Austin businesses continue to fine-tune their philanthropy, with most having a philanthropy budget that increased from the previous year, according to the 2018 Rodman Report, an annual survey of business giving in Central Texas. But as most companies create their own version of corporate philanthropy as they go, ongoing efforts to increase effectiveness and decrease redundancies may help businesses have a bigger impact on local social issues.
According to the new report, of the 134 executives surveyed, 68 percent reported their companies having a philanthropy budget, mostly in support of education, human services, and health and wellness, as in past years. Of those that had a philanthropy budget, 61 percent increased those budgets from the previous year, which itself had seen an increase of 59 percent.
In the business world, it’s long been established that philanthropic engagement with the local community can help recruit and retain employees, promote the business’s brand, and build goodwill in the community. At most companies, employees play an important role in how the company’s philanthropy plays out. According to the report, group volunteering increased five percent from the previous year with more than 72 percent of respondents saying they offer group volunteering opportunities to employees. “We don’t just work in the community,” said Linda Qian, a communications and media relations manager at Intel, one of the survey respondents, “we live here, too, and so our employees are genuinely committed to those important causes in the community.”
Lisa Rodman, president of Rodman & Associates, which administers the survey, said there are opportunities for companies to increase their philanthropic giving that aren’t necessarily tied to donations. “I was surprised that, other than group volunteering, the other methods open to employers to engage their employees decreased year over year,” she said. “This lets me know that Central Texas employers need to implement concrete ways that they can support their employee efforts.”
Jamie Mineart, another respondent and the marketing manager for Becker Wright Consultants, a Lakeway-based recruiting firm, said she responded in part to learn more about how other businesses are executing their philanthropy. “We don’t have anything too formal,” said Mineart, who said employees drive their philanthropy. “Businesses absolutely watch what their peers are doing,” said Rodman, “and that does influence their decision making.”
To that end, the Corporate Engagement Council, an organization launched by Sly Majid, the chief service officer in Mayor Steve Adler’s office, seeks to support the philanthropic work of local businesses by hosting monthly meetings where corporate community affairs officers can learn from each other, learn about issues facing the community, and share best practices. “I think the impact of the Council has been significant,” he said. “The community-wide infrastructure of our corporate and private sector is becoming more coordinated, more effective, and more efficient, and as a result, these companies are seeing gains made in the causes they support.”