Volunteers contribute greatly to nonprofit organizations. According to the 2018 Volunteering in America report, 77 million people volunteered in the United States. These volunteers make significant impacts on the organizations they are serving and doing volunteer work not only benefits others, it benefits the volunteers as well. Many companies have taken the initiative to encourage workers to volunteer in their time off or have dedicated days to put towards service events. But, what can your company do to encourage employees to continue serving their communities while ensuring their safety during the COVID-19 pandemic?
COVID Effects on Volunteering
COVID-19 has restricted the work people have been able to participate in. To prevent the unintentional spread of the virus, gathering is discouraged and attending in-person volunteering is not as feasible as it was before. Many are choosing to stay home to protect themselves and their families from being exposed. This means that communities nonprofits serve will start seeing a lag in service or decreases in resources available. There are many reports that nonprofits are struggling to keep up with the workload due to the decrease in volunteer numbers. For example, Hunger Task Force, Inc. doesn’t have enough volunteers to help pack food boxes for seniors living in the Milwaukee area. COVID-19 has changed the way we go about our lives, but many have found ways to continue supporting their communities through volunteer work while staying safe.
Socially Distanced Volunteering Opportunities
Safe volunteering can take place at home. There are plenty of needs that still need to be addressed even in a pandemic.
Virtual Volunteering Opportunities
Virtual volunteering events have also emerged in the past few months. These events can be just as beneficial as those that are taking place in person.
Group Volunteering Under Safe Conditions
Nonprofits looking to host in-person events still have the option to do so by taking advantage of outdoor spaces. Some have invited the community to a local park with socially distanced work stations for each household to work on service projects like blanket making, card writing, or food or toy collections. The key guidelines to keep in mind are to maintain distance, sanitize often, ask those who show symptoms to stay home, and implement tools so contract tracing is easy in case there is an exposure.
While the pandemic has shut down many activities, it’s important to continue encouraging acts of service. Especially in times of global crisis, these volunteer hours can end up being more impactful than before. Whether your company decides to look into remote volunteering projects or seek out safe and socially distanced opportunities, the work provided will make a difference in the lives of others.
Corporate organizations looking to make an impact in the nonprofit sector can help out in a variety of ways. Many companies will offer to sponsor events or donate when needed to organizations that are looking for funds. However, there is a method that corporate philanthropy can adopt if it is looking to be more proactive in their giving. Creating a grants program is a great way to reach out to nonprofit organizations in need. Grants are just one of the many funding options for nonprofits to raise enough money to sustain their organizations and help their communities. By creating an ongoing grants program for nonprofits to apply to, corporate foundations can ensure the funding is going towards a cause that aligns with their values, goals, and mission.
Do Your Research & Assess Your Resources
The first step in creating a grants program is to assess your company. You will want to examine your company’s finances to determine whether you are in a place where you can create a grants program. It would not be a good idea to offer the money without being able to back it up. Carefully prepare for your grant program and make sure you have specific amounts set aside to contribute.
Take time to investigate the needs of the community and research your philanthropic interests. You can reference the Corporate Grants Guide to see what other companies are involved in and to gain ideas. A key component of making a grants program is to ensure there is a need for it. You can start by looking locally and getting in contact with experts in the area. For example, if you are wanting to make an impact with arts in the community, try reaching out to local theaters or art learning centers to gauge their need. These sources can inform you about the funding they currently receive and redirect you to other organizations in need if they are getting along fine with funding.
Integrate Your Mission and Vision
When looking to create a grants program, keep your company’s mission and vision in mind. By tailoring your grants program to the goals you have, you will more easily be able to attract specific projects and work in issue areas that you are interested in. This gives your company more control over how the money is used as well. For example, you may specifically want to provide arts funding for afterschool programs. By holding your mission and vision at the center of the creation process, you’ll be able to come across organizations that align with your strategy, core values, and goals.
Set Up the Application Structure for Your Grant
Once you have determined what you are wanting to fund, you are able to start setting up the various components of the program. This includes creating an application, guidelines, and requirements that nonprofit organizations need to meet in order to apply for your grant. You can adapt your application using a template or create a completely new application. Usually, these packets contain instructions, a cover sheet, grant proposal, and budget information for the applicants.
