Here’s how to cultivate a corporate giving program

Above: Nicole Stanton, office managing partner of Quarles & Brady in Phoenix, and the firm have a formal community-giving program called Quarles Cares, wherein lawyers and staff can donate time on their own and as an office on projects ranging from hunger to housing in the community. Business News | 25 Dec, 2017 |

No good deed goes unpunished, right?

Wrong!

“More and more for-profit organizations, big and small, are making a concerted effort to incorporate social responsibility into their corporate culture and these good deeds are being richly rewarded,” says Trevor Wilde, managing director of Wilde Wealth Management Group.

Studies have shown that consumers have very high expectations that the companies they do business with will be a good corporate citizen.  And your employees are weighing in on the subject as well – 42 percent of professionals surveyed recently reported that an organization’s participation in charitable activities is at least somewhat of a factor in their decision to work there.

But, where do you start? And how do you get buy-in from your team?

Coming up with ideas isn’t always easy. Here are some great suggestions from local business leaders who’ve either launched community giving initiatives within their companies or significantly expanded programs to help fill the needs of others across Arizona.

Start small for big results

“Don’t go into the development of any community-giving program assuming you need to raise $100,000 or rack up 1,000 volunteer hours from the on-set,” says Wilde, whose four offices Valley-wide initially got involved at the micro-level by collecting cell phones for soldiers and offering donations to local nonprofits for social media check-ins at their locations.

Once they dipped their toes in the water, it was easy to convert staff, partners and even clients into bigger ideas such as massive toy drives for Toys for Tots, big-picture event sponsorships and even office-wide volunteer days.

Partner up

“Think about what kind of professional relationships your organization has with other community organizations,” says Nicole Stanton, office managing partner of Quarles & Brady in Phoenix. “You can build on those relationships by collaborating on some sort of donation drive or something more complex like a service to the community.

While the firm has a formal community-giving program called Quarles Cares wherein lawyers and staff can donate time on their own and as an office on projects ranging from hunger to housing in the community, Stanton and her team at Quarles recently partnered with the Phoenix Children’s Hospital – a firm client – to assist with their Bill Holt Clinic Annual Holiday Party as a means to invigorate and rally them around a singular cause.

The Bill Holt Clinic is the only comprehensive pediatric HIV clinic in Arizona. In a few short weeks, Quarles’ staff was able to raise more than $5,000 toward holiday gifts for the patients and their families and made a day of it when they wrapped all 300-plus gifts they purchased by hand.

They also joined together with clients from across Arizona in signing the Unity Pledge together earlier this year.

“With your powers united, the partnership can do an endless amount of good,” says Stanton.

Take suggestions

“Make the actual decision on who and how to give back mean something to everyone in your company, not just the decision-makers,” says Tom Davis, vice president of Pioneer Title Agency, Arizona’s largest title agency. “It not only gives those at the top ideas they would have never thought of on their own, but it gives a new perspective on what the team truly cares about and what would motivate them to participate.”

At Pioneer, executive leadership turned to its staff last year on this exact topic, asking team members to submit ideas and proposals on how they wanted to band together to help their communities and which organization(s) they should choose as a partner.

“The response was overwhelming, so much so, Pioneer donated $500 to each of the organizations that were not ultimately chosen as our partner,” says Davis, noting Pioneer ultimately chose to launch an initiative in 2017 called “Old School” based on one proposal, which allows each of its 65 branches to come up with their own ideas – based on the need in their own local communities – on how to support local schools, both through fundraising and proactive volunteer efforts.

Pioneer gives each branch member paid time off to volunteer on “Old School” initiatives and assists in fundraising efforts for each, ranging from helping a local school cultivate a garden to hosting a full-on golf tournament to help at-risk schools in need.

Make decisions that make sense

“Support things that make sense. Match what your company does well with a similar nonprofit or cause,” says Mike Brown, Arizona regional president of Washington Federal. “If you’re in the air duct business promoting clean air, for example, then set some funds aside for an organization that supports clean air.”

At Washington Federal, each of the 31 Arizona offices is given the ability and necessary materials to go out and help teach financial literacy through several programs.

“Through Save at School, we empower our staff to partner with elementary schools to teach younger students the basics of money, at no cost to the school,” says Brown.

Washington Federal also partners with education technology company Everfi to provide local high schools with a formal curriculum featuring a variety of financial topics including credit scores, insurance, credit cards, student loans, mortgages, taxes, stocks, savings, 401Ks and more.

Think outside the box

“Sometimes you have to carve your own path,” says Mark Roden, a 30-year Arizona Subway franchisee. “It takes support, buy-in and a huge leap of faith, but when it works, something really special can happen.”

Roden knows firsthand. Rewind to 1999, when franchisees gathered together trying to find ways to give back beyond basic sandwich donations and in-store fundraisers.

“Though it had never been done, we looked into starting our own 501(c)(3) nonprofit to help us facilitate giving on a grander scale,” says Roden, who with Arizona Subway Development, fellow franchisees and partners including Coca-Cola, Shamrock Foods, Shamrock Farms and others founded Subway Kids & Sports of Arizona.

Launched in 1999 – and still the only nonprofit of its kind in the Subway family worldwide – their aim is to help Arizona children with disabilities and financial disadvantages gain access to sports, equipment, registration fees and more.

The bottom line: Greed isn’t good. Giving is good, and easy to make happen at every Arizona business in 2018. ν

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