How to boost corporate giving without hurting your career

How to boost corporate giving without hurting your career

With young adults saying they're willing to sacrifice healthy salaries and more to work at socially responsible companies, it's in employers' best interest to be receptive to millennial and Gen Z's philanthropic leanings.

However, the onus is still on younger workers to make sure they have all their ducks in a row before they try to change the world from their office cubicle. As younger generations are tagged by older generations as "entitled" or "lazy," making the right impression when bringing an idea to your supervisors will help you avoid damaging your reputation at work.


If you want to suggest a change to your company's corporate giving, make sure you've got these things covered first so you don't sacrifice professional capital in the process.

Make sure you're doing your work: While encouraging your company to embrace or alter its giving is excellent, it's important to make sure work gets done, said multigenerational workplace expert Lindsey Pollak.

"I know a lot of law firms, for example, where during job interviews a lot of the young people are getting very excited about their pro bono work. It's really great if you want to do 12 hours a day of pro bono, but your firm still has to make money," Pollak said.

Make a business case: The best way to pitch a corporate social responsibility program is to highlight how it will help the business.

"I think you can make a business case for doing the right thing — for doing good work in a way that speaks to the needs and issues of importance to the leadership of your company," Pollak said. She also recommends surveying other employees to make a case for increasing engagement.

When forming your argument, Amir Pasic, dean of Indiana University's Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, said employees should "look at some of the similarly situated companies and what they are doing — how that is actually helping them retain and recruit talent — helping improve their relationships with customers and their overall public relations."

Don't assume: According to Bettina Deynes, a former senior managing partner at The Surrogate CEO, the worst thing an employee can assume before introducing a corporate giving program, is that the company hasn't done anything previously.

"The best approach would be to first find out what the position of the organization is in that regard," Deynes said. Philanthropy expert Lisa Dietlin also pointed out that younger workers should acknowledge the expertise of older counterparts and the existing atmosphere in their workplace.

"It's rare that you walk into a corporation and you have an idea that was never ever thought of before," Dietlin said, "so getting a little bit of the lay of the land helps."

Make it social: Even if you can't implement a formal philanthropic push across your office, you can still encourage your co-workers and managers to participate in events that are important to you outside of work. Be sure your office has a culture that encourages informally sharing various causes, Pollak cautioned.

"I don't think that most people would perceive it negatively if you believe in charity or supporting a community, but I do think you have to be mindful of the environment you're in and whether that is an appropriate thing to do," Pollak said.

Don't go straight for the C-suite: "The first person you start with is your manager or your supervisor who, most likely if you're starting in a new position, is not the CEO or not the person in charge of corporate philanthropy," Dietlin said.

Introducing an idea to your direct supervisor is a great way to see if it has legs before bringing it to the C-suite level.

Be positive: While it can be disheartening to work for a company whose philanthropy doesn't align with your beliefs, it's vital to stay positive when you broach the topic with superiors.


"I think the worst scenario would be to not be open and transparent and start complaining behind your manager's back," Pasic said. Similarly, Dietlin said younger workers should "be aware of the history that's gone on before."

Don't aim too high: If you're new to a company, asking for a large donation to your favorite charity may not be the best way to have your idea taken seriously. Making a small request or asking for a small-scale trial run for a new initiative is a better way of implementing a corporate giving strategy.

"I'm a really big fan in general of pilot programs. Not to say, 'We're going to give everybody seven days off for the year (to volunteer),' but, 'What if we did one hour?' And if you did it on a small scale and had a success, that can often convince people as well," Pollak said.

While it may be tempting to stay and try to change a company from the inside out, young workers should also keep in mind that the American job market is competitive. If you really don't feel that your vision is a fit for your workplace, you have the option to seek greener pastures.

"If you're pushing against a culture that doesn't match your values, you have the amazing opportunity to get another (job)," said Melanie Ulle, CEO of Philanthropy Expert. "If somebody doesn't value what millennials bring to the table, then they're probably not a very great employer."

While driving change at any company is a daunting task, younger workers can set themselves up for success by building a solid case for corporate giving and establishing a positive track record on the job.