Published July 1, 2013
When you work with 28,000 nonprofits every day, like we do at Blackbaud, philanthropy and service are always top of mind. It is very much a part of who we are and what we do. Blackbaud looks for ways for its people to get engaged in their communities and learn more about the nonprofit experience. To accomplish this, we focus on putting our employees at the center of our philanthropy and service initiatives.
Serving on The Blackbaud Fund committee is an honor, and the committee takes its work very seriously. Employees review the grant applications, conduct site visits and make the final funding decisions. No employee above the director level serves on the committee. Committee members walk away knowing more about the great work organizations are doing in this community and that they — along with Blackbaud — have helped make their corner of the world a better place.
As Blackbaud has grown in employees and locations, we saw the need to take this giving program to other sites. Earlier this year, we launched the Blackbaud Community Matters Grants program, engaging employees from across the company to help us
determine the giving scope and process for this new initiative.
The Blackbaud Community Matters Grants program funds requests from organizations with budgets less than $2 million, with a preference toward those focused on education of disadvantaged populations, general operations and capacity building.
Each of our physical locations has been allocated a level of funding based on the number of people who work there. Although the process varies slightly depending on the size of the location, the core is the same — give back where our people live and work.
Launching a program in your company
You don’t need to be a company like Blackbaud in scope or size to create an employee-directed philanthropy program. Here are a few questions to consider as you get started:
What is the giving focus and scope?
This can be tied to your business. For example, if you’re a technology company, do you focus on science, technology, engineering and math education? Or are your employees more concerned with funding basic human needs?
Will you fund only organizations of a certain size?
Who will serve on the philanthropy or grants committee?
Which levels of your business do you want to engage in this process?
Will the program be executive-led or grass-roots?
What shape will the process take?
Will it be more informal and include employees reaching out to and funding organizations where they’re already involved?
Will it be a more formal process with applications and site visits? Keep in mind how much work a nonprofit will need to do to apply. It’s not appropriate to require a lot of work if your grant amounts are small.
What information will you request from the organization?
How much will you invest in this effort and how will it be funded?
Will the money come directly from your operating budget or will you set up a donor-advised fund at a local community foundation or other institution?
There are many resources available to help you work through setup and implementation of an employee-
directed philanthropy program. Other businesses, your local community foundation and the United Way all have people with a passion for philanthropy and serving others to help you through this process.
No matter your answers to the above questions, with a little thought and lots of employee involvement, you can create an employee-directed giving program that fits your business model, meets your employees’ expectations and helps your community.
Sally Ehrenfried is community relations manager at Blackbaud, a global provider of software and services to nonprofits based in Charleston.