that they analyzed. “Together, these insights suggest that CSR draws out higher output from women and higher quality from men,” the researchers write. “CSR should not be viewed as a necessary distraction from a profit motive, but rather as an important part of profit maximization similar to other non-pecuniary incentives.” Customers and employees, List assures, will still view CSR as authentic, even if it is recognized to boost profits.
While the results suggest that CSR can have strong, positive effects, List recommends companies keep the findings on moral licensing in mind and monitor employee behavior. He notes that because so much behavior is driven subconsciously, simply making employees aware of the tendency to couple good actions with bad could counteract the bias.
Want your company to be more involved? Great. Ask your employees what they're passionate about.
By Tom GimbelFounder and CEO, LaSalle Network@TomGimbel
Published by INC. Magazine on February 26, 2016
Over the weekend, I joined about 50 of my employees (that's around 1/3 of the company) at Dance Marathon benefiting Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago. It's an eight-hour dance fest that raised almost $400,000 for the foundation. My company has participated for four years, and two years ago I decided to make us a corporate sponsor.
So what's unique about that?
Our involvement with Dance Marathon didn't start with me. It's not my charity. It wasn't my idea; I wasn't involved at all.
In fact, when one of our employees started promoting it internally, I was irritated because before we knew it, we could have hundreds of emails floating around for any charity, and that can result in apathy due to saturation.
When I voiced this concern to the employee who sent the email, she told me that she wasn't the only one involved. There were four others. Then five. Then ten.
You get the picture.
So I decided to participate with them, and my kids have joined us almost every year. Last year we had over 30 dancers. This year, over 50.
The point is, I allowed my employees to sell me on their passion. Rather than as a CEO, force my passion on them. In almost 18 years, I've never forced an employee to donate time or money to a charity of "mine."
I've seen too many company leaders make that mistake and force their employees to participate in something, rather than letting them develop a passion.
As a CEO of a high-growth company (doubling sales at least every five years), I ask a lot of my team. They don't have to support my charities. But seeing them get passionate about a charity on their own and working hard to raise money on their own motivates me. It shows me what they are all about -- in their job and outside of it.
The ironic thing is, the people who are the most involved in the charity are huge producers at work. They've all been with the company at least four years and they all work hard.
I am always a bit skeptical of the employee who wants to only talk about philanthropy, especially when they've only been with a company a few months. But I know that the reason so many employees participated was because it was led by key influencers of our company.
Of the four, only one is in management, so it's truly peers leading peers. It's awesome. Now I'm passionate about the cause, which creates more synergy for them and not so coincidentally has helped business, as well.
Doing well for others doesn't have to be mutually exclusive to helping your business.
So my advice is don't just donate to your own causes; let your employees' passions help guide you. The important thing is giving back, but creating an environment where your employees can lead you is motivating and creates passion.
If you give money to charities and encourage your employees to volunteer, then you should be holding that money accountable. You can start simple to set goals and monitor your impact on the community and your company by starting to track these five measures right away.
Want to go a few steps further?
Learn more about the LBG measurement tool.
By using the LBG model, measuring your impact from year to year is pretty easy. You track INPUTS (what's contributed), OUTPUTS (what happens), and IMPACTS (what changes).
Yes, this takes some work but it's worth it. Why are you are investing thousands of dollars into but not measuring where it's going or what impact you're really making? Think strategically with every gift -- ask yourself why questions and how it will add value to your company and the people who make up your company.
Planned Corporate Community Investment programs has many clear benefits.
BLACKBIRD PHILANTHROPY ADVISORS:
We are here so you can be certain you're making an undeniable impact on the world around you. Our main services center on starting or perfecting corporate philanthropic giving programs (for both corporate giving newbies and veterans). We work smart and use data to determine trends and impact to help set you on a more strategic path in philanthropy. We also provide public relations, special events work, and corporate communications services so you can make sure the good you're doing is recognized.
Our Philanthropy Management option is perfect for companies who dream of having in-house philanthropy experts but who aren't quite large enough to hire a full time community affairs staff member. Philanthropy management can also be a good addition to your existing marketing teams and can add an expert layer of hands on deck without having to add a full or even part-time position.
Should your company publish a community philanthropy investment / Corporate Social Responsibility annual report?
What do Exxon Mobile, Toyota, Coca Cola Berkshire Hathaway, and Apple all have in common? In addition to being some of the most successful companies in world history, they are all also leaders in Corporate Social Responsibility. Entire teams are deployed to build strategic implementation plans to invest in the communities they serve. They develop their community investment plans and corporate philanthropy alongside the highest levels of leadership and produce annual reports to measure, monitor, and report on their social impacts just as they would report on financial returns to investors.
93 percent of the world's largest companies publish an annual report that details community investment and social responsibility initiatives.
You may already guess we absolutely think every company should have a community investment plan -- but should you also plan to publish an impact report? Don't overthink it. A community impact report could be a small as a quick letter to stakeholders with some facts and figures about philanthropy and volunteerism for year. Or, on the complete other end of the spectrum, you could publish a full multi-page, professionally produced report that holds your company accountable to your commitment to the communities you serve year to year.
Key questions to consider when building out a Philanthropy / CSR / Impact / Community Investment annual report:
Read more about what an annual report could include in Boston College's helpful "How to Read a Corporate Social Responsbility Report" guide.
Don't know where to start?
Take a cue from American Express, CISCO, Blue Cross Blue Shield and others in the sample reports we've compiled for you below. When you take a look at the reports, consider all the different ways companies can measure impact, philanthropy, and achieve their financial goals while doing it.
Motivations matter. They are what drives a company’s Corporate Community Investment. The LBG Framework enables community activities to be classified according to three categories of motivation.
