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.