Elaine Varelas, Chairman Emeritus of Career Partners International Board of Directors, Discusses Corporate Citizenship in Boston Business Journal

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Published on September 12, 2014 by the Boston Business Journal. Boston Business Journal/bizjournals.com/boston/ (original article may be viewed here)

Corporate Citizenship: There are as many ways to give as there are reasons

By: Elaine Varelas

Corporate philanthropy is a cultural expression of the beliefs and commitments of a company’s leaders and employees. Regardless of its size, thoughtful philanthropy within an organization has a positive impact on the beneficiaries and the colleagues working together to support causes they hold in high regard. In many ways corporate philanthropy is an American business tradition. In fact, Giving USA reported that last year, American businesses donated $16.76 billion to charities.

Elaine Varelas, Chairman Emeritus of Career Partners International Board of DirectorsThere are a variety of ways a company can get involved in philanthropy. Through volunteerism, donations of goods and services, monetary donations and through corporate match programs for individual donations made by employees to a charitable organization or educational institution.

If you are planning on starting a philanthropic program or augmenting your existing initiatives, it’s important to be creative. Examine all of your options and develop a program that is sustainable, and won’t get redundant quickly. Giving USA estimates that 94 percent of U.S. households give to charity, so it is likely that your staff is already involved in philanthropic endeavors. Engage your employees in the design process by surveying them to determine the issues and causes that are meaningful to them. There are bound to be common issues and themes in your employee feedback that you can use as the basis of your program development.

Opportunities that involve sweat equity, bruises and blisters are often the most fun. Research and consider organizations like food banks that require help with physical labor in addition to monetary and food donations.

If you commit to a day of service to an organization that collects and distributes goods, like the Greater Boston Food Bank or Cradles to Crayons, consider conducting a drive to collect goods to donate as well. Organizations such as these are thrilled to get the volunteer help with labor and even more grateful when you take the time to collect a donation to bring with you.

Organizations that collect goods for distribution often fall short of donations in very specific areas. For instance, Cradles to Crayons, which supplies clothing and school supplies to kids, rarely has enough new undergarments to provide to clients.

If you are considering a goods collection drive, call the organization that will benefit from your initiative and find out if they have specific needs that your staff can fulfill during the course of the drive.

Another way to perform a great service is to donate your professional goods and services. Whether it’s developing a web site for a non-profit or helping a veteran find a new job, it’s a great way to showcase your expertise and make a positive contribution to your community without leaving the office.

One of the more glamorous forms of philanthropy is buying seats or a table at a charitable gala.

This is great way to give your staff a reason to get dressed up for a night out that benefits a great cause or organization.

The motivation and drive for companies to get involved in philanthropy has been documented; become an employer of choice, have a higher employee engagement and improve retention. You will find that as the impact on the charitable organizations you work with grows, so will your corporate pride.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm headquartered in Boston. She also serves on the board of directors for Career Partners International.

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