Corporate Philanthropy Needs to be a Corporate Priority

By Dennis G. Wilson, President and CEO, Delta Dental

Corporate giving has become essential to many businesses as it creates a positive brand image, demonstrates the values defining the organization and is a pivotal part of a company’s culture. Today, both employees and consumers seek out working for or purchasing from socially responsible corporations that give back to their communities.

In fact, even during the unprecedented events of the COVID-19 pandemic, charitable giving swelled to a record $471 billion last year, according to Giving USA 2021: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2020. After adjusting for inflation, total charitable giving grew 3.8% from 2019.

Corporate donations serve as a valuable lifeline that keep the doors open and the lights on for many non-profit organizations that benefit greatly from corporate philanthropy. But as important as corporate financial donations are to nonprofits, there are many other ways for corporations to give back that don’t require a significant monetary commitment.

Corporations often have untapped assets in their highly trained staff who can bring expertise that nonprofits often seek. Whether it’s finance and accounting, public relations, project management, or just good old-fashioned manual labor, corporations employ a host of people who can apply their brains and brawn to make a difference in their community.

Many times, it doesn’t take more than all or part of a day to make an impact by volunteering with a local community organization or supporting a local cause. Not to mention, it does wonders for boosting employee morale and fostering camaraderie in the process. And, there are both in-person and virtual opportunities available, allowing for organizations and their employees to give back and connect with others, even during the pandemic. Now, more than ever, the value of connecting and supporting one another is priceless.

At Delta Dental, we believe everyone deserves a healthy smile. While our is often linked with our mission of supporting oral (and overall) healthcare organizations and causes, there are other broader ways to encourage employee volunteerism and create your own community engagement program as we approach the holiday season.

Do what will work best for your organization

Determine what you’re realistically able to provide, be it time, resources or learning. Vet each potential volunteer opportunity through this lens and ask yourself the following before encouraging corporate volunteerism:

  • Time: Can you shut down for a half/full day to help after a natural disaster, pack boxes at a food bank or pack meals at your location?
  • Resources: Can you directly donate to an organization helping a community via food drives, toy drives or winter clothing drives? Can you do employee gift matching?
  • Learning Opportunities: Can you provide (in person or virtually) speakers to educate your associates on an organization or topic?

Be a role model

Encourage senior staff to join local chambers of commerce and business organizations. Making this ask of senior leadership moves companies from just being financial contributors to having a meaningful seat at the table, allowing them to help shape community impact efforts and corporate initiatives.

In addition to our annual corporate giving, at Delta Dental New Jersey, eight senior staff members serve on 12 local boards, including the Meadowlands Chamber of Commerce, Morris County Chamber of Commerce, Community Foundation of New Jersey, African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, Special Olympics New Jersey and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.

Embed employee engagement into the company culture

Encouraging employee volunteerism starts with having it be a cornerstone of your company culture. For example, consider giving employees paid volunteer days to give back to an organization of either their own or the company’s choosing.

Most organizations have flexible volunteer programs that occur on-site or virtually. For example, Delta Dental allows up to two paid volunteer days off for all fulltime employees. Delta Dental also organizes many group volunteer projects for our employees each year, which allow our teams to give back while also nurturing team building.

Enlist the help of your HR department

Before fully rolling out any employee volunteerism program, consult with your HR or community impact teams for their input on fostering associate engagement. Suggestions they may make include surveying associates, providing insight into service opportunities that will resonate with employees or arranging for representatives of local community partners to make presentations to your employees.

Companies are often lauded for cutting checks to serve as a good corporate citizen. I challenge all New Jersey CEOs to rise to the occasion and go beyond simply cutting a check. Let’s strive to make New Jersey a stronger, more connected place to live, work and play.

Meadowlands Magazine, the official publication of the Meadowlands Chamber and its affiliate organizations, has proudly served the business community of the Meadowlands region sine 1976. We are among largest business magazine in New Jersey (second by circulation) and offer prime visibility opportunities for businesses to connect with potential customers.