Sep 03

Developing a Culture of Giving in Light of Hurricane Katrina

In typical American fashion, the nation is responding with generosity to Hurricane Katrina. Many companies are stepping up to help through corporate contributions, or through facilitating contributions by their employees. One early example is Chevron, who announced a $3 million contribution to the Red Cross and a $2 million commitment to local charities and relief efforts near Chevron facilities in affected states.

This two-fold approach seems a wise one, for it attempts to address the larger needs while also allowing the company to make a local impact that its neighbors and employees can relate to. Such thoughtful corporate giving is not only good public relations – it is also the first step in developing a corporate culture that encourages philanthropy and volunteerism – two traits that can make any company a great one.

Other approaches to “thoughtful giving” can focus on encouraging people to become donors, or on extending the involvement of the individual giver. For example, many companies are matching employee donations to The American Red Cross. The simple offer of matching, combined with the convenience of making a donation at the workplace, can inspire individuals that might otherwise stay on the sidelines. In addition, at least two other large organizations involved in relief efforts can provide unique opportunities for extended involvement from companies and their employees:

  • The Salvation Army has a history of providing relief services and working with the poor. In addition, it often has volunteer opportunities in local communities. Since Katrina needs are going to last for months or years, companies could make a longer-term impact by not only encouraging contributions today, but also working with local Salvation Army representatives to provide bell ringers or other volunteers for the upcoming holiday season. This type of linkage helps move individuals from crisis giving to lifestyle giving.
  • Samaritan’s Purse is a worldwide relief organization headed by Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham. They dispatched two semi tractor trailer disaster relief units as Katrina hit. They are now mobilizing volunteers to help with home reconstruction. Because they work with local churches, there is the potential opportunity for more connection, involvement and communication with donors. In addition, Sam’s Purse sponsors “Operation Christmas Child,” a Christmas project providing gift-filled shoeboxes to war-torn and impoverished children worldwide. Again, this provides an opportunity for companies to use the current crisis to provide longer-term opportunities for giving and volunteerism to their employees.

Another approach that has merit for companies is connecting through similar or like-minded organizations in the disaster region. For example, some hospitals are looking for opportunities to help New Orleans hospitals and their employees – or those more outlying hospitals that are suddenly faced with dealing with refugees and their wide-ranging needs. Funneling contributions in this way provides a special sense of unity with workers in the same industry in affected areas — and can allow employees the opportunity to include cards and letters of support or encouragement with their cash donations. Again, this has the potential to develop a “sister city” relationship that could further develop in the future – and Katrina-related needs are certain to last many years into the future.

Meanwhile, the American Hospital Association has established a special web site (http://www.hospitalreliefefforts.org/) to help coordinate volunteer health care workers that are expected to be needed at the Federal Emergency Medical Shelters now being established. This is a nice example of how trade associations can help facilitate thoughtful responses by their members. Further information on how others can help through contribution of personnel, supplies or funds can be found on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s site at http://www.fema.gov/ .

The combination of a donation of time, effort and money is one of the most powerful ways to develop a long-term culture of giving in an organization. And in turn, this type of culture not only supports an organization’s own needs (if it is a non-profit), but can also produce the type of “other-centered” people that make a company successful regardless of industry.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>