Include clear instructions for nonprofit organizations to follow. These need to outline the deadlines you have set for applying as well as the materials they need for submission. It also helps to provide tips that touch on what you’re looking for in an application. For example, you can suggest researching your company and its philosophy.
Cover sheets are used to provide you more information on the nonprofit that is applying for your grants program. This should include the date, important information related to the organization like their legal name, address, website, executive director, and a good phone number. Provide space on the cover sheet for the nonprofit to also include their tax identification number as well as more background on their founding, mission, staff, and budget.
This is also a great section to ask about information you would be interested in before awarding them grant money. You can include space to ask about the organization’s objectives, programs, and accomplishments- anything that would help you with your decision-making.
Determine the type of budget form you will use as well as any additional attachments you may need. Your decisions can be based on things such as financial information, a budget, or the income and expenses of the nonprofit organization.
Spread the Word
The last step is to share your newly created grants program with everyone. Get the word out there so that nonprofits know there is funding available. You can also use grant databases like Foundation Center, Grant Station, or others to share information. These sites can help you organize your grant based on your areas of interests, making it easier for nonprofits to search for your program.
The past year of events have taken a toll on people all over the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected individuals, families, and businesses in heartbreaking ways. One positive that has emerged, however, is the kindness that has been shown during this chaotic time. Areas require donations or aid and there are many nonprofits and charitable organizations that work endlessly to provide aid to those who need it. Their work takes some of the burden off of those that are struggling during these unprecedented times. Philanthropy is a powerful way to aid the work that so many are already doing. Those that are eager to dedicate themselves to the cause and respond to coronavirus can do so in a number of ways.
The first step to take is to determine the organization or charity that you are looking to contribute to. These organizations could be ones that you regularly work with/ donate to or it could be ones that are close to your heart in other ways. These organizations could be working with certain populations like those living in urban areas or organizations with specific goals of helping remedy housing or food insecurity.
One way to directly help those in need is by giving money. The pandemic has brought about financial pressures for everyone, especially nonprofits working to meet the needs of the community. Financial donors can make a big difference during this time by providing the means for organizations to buy medical equipment, supply food, etc. Just a few of the nonprofit organizations working on the frontlines include:
Those looking for general COVID-19 funds to donate to can look into GlobalGiving, GoFundMe’s COVID-19 Relief Fund, and The New York Times’ Neediest Cases Fund.
Where To Start
Not sure where to start? There are even organizations that help research charities and nonprofits. While it’s important for you to vet potential organizations yourself, these entities help with the legwork and provide you with a base level of knowledge. Explore websites like GuideStar, Charity Navigator, GiveWell, and CharityWatch for more insight. These organizations have rating systems, gold standards, and grading scales in place to help people be informed donors.
Outside of online research, look into charities and nonprofit organizations that those around you care about, for example, the places your alma mater, your pastor, or your employers have donated to. Finding connections within your own circle usually leads to helpful ideas since your personal values will usually align more closely with those that you surround yourself with.
Volunteering time is just as valuable as contributing money or supplies. Companies that have employee volunteer programs can look into organizations where more volunteer labor is needed. Many organizations are short handed due to health and safety considerations. A few volunteer opportunities to look into are:
Socially Distanced Volunteer Work
Nonprofits are also working to ensure that volunteers are safe, for example, activities like meal delivery can be done in a contactless environment. Many activities like making care packages, preparing food, and working in pantries have been modified so volunteers are protected. Many projects have coordinated delivery routes or even worked out a drive-through system to limit the amount of contact people have with each other.
In addition, those that are still wanting to donate time without having to be at risk of any exposure in a volunteer setting can look to online opportunities. Those with language experience can spend time getting involved with Translators Without Borders, a nonprofit organization working to make information accessible to diverse populations. It is even easy to volunteer using a smartphone. Organizations like Amnesty International’s Decoders Initiative requests help with flagging human rights violations on the internet. This involves dedicating time to sifting through digital content, documents, satellite data, etc. to help identify acts of injustice. Technology these days makes it simple for anyone with an internet connection to help out a cause and join global networks of other volunteers. The work that you and others do could help fill an important gap.
