The holiday season is for spending time with friends and family and giving back. In this spirit, we have announced our inaugural list of Charitable Champions—financial advisory firms that give back to their communities by promoting a culture of philanthropy.
We were thrilled to receive an overwhelming number of applications, which were evaluated blindly by a judging panel made up of financial advisors. Judging criteria included employee benefits (volunteer time off and matching gifts), company contributions, and programs and events. The inaugural list represents the top 20 firms.
What makes for a charitable-minded company? Invest in Others Executive Director Megan McAuley said it starts at the top.
“Management sets the tone,” Megan said. “All of our Charitable Champions have demonstrated leadership at the executive level, which is what you need to get employees to fully commit to giving back themselves.”
Based on data compiled from our list of 20 Charitable Champions, we have identified five important elements to consider when starting or enhancing a corporate philanthropy program:
Offer at Least 24 Hours of Volunteer Time Off
One of the simplest ways for companies to motivate their employees to give back is to offer volunteer time off (VTO). Of our 20 Charitable Champions, 95% offer VTO, with an average of 24 hours. When it comes to volunteering, people don’t always know where to donate their time, so VTO participation rates tend to increase when firms allow time-off to be used for company events.
Miracle Mile Advisors, a Charitable Champion based in Los Angeles, California, has 100% participation in its VTO program, generously offering up to 48 hours per year. Managing Partner and Co-Founder Brock Moseley, who has served on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles for more than 17 years, piloted Big Brothers Big Sisters’ first Small Business Workplace Mentoring Program at the firm. Employees can use VTO towards this program or other opportunities the firm offers.
Have a Matching Gift Program of $1,250 or More
A matching gift program can be an easy way to encourage employees to contribute to charitable causes. Eighty-five percent of companies on the Charitable Champions list offer a matching-gift program, with an average maximum of $1,250. By offering a match, firms can multiply the impact of an employee’s donation. For example, a $250 contribution could be matched dollar-for-dollar, resulting in $500 for charity.
Based in McLean Virginia, Cassaday & Company, Inc. boasts 100% participation in its generous matching gift program. What’s the secret to its success? Any employee contribution made to the firm’s charitable foundation is personally matched 200% (up to $2,000) by Chairman & CEO Stephen Cassaday. Last year, Cassaday & Company contributed a total of $185,000 through the program to charities such as Wounded Warrior Project, So Others Might Eat, Youth for Tomorrow and more.
Provide a Variety of Volunteer Opportunities
Volunteering not only helps to support important causes, it gives workers a chance to collaborate and build stronger connections. Firms can set a good example by offering a variety of volunteer opportunities, both onsite and off, so there’s something for everyone. According to the Charitable Champions submissions, companies on our list hosted an average of 15+ programs and events per year, with employees participating in an average of two to three hours of volunteer work a month throughout the year.
Lakeside Wealth Management, a Charitable Champion in Chesterton, Indiana, makes giving back a fun part of the company culture by sponsoring Duneland YMCA’s “Dancing Like the Stars,” an annual fundraiser modeled after the hit TV show that features local “celebrities.” Over the years, seven Lakeside employees have participated in the competition, including CEO Mark Chamberlain.
Appoint Dedicated Staff or a Committee
If you want your employees to commit to giving back, you need to show that you’re equally serious and willing to invest resources to get the job done. Among our Charitable Champions, 95% have a dedicated person or team overseeing events and activities.
With only 12 employees, Jeff Bucher, President of Citizen Advisory Group in Perrysburg, Ohio, made a major financial investment by hiring a full-time director of community relations to manage and coordinate corporate giving and volunteer activities—proving that you don’t need to be a large company to make giving a business priority.
Like completing a work assignment or taking care of a household chore, giving back is best when you make it fun. The companies on our Charitable Champions list have incorporated creative ideas to get their employees fired up.
Archford Capital founder and CEO Jim Maher knows that there’s nothing like a little friendly competition to get employees motivated. In 2016, he launched Archford Angels, giving each team member $1,000 to donate to a charity of their choosing and participate in a project with the organization. Throughout the year, the firm judges each project in the areas of sustainability, impact and personal growth—ultimately awarding the top three charities $2,500, $5,000 and $10,000, respectively.
SkyOak Wealth, a Las Vegas-based company, has made giving an integral part of its business model in keeping with charitable-minded consumer brands like TOMS. Two years ago, the company started its very own buy-one, get-one program, donating a financial plan to someone in need for each one it sells.
Beyond unique activities, companies can succeed simply by breaking down silos between volunteering and monetary giving. Crossmark Global Investments in Houston, Texas, makes a cash donation when employees volunteer to an eligible organization. Meanwhile, Tolleson Wealth Management in Dallas, Texas, offers a unique service-matching program, awarding a $250 grant to the charity of an employee’s choosing after 50 hours of service and an additional $1,000 grant to the person who dedicates the most hours to a cause.
There’s no one right way to become a Charitable Champion. From generous benefits to creative volunteering and fundraising opportunities, standout companies do more than simply check off boxes. They make giving an integral part of the culture and a core component of the business.