National Philanthropy Day 2016 – Building a Culture of Philanthropy

Millennials blur the line between work and life and truly appreciate a culture of philanthropy
Millennials blur the line between work and life and truly appreciate a culture of philanthropy

Corporate philanthropy has changed dramatically over the past decade. First and foremost, millennials have entered the workforce in droves, and they play a major part in company influence. While Generation X and Baby Boomers tend to make a clear delineation between work and life, millennials maintain fluidity in all aspects of their lives and expect far more out of their employers. Therefore, employee engagement has become paramount to the success of today’s companies, and one of the best ways to foster employee engagement is through a culture of philanthropy.

Building a culture of philanthropy requires a concerted effort from senior management and human resources. Gone are the days of holding an annual food drive at Thanksgiving or toy drive during the holiday season. Today, year-round involvement in charitable ventures and the community is almost expected, through both volunteerism and financial commitment. National Philanthropy Day, which falls on November 15, is an exemplary time for corporations to truly examine their philanthropic culture – or lack thereof.

Where to Start?

Creating an authentic culture of philanthropy requires three key ingredients. First and foremost, leadership involvement is essential. Employees, particularly millennials, know when an employer is fully committed and when they are just going through the motions. A true culture of philanthropy requires both buy-in and participation from leadership.

Second, workplace giving programs and volunteerism should be an integral part of a company’s corporate identity – which again comes down to support from leadership. Because culture always trickles down from the top, involvement from leadership is an absolute requirement. While a company can say that giving of money and time are important, senior management’s actual participation in a company’s charitable ventures provides authenticity through leading by example. Without leadership involvement, employee engagement programs will appear superficial and perfunctory and are likely to fail.

Fellow ESOP Gardener's Supply Company created Company Farm to grow and distribute potatoes to local food pantries
Fellow ESOP Gardener’s Supply Company created Company Farm to grow and distribute potatoes to local food pantries

Third, charitable programs must align with both employee interests and corporate goals. For example, Gardener’s Supply Company in Vermont is a retail and online gardening supply company that offers everything from seedstarting supplies and garden furniture to flower supports and garden carts. Like Tata & Howard, they are also 100% employee-owned. In 2013, a group of employees at the Burlington location started Company Farm. Their goal was to grow potatoes to donate to people in need. In the first year alone, employee-farmers grew over 300 pounds of potatoes on a set of thirty 4×6-foot raised beds just off the company’s main parking lot. All of these potatoes were donated to support need in the local community, and Gardener’s Supply plans to increase their output as well as encourage other companies to also turn some of their lawns into farms.

How to Get Involved

A culture of philanthropy is not just for large companies – small-to-mid-size companies are becoming increasingly involved as more and more millennials enter the workforce. While larger companies are able to support a variety of charitable ventures, smaller companies need to be more strategic in their philanthropy. Several ways in which companies of all sizes are fostering an engaged workforce include providing paid time off specifically for volunteerism, 100% company matches on all employee donations to 501(c)3 organizations, and company-sponsored charitable events and initiatives that align with the company’s mission, vision, and values. At the core of a true culture of philanthropy is the encouragement and participation at all levels within an organization to give their time, money, and talent.

T&H employee owners participated in the 17th Annual Earth Day Charles River Cleanup. The even was organized by a millennial and supported by senior management
T&H employee-owners participated in the 17th Annual Earth Day Charles River Cleanup. The event was organized by a millennial and supported by senior management.

At Tata & Howard, we are passionate about clean water, so we have forged a partnership with Water For People, a non-profit whose mission is to promote the development of high quality drinking water and sanitation services, accessible to all, and sustained by strong communities, businesses, and governments. Water For People is our charity of choice, and employee-owners are able to donate directly to the organization through payroll deductions, which the company matches 100%. In addition, Tata & Howard employee-owners participate in other charitable events that complement our corporate philosophy, including river clean-ups, cancer research fundraising, food drives, and the Navajo Water Project, to name a few. Supporting charitable organizations and events that have a direct tie to a company and to its employees is key to true employee engagement.

Looking Ahead

Because of the changing face of our workforce, building a culture of philanthropy is no longer considered either incidental or superfluous. In fact, the most engaged companies have substantial and clear policies in place that support philanthropic ventures at all levels within their organizations. And the payoff is clear: reduced attrition, greater productivity, higher profits, and also a positive team environment that makes the world a kinder, gentler place.

Care to share? We’d love to hear how your company celebrates National Philanthropy Day and promotes a culture of philanthropy!

