We spend most of our waking hours at work, so it makes sense that corporate philanthropy serves as a prime source of giving. According to Giving USA, corporations gave a combined $20.77 billion in 2017, an 8% increase from the previous year. American workers themselves raise billions more via workplace efforts like matching-gift programs, not to mention sweat equity contributed through volunteer time-off and other initiatives.
When done right, corporate philanthropy energizes the whole company, mobilizing workers and giving employers a great way to support their employees’ passions. It can also be a tool for attracting and retaining employees—and clients—who share your values.
While some firms look at corporate giving as an afterthought, SkyOak Wealth—the 2018 Invest in Others Corporate Philanthropy Award winner—has built its business around an innovative charitable model. For SkyOak Wealth founder Derek Davis, giving is something that should be felt in both your heart and your wallet.
Read on to learn Derek’s best advice for starting a corporate philanthropy program. And if you’re part of an advisory firm that goes above and beyond to give back to your community, consider submitting an application for our “Charitable Champions” program by November 1st.
When Derek and his wife founded SkyOak Wealth in 2010, they wanted to do more than simply give back a portion of their own profits. Inspired by consumer brands like TOMS and Bombas, which have a buy-one, give-one-free business model, the couple decided to give away a financial plan for each one they sell. The beneficiaries of their largesse include single parents, military members, cancer survivors or anyone else that needs a leg up in life.
“People are pre-destined by factors they can’t control, their geography and environment,” Derek said. “If I can help them up one or two rungs on the ladder of life, that’s going to put them in a better position for their kids to go to college and their kids’ kids. It can change the whole path of the family.”
Look for Ways to Do More
In the Christian faith, parishioners are advised to donate, or tithe, 10% of their income to the church. But Derek doesn’t believe 10% is enough, at least not in his case. “If you’re giving and you don’t feel it, it doesn’t count,” he said.
SkyOak Wealth donates 20% of its profits to charity, providing a $3,500-per employee matching-gift program on behalf of its 16-member team. What’s more, the company cuts its fees in half, to break-even rates, when working with nonprofits, endowments and other need-based clients.
Cultivate a Culture of Caring
At SkyOak Wealth, every one of the firm’s 16 employees sits on the board of a nonprofit—and the firm provides financial support to each charity. The reason is simple: SkyOak cultivates a culture of giving back. In fact, not only does SkyOak look for philanthropic-minded employees, the firm has declined to work with some clients who were not sufficiently committed to philanthropy.
“We’re upfront that we’re all about making a difference,” Derek said. “Our client philosophy is about doing a great job and providing high performance so they have even more assets and can make a bigger difference.”
Encourage Employees to Follow Their Own Passions
SkyOak Wealth doesn’t pick and choose charities and causes to support. Instead, the firm supports its employees in giving to the causes they’re most passionate about. In addition to providing a matching-gift program, SkyOak offers its employees 40 hours of volunteer-time off (VTO) a year, far higher than the standard eight hours.
For SkyOak, the VTO policy is also more practical than scheduling company-wide volunteer days, which would essentially require the small firm to close-up shop entirely.
Derek says everyone should give for two reasons: To make a difference and to touch people’s lives. When companies have true passion and a desire to give back, a corporate philanthropy program can achieve a world of good.