Corporate Philanthropy

scot ulmer

Remember when you were a kid and your parents told you to do something? Even if you had every intention of doing whatever it was— cleaning up the dinner dishes, making your bed, putting on a hat in the cold— being told to do it just irked you a little bit.

Truth be told, that feeling rarely dies off in adulthood. Just ask Tom Gimbel, Founder and CEO of LaSalle network. Gimbel realized that if corporations wanted to be actively involved in any charity, it was disastrous to force that participation on employees. Instead, it’s best for leadership to take a hands-off approach, and let their employees figure out exactly what it is they want to be involved with. In this way, corporate philanthropy becomes much more intrinsic— employees are helping because they want to help.

Gimbel realized this when an employee began circulating emails about a dance marathon for charity. At first, the CEO was reluctant to let such activity continue. After all, so many emails that no one is reading can be annoying. Or worse, it opens the floodgates for everyone to send their own related emails and gum up the system.

So Gimbel investigated. When he approached the employee responsible for the email that he saw, he quickly learned that she wasn’t blindly casting a net to her coworkers. That is, she wasn’t the only one involved. In fact, there were five others who were participating in the same activities. Soon the number was ten, and it only grew more from there. 30 employees and what one can assume were several emails later, Gimbel joined in. The result was a fun and productive outing that mattered to everyone involved.

Too often, company executives pick their own favorite charity and make everyone else pitch in. But it can be argued that a grudging giver may not as well give at all. Gimbel suggests letting your employees lead you towards your next charitable action to create a lasting culture of giving.