Dear CEOs, thinking about doing some charity? Let your staff decide

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Dear CEO

Are you thinking to start a philanthropic initiative at your company? Maybe you want to do something a bit more articulated than simply signing a check and a photo opportunity. How would you move ahead? There is a good chance that you might be tempted to act exclusively on your gut feelings, following your ego and unleashing your undisputed authority in deciding everything yourself. Maybe there is another way and it is plain simple: start with your employees and provide opportunities to empower them to take the lead.

Involving as much as possible your own staff is the best way to think about philanthropy as part of your broader Corporate Responsibility strategy often referred to as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Philanthropy or in simple terms charity is just one small component of a broader approach that necessarily includes, for example, diverse areas as maintaining good labor standards, implementing environmentally friendly operations and upholding fair labor practices throughout the entire supply chain,  just to name few.

Once clarified this important aspect we now need to explain the reasons as to why your employees should be part of any philanthropic action.

Think well, who better than your employees know the reality on the ground and the multiple dynamics shaping this?

Certainly designing and running a corporate philanthropy action as easy as it might seem is not a cakewalk.

It is something that requires dedication, commitment and good understanding of the complexity surrounding targeted local communities.

Your own staff, if well supported, is in the best position to lead the effort. They are the ones who are dedicated to your company, who are committed and in most cases they are the ones living in the surrounding area.

No doubt that the “easy and quick” way is tempting as you or your top management can easily pick a local charity and quickly organize the effort, deciding straightaway the allocation of the money to be donated.

Still it would be worthy to consider the longer route, the one that puts your employees in charge of the process.

This option takes much more foresight, fully recognizing their roles, offering them an increased level of ownership in  decision making and boosting their self confidence.

It also makes business sense because it will work wonders in terms of motivation and renewed sense of “fidelity” towards your company.

Plus by encouraging employees’  participation, you will provide a platform to further develop and express their potentials and skills.


Then the “how” factor remains paramount and here there is a lot of flexibility.

Some companies for example are even going the extra mile in setting up independent legal entities like foundations or NGOs equipped with staff coming from the developmental and social sector. Full of expertise and knowhow and with a funding largesse, these philanthropic corporate entities are well positioned to achieve a meaningful impact.

Others come up with corporate volunteering programs where the staff works pro bono, donating a small amount of their work time, for a chosen cause. There is a lot of flexibility in designing a pro bono program and many details can be adjusted to fit your needs and specifications.

It has been proven that corporate volunteerism is a really interesting way to do good by motivating your staff in their own areas of expertise.

With so many options available, you might now wonder about the easiest and most effective way you can start.

To me the simplest and possibly the best way to start with is the creation of a charity committee led by your employees.

Browsing the web I came across a commodity trading multinational, TRIFIGURA that has adopted a mixed approach: on the one hand, they set up a foundation at the global level but, at the same time, they have encouraged their staff all over the world to take the lead by forming staff charity committees in all their respective field offices.

The foundation ( plays the catalytic and enabling role, setting the strategic areas of action while ensuring a high level of autonomy within the local TRIFIGURA offices where the staff take care of the charity committees with  broad autonomy in  decision making.

In Nepal some banks have already set up similar committees where the staff is empowered to take decisions about which charity endeavors should be supported.

Last but not least, you should not think that only big corporations or multinationals can set up a charity committee. The size of the company does not really matter and there is no “one way fits all” approach. It is up to you to decide how to encourage the participation of your colleagues. Even a small firm with few employees can lead the way in corporate philanthropy. The sky is the limit.

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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