Magazine article HRMagazine

How to Create a Culture of Giving

Magazine article HRMagazine

How to Create a Culture of Giving

Article excerpt

Employees at an industrial supply company regularly engage in philanthropy- and return the investment to the business.

One weekday morning, shortly after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in October 2012, a group of MSC Industrial Supply Co. employees leftcorporate headquarters in Melville, N.Y., in trucks and SUVs. On company time, they loaded the vehicles with donated food and cleaning supplies and set out for a nonprofit distribution center.

Meanwhile, back at headquarters, another group of associates took time from their work to collaborate about what else the company could do to help victims. Besides offering supplies, employees have also helped out at the distribution center. Disaster relief represents just one way we support the communities our business serves.

Not long ago, such corporate giving was not widely discussed. Today, it is in the forefront as research has connected charitable activities with customer loyalty, company image, and employee satisfaction, recruitment and retention.

Despite those findings, many HR leaders still struggle with getting this concept to take hold in their organizations- let alone starting corporate giving programs.

As senior manager of community relations for MSC, I'd like to share some of the practices that make our program effective in achieving social as well as business goals.

Founded in 1941, MSC distributes industrial supplies and equipment nationwide. Our community relations program reflects our corporate culture and engages our employees, who are called associates, allowing us to support nonprofits and the communities where we live and work. Our calendar averages two events per month, ranging from charitable fundraisers to offsite activities. Associates have a variety of philanthropies to choose from.

The Big Pitch

So how did we do it, and how can you do it? For MSC, creating a formal corporate giving program was the next step in continuing a tradition established by founder Sid Jacobson. He helped others because he considered it the right thing to do. Moving forward was more about creating processes and guidelines to effectively and consistently manage giving as our company continues to grow.

If you're starting from scratch, it will be important to have a plan. When developing your strategy, research best practices of companies of all sizes across business sectors. Reach out to those known for philanthropy. Data are important, and there's a wealth of information online as well as historical data on the impact that corporate giving has on revenue. A great resource is Boston College's Center for Corporate Citizenship at

Include firsthand accounts and data in a presentation to your executive team. Align your plan with your own culture and corporate strategy. Speak to how philanthropy will benefit your company specifically. This is how I developed the plan and the charter I presented to my executive leaders in 2005, a plan that created MSC's formal community relations function. Our two main areas of focus are children's charities and human services, and our charter clearly defines the focus and guidelines for sponsorship.

Building Excitement

If there's no passion around the program among your associates, it won't get offthe ground. About 85 percent of our associates participated in at least one charity event during 2011. Roughly 43 percent participated in offsite weekend or evening volunteer events that year, up from 40 percent in 2007.

At our company, Community Relations is part of Human Resources. Although two of us administer the program, associates help plan events through cross-functional teams.

The teams empower associates to suggest new ideas, thereby keeping our program fresh. Two events suggested by associates are Bowling for Charity and Candy for the Troops.

Lauren Melendez, an associate in our Environmental, Safety and Health department, suggested the bowling event. …

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