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CORPORATE PHILANTHROPY WORKS BEST WHEN IT RELATES TO YOUR BUSINESS

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J. Denise Castonguay is the Executive Director and CEO of Canada Gives, a federally registered not-for-profit organization committed to helping philanthropists build and grow high-impact foundations.

It’s always heartening to see a small to medium-sized company donating time or funds to a charitable cause. That could mean writing a cheque to fund a capital project such as the construction of a hospital, or allowing staff to participate in efforts to build housing for a family in need of shelter.

Indeed, corporate social responsibility has become a key aspect of many organizations’ mission statements, not to mention a tool to attract, retain and engage top talent. For Millennials, in particular, having the opportunity to give back to their communities is one of the most important must-haves on many of their employment wish lists.

Case in point: a 2018 global survey of Millennial-aged employees by Deloitte found a common theme. Respondents felt their employer should behave ethically and strive to make a “positive impact on society and the environment.” In other words, they want to help their employer turn a profit, but they also want to work for a company that’s committed to making a difference.

While we’d all likely agree that any giving is good giving if it helps a charity or a cause in need, there’s a key opportunity that’s often missed by benevolent business owners and their teams. That’s a focus on giving back in a way that aligns with their organization’s operational capabilities, whenever possible.

We’ve seen corporate groups lend their time for activities such as renovating a non-profit’s facilities or to beautify a local park, as two examples. Again, these are all great initiatives that are worth lauding. But when you consider that some of these organizations are full of highly-skilled professionals such as accountants, IT professionals or strategic consultants, it begs the question: Does it make the most sense for their employees to spend hours painting a community center, or to put that time to even better use by addressing some of the charity’s administrative gaps?

A 2018 GLOBAL SURVEY OF MILLENNIAL-AGED EMPLOYEES BY DELOITTE FOUND A COMMON THEME. RESPONDENTS FELT THEIR EMPLOYER SHOULD BEHAVE ETHICALLY AND STRIVE TO MAKE A “POSITIVE IMPACT ON SOCIETY AND THE ENVIRONMENT.” IN OTHER WORDS, THEY WANT TO HELP THEIR EMPLOYER TURN A PROFIT, BUT THEY ALSO WANT TO WORK FOR A COMPANY THAT’S COMMITTED TO MAKING A DIFFERENCE.

These are the areas where charities often struggle to afford key investments. For example, some accounting firms will offer charities free tax return or audit services to maintain best practices, maximize available tax credits and benefits, and remain in full compliance with Canada Revenue Agency rules. An ad agency might work pro bono to develop and execute a fundraising campaign. We’ve seen HR professionals work with women from challenging backgrounds to teach the kind of job interview skills they need to obtain life-changing employment.

Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with highly-skilled talent lending their time for a little manual labor—and sometimes charities need all the help they can get, anywhere or any way they can get it. But when your organization can take a strategic approach to its philanthropy and make investments of time or money that create a significant positive impact for a charity and its programs, there’s no better tool to produce meaningful, long-term results.

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