Recently I was asked to write a column about the benefits of corporate philanthropy. Though I was happy to share my personal perspective, hearing from some local businesses that have implemented corporate giving programs serves as more powerful testimony to the positive impact these programs can have.
A number of local businesses have chosen to work with us to help them plan and implement their corporate giving efforts. We’re always excited to see the creativity, thoughtfulness and love of community that’s woven into these programs.
Coastal States Bank established a fund with us several years ago that Steve Stone, president and CEO, believes complements the company’s core values of commitment and community. Employees voluntarily donate to the fund via payroll deduction, and the company matches all donations made by both employees and their board of directors.
An advisory committee of employees meets quarterly to review grant applications from local nonprofits, then determines where to allocate funding. The program, “fosters community goodwill, but also demonstrates our commitment to our communities,” Stone said. “It has strengthened our company values. It’s part of who we are.”
The pandemic served as the catalyst for The Bluffton Sun/Hilton Head Sun’s new corporate philanthropy program. When COVID caused the cancellation of their annual advertisers and staff holiday party, they decided to “deploy the funds for the greater good,” according to publisher Kevin Aylmer. They established a fund with the Community Foundation, seeding it with the money they would have spent on the party, and donating to local charities in the names of their advertisers.
“Making our donations through a fund at the Community Foundation allowed us to donate to several charities through a single ‘portal’,” Aylmer said, “providing comfort that the donations seamlessly and expeditiously got to those chosen organizations.” The donations didn’t just benefit the clients of selected charities, they boosted employee morale during a very tough time.
Collins Group Realty implemented a corporate giving program several years ago, but approached the Community Foundation just this year to help them manage a newly added arm of their philanthropy – their Annual Community Results Project.
Chip Collins, owner, explains the company approaches philanthropy in a three-pronged approach: First, making two vehicles available for community use; second, their 200th Home Sale for Charity Program, in which they donate $10,000 to five local charities determined by popular vote; and lastly, their Annual Community Results Project. Through this program the company provides grants to organizations and/or individuals experiencing significant need.
Collins believes the creation of their Annual Community Results Project will expand their philanthropic reach even more, and allow them to make a greater impact in the local community.
Corporate philanthropy is most effective when it’s personalized to fit the corporate culture. It invites employee engagement and can boost morale. These companies differ and their charitable outreach reflects their distinct corporate personalities. However, they have one thing in common: They each foster a sense of shared purpose while making a positive impact in our communities.
Scott Wierman is the president and CEO of Community Foundation of the Lowcountry.