Author: Joel Coffman

The Business of Giving: Lessons From the Data


Many of the insights provided by survey respondents serve as learning opportunities and can help influence philanthropic practices among businesses. Here are a few important lessons gleaned from the survey data: 


Set a Philanthropic Tone at the Top

CEOs are most likely to make the giving decisions for their companies; and a high percentage of companies (nearly half) have a formal giving strategy, provide philanthropic/giving language in the company’s materials, and let executives manage their giving initiatives.

Employees often take their cues from owners/management. If your leadership is committed to giving, it will instill this culture throughout the entire company in an impactful way. One concern: At companies where the CEO makes philanthropy decisions, community giving programs could go away or lose steam during CEO transition periods. That’s another reason philanthropy should be embedded into corporate strategy/culture.


Amplify Your Giving

Central Texas companies most often choose to support local nonprofits with their philanthropy. Community-based campaigns like Amplify Austin provide great opportunities to engage employees and take advantage of matching support. 

During last year’s Amplify Austin, corporate contributions were responsible for 10% of charitable giving on the day.  


Listen to Employees

When asked about potential downsides of business philanthropy, 31% of respondents noted that selected causes may not always align with individual employee values. Additionally, a comment from a survey respondent expressed a concern about asking too much: “Our employees already work hard enough and pressuring them to do more takes time away from their families.”

We suggest having regular and open communication with employees about philanthropic initiatives, soliciting their feedback and suggestions to foster a feeling of collaboration and ownership in a company’s giving strategy. 


Partner With a Nonprofit

According to the survey, only 10% of companies partner exclusively with one nonprofit, and 25% said that their company does not have ongoing partnerships with nonprofits.

Nonprofits need long-term partners — and sustainable forms of revenue. And nearly 50% of survey respondents said that one of the criteria they use to select nonprofits to support is the nonprofit’s “perceived alignment of the mission to our customer and clients.” Cultivating relationships with nonprofits allows your company to cross promote in a more meaningful way, and to have a deeper hand in the impact you’re making together. 


Look at BIPoC-Led Organizations

When asked how their company chooses nonprofits to support, more than half look at the population served. But only 11% look at whether a nonprofit is BIPoC-led (BIPoC stands for “Black, Indigenous and People of Color”). This seems incongruent in a community where reaching and supporting BIPoC populations is an important goal for many companies and their employees (more than 60% of respondents said their company supports human services and health & wellness organizations).

See where your company’s philanthropy efforts align with supporting BIPoC issues and consider using that as a criteria for choosing nonprofits to support in the future. 


Make a Plan – and Track Results

Companies with a philanthropy plan often tend to stay more committed to their charitable giving and make a bigger impact. It’s important to quantify your company’s contribution. Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents said their company doesn’t track individual giving or volunteer hours, and 43% don’t measure the ROI or impact of their charitable investments.

This suggests room for improvement, as quantifying your company’s (and employees’) contributions helps create a sense of pride and accomplishment across your business, while also providing benchmarks for future philanthropic efforts and goals. 


Measure Your Philanthropy ROI

Return-on-investment (ROI) is a critical measuring stick in business – but it can be just as important for a company’s philanthropy program. If one of your goals is employee engagement, for example, your company should measure that in terms of volunteer hours and other contributions. 

One survey respondent commented, “There is no ROI from charitable contributions.” Few respondents agree with this, as demonstrated by the results themselves: Among the motivations for giving, companies look to reinforce workplace culture, help attract and retain employees, enhance employee skills, and increase revenue and market share. 


When in Doubt, Give Financial Support

Among survey respondents, monetary donations are the most popular way to contribute to nonprofits (85% cited this method) – and for good reason. Most nonprofits simply cannot survive without financial support. Mission Capital’s Pulse Survey identified “funding & financial support” as the top need for local nonprofits. 

Your company’s contributions can help nonprofits allocate resources and provide critical services where they are needed most. 

Red Fan Communications: Give What You Have

Since the pandemic hit, the team at Red Fan Communications has worked with client Fluence Bioengineering to donate to Austin-based organizations in need, including a donation of 1,000 water bottles and another donation of masks.

The team also launched the Mike & Sherry Project alongside Sam Hellman Mass of client restaurant Suerte to provide mental health support to Austin’s restaurant workers – Red Fan helped secure more than $40K in donations from local companies, and as of just May 2020 more than 1,000 appointments had been booked. The Mike & Sherry Project is now the beneficiary of the Statesman Cap10K, the largest 10K race in Texas and the 6th-largest in the nation.

Red Fan’s team is also continuing to provide a series of free online roundtable sessions with Austin accelerators and VC cohorts to help them navigate their messaging and providing tips on what to do to promote their companies during the COVID pandemic, as well as scheduling free 1:1 consultation sessions with companies in need of advice and ideas.