This analysis provides an indication of the strategic nature of the community program, shows the degree to which it is aligned with wider business goals and helps companies understand the extent to which they are driving their contributions OR are being driven by external demands and circumstances.
The three categories of motivation identified in the LBG Framework are:
A general response to a charity request for funds
Charitable gifts tend to be reactive in that they respond to appeals for help either directly from charities or through requests from employees (including matched funding or payroll giving) or in response to short-term or one-off events.
They tend to be ad hoc or one-off contributions, made because it’s ‘the right thing to do’, not because of any strategic aim or anticipated return to the company. Some might refer to this as traditional philanthropy or grantmaking.
Targeted investment, long term partnership, major commitment of resources
Community investments tend to be more proactive and strategic than charitable gifts. They can center on a smaller number of larger-scale, longer-term projects and are often run as a partnership with, rather than a donation to, a community organization.
These projects address the social issue(s) that the company has identified as being relevant to both the company and the community in which it operates. They will often be: linked to a wider community strategy; be measured; and be expected to help protect the long-term corporate interests and reputation of the business.
Primary purpose PR/ marketing, business development, or promotion for competitive advantage
Commercial initiatives in the community are business related activities, usually undertaken by departments outside the community function (e.g. marketing, R&D), to support the success of the company and promote its brand and other policies, that also deliver community benefit.
The most common example of this is cause-related marketing. These are primarily marketing campaigns but involve a contribution from the company to a charitable cause.
Written by: Sherri Welch
Detroit-based nonprofit Michigan Women Forward will offer $10 million in community impact notes to support Michigan's women entrepreneurs.
Over the past five years, MWF (formerly known as Michigan Women's Foundation) has used philanthropic contributions and money from the state loan fund (that had to be paid back in just three years) to make microloans to 180 women entrepreneurs through loan programs and pitch competitions.
About 90 percent of those investments have been in Southeast Michigan, the rest scattered around the state. The businesses range from drinking vinegars and a coffee shop, a hydroponic farm and a mushroom factory to an architecture firm and a phlebotomy training school.
All but four of those companies are still operating, Cassin said, noting they collectively produced $18.5 million in revenue last year.
With the additional "patient" capital from the new offering, MWF could invest in up to 1,000 additional women entrepreneurs, giving them longer terms to pay the investment back, along with technical assistance and other support to help them succeed, Cassin said.
"If these businesses perform at the same rate the first 180 have performed," the notes could create $100 million in new revenue when it is fully deployed in 10 years, she said.
"It starts to be significant. You start to talk about real impact."
The $10 million Michigan Women Forward Community Impact Note offering is modeled after a similar program the Maryland-based Calvert Impact Capital Inc. offers to fund microloans, or make loans for buildings such as schools or affordable housing, Cassin said.
MWF is seeking:
"Before you're ready for angel investing or venture funding, women, especially, have a very hard time finding small amounts of equity funding," Cassin said.
Issuing notes is contingent upon MWF garnering commitments totaling at least $1 million within 12 months. Individual investors must make a minimum investment of $50,000, and institutional investors must commit at least $500,000.
MWF promises returns of 1 percent for five-year notes, 2 percent for seven-year notes and 3 percent for 10-year notes.
With assistance from Auburn Hills-based Gingras Global Group Inc., it will also provide investors with quarterly impact statements to document the tangible impact they are making in women's lives, Cassin said.
All summer, MWF has been talking with local, private and family foundations and banks "that might want to turn a philanthropic donation into an investment" that could be redeployed again and again to help women entrepreneurs, Cassin said. "We would not have gotten this far if we hadn't received positive reinforcement from them," she said.
MWF has also been talking with foundations in other parts of the state, such as Grand Rapids, that have an interest in investing in the notes to support women entrepreneurs in their regions, Cassin said.
Beyond the support the new offering could bring to women entrepreneurs, microlending is a sustainable business for MWF, Cassin said.
"The more we lend out and (entrepreneurs) pay back ... that gives us this opportunity to really create a larger and larger pool of money we can access" for more microloans, she said. "That's better for getting more women the capital they need and for getting us more flexible, earned income to start paying for the organization instead of having to go out and fundraise all the time."
1. Start Early!
Teaching children philanthropy can start at a very early age. Lessons related to cooperation, compassion, kindness, sharing, and contributing to a family, school, or neighborhood all teach the foundation of philanthropy.
2. Time, Treasure, Talent
It’s important to teach children of all ages that we all have time, treasure, or talent to share with the world. If you start with the framework of time, treasure, talent, you can easily incorporate that into helping children understand their unique attributes and capacity to give something to others who would otherwise go without. Kids are naturally altruistic -- it is up to adults to teach them how to act on their altruism by showing them ways they can volunteer time, give away toys or food, and share their talents for the benefit of others.
3. Needs vs. Wants
If you start by teaching your kids about needs versus wants, they will understand that not everyone has extras and many do not even have enough to cover needs. A big part of teaching philanthropy to children is also teaching them to be grateful for what they have. You can talk to them about what it might be like to have less or to have more and ask them to think about how other people live.
4. Be a Role Model
Children learn best by experiencing and modeling what they see their loved ones do. A great way to teach children philanthropy is by devoting yourself to giving back. You can invite your children along to charity events, to donation drives, and sometimes even volunteer service opportunities.
5. Reinforce Kindness
When you see your child expressing concern or kindness for others, encourage them and show them that you are proud of how they reacted. This will reinforce their behavior so they have a positive association with kindness and empathy.
Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors is a social enterprise devoted to Driving impactful and innovative change through philanthropy. Based in South Bend, Indiana, USA.