Creating a thriving and efficient work environment isn’t always about what happens in the office - sometimes, it’s the time you encourage your employees to take off that makes the biggest difference. Offering your employees volunteer time off is an amazing way to get them engaged in the community, can help boost the image of your company, and can help further the mission of your business.
What is VTO?
Like paid time off, volunteer time off (VTO) policies offer employees the chance to take a day off with pay. Rather than going on vacation or taking sick leave, VTO is for volunteering. Offering paid days off to your employees encourages them to take advantage of the opportunity, and can even help boost employee morale.
Most companies that offer VTO offer somewhere between 8 and 80 hours per year, with some even offering employees the chance to take paid sabbaticals to dedicate themselves purely to volunteering. An organization offering VTO can choose just how much time they will allow, and can even dictate which organizations employees should volunteer with to qualify. By requiring employees to volunteer for specific causes and organizations, you’ll be able to direct time, energy, and effort toward a cause that matters to you and your business.
Some companies require employees to take at least 8 hours of VTO throughout the year, implementing mandatory minimum volunteer hours for all members of staff. Other companies leave the choice entirely up to the employee, allowing them to request as much or as little VTO as they want. Approving employees for VTO is a relatively straightforward process, and requires little more than a simple scheduling protocol for employees to submit requests for VTO with reasonable advanced notice.
What Are the Advantages of a VTO Policy?
Some business owners might frown at the idea of paying their workforce to ‘work’ elsewhere for a day, but despite the lost working hours, there are plenty of advantages to implementing a VTO policy in your organization.
Companies that Offer VTO
If you decide to begin offering your employees VTO, you’ll be joining the more than 65% of companies that already have these programs in place. Some of the biggest, most well-known corporations are also those with the most generous VTO policies, and more and more professionals are beginning to expect their employers to dedicate a portion of their resources to community and social programs. Here are just a few of the companies that offer VTO to their employees:
How You Can Create a VTO Policy
If you haven’t already, now is the time to begin offering your employees paid volunteer time off. Creating a basic VTO policy is fairly simple, and if you already have a PTO policy in place, you will be able to follow its basic framework. Some important details for your VTO policy to include are:
Ready to take it to the next level?
These are companies who are going above and beyond and offering an even greater depth to their community service programs:
Want to learn more about making a difference in your community? Visit Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors insights blog to discover much more.
Nonprofit sponsorships are a great way for companies to give back while also helping to build their brand, but oftentimes, companies struggle to find the right nonprofit to sponsor. Briefly, sponsorships involve the sponsor giving the receiving organization money, goods, or services in exchange for marketing or advertising of some kind. For example, the sponsor may pay the nonprofit, and in exchange, the nonprofit may put the sponsor’s brand name and logo in all advertising for their next event.
Sponsorships benefit all involved, but that doesn’t mean you should accept every sponsorship opportunity that comes along, even if you can afford it. Choosing the wrong nonprofit to sponsor could hurt the image of your brand, so it is important to make the selection carefully. At Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors, we work with business owners to help them make strategic moves for the maximum benefit of all, and have helped countless companies to find the perfect sponsorship opportunities for them. Keep reading to discover a few key things to consider when choosing a nonprofit to sponsor.
As you begin your search for the right nonprofit, it is important to consider your company’s connection to various causes and organizations. You should be looking for nonprofits whose causes correlate with the work you are doing, the area in which you operate, etc. Sure, you could select a nonprofit doing work you find interesting, but that won’t directly help your brand. The goal with nonprofit sponsorships is to benefit both parties involved, but if you choose a cause that is entirely unrelated to your business, you could end up with the short end of the stick.
When creating a sponsorship agreement with any nonprofit, it is important to know a little about the people that are running the organization. Sometimes, business owners discover nonprofit sponsorship opportunities that seem perfect, until they delve deeper into the beliefs or methodologies of their leadership. In some cases, it may be something small about the people associated with the nonprofit that turns you off from the opportunity, and in other cases, the amazing people you build connections with could seal the deal.
While considering any sponsorship opportunity, it is important to look closely at the benefits you are being offered. At first glance, many nonprofit sponsorship seem like they could be highly beneficial for any organization, but it is important to look past the surface to make sure that you are truly a good fit. To ensure you stay on target and don’t miss out on the benefits you are looking for, it is a good idea to have your expectations set from the start.
