Corporate Philanthropy: Keeping it Real

Corporate Philanthropy: Keeping it Real

By Vitiello Communications Group

When children are asked what they want to be when they grow up, typical responses include “teacher” or “doctor” because they have first-hand experience with those jobs.

I used the same connection theory when I decided to sponsor two children through World Vision, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to children and families to help communities alleviate poverty. I wanted my kids to be able to relate to the children we sponsored even though they were living very different lives, thousands of miles away. I requested two children who are the same sex and have the exact same birthdays as my own children. Rather than just sending money and an occasional card, my kids have a special bond with our sponsored children.

The idea of integrating real-life connections to broaden understanding can also be applied to engage employees in philanthropy. How much more likely are employees to participate in a corporate event if they can relate to the cause? Over the last decade, most corporations have adapted from being givers to being strategic givers—donating to causes that link back to the business. I suggest taking it one step further and making sure initiatives also relate to employees. Here are four ideas for keeping corporate philanthropy real:

  • Organize local volunteer events. By giving back to nonprofit organizations in areas where employees live and work, companies can point out shared values and demonstrate support for causes close to employees’ hearts and homes.
  • Give employees an experience, not just an opportunity to donate. For example, the companies that sponsor Join My Village, a social change initiative to help women and girls in India and Africa, host an employee event called “Walk in Her Shoes.” Employees are asked to walk 8,000 steps per day for a week to release a donation from the corporate sponsors. By mimicking the miles women in rural villages walk just to get to fresh water, employees are better able to understand the hardships of the people they are trying to help.
  • Provide skills-based volunteering opportunities to help strengthen nonprofit organizations while offering employees a one-of-a-kind chance for professional development. Corporations that have International Corporate Volunteer (ICV) programs send top-notch employees to support nonprofits in different parts of the world for three to six months. Participants experience the challenges underprivileged communities face and bring the learning back to the organization, all while making a difference in the lives of others.
  • Even if it’s impossible to be away for months at a time, companies can find ways for employees to give back in a tangible way, which increases employee engagement exponentially. Whether assembling and decorating wheelchairs to be donated to the disabled for increased mobility or working together to add trees, shrubs and flowers to schools and parks, employees love having a hands-on approach to philanthropy.

Successful businesses recognize that volunteering, giving and engagement are interrelated, and that they affect the bottom line. Aon Hewitt’s 2013 Trends in Global Employee Engagement Report states that every 1 percent increase in employee engagement indicates a 0.6 percent growth in sales. Ensuring that corporate giving and volunteer programs mean something to employees’ heads, hearts and hands benefits everyone involved.

Leave a comment to let us know how your organization is keeping it real by using corporate philanthropy and volunteerism to increase employee engagement.

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