Philanthropy in the Workplace        

Philanthropy and Employee Engagement Leads to Successful Business

May 25, 2017

By: Jacquelyn Potwin, Director of Account Management, Beyond Design, Inc.

Over the past few years, I have noticed the increase in businesses that understand the value of programs that give back and incorporating them into their culture and business models. Businesses recognize that consumers are seeking out products and services that are making the community and world around them better. In 2015, an estimated $18.45 billion were donated by corporations, according to a study by The Charity Navigator. That is a staggering amount of funds dedicated to supporting causes that affect our communities and one I believe will continue to grow into 2017 and beyond.

Beyond Design was recently selected as one of 12 finalists for the James Tyree Emerging Business Leadership Award and a group of us attended a reception where business owners had 3 minutes to pitch their company’s work, values, and goals. Every one of the finalists had a unique story about the positive impact they’ve had in the Chicagoland community. From donating a portion of profits monthly to different Chicago charities, to making fresh foods accessible to those less fortunate, the stories were meaningful, unique to each business, and authentic in their approach to philanthropy in the workplace.

Michael Prince, founder of Beyond Design, speaks in front of the James Tyree judge panel.

Finding the Right Fit

Incorporating charitable giving into your business culture is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. The initiative should be a meaningful exercise and unique to each business. Below are three core benefits of “giving back” and the positive impact that charitable engagement can have on a business.

1. Boosts Employee Morale and Engagement

Having a common charitable goal creates a bond that everyone can rally around. It is easy to be become consumed by the monotony of a job; however, taking time to give back can both empower employees and create opportunities for them to bond outside of the office. It can remove the hierarchy of titles and roles and create a more relaxed and relationship-centric work environment.

The key to a successful giving-back program is to have it be meaningful for employees. It is best to get the employees involved in the decision-making process regarding which charities to donate time or money to. A couple of easy, low-cost ways to discover the topics important to your employees are hosting all-staff meetings, issuing surveys, or scheduling small group brainstorms. With these inclusive tactics, a company can gain an understanding for what issues the employees genuinely care about and how their interests and their charitable ventures can ultimately tie back into the business.

At Beyond Design, we have several ways for employees to give back. One popular initiative is our Dig-8 program, which stands for Discover, Innovate and Grow. We created the program to teach 8th grade students about product development and give them the opportunity to design real products and create startups in the classroom. The Dig-8 program teaches students important problem solving, presentation and cognitive skills as well as research methods, sales strategies, critical analysis and manufacturing techniques. In addition, it encourages creative thinking, collaboration, team building and leadership. This has been a great program that employees at Beyond Design are passionate about, rally around, and are excited to be involved in.

Dig-8 students brainstorm and sketch in the Beyond Design studio.

2. Organic New Business Generator

Most of the time when people hear the word networking, they think of the traditional method of awkward small talk and elevator pitches. Still, networking is among the most powerful tools for generating new business and community engagement enables organic interpersonal interactions and fuels informational exchanges that may lead to your next big business opportunity.

Beyond Design donates studio space to the annual Ravenswood Artwalk each summer. This is a great opportunity to generate organic business with other companies in the area as well as supporting local artists. We encourage our employees and neighbors to attend other similar events in our community.

The Beyond Design studio hosts several local artists for the annual event.

Getting Off the Ground Floor

A couple of ideas to get your business out of the office and involved in your community include:

Offer employees PTO to volunteer – Encourages and creates an opportunity for employees to bond outside the office.

Rather than just writing a check, devote time – Actions speak loudly and there is something to be said for taking time to physically be present and show up to a charity ready to work. Better yet, make it an all-office volunteer day.

Make it a challenge – Create tangible goals but don’t make it “work” – volunteering should be rewarding not another item on a to-do list. Something as small as the option to donate a small portion of salary to charity of the employee’s choice (even if it’s $1).

3. Stand Out Among The Crowd

As more millennials join the workforce, one of their main criteria for deciding where to apply is the level of philanthropic involvement. Students are looking for companies that contribute and make a difference not only within the office but outside as well. They are seeking the feeling of purpose and meaning from a job, not simply another addition to their resume.

Beyond Design supported and cheered on Mike Lemon, our industrial engineer, in the 2016 Chicago Marathon.

Future-focused companies with long-term goals should prioritize charity and philanthropy. A more involved and prosocial company is more likely to succeed because it fosters positivity and collaboration amongst employees. This will essentially make a company, regardless of size, stand out amongst its competitors because of a unique and meaningful value proposition.

ALIVE Rescue Spotlight

One issue near to my heart is animal rescue. For the past several years, I have been a volunteer at ALIVE Rescue. Founded in 2008, ALIVE Rescue is a no-kill shelter that saves, heals and re-homes abandoned animals in the Chicagoland area. They provide food, housing and veterinary care for all the dogs and cats rescued from kill facilities and the streets.

(L) Oden, the one-eyed Alive Rescue pup and (R) Jacquelyn with an adoptable poodle.

As Beyond Design has grown, so has our drive to give back to our community. Beyond Design has empowered employees to get involved in charities they care about and Beyond Design will match donations, offer the space for free and offer other incentives to help out the cause. On June 10th, Beyond Design is hosting the ALIVE Rescue 2nd Annual Art Dart event at our studio courtyard to raise funds that support ALIVE Rescue’s mission. Art Dart is ALIVE Rescue’s premier fundraising event where both established and rising artists donate artwork to help save the lives of abused and abandoned animals throughout the city. We invite you to purchase a ticket and join us for an evening of art auctions, complimentary cuisine and drinks and an opportunity to mingle with contributing artists (and dogs) to discover more about their work.

To purchase a ticket, please visit their website.

Action and Impact

Companies that invest in their employees and communities will ultimately see a positive impact reflected on their business. Being socially aware and involved brings in brighter talent and effectively helps grow a business both financially and internally. Overall, a company that takes action will be making a powerful difference within their business but also their community. Beyond Design has seen the benefits of these actions and we will continue to strive to do more.

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