Once you find a possible candidate, communicate these expectations clearly, since knowing what you need from the sponsorship will help your nonprofit partner to fulfill their end of the bargain. Discuss topics like creative say and approval, how to establish public recognition, how you would like your brand represented, and so on.
Values & Goals
Sponsorship proposals come in many forms, and can include tons of varying information and detail. While looking through any sponsorship proposal, it is important to look out for signs that your company’s values or goals may not align with the proposal. You could, for example, discover that the nonprofit would only want to commit to putting your brand on their events for a few months, while you are looking for a longer-term agreement.
If the sponsorship doesn’t align with where you want to go, and where you imagine your company will be in 3, 5, or 10 years, keep looking. If the values of your company and the nonprofit you plant to sponsor don’t coincide, you will be setting yourself up for disappointment right from the start.
While you should certainly focus on the positive impact sponsoring a nonprofit could have, looking at the possible negative impact of not sponsoring the nonprofit can be equally as valuable. What would happen to your company if you didn’t sponsor? Would you be able to get the word out about yourself the way a nonprofit could? Will you choose to align yourself with another nonprofit? Would your company image be hurt if you didn’t take the sponsorship?
Similarly, consider what impact choosing to not sponsor could have on the nonprofit. Is your company the one most suited to sponsor this organization? Would public perception of the nonprofit be hurt if you don’t sponsor them? Would they be better off with a different sponsor, or would your brand help raise their visibility? Whether you sponsor or not, you will be making an impact, so be sure to assess all your options before you make a decision.
As you search for nonprofit sponsorship prospects, be sure to only seriously consider those with good reputations. It is relatively easy to find out whether or not a nonprofit has a good repudiation, especially since a quick Google will give you all the news and information you could need. Beyond simply researching public perception of the nonprofit, it is also a good idea to verify that they are a registered 501 c3, and that they have all their credentials in order.
Many nonprofit sponsorships include the chance to speak at or be featured at an event, which can be an amazing way to spread awareness of your brand. By sponsoring nonprofit events, and having your brand prominently displayed and mentioned throughout, you are showing potential customers the values of your company. Should you discover a nonprofit sponsorship with proposed events, think first about who will be attending and whether or not they would be interested in what your company has to offer.
Standing in front of the right audience can spark tons of opportunities, but if the audience wouldn’t be interested in you if you weren’t the sponsor of the event, things can go a bit sour. Assess what kind of people are interested in the nonprofit you are considering, and determine whether their interests overlap with the interests of your customers.
Sponsoring a nonprofit can be a great way to gain more brand recognition, and help your company to stand out from the competition. Alignment with a nonprofit not only boosts your advertising, but it can also make your company seem more appealing to prospective customers. If heightened recognition is the goal, choose recognizable nonprofits with track records of sponsored events.
Finally, one of the best ways to determine whether a nonprofit sponsorship is right for your company is by assessing how their staff treats yours. If you feel comfortable around the people running and managing the nonprofit, and your staff has good experiences collaborating with them, this is a great indication that you could create a highly successful sponsorship. Everyone should be benefiting from the opportunity, so be wary of anyone that seems negative, standoffish, or unwilling to communicate.
Check out more tips, tricks, and advice for nonprofits and philanthropic organizations by visiting Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors online today! While you’re there, be sure to take a look at our blog for lots more content just like this.
Some people give simply because they know they should, and offer up charitable donations out of some kind of moral obligation. While it is true that we should all do our best to give back, this sentiment of obligatory philanthropy is readily going out of style.
The next generation of philanthropists, the 20-somethings, are giving to those causes they feel personal connections to, rather than giving simply for the sake of giving. Young people like to engage personally with the causes they support, and are building philanthropy plans that reflect their interests and values.
If you are a 20-something and have been wondering whether it is time you create a philanthropy plan, the answer is: it’s never too early to start giving! Building the habit of generosity and learning support causes that impact you and your community from an early age will help you to feel more connected to your community, and will help you to build patterns of empathy.
Many younger people with charitable sensibilities shy away from engaging in philanthropy because they believe that they need to have tons of expendable income to make an impact. In truth, young philanthropists can contribute to nonprofit and community organizations in many ways, including but not limited to financially.
