Targeted Giving Campaigns
Differentiate Your Business, Strengthen Your Team & Improve Alaska
Why should your business donate money to Alaska nonprofits? As leaders in the community, most of us answer by stating a strong desire to improve our state. However, a careful analysis of the question leads to more answers—many that help us better understand our community, employees and customers.
One good reason to give is that your businesses’ philanthropic contributions are important to the people who buy your product or service. In fact, 85 percent of consumers have a more positive image of a product or company when it supports a cause they care about. What’s even more interesting is that 90 percent of consumers want companies to tell them the ways they are supporting causes. In short, your customers want you to give and they want you to tell them about it.
Another good reason for your company to give is that employees are proud to work for companies known for philanthropic contributions. Eighty-one percent of Americans consider a company’s social commitment when deciding where to work. Giving initiatives improve employee recruiting and retention, morale and company pride. They can also provide training opportunities and help to identify future leaders within the company.
How We Give
With more than 7,000 nonprofits operating in Alaska, we have one of the highest concentrations of nonprofits in the nation. The work these organizations do is important for our state, but the volume of donation requests that come in the mail each week can be overwhelming. I feel connected to these causes and am tempted to mail a check in response to many of the requests I receive. Why not?
There’s nothing wrong with writing a modest check to everyone who asks; you’ll touch the lives of many Alaskans in a meaningful way and will be a steward of your community. More than that, writing a check is easy and quick. But think about this: What if you were able to concentrate your corporate giving on one or two large initiatives that differentiated your business, engaged your employees, and positioned your business as a leader in the community? Wouldn’t this be a better use of your charitable giving?
A Targeted Giving Campaign is a tool to help your business develop a mutually beneficial relationship with the nonprofit organizations you support. It’s a strategic plan that helps you improve both your community and your business at the same time. With a Targeted Giving Campaign you set goals, evaluate your progress, and continually make changes to the program so your philanthropic dollars affect the most good while gaining the most from it.
This might sound daunting, but it shouldn’t. You don’t need a consultant, a large budget, or experience in the nonprofit sector. What you do need is motivation and a genuine desire to improve both your community and your business.
Write Down Your Goals
A great way to start developing your Targeted Giving Campaign is with a goals wish list. In other words, what would you like to receive in return for your corporate donations? Would you like public recognition? To connect with your clients? Improve recruiting and retention? Compile your list, order it by importance, and read off the first three goals. Now you know what you’re trying to achieve.
Identify Your Corporate Heart
An effective Targeted Giving Campaign will include your entire team, so it’s important to choose initiatives that align with their values. According to Workplace Giving 2010: Next Generation Workplace Campaigns published by The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, “Successful workplace giving campaigns must match the needs and values of individual donors [employees] if they are to effectively win their support.” When you combine the goals of your business with the passions of your employees, you will find your corporate heart.
Set Parameters and Stick to Them
How much money will you give? How much time? What do you expect your employees to give? As you look for meaningful and high-impact ways to get involved with your community, it’s important to know what you can afford, how much time you can set aside, and who will do the work.
Decide who will receive philanthropic requests, and who will be the ultimate decision maker. Make sure everyone on your team understands your goals and how you plan to achieve them.
Choose a Project or Two
At this point the structure of your Targeted Giving Campaign should be fairly well established. As requests come in the door, you have a tool in place to help you decide what opportunities to pursue. It’s time to choose your first project.
This is the personal part of your Targeted Giving Campaign, the part where your corporate heart shines through. At this point it’s critical for senior management to be attuned to employees’ philanthropic desires. As a leader at your company, listen to grassroots ideas and be open to taking a chance on an initiative that stirs employee passion. Once the initiative is identified, step back and let employees lead. Let them know the firm is committed, provide firm financial and time boundaries, but don’t take over the project.
For our firm, the right number of community projects seems to be three. We’re involved in three large projects each year, and several smaller ones. To illustrate how all of the pieces of a Targeted Giving Campaign come together, the following case study is one example of a project we pursue each year as a part of our Targeted Giving Campaign.
CANstruction is an international design/build competition where teams of engineers, architects, and construction professionals design and create large sculptures made entirely of canned food. Each team plans and practices for months, but on the day of competition must build their creation in less than 12 hours. In Anchorage the sculptures are on display at the University Center Mall during Fur Rondy. The public is invited to view the sculptures and to vote for their favorite with cans of food.
At the end of the festival there is an awards ceremony, the sculptures are deconstructed, and all of the food goes to Food Bank of Alaska.
Right now, our firm is in the planning stage of our third consecutive CANstruction competition. For our executive leadership our participation means making a substantial financial and human capital commitment. For our CANstruction team—made up of engineers, designers, and administrative personnel—our participation means a commitment of hundreds of hours, over lunches and on weekends, spent thinking up and designing sculptures made of cans. The exciting news about our first two years is that we won Jurors’ Favorite. (We’re still working on this year’s design … we’ll have to wait to see what the judges think.) However, the biggest benefits to our firm aren’t apparent during the awards ceremony.
CANstruction engages our employees and develops camaraderie between departments. Each year in November and December when CANstruction really gets going, there is a buzz of excitement around the office.
CANstruction is a tool for us to teach project management fundamentals. Because our executive leadership made a decision to step back and play a minor role, junior engineers step to the forefront and learn how to manage a project with many different parts. As the executive leadership watches the process, we are able to identify future leaders of the firm.
CANstruction is a powerful public relations tool. As a result of our success with CANstruciton our firm has been highlighted on the local TV news and in the Anchorage Daily News 61° North supplement. We’ve been mentioned in Food Bank of Alaska’s newsletter several times and our logo is featured on CANsturction posters that go up all over Anchorage. In short, the press we’ve received from CANstruction has helped make us visible in the local community.
I’m pleased to say that through our Targeted Giving Campaign we have successfully developed mutually beneficial relationships between our firm and nonprofits within the community—which results in work for the firm as well as positive employee energy. At the same time we are making a tangible difference in the community that generates a dividend for all. When you hit the mark in identifying your firm’s corporate heart, great things happen for the community and your business. The positive energy generated improves employee morale, identifies future leaders, and generates pride in the company. The firm receives positive recognition within the community while also meeting the needs of fellow Alaskans.
About the Author
Kevin Murphy, PE is the president of Enterprise Engineering Inc., a multidiscipline engineering firm with offices in Anchorage, Alaska and Freeport, Maine. Murphy is a registered civil engineer, holds a Master’s of Science and a Bachelor’s of Science in Civil Engineering, and is the managing principal of EEI’s Targeted Giving Campaign.
Photos: First on left and zigzagging down, Shaun Wilson, mechanical engineer at Enterprise Engineering, Inc., studies the structure in progress. Jessica Taft, marketing coordinator at Enterprise Engineering, Inc., works at building a crab leg. Nick Homerding, EIT, civil engineer at Enterprise Engineering, Inc., makes sure everything is in line. The finished structure at the University Center Mall: An AlaskCAN King Crab!
All photos by Mark Meyer of Mark Meyer Photography
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