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Ordinary people taking action for extraordinary change.

How to be a philanthropist while you’re on the job

Why We Wrote This

A majority of employees say they want to work for an organization that encourages giving and volunteering. Here are five philanthropic options offered by corporate America.

This column is part of an occasional series about how you, too, can make a difference. It is written by the head of our partner organization UniversalGiving, which helps people give and volunteer in more than 100 countries.

Most of us need work to survive. It pays our bills, helps support our families, and allows us to save for the future.

But that’s not all work entails. If you look closely at your company, you could find benefits that enable you to be a philanthropist while you’re on the job.

A number of workers still don’t know that their employers offer these benefits. And yet a majority of employees say they want to work for an organization that encourages giving and volunteering.

What if your company doesn’t have such a program? Well, it’s a great time to show management an article like this. And if you really want to see a program happen, you can offer to help run it.

Read on to see ways that corporate America is being generous.

Workplace giving. A lot of giving takes place in a company through its foundation and grants. Workplace giving focuses on employee involvement in philanthropy through corporate campaigns or opportunities, usually via payroll deductions. Nearly $4 billion is raised this way each year in the United States, according to America’s Charities, a federation of nonprofits that facilitates such giving.

Matching gifts. In this case, you make a donation, and your company matches it. What a great benefit!

The availability of matching gifts has increased nearly 60 percent over the past decade, according to America’s Charities data. But many small and medium-sized companies haven’t joined in. So if you’re at a smaller business, there may be an opportunity for you to help build a program.

Product donations. This is when companies give their goods free of charge to eligible nonprofits. Product donations can be very effective, such as food during an earthquake crisis, shoes for children in need, and cellphones to capture human rights issues on video. To give a specific example, Adobe presents 40,000 nonprofits with software and discounts annually.

When you see a company focus on a certain product for donation, you may better understand its brand. So think about this if you’re suggesting a product donation yourself. Will it also help the business?

Employee volunteer programs. These programs encourage volunteering, which can be on company time. Volunteering can help lift employee morale, said 70 percent of respondents in a Deloitte survey last year.

Moreover, workplace-organized volunteering can allow employees to enhance their business skills and collaborate with co-workers across different teams.

For companies new to philanthropy, volunteer programs are a lower-cost way to jump in. And they can be a retention tool, given employee interest in volunteering.

“Dollars for doers” grants. Under these programs, if you volunteer at a charity, your company donates to the organization on your behalf. That’s exciting: Give your time, and get some money for your nonprofit.

Going to work doesn’t have to be a daily slog. Be inspired: Help your workplace change the world.

Pamela Hawley is the founder and chief executive officer of UniversalGiving. She is a recipient of the Jefferson Award – the Nobel Prize of community service. She also writes the blog “Living and Giving.”

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