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Posted: December 08, 2010

How to make $1 million in 24 hours

It's Colorado Gives Day

Kristy Judd

Colorado Gives Day is finally under way. From 12:01 this morning until midnight tonight, the Community First Foundation is asking Colorado businesses and individuals to give $1 million in a 24-hour period.

Although Colorado has one of the lower giving rates among the 50 states, we have a number of outstanding businesses that give and volunteer. They follow the best practices of corporate philanthropy to achieve both business and charitable objectives.

As the expert on volunteerism in Denver, Metro Volunteers works with employers of all sizes to develop corporate citizenship programs. We assist businesses with creating smart, effective programs that deliver results for them and the community. Here are a few lessons learned from companies with great corporate programs:

Understand and prioritize the benefits. According to the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, corporate giving and volunteering can help businesses achieve a number of goals, including attracting customers; recruiting and retaining employees; building strategic relationships with community organizations and leaders; and enhancing your overall reputation. These programs can also reinforce your brand, if you give and volunteer in a strategic way. As you develop your program, rank the potential benefits so you can create a program that delivers the results that you and the community need.

Tie your philanthropy to your business goals. A great example of this principle in action is United Launch Alliance. The company launches rockets into space and needs a highly skilled workforce to achieve 100 percent mission success for customers, including the Air Force, NASA and other government and commercial clients. A key business goal for United Launch Alliance is to increase the number of undergraduates earning math, science and engineering degrees so U.S. companies can stay competitive. To meet that goal, United Launch Alliance focuses its efforts on schools and nonprofits that provide science, technology, engineering and math educational programming, largely to K-12 students. This strategy helps the company excite the next generation of engineers and rocket scientists. The approach also taps the passions of company employees, who are proud to share their expertise and multiply the effectiveness of corporate giving through their own volunteering.

Build on your brand. Make sure your giving and volunteering are consistent with your brand, both in terms of what you do and how you do it. Kaiser Permanente, for example, has made its corporate volunteering initiative on Martin Luther King Jr. Day a signature event for the company. In keeping with its mission and with Dr. King's ideals, Kaiser Permanente does not take the holiday off, but rather makes it a day on to improve the health of communities. Each year, local Kaiser Permanente employees spend the holiday supporting safety net clinics, mentoring children, volunteering in schools and engaging with the elderly in partnership with other nonprofit organizations. Kaiser Permanente also makes significant financial contributions to community health and wellness initiatives. The focus on wellness, grass-roots outreach, community partnerships and inclusive community service is in line with Kaiser Permanente's overall brand. It makes sense to the community because it fits what they already know about Kaiser Permanente and builds on their good feelings about the organization.

Don't choose. Do both. Companies sometimes look at giving and volunteering as an either-or proposition. This approach fundamentally undermines their efforts. Simply giving money deprives you of the opportunity to get your brand ambassadors (your employees) out in the community building relationships for you. Enabling employees to volunteer without providing financial support to organize and manage their efforts also has a downside. Most nonprofits want to tap volunteer skills, but they often lack the resources to plan volunteer projects and manage unpaid staff. Smart companies, such as Qwest, provide financial support to ensure volunteer skills are effectively leveraged. In line with its long-standing commitment to support public education, Qwest donated funds to train volunteer leaders to work with schools and neighborhoods to recruit volunteers and manage project teams. This investment made those volunteer initiatives effective and rewarding for all parties.

As you celebrate Colorado Gives Day, consider developing or growing your own corporate citizenship program and follow the best practices outlined above. You'll achieve more for the community if you do-and get good business results as well.
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Kristy Judd is executive director of Metro Volunteers, which mobilizes and cultivates volunteers as a vital force in the Denver community. Through volunteer engagement, leadership training and advocacy, Metro Volunteers has helped more than 200,000 people and countless organizations to make a powerful community impact.

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