How You Can Give Back Without Having Money
While even the smallest financial donation is appreciated by nonprofit organizers, not all young philanthropists can afford to donate money. Instead, try donating something else, like your time. Volunteer, serve on boards or committees, offer professional pro-bono services, or find some other creative way of donating your time.
Many nonprofits often need additional volunteers to help with basic administrative tasks, to help organize or clean their facilities, or to simply spread the word about their cause. Donating your time is just as rewarding - if not more - than donating your money, and the sooner you begin contributing to causes you care about, the sooner you will feel the benefits of generosity.
Once you start giving back, we know you won’t want to stop, which is why we encourage you to keep changing your philanthropy plan as often as necessary. As you, your career, and your life grow, you will find new ways to contribute to the causes that mean the most to you. Creating a basic philanthropy plan in your 20s is just the first step.
Learn more about philanthropy and how you can make a difference when you visit Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors. We offer more information like this on our blog, where you can discover tips, tricks, and advice for volunteering, corporate giving, fundraising, and much more.
Philanthropy might be a big word, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a super kid-friendly topic! Kids loving giving and being generous, and often have a great sense of compassion and duty to their friends and family. Because of this, engaging your kids in conversations and activities to help them start thinking about philanthropy can be a great way to spend more time together, and to foster good habits for their future. Here are just a few simple ways you can get your kids excited about philanthropy.
Show Your Kids Positive Results
You can explain the concept of charitable giving to a child, and they will likely understand, but younger children may not fully be able to understand the real impact of philanthropy. A good way to help your kids understand the impact they can have is to choose a cause that offers visual results. Consider donating, for example, to charities offering treatment and surgery to children with cleft palate or cleft lips. Before and after photos of these kinds of operations can show your children exactly where their donations are going, making the action seem more important and real.
Volunteer as a Family
Younger children may not have the same understanding of the value of money as older children, which is why it can be extremely valuable to expose them to volunteer opportunities. Volunteering within your community is an excellent way to show them that there are things that can be done within your community and that they are an important part of said community. Volunteering can also help to solidify the real impact of philanthropy, showing your kids that there is value in work and satisfaction in helping others.
Encourage Kids To Think with Empathy
Shielding children from hardship and pain is an instinct, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share facts of life with your kids. If, for example, a person experiencing homelessness approaches you and your child, be kind and generous with that person. After, be sure to engage your child in a conversation regarding what kinds of things might lead to a person being homeless. Your kids can empathize with other people, and early fostering of this skill can help to make them more understanding, empathetic, and kind as adults.
Want to learn more about becoming involved in philanthropy? Visit Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors online today, and be sure to check out our blog for many more helpful tips, tricks, and bits of information!
Corporate philanthropy can boost a company’s credibility with consumers, but if the company isn’t working to create social impact within their own framework, donations can seem hollow and hypocritical. Unfortunately, many corporate leaders have a narrow view of what drives employee satisfaction, emphasizing the importance of a living wage or competitive wages over the general wellbeing of their employees.
Similarly, some corporate leaders mistakenly believe that employee values and interests align perfectly with those of the corporation, inevitably leaving their workforce in the dust while focusing their efforts on external stakeholders.
While investing in charitable causes can help you to boost company image, investing in internal social responsibilities can help boost workplace productivity, increase company earnings, and even make an environmental and social impact. Company leaders must take on a holistic approach to corporate wellness and create programs to help promote employee health, happiness, and achievement.
If you feel your organization could benefit from putting more emphasis on internal social responsibilities, your first step will be to actually consult those that exist internally. Your staff is going to be the most important source of advice, feedback, and insight throughout the process of building an internal CSR program, since they will be the ones most directly and immediately impacted by the changes you eventually make.
If you have never had any initiatives to bring employees into a conversation surrounding their own working environment and support from the corporate level, you likely discover issues or barriers within the framework of your organization that inhibit employee growth and success. Be sure to include employees from every level of the company to ensure you have well-rounded responses and a diverse set of opinions.
It is not uncommon for there to be issues at lower levels that go unnoticed by management or executives for years. Many employees become accustomed to picking up slack where corporate policies and pre-set procedures fail to create efficiency, and will rarely mention issues to people further up the management chain for fear of being seen as a troublemaker or an insubordinate employee. Because of this, it is vital to make a clear and welcoming space for your staff to speak their mind, and to share insights that they are uniquely qualified to provide.