National Philanthropy Day 2015

NPD logoIn 1986, United States President Ronald Reagan designated November 15 as National Philanthropy Day, a day which celebrates giving, volunteering, and charitable works, and the impact that philanthropy makes on our society. National Philanthropy Day celebrates philanthropy, which etymologically translates to “love of humanity,” each November 15 in an effort to turn the word into action and to recognize the change that word has brought to our local and global communities.

National Philanthropy Day is now overseen by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, who entreat people to follow the five Ps of giving in order to make the most impact:

  1. Passionate. With literally thousands of charities and causes from which to choose, it is critical to support a select few about which you are passionate. The more passionate you are about a cause, the more likely you are to fully invest in it, including not just money, but time.
  1. Proactive. Once you’ve determined which type of cause you would like to support, proactively find a charity dedicated to the cause.
  1. Prepare. Do your research. Not all charities are created equal, and you want to be sure that the charity you are supporting is fiscally responsible and well managed. Both Charity Navigator and Charity Watch are excellent resources for investigating all aspects of charity ratings.
  1. Plan. Create a plan of giving action so that you hold yourself to a certain dollar and time amount. Charities typically receive most of their donations in the last quarter of the year, while struggling in the spring and summer. Find out what makes the most sense for the charity you have chosen to support and put a specific plan in place — and stick to it.
  1. Powerful. Now that you are ready and committed to give, ensure that your donation is powerful; meaning give the most you can, in both time and money.

water_for_peopleAt Tata & Howard, we are passionate about improving the environment in which we live through our work — and works. As a corporation, we have followed the five Ps of giving and have partnered with select charities in an effort to support them fully. Water For People has been Tata & Howard’s charity of choice since 2005, with employee-owners donating directly from their paychecks and the company matching 100% of every dollar donated. In addition, Tata & Howard sponsors the CTAWWA Water for People Golf Tournament in the fall. Water For People strives to provide safe, sustainable drinking water for everyone, forever. According to Water for People, they exist for one purpose, and it’s as simple as their name: they want all people to have safe, continuous water, and when they do, their job will be done.

navajo water project
Tata & Howard employee-owners helped support the Navajo Water Project

This past year, Tata & Howard selected another key charity to support after learning of the plight of the Navajo on American soil. This year, Tata & Howard donated $2,235 to Navajo Water Project, a subsidiary of DIGDEEP that works to provide safe, accessible drinking water to Native Americans living in Navajo Nation. While there are dozens of water charities supporting developing countries, Navajo Water Project is the only water charity that serves people living in the United States.

Each Thanksgiving season, Tata & Howard employee-owners participate in a food drive for the Worcester County Food Bank (WCFB). WCFB is central Massachusetts’ leading anti-hunger organization distributing over five million pounds of donated food and grocery product in partnership with food donors, financial supporters, and volunteers. This year, Tata & Howard employee-owners collected and donated over 400 pounds of food for WCFB during the month of October.

dare_family_servicesEvery December, Tata & Howard partners with Dare Family Services to provide personalized gifts to disadvantaged children. Employee-owners choose wish ornaments from a giving tree and purchase the gifts for which the children ask. All unclaimed wishes are purchased by Tata & Howard’s Philanthropy Committee — a robust, in-house committee that raises and distributes funds to charities — ensuring that every child receives his or her requested gifts. Dare Family Services’ primary mission is to find, train, and support loving homes that will help children become resilient and overcome the trauma of serious abuse and neglect. Every child is given a life, education, and a road to normal adulthood.

In addition to Tata & Howard’s partner charities, employee-owners support their own chosen charities, often with support from the company’s Philanthropy Committee. Employee-owners have supported such worthy causes as Special Olympics of Massachusetts (SOMA), Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Camp Sunshine, and Livestrong. And Tata & Howard employee-owners don’t just write checks — they also donate significant amounts of time, like coaching SOMA, running for the Jimmy Fund, competing in the Tough Mudder Challenge to support Wounded Warrior Project, riding in the PanMass Challenge, training dogs for NEADS/Dogs for Deaf, and skiing for hear ME now.

hands_holding_globeNational Philanthropy Day is a grassroots movement to increase public awareness of the importance of philanthropy, and to provide information on giving and volunteering so that people can practice efficient philanthropy. It is also the ideal day to reassess charitable giving, from both a corporate and individual level. As John Rockefeller stated, “Think of giving not only as a duty but as a privilege.” At Tata & Howard, we feel truly privileged to be able to support our corporate and individual causes, and believe that each and every act of charity has significant impact that helps to make the world a better place. Happy National Philanthropy Day!