Philanthropy: It Does a Company Good
When I’m asked about why Corporate Philanthropy matters, I could easily point to a Nielsen study that states 55% of online consumers would pay more for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact. There are also stats that show philanthropy’s impact on revenue, as well as the positive PR to be gained by companies who engage in it. But for me, these are outcomes of a robust and meaningful Corporate Philanthropy program … they aren’t the drivers. The reason we give is so much bigger, more meaningful and simpler.
Author Peter Shankman wrote, “Any modicum of success comes with the responsibility to make the world a better place.” This is an idea that’s resonated with me throughout my career. Let me explain.
My life has been a series of fortunate events. Neither of my parents is college-educated, yet they instilled in me, very early on, the value of academics. My desire to continue my education came from them, and they encouraged and supported me through college and then law school. I stepped into a great career at IBM, where I enjoyed managers, mentors and friends who gave me challenging opportunities and pushed me well beyond what I ever would have done on my own. Following IBM, one of my client’s took a CEO position at CA Technologies and asked me to join him as a member of his executive team. Again, I was mentored and groomed and challenged. I always had people around me who cared about my professional and personal growth.
There isn’t a doubt in my mind I’m where I am today at Avaya because of the investment made in me by others. It’s because of this I believe that each of us who has achieved any level of success has a responsibility to “pay it forward” and bring these same advantages to people in need.
The Month Heard ‘Round the World
Our most important assets walk in and out our company doors every day … and they are our people. By creating opportunities for all of us to give back to the communities where we live and do business, we’re rallying for a cause bigger than ourselves, and that matters.
When I joined Avaya, I took over corporate philanthropy (a first in my career!), which presented a unique challenge—start an initiative without heavily relying on company funds, human capital or other resources. My creative juices started flowing and I assembled a team that could get the job done. Enter Month of Giving.
In July 2015, we introduced 31 days of employee-sponsored events all aimed at raising money for non-profits around the globe. In addition, we hosted an online silent auction for employees, with donated items from our partners and Avaya leadership team. It was an all-hands-on-deck campaign, our employees delivered and the outcome was staggering. By the end of July, our Month of Giving resulted in 60 teams across 32 locations raising more than $250,000, and donating hundreds of volunteer hours.
What a moment—the greatest accomplishment in my professional career and I mean that sincerely.
Giving Back Matters
What’s harder to measure with a Corporate Philanthropy program is the connectedness that comes from it. Following our Month of Giving, employees and leaders were visibly more engaged … and with each other. Morale improved and we were able to show the positive contributions our teams had made with customer, partners and recruits.
To attract the best and the brightest, employers need to have a clear vision for how the world can be. This vision is especially important to the millennial generation who measures a company by how they give back. Six in 10 millennials say “a sense of purpose” is part of the reason they choose to work for their employers, and 72% say a job that makes an impact is important to their happiness. It matters.
Our second annual Month of Giving kicked off on Saturday and will run through October 31. The silent auction bell rings this week with even more irresistible items that will surely excite our employee base and maximize bids. To reinforce our commitment to the roll-up-your-sleeves part of the month, my colleague, Avaya Chief Marketing Officer Morag Lucey and I are co-sponsoring a Walk Around the World, challenging our teams to walk the distance it takes to circle the globe (25,000 miles) all while raising money to build a classroom in Africa as part of Save the Children’s “Classrooms through Community” initiative. We already have our hashtag in play too: #10KaDay (it’s a lofty goal but our teams are up to it). Find us on social media!
Each year, our Month of Giving gets a little grander, and the employee activities evolve and multiply. And what makes it all worthwhile is seeing the faces of those we’re impacting. Our employees come to work every day for something bigger than themselves and Avaya … they’re here to make the world a little better, a little brighter. And that matters profoundly.