Assess Corporate Values
As mentioned, there are many businesses that focus heavily on representing their corporate values through external social and environmental investment, but neglect to assess how they can enforce those same values internally. Take some time to reflect on the values your company is built on, the organizations you support, and whether you extend the same concern for your employees as you do for communities that affect your external stakeholders.
If, for example, you have donated to organizations working to provide better healthcare and health facilities to the community in which your business is located, you should consider how you have handled employee health benefits and access. How have you helped to promote the health and wellness of your staff? Have you invested in offering high-quality insurance policies? Do you offer healthy food and drink options? Do you have strict sick-leave policies, or do you encourage employees to take time to rest and recover from sickness, fatigue, and injury?
Knowing how well your projected values align with your internal practices can be a good jumping-off point for choosing which areas to focus on first
Set Realistic Goals
When first examining how your company could improve its internal social responsibilities, it can be tempting to try to tackle every problem at once. While it is good to be open to making improvements in as many areas as possible, it is also important to set realistic goals and deadlines for implementing new programs. Choose two or three I-CSR initiatives to spearhead each year, and allow for flexibility where timelines are concerned.
Try to avoid being too specific when you begin to choose which internal social responsibility initiatives you will support, and aim instead to choose larger initiatives with more potential for diverse participation and policies. For instance, an initiative to improve staff involvement with corporate philanthropy could include offering employees incentives to volunteer with specific organizations or allowing them to take part in choosing future organizations to support.
Accept Feedback & Measure Results
As you roll out new initiatives, it is important to continually monitor their progress and impact by both assessing the performance of the company and by seeking out feedback from your staff. If you are truly making change at every level and working to support initiatives that improve the working lives of all employees, you must be open to both criticism and approval and allow for staff to freely express how they would improve or alter current initiatives.
Once you have begun taking on more internal social responsibility, it is important to not allow your company to fall back on old habits. It is easy to say ‘good enough’ and call it quits after a few basic changes to your company, but those organizations that create success from the inside out are those that invest in the interests of their employees. As you and your team learn and grow, there will always be new ways to explore internal social responsibility and to realign corporate values and culture to fit more closely with the knowledge you have built, so be prepared to welcome constant evolution.
Learn more about corporate responsibility on our blog when you visit Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors online.
As nonprofit leaders, you’re facing unprecedented times in managing your workforce while also trying to maintain the level of quality in community services you’ve provided before the COVID19 crisis.
Last Friday, the $2 trillion federal stimulus package "CARES Act" passed that could offer direct relief for your organization.
I am writing to provide a summary for you of strategic options to consider as you wade through the health and economic crisis.
Under the CARES Act, unemployment benefits are confirmed upon application AND benefits are upped an additional $600/week (bringing total benefit to $800-$900/wk).
If you think it’s inevitable that you may eventually have to lay off workers soon, it might make more sense to lay off your staff immediately to unlock this program's benefits. Do the math, see if this makes sense for your team members and your operations. This program is here to help you get through this.
The CARES Act also provides up to $10,000 advance for payroll expenditures (this is called an Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan, approved within three days of application). If you then plan to “rehire” May 1, you could use this loan to help get you through the month of May. Then by June, it’s likely (fingers crossed) the quarantine will be over and you can fully re-open to meet client needs. This is really more like a grant, it does not need to be repaid.
This route might be able to get you through at least one month of payroll and then some payroll relief for the month of May. Something to talk to your financial advisors about, every organization is unique and requires a unique strategy.
ADDITIONAL CARES ACT BENEFITS FOR NONPROFITS
If you haven’t done so already, reach out to your legal and financial counsel as soon as you can to determine what the best options are for your organization. In Indiana, we recommend Kruggel Lawton CPAs (Margene Zink mzink[@]klcpas.com) for accounting information and South Bank Legal for legal matters. Elsewhere, let me know if you’re looking and I will get you a good referral.
I am not a lawyer or a CPA. I am offering ancillary support as a nonprofit administration consultant who wants to see your important organization get through this whole and on your feet.
Feel free to reach out using our contact form if you have specific questions or need assistance during this tough period.
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.