In Corporate Philanthropy, We All Have a Role to Play

Corporate philanthropy is something that even small companies can do effectively.

By Bob Dunn

For businesses big or small, it is important to focus on community impact—not just your bottom line. One of the best ways to create a culture of caring about others is through charitable giving. Businesses and their employees who give their time, talent and treasure are the ones that have the most success in retaining and recruiting an engaged and talented work force. Here are a few suggestions for starting or refining your company’s giving culture:

This is the season to be giving, but I encourage local companies and their employees to participate in year round fundraising and volunteer opportunities.

  • A philanthropic business culture must be fully committed to and demonstrated by top management to ensure everyone embraces it. Businesses should zero in on charitable causes its entire staff are interested in supporting. Many local charities are willing to provide professional assistance to companies seeking to establish a successful employee giving campaign. 
  • Before you start, know why you want to give back. If you’re doing this for a quick PR pop, you’re making a big mistake. Phil-anthropy is a Greek word, meaning “loving mankind or goodwill to others.” The reason one should give back is to help others. This can impact people you know who are experiencing difficulties, but in most cases, your gift could help those who you may never meet. The unfortunate truth is that Kansas City, like all cities, needs private donors (large and small) for feeding the hungry, providing quality early child centers, senior centers, domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters and education. Those who give freely are not looking for something in return. Once you see the good your contribution does for others, it’s easy to see how people become committed to making future donations to those causes. The needs out there are vast—allocate your resources where you think they’ll do the most good.
  • It is very important for a company and its associates to determine which areas of charitable giving to support. When my little sister Mary was born, 51 years ago, with Down syndrome, it made everyone in my family realize how important it is to help those who are less fortunate. She was the best thing to ever happen to our family, and helped us realize that there were a number of giving areas we should support in our community. Today, we include fourth-generation Dunn family members in some of our foundation giving decisions and will do the same with the fifth generation when they are old enough to make philanthropic decisions.
  • Smaller organizations with smaller budgets might consider a laser philanthropic approach, supporting a small set of charitable causes so they are able to see the immediate impact. Doing so, those companies will better realize the positive impact their gifts are creating for those charities and the people they serve. 
  • It’s not essential to find not-for-profit organizations that align precisely with your company mission; however, it makes it easier to make in-kind donations to them. As a commercial general contractor, we have occasionally made a cash gift to a capital campaign or donated a portion of our labor,
    materials, and supervisory costs to not-for-profit organizations that hired us to build their facilities. Employees from a number of our offices throughout the United States, have constructed Habitat for Humanity and Christmas in October homes, and others have periodically donated their craftsmanship skills for other not-for-profit needs. It is great to see many local businesses donate trucks, crews, food,
    or other products/services they manufacture or distribute to help charitable causes.
  • In order for a philanthropic culture to succeed in a business, the leadership team must be fully vested in supporting charitable causes before ask-
    ing associates to consider doing the same. Additionally, a business should survey its associates to determine their interest and enthusiasm in supporting specific causes. Once the associates have input and know the leadership is fully committed, chances are good that an employee fundraising campaign or volunteer opportunity will succeed.
  • If you can’t start a matching gift campaign, consider making corporate and/or foundation gifts to causes that your associates volunteer for or support through their own personal giving.
  • Encourage employees to serve as board members, committee members or some other volunteer role with charitable organizations; serving in these volunteer capacities provides good leadership train-ing for associates and is the right thing to do.
  • Consider giving employees time off to participate in volunteer activities. Since the first three letters in the word, fundraising, are f-u-n, make your philanthropic events fun.

And although this is the season to be giving, I encourage local companies and their employees to participate in year round fundraising and volunteer opportunities to help our entire community.