Though the act of ‘paying it forward’ is not a new concept, in today’s business climate, the phrase has taken on a larger, more impactful meaning. Gone are the days of the 9 to 5 mentality — instead, we now live in an age where work is fueled by people who care about the community and want to help those in need of a hand.
According to the 2018 Global Trends in Giving Report, data shows there is a real interest in paying it forward at both an individual level as well as across generations. In fact, 40% of millennial and 49% of gen-Xers were enrolled in a monthly giving program. The report also found that Canada and the U.S. ranked among the highest in the world for the number of donors who volunteer (76%, compared to the global average of 66%), and attend fundraising events (66%, versus 56% globally).
“Over the past 10 years, corporate philanthropy has “transformed” from annual donations to the CEO’s pet causes to a much more strategic plan that “can build a better world and the bottom line simultaneously,” says David Hessekiel, founder of Engage for Good, which helps set up business/non-profit alliances.
Companies across Canada and their employees are using their influence and resources to make an impact on social issues. A great example of this is Bell Canada’s Let’s Talk campaign, which was established in 2010 to address the social stigma around mental health and improve access to care.
Speaking to mental health issues further is Mary Deacon who works with Bell’s Let’s Talk Program: “Since we started this program we see so much more political interest and so many companies in Canada adopting some aspect of mental health into their priorities — that’s a major breakthrough.”
Ottawa’s Martin Vervoort, in-house legal counsel for InterRent REIT and CLV Group, has always been active in giving back to the community. Since 2013, he’s been an active board member of the Canadian Mental Health Association – Ottawa Branch, serving as the President and Chair of the Board for two years. Martin Vervoort, along with his colleagues at CLV Group, have also been involved with several local and national charities over the years.
“I get a lot of feedback from employees who love what we are doing in the community and say it gives them a deeper sense of purpose”, explains Vervoort.
In agreement, Canadian business leader, David Struke, says it’s all about hiring talented people and letting them do what they do best.
“Having a great group of people on a team that are all galvanized around one cause or purpose you can pretty much accomplish anything,” he says.
Many corporate leaders are making employee philanthropy a pillar of their business models, believing it is a company’s responsibility to support and nurture good causes in their communities.
Canada’s Telus Inc. recently contributed $120 million towards the creation of the Telus Friendly Future Foundation, a cause which supports disadvantaged youth. The grant is the largest one-time donation made by a publicly-traded Canadian company. The organization’s goal is to tackle the social and economic challenges preventing youth from reaching their full potential by using grassroots charities on the frontlines.
“In the last number of years, we’ve really focused on: What is our social purpose as an organization?” says Jill Schnarr, vice-president of corporate citizenship and communications at Telus.
As organizations continue to expand globally, corporate donors understand the importance of investing in social issues on a local level will also yield better employee engagement.
United Way Greater Toronto CEO, Daniele Zanotti supports this idea: “It’s imperative to note that corporate giving is a catalyst in employee giving, too.”
At the end of the day, one person can make a difference by brightening up another person’s day. Paying it forward is a simple act that anyone can participate in, anywhere and at any time. When it comes to the workplace, the ‘roll up your sleeves’ commitment is a good indication that as a society, we are all doing our best to pay it forward.