The Denver Business Journal
Friday, October 9, 2015
4:00 am MDT
By Emma Dell
It’s well-known that community brings people together — sometimes it’s an individual, sometimes it’s family, and sometimes it’s a group of philanthropic companies coming together under one organization.
Denver’s B:CIVIC is banking on that third way: An altruistic organization focusing the civic and philanthropic efforts of many businesses.
Formed from the skeleton of Denver’s original “2% Club” and fleshed out with a host of new members, Businesses Committed to Investing & Volunteering in the Community dedicates itself to promoting philanthropic efforts by local companies.
The organization, which has taken on the moniker B:CIVIC, has applied for classification as a 501(c)3 nonprofit. B:CIVIC will rely on member companies and their donations to keep itself running. After its founding in 2013 with 100 members, B:CIVIC’s membership has grown to 150 and leaders have high hopes for future growth.
“Certainly we want to expand the membership even further,” said B:CIVIC’s executive director and CEO, Su Hawk. “We’re so proud that we have 150 very forward-minded, civic-thinking companies.”
B:CIVIC’s members come from all parts of Colorado’s business community. More than 40 percent of B:CIVIC members are considered entrepreneurial companies, employing anywhere from 1 to 50 people. But it also counts Fortune 500 companies with more than 500 Colorado employees and everything else in between.
“Corporate philanthropy is for any company of any size of any industry,” Hawk said.
Each member is different. They all contribute in their own way, but are formed by the same basic principles: A desire to do good in the community, and an interest in fulfilling their corporate social responsibility.
Law firm Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP, one of the organization’s founding members, is celebrating its 100-year anniversary with a “Year of 100 Good Deeds,” choosing 100 charitable causes to support over the course of the year. And their progress tracker is filling up, as 95 of 100 projects had been listed as complete as of mid-September.
Its motivation is unique, as not many companies can boast such longevity, but its execution is right in line with B:CIVIC’s goals: Helping member companies find compelling ways to engage their employees and give back to the community.
“So many of these companies are doing this for all of the right reasons, and so nobody knows that they’re doing it except for the people who were intended,” said Hawk.
B:CIVIC isn’t just a support group for do-gooders, though. Their reasons may be selfless, as Hawk contends, but the businesses also benefit.
One of the guiding principles of The 2% Club was that businesses can compete better with other businesses of equal quality when their customers see them supporting a cause. Joining the Club, or now B:CIVIC, gives companies an edge over their competitors while also helping the community they’re based in to grow stronger.
Participating in CSR can also give businesses an edge when it comes to hiring. Hawk argues that it is a common theme among B:CIVIC’s members that volunteering builds pride in company employees.
“They’re not there to show off, they’re not there to be recognized. They’re doing it because they want their employees to feel really good about the company,” she siad.
Employees are some of the biggest benefactors of company membership, because not only do they get to feel good about working for a philanthropic business, but they also get to participate in B:CIVIC’s many programs and discussion workshops based on sharing ideas, networking, and discussing strategies.
“We have different programs…one is called Academy and that’s all about really deep, thoughtful content. Then we have another program that’s called Sparks & Sips and the objective is to have a workshop to spark peoples’ interest, and then we have a social hour afterward so they can connect with each other and further the conversations,” said Hawk.
“We also have a peer-to-peer network that we’ve held that’s been very successful, and often times it’s because it’s held with other peers who are discussing the same issues.”
Resources such as these can be really great motivators for those who may want to get involved in their community, but aren’t really sure how to do it.
The increase in company contributions after companies become members of B:CIVIC is evident to Hawk, and she credits the increased association with other philanthropically minded companies for that change. Online discussion forums are set to be launched soon as well.
“I believe they will be very productive for people, because our in-present conversations have been very successful. I would hope that our online discussions would even further that,” Hawk said.
“Every single day I want to make sure that I’ve done more in our community,” said Hawk. “Now I get a chance to really help B:CIVIC strengthen how it’s a hub in our community.”
5 Key Ways to Boost Employee Philanthropy
1. Create a unique charity involvement project
2. Attend networking events and educational seminars
3. Team with similarly involved companies
4. Pick specific quarterly focus issues
5. Listen for great ideas or areas of interest