Make Philanthropy an All-Employee Event  

Business philanthropy offers an excellent marketing and employee engagement tool

Back Commentary Oct 10, 2016 By Jason Whong

Giving back to the community is one of the smartest and most worthwhile things a small business can do, and it doesn’t have to only involve money. It’s great PR, for example, if your company’s name is used in the promotions of a local 5k run to help raise funds for a nonprofit. However, the benefits can stretch even further if your employees are also promoting your business in their charitable efforts.

With tax breaks, publicity opportunities and the generation of a “feel-good” attitude within the company, the benefits of encouraging a philanthropic culture at the workplace are plentiful. The goal is to have your employees embrace philanthropic endeavors while also promoting those activities under the company name.

It’s important for business owners to work with their financial planners to develop plans that align with their passions, and how they can achieve their company’s philanthropic goals. Some strategies include:

Become a sponsor: Seek out and become a sponsor of local events that celebrate the best and brightest in your community. Host an awards dinner and invite local politicians, your employees, the media and other organizations that are connected to the type of recognition. It’s a great way to involve your employees in helping with arrangements, gathering nominations, or selecting the final award recipients.

Encourage volunteerism: Volunteering takes time, and time may be an extremely limited resource for your employees. Encourage your employees to go out in the community and help their favorite charities by providing them with a paid vacation day specifically dedicated to volunteering with a nonprofit. Word will spread about how much your company cares about the community, and that’s advertising that can’t be bought.

Related: Rethinking How We Support Our Local Charities

Set up a matching grant: The value of the dollar goes much further when a matching grant incentive is available. Offer a matching grant of a specific amount, or even a 2-1 match where you double your employee’s gift up to a predetermined limit. Because employees often know their charities personally, also ask if there’s a special project your matching donation should be earmarked toward. This personal involvement allows your business to connect better with your employees’ interests.

Arrange for a give-back week: Create an environment of enthusiasm for volunteering that spreads beyond your employees by pulling in their families and friends. If you have a local food bank, animal shelter, disaster relief organization or other nonprofit organization that your employees connect with, consider arranging several events during a short period of time to focus on helping that charity out. For example, for a week-long food drive, ask your employees, their children and friends to get out and collect food. Have a location at your business where the items can be dropped off during the week. Then sponsor an end-of-week lunch for all who contributed (including family and friends) to celebrate.

Smaller companies have the luxury of knowing that specific charitable organizations matter to their employees, making it easier to provide a philanthropic environment where they don’t feel pressured to necessarily give money, but instead can bring their children to a volunteer event and give back with their time and energy. It’s one of the best ways to create a sense of community right in your office.

Business philanthropy is an excellent marketing and employee engagement tool that too often is overlooked when focusing solely on the bottom line. We strongly encourage small business owners to consider the potential tax benefits of philanthropy, along with the unmeasurable benefit of employee pride in working for a company that is involved in the community. You may be surprised at how valuable that ROI becomes.

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