How to help your legal team help others

It is a virtual certainty that the members of your legal department seek to contribute to the efforts to help the victims of the many humanitarian crises that are multiplying today.

Here, we look at how your organization can use its resources to bolster charitable giving, helping your team’s contributions get the most benefit.

Creating an Office program

One way to encourage philanthropic efforts is to set up an office charitable giving program. These programs offer several advantages.

First, the program manager can remind everyone when it’s time to give. Second, chosen donations can come directly from payroll, which makes it extremely convenient and consistent.

Third, the company can match the contributions. Fourth, donation programs are an excellent recruiting tool, since job applicants often inquire about corporate responsibility.

Involve leadership and you can create a culture of generosity and civic awareness in your workplace that will influence and impress everyone who joins your team.

The numbers show that these programs work. A recent study by the Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals found that workplace giving brings in about $5 billion a year. Moreover, thanks to the software options, you can obtain a turnkey solution.

A successful corporate giving push can make you feel good about your department and your company, and help your employees feel the same way.

The right expertise with the right tools

Specialization is key these days and charitable giving is no different. If possible, add a corporate social responsibility (CSR) professional to your human resources department.

Realistically, of course, only large companies can hire someone to work solely on an internal giving program. But even if one person’s tasks are to be shared, it’s best to hand the responsibility over to someone who has knowledge in the field — and perhaps more importantly — the will to make it a success.

Fortunately, many software platforms are available to help your CSR manager administer the program.

Generally, these software packages offer a mini-site or portal. Employees log in to choose the amount they wish to deduct from their salary and the association to which they wish to donate it.

Many of these charitable giving software packages can generate detailed reports for administrators. Some allow your generous employees to verify company matching funds and gain insight into the impact of their contributions. There are few better ways than this latest feature to keep your employees engaged.

Although this blog focuses on monetary giving, software packages are available that connect professionals with volunteering opportunities and allow businesses to develop grantmaking programs.

As you might expect, the array of software choices is bewildering. To help businesses through it all, an organization called Re:Charity — which describes itself as “a collaboration . . . to make high-quality educational resources available to the community” — has compiled a list of its top-rated donations. They include America’s Charities, Benevity, Bright Funds, CyberGrants, and Millie. The article offers a description of the software, a description of Re:Charity’s favorite feature, and a “verdict” on its effectiveness.

You might find there’s an even more convenient way to start a charity program. Be sure to check with your existing software vendors to see if they offer a donation platform. It can be reassuring to extend your relationship with an already trusted partner.

Salesforce is an example of a company whose core product does something else, but eventually developed a donation platform. About five years ago, the nonprofit arm of the software giant partnered with United Way to develop Philanthropy Cloud. This rendezvous of the titans was not surprising given that Centraide was a pioneer in the establishment of corporate donation programs related to payroll.

Philanthropy Cloud can be presented as an add-on to the workplace, so charitable-minded people in a company don’t have to search for it. According to United Way’s announcement, the platform syncs with QuickBooks and TurboTax for easy use at tax time.

As more people use it, the app is meant to adapt, allowing colleagues to learn from each other and stay informed. Donors can choose from a selection of pre-approved charities and respond in real time to major crises.

Let donors choose their passion

Speaking of a selection of pre-approved organizations, any workplace giving program is bound to be more effective if employees can follow their passions with confidence that their money will be used properly. Some people want to protect the environment or wildlife, while others aim to support people suffering from natural disasters or wars.

Giving them a wide range of reputable nonprofits to choose from will make them more likely to engage in recurring payroll deduction. Their engagement only lasts for as long as they choose and can be made even more effective with business matchmaking.

Don’t underestimate the importance of vetting 501(c)(3) nonprofits, whether your software vendor does it for you or is handled by your in-house CSR professional.

A workplace giving program that engages in proper review of its nonprofit organizations makes the decision to give much easier. Pre-verifying helps your team feel even more comfortable supporting the good causes they’ve chosen.

The Rhythms of Generosity

While a program of regular small deducted donations can be the bread and butter of your program, Benevity, a Canadian company that develops donation platforms, recommends special campaigns a few times a year to really get people excited. Such a campaign certainly makes sense in the face of specific crises, such as the 2021 earthquake in Haiti or the current war in Ukraine.

Benevity cautions against leaving your special campaign announcement in a dry email. People receive so many emails a day in a busy legal department that they can get lost in the digital wreckage. Make a campaign launch an event. Get together in a conference room or kitchen and encourage people to discuss the best way to help and the most effective organizations.

Be creative. If appropriate, organize a competition on the region or the cause related to your campaign, with small prizes. Prepare a presentation video. Anything to make the effort seem vibrant, serious, and most importantly “just what you do.”

For example, the day one of Benevity’s clients launched their giving campaign, a staff member cycled around campus ringing a bell, shouting for effort and asking people to “make sure you to give your account”.

Another way to bring campaigns to life and increase donations is called “friend raising”. Walks, bike rides, or swim marathons that earn pennies per mile or pool length can be a great way to grab attention and build excitement.

Your team might also respond well to a colleague’s challenge. Called “peer matching,” this occurs when an employee offers to match any funds donated by other team members in addition to the company’s matching contribution. In addition to being a way to increase the funds donated, it allows team members to talk about the causes that are close to their hearts.

Last but not least, you can always offer incentives to give in any way you see fit. Draws for gift certificates, paid holidays, or even a lunch with the boss.

We at Paragon are thrilled to announce that we will be fundraising for three charities at the upcoming CLOC Global Institute in Las Vegas.

We support organizations whose missions align with our core values: World Wildlife Fund, Center for Workplace Mental Health, and Feeding America. (Contact us and stop by our booth to select one of these charities, and please let us know if you plan to attend.)

With the right tools and attention, you can foster a culture of giving in your department. Not only will this raise the necessary funds to solve terrible problems and help those in need, but it will boost the morale of your team and leave your employees feeling good about their workplace.

About Paragon

Paragon is a leading legal services firm that provides interim in-house counsel to key corporate legal departments.

Paragon attorneys have deep experience in a wide range of practice areas – including privacy, employment, and intellectual property – and are ready to help your legal team meet its next challenge.

Whether you’re looking for specific expertise, the flexibility to move attorneys between teams, or assistance during a hiring freeze or tight budget period, Paragon has you covered.

Contact us to learn more about Paragon and our lawyers.

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