NI: National Instruments Fund to Support COVID-19 Relief and STEM Education

This post originally appeared on NI’s newsroom page, at:

$2.5M to be deployed immediately to support local Austin and global COVID-19 relief efforts

AUSTIN, Texas – April 3, 2020 – NI (Nasdaq: NATI) today announced that $2.5 million will be immediately deployed from the National Instruments Fund, a donor advised fund established by NI in 2019 with the Austin Community Foundation, to support global and local COVID-19 relief efforts. The remainder of the $7 million donor advised fund is expected to be invested in STEM education and community development programs for underserved and underrepresented groups to promote opportunity and prosperity.

Enabling engineers to innovate quickly, ambitiously and successfully is at the core of NI’s business. And increasing equity in STEM education and the workforce is at the core of NI’s giving strategy. The company’s donation brings these two core elements together, helping community partners to create solutions to some of the biggest challenges our world is facing.

“Our purpose as a company has never been more relevant. We are here to help our employees, customers, partners and the communities in which we work and live, thrive,” said Eric Starkloff, chief executive officer, NI. “We are a company with a 100-year plan, so we are deeply invested in the long-term health and stability of not just our company, but also our society.”

The $2.5 million is to be immediately deployed to COVID-19 relief efforts in the Austin metro area and other countries where NI operates, as follows:

  • $1 million to be made available as a matching grant to the All Together ATX Fund, created by Austin Community Foundation and United Way for Greater Austin. The fund will provide flexible resources to nonprofit organizations working with communities who are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and the economic consequences of the outbreak. The grant will match individual and corporate donations, up to a total of $1 million.
  • $1.5 million to be deployed to nonprofit organizations that serve the other communities where NI has major global operations.

“We are honored to contribute to the All Together ATX Fund,” said Tabitha Upshaw, head of corporate responsibility, NI. “As the name suggests, we are all in this together. So, we hope our matching grant will bring even more people together and encourage them to give in support of our community during this unprecedented time.”

The remainder of the fund is expected to be deployed over time to programs that increase diversity and equity in STEM education and the workforce, and that promote community development. The COVID-19 outbreak has had a disproportionate impact on low-income and minority communities. By funding targeted STEM programs in these communities, NI aims to prevent existing opportunity gaps from widening even further.

“In the long-term, STEM education, and the field’s high-paying careers, can provide a path to economic prosperity,” said Upshaw. “Growing and diversifying the STEM talent pool is essential to our collective future.”

3M: Additional Ways To Help

As 3M has ramped up production of personal protective equipment to support the global response to COVID-19, we continue to look for additional ways to help our communities during this pandemic. 3Mgives and 3M Foundation together are providing aid for relief and recovery efforts in the fight against COVID-19. Through this commitment, 3M has made humanitarian contributions to support basic human needs in 3M global operations communities – including right here in Austin. In addition, we’re supporting e-learning, protecting and serving frontline workers and we’re also investing in COVID-19 research and development initiatives at leading education institutions in the United States and around the world. Within our 3M Foundation regular grant budget here in Austin, we have permission this year to provide grants to our community partners in the areas of education, environment, basic needs, youth development and diverse arts, for general operating purposes vs more program specific, as we have historically given. This will allow our community partners to use their grant funds this year to reach vulnerable populations in areas where they are needed the most.

Also as part of our commitment, 3Mgives will match employee donations to GlobalGiving’s Coronavirus Relief Fund. GlobalGiving is an international organization that provides grants to nonprofits working locally in communities affected by natural disasters and pandemics. Donations to the Coronavirus Relief Fund will support first responders’ access to medical supplies, food access for under-resourced communities, and nonprofits that work with children, the elderly and refugees. Employees who donate to local Austin community organizations can also take advantage of the 3M Community Giving Match to make their contributions go even further to give to public charities of their choice and get their donations matched by up to $1,000 total per year.

Samsung Austin Semiconductor: Manufacturing Goodness During COVID-19

Samsung Austin Semiconductor donated $1 million to support organizations making a difference in response to the coronavirus in Central Texas.

All Together ATX ($500,000): All Together ATX is a community-led philanthropic fund that will support people in the Greater Austin area with immediate needs including food insecurity, basic needs, medical needs, employment and child care.

Crisis Support for Students ($300,000): Funds were distributed to school districts and other school-affiliated organizations that are supporting students in the communities where our employees live, including Austin ISD, Hutto ISD, Leander ISD, Manor ISD, Pflugerville ISD and Round Rock ISD.Central Texas Food Bank ($100,000): The most vulnerable in our community need resources to stay healthy. Central Texas Food Bank will support hunger relief for those Central Texans affected by COVID-19 shutdowns and work stoppages.

Strategic Partner Funding ($100,000): Funds were directed to our non-profit partners as they navigate serving our community with reduced resources and significant changes in their programming.

Additionally, Samsung Austin Semiconductor ran two employee giving campaigns with special matching dollars to support organizations at the front lines of the pandemic!

