philanthropy

Philanthropy Series: How to Establish Philanthropy in Your Company Culture

By Ed Mitzen

This is part 1 of a 3-article series on integrating philanthropy and corporate giving into your business’s culture to increase community involvement and to help your company grow.

When trying to establish corporate giving as a part of your business, it can be difficult to know where to start. I founded my full-service advertising agency, Fingerpaint, back in 2008, and even then, I knew I wanted to make the culture special and unlike anything I was seeing in the business world at the time. For me, philanthropy wasn’t merely a buzzword or an annual company volunteer day. Instead, I wanted it to be a foundational core value that was part of the empathetic, people-first culture I aspired to create. But how could I ensure that this value was incorporated in every part of our business and could even help us grow?

The first thing I did when our company reached a size large enough to support such an initiative was hire a full-time community relations and corporate philanthropy lead to centralize our efforts. By creating this position, we solidified philanthropy as a driving force in our culture. Our community relations lead has deep connections, and this position ensured that philanthropy wouldn’t fall by the wayside if delegated to employees who have other responsibilities. Sure, our philanthropy director relies on other members of our staff to carry out her vision, but without her, we would not be able to do what we do.

We worked with our philanthropy lead to institute a corporate giving philosophy that was genuine and made sense for our business. We established pillars of giving so that when opportunities came up to help those in need (and there is no shortage of those), we can confine our philanthropy to areas that align with these pillars and, by extension, our culture and mission. Some of our pillars have nothing to do with our business and are simply causes our employees care deeply about. Others are more strategic and enable us to grow connections within the space our business operates, both to help us expand our expertise in those areas and also to maximize our involvement in our industry. These guidelines are important; they help us stay in line with our vision and reach the goals we set for ourselves.

Finally, we made sure we gave our employees plenty of opportunities to be involved and buy-in to generate excitement. This is vital when establishing philanthropy in your company and will help your initiatives succeed. Between volunteering and donating goods, money, or professional services, employees have several chances to give back throughout the year and be part of this special aspect of our culture.

While I could talk forever about how to ensure corporate philanthropy is integrated appropriately into your business, these three principals should help you get started. In future posts, I will share the benefits that philanthropy has created in our company culture and what to look for in staff dedicated solely to your community relations efforts. In the meantime, you can learn more about me and how this philosophy has helped me grow an $80-million company by visiting my website at edmitzen.com.