Our Founder in Forbes on Rethinking Corporate Donation Matching
We always love to share the Groundswell philosophy with the wider world whenever we can.
Just recently, our CEO Jake Wood shared his insights over at Forbes, talking about why organizations should rethink their corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies and programs – and how, with this corporate philanthropy overhaul, they can establish a more cohesive relationship with their employees and nonprofit organizations.
Here are some of the highlights from the article:
Corporate Charity Should Represent the Passions of the Employees
Traditionally, corporate giving efforts are driven by a handful of executives or corporate foundations. The efforts are often disconnected from the company and the employees that are supposed to be represented by the program. This, Jake explained at Forbes, results in an ivory tower situation.
“In its best form, corporate philanthropy is loosely aligned to a company’s values, but often not to those of the company’s employees. In its worst form, it simply serves as a CEO vanity project.”
What corporate entities need to realize is that their employees have diverse perspectives and backgrounds. Some, if not all, of them want to find a higher purpose for the work that they do. Unfortunately, traditional CSR programs don’t often reflect that.
Most Nonprofits Don’t Get the Support They Should Be Getting
Jake also pointed out how the current system for corporate donations excludes some nonprofits.
“If employees who want to give feel left out by their corporation’s donation strategy, it’s even worse for the nonprofits meant to benefit from those matching programs. While the top 1% of nonprofits might have cracked the code, most have trouble getting in the door.”
There are a couple of challenges that nonprofits face, even for those who’ve already gotten their foot through the door.
- Nonprofits led by historically marginalized individuals or communities often find it difficult to even get the attention of executives or foundation staff.
- Even when they’ve been qualified and chosen, most nonprofits still need to go through a lot of processes before they can receive funds, which can either take a long time, or end up with the funds being undispersed.
Jake shares his experience as the CEO of the disaster-relief nonprofit Team Rubicon:
“I once received an email from a major Fortune 500 company eight months after a donation by an employee (in the prior year no less!). The email asked me to confirm receipt of the $75 donation and then to log into an obscure portal to upload proof of receipt so the company’s matching donation could be processed. What a hassle.”
Nonprofits end up chasing donations that are owed to them because of this inefficient processing, instead of focusing on delivering impact to the communities they serve.
Traditional Philanthropy = Low Employee Engagement
Employees are not as engaged in traditional, centralized philanthropy because this CSR can’t please everyone. Your ivory-tower philanthropy may please one or two people, but it will probably not resonate with everyone.
Plus, the systemic approach to giving that companies do doesn’t often result in massive impact and changes. This can lead to employees seeing these efforts as lacking or unapproachable.
Jake points to homelessness as an example:
“Solving homelessness at a macro level requires systemic solutions and massive policy changes, both of which could take years, if not decades. But employees riding to work on the subway care less about systemic solutions and more about ensuring that the human being sleeping on a piece of cardboard near the turnstile they step over each morning has a bed that evening.”
Decentralizing philanthropy would go a long way to achieving that. Sure, systemic changes are necessary, but making employees the “agents of change” in this regard can make them feel that their company’s philanthropy efforts are indeed going somewhere beneficial.
How Companies Can Decentralize Corporate Giving
Jake shared with Forbes the key steps to how companies can decentralize their philanthropy efforts:
- Provide a charitable giving stipend to each employee that they can direct to a charity of their choice on an annual basis.
- Have employees vote on a slate of charities chosen by leaders to determine which cause gets the company’s contribution.
- Empower business resource groups, which are typically aligned around specific diversity elements, to make recommendations on charitable giving related to their interests.
With these steps, companies can generate meaningful impact in their communities through their employees.
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