Susan DellaCamera has handled a lot of checks in her banking
career, but her favorites are the ones she gets to hand over to a
cause - educating deaf children, for instance, or making cultural
events more accessible to people with disabilities.
Ms. DellaCamera is a project manager for FleetBoston in Malden,
Mass. She's also head of the grant committee of Fleet's Disabilities
Resource Group. In that role, she volunteers about 10 hours a month
to solicit and review applications from nonprofit organizations.
The FleetBoston Financial Foundation gives grant money each year
to the company's seven diversity groups - employees organized around
race, gender, and even parenting. Since 2000, they've channeled
nearly $1 million to grass-roots efforts in neighborhoods where
Fleet has a presence.
"It's a fabulous experience to do the site visit and ... meet the
participants - to get that close to the community," DellaCamera
says. "What it says to us is that Fleet cares about the community,
and it also cares about us as employees."
That's exactly the double message that companies hope to send
with such ventures in directed philanthropy. Enlisting employees to
contribute to a company's charitable giving - and sometimes adding
an employer "match" incentive - dates back to the industrial days of
Henry Ford. But involving employees in the distribution of the
company's money has emerged in recent years as a way to better
target the donations.
At the same time, it can help maintain a loyal workforce.
"The trend is for companies to be more interested in responding
to their employees' interests - demonstrating that 'This is a
company that has a caring commit- ment,' " says Don Sodo, president
and CEO of America's Charities in Chantilly, Va., a federation of
charities that facilitates workplace-giving campaigns.
Since the recent string of corporate scandals, Americans have
placed more weight on a company's attention to social issues: 77
percent say it's an important factor in deciding where to work,
according to a 2002 national survey by Cone, a corporate-strategy
firm in Boston. That's up from 48 percent in the spring of 2001.
While Fleet and some other large companies, such as Boeing and
Altria, have made employee committees a permanent part of their
philanthropic efforts, others are just starting to dip their toes in
To celebrate its 150th anniversary this year, the St. Paul
Companies in Minnesota offered $100 each to nearly 10,000 employees
to direct to a charity of their choice.
The insurance and asset-management firm set up an online system
so people could research up to 750,000 eligible nonprofits
worldwide, post comments, and rally support from co-workers for
particular causes. …