How Philanthropy Benefits Your Company

For children who attend Camp Erin, grief is part of the experience.

The camp, created and funded by The Moyer Foundation, is free for bereaved children between ages 6 and 17. They meet with counselors and are allowed to express their feelings about the death of a loved one.

New York Life Insurance Company is one of Camp Erin’s sponsors. “Very often, children are in circumstances where they don’t talk about grief because they don’t want to make the surviving parent or other family members sad,” says Chris Park, president of the New York Life Foundation. “We want to help people understand that communication is good—talk about it; celebrate that life.”

The foundation focuses its philanthropic efforts on children. Its website features a section with resources for families who’ve suffered a death, and a new site dedicated to bereaved children launched in September: The company has also issued a national RFP to provide grants to 22 service providers that support bereaved children.

Americans Support Philanthropic Companies

Despite a down economy, total charitable contributions from U.S. individuals, corporations and foundations increased 3.8 percent from 2009 to 2010, up to $290.89 billion, according to a joint study from the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. The study also showed that corporate giving increased 10.6 percent—up to $15.29 billion in 2010. The New York Life Foundation, for example, increased its 2011 charitable-giving budget to $12.9 million, a 15 percent increase over 2010’s budget of $11 million.

Companies in The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity donate 2 percent of their gross revenue, on average, and nearly half of those donations go to multicultural groups.

“Corporations have a real interest and incentive to partner with strong nonprofits that will add value to their brand and to the perception of the brand in the community,” says Dr. Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), a nonprofit DiversityInc partner that works to end bullying of LGBT children in schools.

According to research from Cone, a brand-strategy firm, those perceptions matter; prospective employees are more likely to accept a job at a company whose business practices are seen as responsible in their economic, environmental and social impacts.

“It’s expected that the company is giving back. That’s not something that I saw 20 years ago in hiring,” says Park. “Younger people are looking for companies that give them an opportunity to engage in service opportunities at work and in their communities.”

Partnerships between corporations and nonprofits also influence whether people become customers, according to a Cone study. Nearly 60 percent of Americans are more likely to buy products associated with the partnership. Half are more likely to donate to the nonprofit associated with the company.

Keys to Effective Partnerships

Company goals and nonprofit missions must be aligned for effective partnerships, says Jill Houghton, executive director of the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN). The organization, also a DiversityInc partner, works to build workplaces, marketplaces and supply chains that are inclusive of people with disabilities. Nearly 70 percent of USBLN’s budget comes from corporate sponsors.

When seeking corporate partners, USBLN looks for “commitment to creating equal access for all people—that commitment extends to employees, customers and suppliers,” Houghton says. “It’s not just the right thing to do, but it’s central to their business and their culture. We’re the bridge connecting companies, affiliates, allies and certified, disability-owned suppliers.”

DiversityInc requires USBLN certification of companies that say they are suppliers owned by people with disabilities for The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity survey.

While giving money is critical, creatively working with nonprofits is important to good relationships, says Byard, who adds, “The recession may have prompted corporations to think more broadly about partnerships.”

For example, Wells Fargo emphasized anti-bullying within the company’s broader LGBT Pride Month participation. In the New York and San Francisco pride parades in June, Wells Fargo team members distributed information about GLSEN’s Safe Space Campaign. “Wells Fargo is helping us reach more than 75,000 schools, serving 25 million students, during the three-year Safe Space Campaign,” Byard says. “That’s a visibility opportunity we would not have had otherwise.”

Corporations also give to help build their future workforces. The Rutgers Future Scholars program, which takes low-income middle-school students in New Jersey and helps them prepare for and attend college, has strong corporate support and could become a national model.

At New York Life, employees have incentives for contributing to causes important to them. The company’s Volunteers for Life program encourages employees, agents and retirees to be involved with nonprofits. If an individual employee completes 60 hours of service to an organization, New York Life will provide a grant in honor of the employee. Teams of five or more employees contributing 40 hours can earn a team grant. “If you’re working together to do this, we want to make sure to reward it,” Park says.

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