• Impact Austin

Incorporating Philanthropy into Business

Written by Jamie Brian for Impact Austin


“It has always been important to me to have philanthropy as a component of my life,” says Susan Palombo, Impact Austin’s Board President. “We all have gifts and talents, and when we share those talents with other people in the communities where we live and work, that adds a lot of richness to our life experiences.”


Susan is no stranger to giving back. In addition to her work as a financial advisor at Baird, Susan has dedicated much of her life to volunteering in the community. I spoke with her about the connection between philanthropy and business. “We already have a culture of ‘neighbor helping neighbor’ in Austin,” Susan says. “Your employees are probably already doing a lot of this on their own, but I would encourage companies to harness that energy and make it easier for employees to create a really big impact.”


Here are Susan’s tips for businesses that want to incorporate philanthropy into the workplace:


Ask employees what causes they’re interested in

“Not every business has a mission that gets people excited about the company they work for,” Susan says. “I think that including philanthropy and service-learning activities can serve as an important engagement tool for employees.” This is especially true of the younger generations entering the work force. According to a study by Gallup, millennials are more motivated by mission and purpose than by money. Companies can align their brand with the desires of their employees by offering opportunities to volunteer. For maximum employee engagement, companies can ask employees for input on the causes they’re most interested in. Susan recommends creating a committee of employees to lead these volunteer day events. Offering to match even a portion of your employees’ giving can also be a motivator.


Stagger volunteering events

Not every company has the ability to let all of their employees have the same day off for a volunteering event. For some companies, offering staggered events may be a better solution. One group of employees may remain in the office while another group participates in a service-learning activity. These group efforts can create a sense of community among coworkers and strengthen relationships.


Create some fun through service learning

“I think that creating some fun around volunteering can add a lot of employee incentive,” Susan says. At the end of a company-sponsored volunteering event, Susan suggests companies offer a celebration or happy hour for employees. Over wine and cupcakes, employees can have a chance to unwind, reflect, and connect with their coworkers about the good work they’ve accomplished together.


Introduce employee matching programs

Businesses can introduce employee matching programs that will allow people to give to the organizations of their choice and have their contributions matched per dollar by the company or 50 cents to the dollar up to a maximum, for example. This practice shows employees that the company truly cares about them, the community where they work, and the causes they care about. Susan recommends having plenty of organizations as donation options: “Once the employee can sample different organizations, they can learn more about them and decide on their own where they want to volunteer and give.”


Companies can start with these practices for philanthropy and alter them to best suit their organizational structure. Whatever methods you choose to use, the results will lead to unimaginable rewards. One phrase that Susan repeatedly uses when referring to philanthropy is a ripple effect. By incorporating philanthropy into business, Susan says, “You’re connecting people to new organizations, new solutions, and there really is a ripple effect because you might help them find a cause that they’re super passionate about, and you played a role in sparking that passion.”


As your associates get outside of your organization, they meet others and might learn new ideas (product and organizational solutions) and meet new people (recruiting opportunity) which can provide future contributions into your business.


Toss a stone into the water and watch the ripples of good spread throughout your organization.


Susan Palombo,CFP®, CIMA®, CPWA®, CPFA

Senior Vice President & Financial Advisor, Baird

Board President, Impact Austin




This post was sponsored by Baird Private Wealth Management.

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