The Importance of Intertwining Philanthropy and Business

As three generations make up the workforce, a focus on millennials and their charitable priorities is key to continued business success, employee retention, and best practices

Philanthropy, as defined by Business Dictionary, is “an idea, event or action that is done for the better of humanity.” While this definition is accurate, in the present-day, philanthropy also impacts businesses with regards to employee retention and overall success. In addition, just like everything else that is changing around us, philanthropy is also changing. In a panel discussion at the Milken Institute’s 2018 Global Conference, it was stated that “change is the fastest it has ever been and is the slowest that it ever will be.”

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There are three generations in the workforce today: Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials. With all equally as interested in partaking in philanthropic initiatives, a company’s strategy should be attractive to all three generations. While each generation is different, a special focus should be placed on Millennials, who approximate 79.8 million in the United States and are rapidly entering the workforce.

Philanthropy in the Workplace

Historically, Baby Boomers have been very generous in terms of their philanthropy, but only after they have accumulated wealth. Following closely, Gen Xers are beginning to make headway in order to overcome their feelings of immense guilt for having not opted-in on as many philanthropic opportunities as the generations before and after them. Millennials are setting the bar higher and demonstrate a more spontaneous but direct want and need to participate in philanthropic activities both in their personal and professional lives.

In the past, philanthropy in the workplace was controlled at the senior or departmental level, with little to no input or interaction provided by lower level employees. Companies typically made the donation and executives attended galas to which the average employee was uninvited. The decision to donate was also influenced by tax and marketing benefits.

As Millennials enter the workforce, they ask about an organization’s social impact and sustainability initiatives as much as they ask about health benefits and 401K options.

Millennials assign a lower priority to compensation and a higher priority to purpose and culture. As Millennials enter the workforce, they ask about an organization’s social impact and sustainability initiatives as much as they ask about health benefits and 401K options. This increases pressure for organizations to participate in philanthropic activities and include their employees in the process.

For companies to stay competitive and recruit top talent, they must create a social impact strategy if they haven’t already done so. In addition, Millennials want to be active and hands-on in the process. Having been raised in an era in which acts of service are encouraged, as well as constantly flaunted and applauded on social media outlets, Millennials desire to combine philanthropy with work and expect to see real-time results, just as they would with a company’s operations. Millennials are pushing to do much more than just make financial donations; they seek not only to be passionate about and involved with the organizations that their company supports, but also to be well-informed about the impact of their support.

Setting Philanthropic Goals in Your Organization

As the world around us continues to move in a progressive direction, giving is quickly becoming the new norm. When looking toward the future, it is anticipated that there will be opportunities to give back at pretty much every level, regardless of your social status and class.

Setting philanthropic goals within your organization is a task that is unique to each organization and should include employees’ total buy-in. Deciding which philanthropic organization to give to can be a difficult process. Consider asking your employees which organizations they already support, and then survey these and other mission-aligned organizations of your choosing. While most companies will pick an organization that resonates with their company’s values and vision, they may overlook some good organizations that can really benefit from the skill-set and expertise of their employees.

As the world around us continues to move in a progressive direction, giving is quickly becoming the new norm.

Make sure to select organizations to which you can donate various resources. Some organizations will want your guidance and leadership, some will want volunteer time, some will want money and others will want seasonal gifts and toys. An effective philanthropic policy should have a healthy balance of all options, so it can appeal to every employee.

The next step is to find employee champions for each organization you select to both manage the process and empower the other employees.  You can make this a rotating position, as well, to allow for multiple people in your company to experience this rewarding benefit. In many instances, employers offer PTO to employees who volunteer their time to a designated philanthropic cause.

Millenial Motivation

While recruiting top talent into your organization is a large job on its own, employee retention is just as important. As you work hard to retain your customers, you must do the same for your employees. According to Pepperdine’s Graziadio Business Schools, more than 60% of Millennials ages 22-32 have changed jobs between one and four times in the past five years.  

Today’s employees, especially Millennials, look for motivation beyond financial reward in the workplace. Having a strong company culture and purpose are key to employee retention, which includes participation in philanthropic initiatives. Not only will this make you (and your employees) feel fulfilled for giving back to the community, but it will also help your business. These initiatives will also expand your network, as philanthropic organizations often consist of some of the world’s most powerful and business-savvy individuals. As your business networks in these circles, it exposes you to new opportunities that may in turn increase the financial success of your company. While these tangential benefits are important to your business, ultimately it is the feeling of making a change in your community that will most impact you and your employees.  

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