Home Opinion Nicole Juday Explains How to Set Up a Corporate Programme | IDEAL Industries Foundation

Nicole Juday Explains How to Set Up a Corporate Programme | IDEAL Industries Foundation

Nicole Juday, Board Chair of the IDEAL Industries Foundation, explains how to set up a corporate programme and highlights some of the organisations the Foundation supports and how such initiatives can boost employee engagement.

Many companies in the electrical industry participate in some form of charitable giving, even if they may not identify as having a corporate philanthropy program. Requests to sponsor a local youth sports team, underwrite an industry event, or support a civic or educational initiative are some of the most common asks of companies of all sizes. With a bit of forethought and planning, businesses can create a simple framework to help identify the types of organisations that makes the best business sense to support.

Knowledge of the local laws

First, understand the laws where your company is based (or work with someone who does.) Legal restrictions around corporate philanthropy are not overly complicated, but there are clear parameters around what qualifies as a charitable activity or programme – related expense, particularly if the company wishes to take a tax deduction. Having the right structure and governance in place is also important.

Develop a framework

The next step is to devise a framework for what kind of activity your company will (and will not) typically support. This is most effective when companies adopt a proactive approach. Instead of considering every incoming request individually, identify one or several priority areas that will allow for greatest impact. Consider whether funding a request could expose your business to new customers, differentiate it from competition, attract and retain quality talent, or increase employee engagement. Establishing criteria for giving may mean having to turn down requests for worthy causes that fall outside of the giving priorities, but it allows companies to consider and evaluate requests efficiently and to avoid a scattershot, reactive approach to charitable giving.

Prioritising types of giving

At the IDEAL Foundation, corporate philanthropy is segmented into several categories. Roughly a third of our annual giving goes to seven social service organisations located in the geographic area of the company’s headquarters. We believe that communities are strongest and most vibrant when no one is left behind, and our giving targets organisations serving the most vulnerable in the community from which we draw many of our employees, making the area a better place to live and work for all.

Our other primary focus area is increasing diversity in the skilled trades. In the US, over 90% of skilled tradespeople are white males in a sector with significant current and projected worker shortages. We support organisations that help non-traditional groups enter and stay in the trades, increasing the labour force pipeline and strengthening the future health and prosperity of our industry.

Consider other types of giving as well. Many corporate sponsorships qualify as charitable donations, as do product donations to non-profit organisations, which are considered gifts in kind. Through the IDEAL Foundation, IDEAL Industries donated more than $50,000 worth of tools in 2023. Announcements of these donations often were incorporated into IDEAL’s social media strategy, as in the case of a donation made to equip tools to Rosie’s Girls, a pre-apprenticeship electrical training programme for women run through the IBEW Local 98 in Philadelphia. This type of online presence is a great differentiator for the company and helps IDEAL stand out in the competition for talent by demonstrating our values—an increasingly important consideration among prospective employees.

Elevating employee engagement

Companies can also use philanthropy as an effective tool for engaging employees. Last year, the IDEAL Foundation began matching employees’ charitable donations. This year brought some new campaigns. During International Women’s Month, for every charitable donation made by an employee the Foundation made a donation to Chicago Women in the Trades, an organisation helping women enter and stay in the skilled trades. And by leveraging relationships with the local non-profits the Foundation supports, we’ve been able to conduct a series of volunteer activities for employees during the workday, such as making mental health kits for youth and hygiene kits for low-income seniors. These activities were well received by employees who appreciated this easily accessible opportunity to be of service to their communities by spending just a few minutes of their time.

Communicate your progress

An important component of a corporate philanthropy program is to make sure you have a way to keep track of all the great work your company is doing! Capturing the total value of charitable donations – cash, products, and/or services – makes it possible to share your story with your employees, customers and communities. Recording the number of hours employees donate through a volunteer time-off policy helps your company gain credibility among prospective hires. In an era where companies are increasingly requested or required to provide metrics beyond what would have been necessary in the past, having a system for keeping up to date documentation is crucial. It also allows companies to analyse the impact of their programs over time and create and maintain goals for their philanthropic activities.

As the world increasingly looks to industry to provide solutions for environmental and social issues, establishing a corporate philanthropy programme is as strategic as it is altruistic. Starting with what seems manageable and taking incremental steps to increase impact is both an investment in the future of your business and in the greater good.

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