DISCO Cares: To Help Is Human

Collection of excerpts from the DISCO Cares blog, by James “Buck” Bracey.

With our new motto, ”to help is human,” we hit the ground running. In Q1 2020, we hit a 35% participation rate in a single event, with over 100 employees representing every department in the company.

However, like so many companies, the global COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in our plans as we entered Q2, and we had to improvise.

Unable to volunteer in person, we shifted to virtual volunteering and mentoring, and implemented creative fundraising campaigns to help those in need. We’re proud that even given the stresses of working from home and an abundance of Zoom meetings, our employees were still eager to volunteer during a time that was so challenging for so much of our community.

The metric that I admire the most is our participation rate. Since inception, we have had >60% participation every year and 100% executive participation every year. Already YTD in this pandemic environment, we have had 100% executive participation and 58% employee participation rate.

This excerpt originally appeared on the DISCO blog, at

So far this year [through July 2020], over 175 DISCO employees have paid it forward through our DISCO Cares initiatives, supporting causes in education, basic needs, and human services — including over $50,000 in employee lead contributions, and over 150 volunteer hours.

This excerpt originally appeared on the DISCO blog, at

Texas Mutual Insurance: Trade Up Texas

Originally published at

To help prepare a skilled workforce to fill a gap in middle-skill jobs, an independent career awareness and exploration campaign called Trade Up Texas was launched in late 2018 that matched Texans with skilled trade training and job opportunities. This campaign was the product of a truly unique partnership between an inventive corporation, an innovative media outlet and a forward-thinking nonprofit. In the end, the Trade Up Texas website and video series inspired almost 2,000 Texans to change their lives and pursue training or work opportunities in trades over the campaign’s six-month lifespan.

“We read a lot in the news about student debt,” says Workforce Solutions Capital Area CEO Tamara Atkinson, “and about how many students are going to school, getting degrees, having a hard time finding a job – even when we’ve got employers who are looking for skilled talent – and they’re graduating with debt! We’ve been leading a Master Community Workforce Plan since 2017 to connect 10,000 people and move them out of poverty and into good skill jobs by 2021. One of the key strategies in that plan is to raise awareness to the point where people will enroll in a post-secondary course of study that aligns with one of our key industry sectors.”

“KVUE, like most other TV stations, has been doing so much amazing work in the community for so many years,” says president and general manager Kristie Gonzalez of KVUE-TV, “but we were involved in so much that we wanted to get more strategic about what we did with our philanthropy. And so when we listen to our viewers and our viewers say, ‘Hey, traffic sucks and I can’t afford rent …’ – we knew [that] over and over, because we kept seeing that in the data, that that’s where we needed to put our energy. Still trying to help with the traffic thing (laughs), but I think just focusing the work that we do helped us to say ‘no’ to some things and ‘yes’ to things like Trade Up Texas, where we knew that that would make a difference for people.”

“One of the best things was that everybody understood what they brought to the table,” says Jeremiah Bentley of Texas Mutual Insurance. “Workforce Solutions, they do a great job at delivering on those services – connecting people once they get into the pipeline. They have some restrictions on what they can do [for] advertising and marketing, and they’re really – they’re a service provider, right? So that’s not their expertise, whereas KVUE – great media company, knows how to tell compelling stories, put together good content, things like that. So they really had that unique part.”

“Texas Mutual had the original vision for how this could come together and how they could support their community,” says Atkinson. “Ultimately, they helped with the sponsorship to ensure that we had the resources that Workforce Solutions otherwise wouldn’t have had.”

“We looked at it like a marketing problem,” says Bentley. “That was on the KVUE side of it – like, okay, we have this customer base we’re trying to reach … how do we generate leads for them? Then how do we turn them over to the service provider to do [the service needed]?”

“I think the more we can look at these things as business challenges, the better that we can all work together.”

“KVUE came in as a tremendous media partner,” says Atkinson. “They brought the know-how about how to capture these stories on film in a way that was compelling, and that would resonate, and that would prompt people to take action.”

“We really had to scale up in the beginning because once we turned the marketing on, it was like, whoosh!” says Gonzales.

Bentley compliments KVUE thinking outside the traditional box. “[KVUE] could have said, ‘Okay, well, we’ll have you on a couple times, and we’ll promote this event, whatever, we’ll call it good. And that’ll be the extent of our relationship,'” he says, “but to wait it out, and find the right opportunity for the level of strength that everybody brings together was really, for me, the coolest part.”

Atkinson praises the partnership. “Frankly, this project exceeded every single expectation I had for how we would work with a business and media partner to do really good work in our community.”

Read much more detail about Trade Up Texas on the campaign website – yes, it’s an ongoing campaign – or about the project itself in this Texas Mutual blog post.

People do good for others every day in the community surrounding Austin. At RecognizeGood, our mission is to help strengthen that community by sharing those inspiring examples. In our Doing Good Better series, we take a docu-series look into innovative collaborations around the Austin area that make our community stronger.

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