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The New Culture of Giving

There’s direct donations, employee-guided giving, a charity database and more

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Business donors change gears

Companies, big and small, are finding new ways to target their donations and to promote giving by their employees.

That cultural shift is driven both by technology and the desire by both individuals and corporations to have more of a say in how their donations and volunteer hours are used. In some cases, these changes in giving are also designed to help the company succeed in its everyday business.

Click to enlarge image.

Here’s how three local companies have changed their charitable focus.

First Hawaiian Bank: The state’s biggest corporate giver was formerly a major player with the Aloha United Way. Now, the bank manages its own giving program, Kokua Mai, which encourages employees to donate to causes they feel make the most sense. Much of First Hawaiian’s and its employees’ money still goes to United Way or to organizations AUW supports, but First Hawaiian is no longer a direct participant in the AUW effort.

“We just felt we could get better participation if we handled it in-house,” says Don Horner, chairman and CEO. First Hawaiian has a deeply embedded culture of giving and community involvement, and bank officials felt that the Kokua Mai program offered a “clear line of sight” from individual employees to that corporate ethos, Horner says.

AUW and its affiliated agencies still receive the largest share of money collected by an employee-driven committee, Horner says. But this hands-on approach has another benefit, he says. It keeps the bank in close touch with the communities it serves, whether they are in Hawaii, Guam or American Samoa.

“Our focus is on investing in our neighbors,” Horner says. “After all, we are in the lending business and you have to understand the community and what’s going on.

“We see philanthropy as an investment and we take that investment very seriously. That’s what bankers do. The return on that investment, in terms of our employees, is that they have a better perspective on life; they grow individually and corporately, and get skills they might otherwise not get.”

The bank also gives through its foundation, mostly for capital projects, and individual branches are encouraged to give to activities in their immediate community, such as Little League or neighborhood fundraisers.

Pacific Office Properties: The commercial real estate and property management firm founded by businessman and philanthropist Jay Shidler last year launched a program in which it gives two $500 increments annually to every employee to donate as they wish.

It’s called Pacific Cares, and recipients must be qualified tax-exempt organizations qualified to receive charitable contributions. But, otherwise, the company takes no role in deciding where the money goes.

“In the past,” says office manager Joy Hessenflow, “Jay would write a check and that would be it. He is a huge giver, but he was looking for a way that employees could participate and get more involved.

“I have people who contact me and say in the past you have given to this event or that charity and I have to say we have changed and now our donations are employee-driven,” Hessenflow says. “It has changed to a very much more personal thing because now employees have their radar up, their eyes and ears open. It’s not just going to those who have the most influence or whose name is well-known.”

     Fedex Kinko's manager Kattie Kaauwai-Chess helped teach
     children at Kalihi Waena Elementary about traffic safety during a
     walk-to-school day. Fedex encourages employees to volunteer in
     their communities.
     Photo: Kevin Blitz

FedEx/Kinkos: While money is an important part of any giving program, there are other ways in which a business can contribute to the community. One example is FedEx/Kinkos, which has a very active program of employee participation and volunteering in community activities.

Kattie Kaauwai-Chess manages a FedEx/Kinkos branch in downtown Honolulu. But she spends much of her time volunteering or organizing fellow employees to donate their time or money.

“I’m gung ho on this,” she says. “A lot of it has to do with just watching out for your team. If people are happy, they are not afraid to stay late for each other. And it’s not just what you do at work, it’s the other things you do together as well. When you get involved in these activities, you see these other people and you get to know them. It allows people to shine. And that helps at work.”

While the FedEx effort is a very local, ground-up style of volunteering (making bento lunches for a charity walk, for instance), it is also part of the overall corporate culture, Kaauwai-Chess says. “It’s a vision our company really believes.”

“When you and your co-workers get involved with something like the March of Dimes, you feel: ‘I’m here with my friends.’ ”

“It’s a powerful thing.”

     Click to enlarge image.

Why Give?

Why do businesses and corporations give at all? The quick answer is that as members of the community, they are obligated to give back, to help create a healthy community in which to operate. Fair enough. But there are other motivations as well.

A recent national study by McKinsey & Co. of nearly 800 top executives worldwide found that the reasons for corporate giving were complex, interrelated and subtle. While the vast majority said the major benefit of corporate philanthropy was enhancing the corporate reputation or brand, there were many other observed benefits as well. Among them:

• beefing up employee leadership capabilities or skills;
• boosting employee retention or hiring; and
• building knowledge about markets and customers.

In short, the business leaders agreed that a culture of giving is not just a good thing to create and nurture, it is good for business as well.

United Way’s Biggest Backers

Here are the Aloha United Way’s largest financial supporters in 2008:

$1 million to $750,000
Bank of Hawaii
Hawaiian Electric Industries (including subsidiaries)

$750,000 to $500,000
State of Hawaii, including executive, legislative and 
judicial branches

$500,000 to $250,000
Atherton Family Foundation
City of Honolulu
State Department of Education
First Hawaiian Bank (including subsidiaries)
Gates Family Foundation
Hawaii Medical Service Association
Servco Pacific
University of Hawaii System
AUW also recognizes smaller organizations that give generously in the category of Small Business/Big Heart

$15,000 to $10,000:
AAA Hawaii
Assets School
Associated Steel Workers Ltd.
Bowers + Kubota Consulting
CH2M Hill
Cronin Fried Sekiya Kekina & Fairbanks
Hawaii Employers Council
Honolulu Publishing Ltd.
IBEW Local 1260
Pacific Business News

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