Corporate Charity

Corporate Charity

Focus your corporate good works in a way that embodies and burnishes your brand.

Now is that time in Minnesota when many charities gear up for donation drives, gala events, and outreach that adds to year-end coffers. Our cups runneth over with worthy causes, but our resources don’t necessarily match. That’s exactly why it’s so important that you have some sort of strategy and intention with your giving.

Ask yourself whether your charitable activities match your brand. Jessica Boden, president of Minneapolis-based StoneArch—a medical device and health care marketing company—says, “Being able to give back to organizations promoting healthy living and awareness about a certain disease or condition gives our people the opportunity to live our brand.”

StoneArch has done video projects and awareness campaigns for Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance. It has also received media attention for its annual RedEye Rebrand Competition, which came out of the company’s desire to be more intentional with its giving and “allowed us to be democratic and do it in a condensed time frame,” Boden says. Employees nominate charities based on need, the public votes on finalists, and two runners-up receive a cash donation. This year’s big winner—Wiggle Your Toes, which supports and empowers amputees—got a new website, marketing videos, updated logo and new marketing collateral.

An organization that matches my brand is Smile Network International, which provides reconstructive surgeries and medical care to impoverished children and adults in the developing world. In 2013, I danced in a local competition that raised $16,000 for Smile’s global efforts. Sometimes I give of my skill set by emceeing events for Smile. Founded in Minneapolis in 2003, it now boasts 20,000 individual local donors.

Founder Kim Valentini says, “I want to affect [donors’] heartstrings and not just their wallets. If it’s something they can wrap their heart around, everything will fall into place.”

Paul Mooty says sometimes causes just find you. His rejuvenated Faribault Woolen Mills often jumps into action based on recent news.

“We don’t have to make it complicated and fill out a lot of forms. If someone needs something, let’s go grab some stuff and bring it to ’em,” says Mooty.

The company sent 100 of its blankets to Waterville, Minn., during flooding this summer. During 2013’s Hurricane Sandy, blankets and other items were shipped to New York. Mooty thinks showing up is a first step: “We don’t care about the recognition. We say, you need this, you use this. It’s important for our children to see the importance of giving to others.”

Minnesota is often praised for trailblazing methods and new ideas. In some cases, municipalities collaborate with the private sector on philanthropy that benefits all of us. Minnehaha Creek Watershed District communications director Telly Mamayek says, “Nature doesn’t sit off on its own. There’s really an ethos around the environment.”

Because no single entity can accomplish big environmental goals on its own, MCWD has partnered with St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Japs-Olson Co., and Park Nicollet Health Services on various wetlands, trails, wildlife, and water improvement projects. According to the MCWD’s balanced urban ecology policy, “This kind of genuine community collaboration provides our best hope for protecting and improving our water resources while attaining the economic growth and high-quality built environment that will . . . benefit all.”

Of course, giving is good for business. Be smart and ask questions about where your donation actually goes in the organization, and how much of your donation is spent on need and how much on administrative expense and fundraising.

Our cups do runneth over with options for sharing our time, talent and treasure. Let your philanthropic brand lead the way.

Roshini Rajkumar is a communication coach, host of News & Views on WCCO Radio, and author of Communicate That! For additional communication tips, visit