OAKVILLE, Ont. – It’s not about how much you give, but you what you get back from donating to charity. That was the message panelists drove home at the Trucks For Change’s third annual Network Partner Luncheon and panel discussion.
The panel, titled, “Creating Win-Win Giving Partnerships” focused on why it’s important for corporations to get involved with charity organizations and what they can do instead of simply writing cheques out to charity a, b, and c every year.
Mike McCarron, a prominent voice in the trucking industry leader of mergers and acquisitions for Wheels Group, moderated the discussion between Rob Voisin, senior director, ReStore and product services for Habitat for Humanity, Norm Sneyd, vice-president of business development for Bison Transport and Paul Klein, founder and president of Impakt – a company that helps organizations asses the value of social investments.
McCarron began the discussion by noting the inconsistency in the reported amount of money Canada is donating to charities today. Some publications say charities have been getting fewer donations every year since 2008, and others say charitable donations are on the rise.
Klein, who was selected as one of the Globe and Mail’s Leading Thinkers and is on the advisory board of the centre for excellence in responsible business at the Schulich School of Business, tried to clarify why this statistic isn’t as important as it may seem.
“Charitable giving is not about the actual number,” he said. “It used to be that corporation defined their success in this area based on how much money they gave. But, the biggest shift that we’ve seen in the last couple of years is it’s not how much money you give, but what the money accomplishes which is the most important thing. It’s very possible in a lot of cases, that there’s been a reduction of money, but there’s been an increase in the social outcome and the business value.”
Klein mentioned that is it important for companies to become less transactional (simply writing cheques) and to become more involved in the charities they donate to – like partnering with them during a 10k walk or building a house like Habitat for Humanity offers.
“In our experience (participating in your charity) has become so important to so many audiences,” he said. “It’s important to employees, it’s important to government regulators. It’s become such a risk to not do this. What we’re seeing is more companies asking how do we get more value out of this? And how do we get more leverage out of this?”
He gave the example of Home Depot, who went from simply donating money to several charities to honing in on one specific issue and taking the social reasonability to create a major change through charitable donations.
“(Home Depot) has adopted a pretty remarkable social objective which is ending youth homelessness,” he said. “This has become really embodied in their organization. And their move from being transactional is transformational. They are associated with (combating youth homelessness) now. They’ve gone as far as having a youth group – young people with experience in homelessness to advise them on what they’re doing with this issue. That’s remarkable to me.”
Bison Transport donates to 35 charities annually and according to Sneyd, the company has been concentrating on participating in the charities themselves of late.
“We’ve got a lot of organizations that we support by just sending a cheque,” he said. “But one of the things that we’ve focused on in the last few years is getting our people involved. And I’ll give you an example. In Winnipeg, they have the Challenge for Life 20-kilometre walk and about five years ago we decided we were going to get involved in this. The thought was if we can get our people to go out and raise money get sponsors for this walk and if we could get 25 people and raise $30,000, that would be wonderful. We presented it to the group and in the very first year, 40 people roughly, raised $92,000 and we led the city of Winnipeg.”
Giving is just in the company’s nature and is engrained in its culture, added Sneyd.
“Think of the team building and the relationships these people build when they spend four hours working as a group,” he said. “The comradery, the sense of accomplishment after they finish the 20k walk – those are the things that mean a lot to us and are part of our culture.”
Companies who are having trouble hiring younger people (mostly millennials) should be aware that the incoming generation focuses a lot on a company’s social responsibility when searching for a career, noted Klein.
“When this generation (millennials) walks into a room, if there isn’t a green bin or blue bin, it’s very conspicuous,” he said. “They’re expectations on who they are going to work for are very different. They’re making decisions in a climate that is difficult to get work in anyway, and it’s amazing that these people put such a priority on working for companies that are socially responsible.”
McCarron turned his attention to Sneyd to see if Bison was seeing a correlation between charity work and younger applicants.
Sneyd said that though all of the charity work that Bison does can’t exactly be tied to recruitment, that it helped with keeping existing employees.
“We focus a lot of attention on culture, it’s extremely important to us,” he said. “It’s what we owe the people we work with…We want to have fun. We want to give back. I’m not alone when I say I believe we got to give back to our community. We all have the obligation to give back…It’s not a recruiting tool, but I do believe it adds to our retention. People want to be part of an organization that is committed to giving back and being responsible.”
If your company is deciding which charity they should become involved with next, Rob Voisin of Habitat for Humanity said it is important that your visions and values match that charity. It’s the first step to creating a lasting partnership and branding your company.
“I think the key for us has been connecting ourselves with the corporation,” he said. “So what are their values, visions, and how do they want to engage their employees? We make sure we do that research before we approach them…We look for organizations that we feel we can fit their needs. At Habitat, we are very unique in the charitable space because we have a very tangible output – we build houses. So we have an opportunity to engage staff on team building – it’s about putting the proper story in front of the potential donor.”
Sonia Straface is the associate editor of Truck News and Truck West magazines. She graduated from Ryerson University's journalism program in 2013 and enjoys writing about health and wellness and HR issues surrounding the transportation industry. Follow her on Twitter: @SoniaStraface. All posts by Sonia Straface