Category Archives: Corporate Charity Strategies

In-kind giving helps both charity and contributing corporation

In-kind giving is an often overlook form of corporate charitable giving.   A recent article in Forbes highlights a successful corporate giving program at Vans.

In their own words, Van describes itself as “Off the Wall Since 1966, is an iconic, Southern California-based, youth culture brand and the original action sports footwear company.” Their in-kind program, the Custom Culture contest, began with a single contribution of shoes to a teacher to decorate. The art competition, centered around customizing blank Vans sneakers, now involves over 200 high schools, a Final Event in New York City and a $50,000 prize to the winning school.

As the Forbes article states: “Aside from the obvious benefits to nonprofits, there are so many reasons for businesses to leverage the advantages of gifts in kind, from the impressive tax deductions that accompany these forms of giving – with even greater tax benefits for companies than donating cash – to the very real potential for increased employee engagement, recruitment and retention.” Charity As Art: Vans Makes Philanthropy Cool

For Vans, it was easier than for many other companies to find a natural tie between their brand and charitable work.   Van’s youthful corporate culture,  sports shoe product, and emphasis on artistic expression is a perfect fit for a competition for high school students focusing on art, music, action sports and street culture.

As Forbes points out, “you don’t need to be a hip brand to engage your employees around giving back. Any company would be well served to find vehicles for employee engagement as perfect for its mission as Custom Culture is for Vans.”

At my company, NJMET, we have created a number of successful opportunities for employees to participate in corporate philanthropy.  (Check out some of our activities in NJ MET in the News on our website.)   We don’t see a natural tie-in between what NJMET does – testing electronic components – and an in-kind program.  Don’t let this discourage you, though. Take a few moments to read the Forbes article on Vans. Perhaps it will inspire you to find that perfect in-kind program the does good while promoting your brand.  You can start small, as Vans did, and let the program grow naturally.

Don’t keep company philanthropy a secret

Don’t keep it a secret… When your company participates in charitable events organized by local or national non-profits, let people know.  In the best case scenario, it will lead to others following your lead and, possibly, additional unplanned positive media coverage.

This happened at NJ MET recently when I was interviewed by NJBiz, a New Jersey business publication and website.  The story was a positive profile on NJ MET’s philanthropy and our work in detecting possible counterfeit electronic components. The headline of the article: “NJMET Feels It Profits Most from Its Philanthropy” highlighted our charitable efforts, but the article covered both our core mission and our charitable work.  It was a big plus for NJ MET.

How did NJBiz know about our charitable efforts? I don’t know for certain but assume that our own public relations played a role.

The article was a triple win.  Being recognized in the press for our charitable efforts, raised awareness of the charities we were helping and it improved morale among our staff.  In addition, it was an opportunity to talk about our electronic component testing services and consulting work that are important to both our clients and our corporate brand.