Dear CEO:

Congratulations.  You’ve worked hard, built a business and can now enjoy the fruits of an impressive level of personal wealth.

In recent times, you’ve shifted your focus beyond the day to day grind of your core business.  Now you want to engage in a deeper level of corporate philanthropy.  Spread your wealth around, say thank you to the world for your good fortune, step back and figure out how you can really make a difference in the big picture of your local or global community.

Sure, you’ve always been generous when it comes to sponsoring charity fundraisers, snapping up items at the silent auction, throwing your company logo around town.  That sort of thing.  When nonprofits (or your alma mater) ask for money, you usually say yes.

But now you’re ready to step up your game and really burnish your legacy.

So you’re taking things to the next level.  Starting with joining the board of your favorite nonprofit.  Bravo!  Board service is a gift that keeps giving, allowing you to lend your expertise, skills, and network of contacts to charities that are hungry for myriad areas of leadership.  It’s a critical asset to nonprofits and an invaluable source of personal and professional growth for you.  Not to mention an elegant way to raise your company’s profile in the community.

You’re fired up, boarded up, and now have a real stake in a charity that you’re helping to steer.  You understand the issues, have a vision for the future and are driven by a sense of urgency to bring new ideas to this cause.  Next stop: changing the world.

Fantastic!  But can we pause for a moment?

I sincerely applaud your decision to commit a greater part of yourself to a favorite charity.  And by extension, committing your company, as well.  But in your zeal to rush forward, you’re only glimpsing the reflection from one side of the mirror.  Turn it around and what do you see?

Your employees.

Often just as passionate and dedicated as you are, eager to lend deeper purpose to their jobs and more meaning to their lives.  Hungry for the opportunity to give back at work, alongside their fellow colleagues and you.  Yes, you.  Many of them want to know you and other company leaders better, and what better way than through improving the world together?  They’d relish the chance to get involved in philanthropic work at work, participating in giving campaigns, pitching in at volunteering events, competing with each other at crowdfunding events for the grand prize.

So why aren’t you fully leveraging this energy?  In the calculus of your assets, why are you focusing so heavily on personal wealth, when in fact your wealth in employee power dwarfs anything you have in the bank account?  Why are you focusing so much on how your company can stand behind what matters most to you rather than how your company can propel the charitable passions of your employees?  Have you thought about how you can ignite their interest and support and thereby magnify your efforts by an order of magnitude?  Why aren’t you thinking about matching gifts, dollars for doers, and other incentives for employee involvement?

The latest “Giving in Numbers” study by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy offers interesting food for thought.  For example:

  • Employees are increasingly taking center stage in the programs companies use to invest in their communities.  Thirty-six percent of CEOs say that encouragement from employees would matter more than any other stakeholder group in a decision to expand the company’s investment in the community.

  • 59% of companies surveyed offer paid-release-time volunteer programs in 2013, up from 51% in 2010.

  • Employees are responding to paid-release-time volunteer programs.  The median number of hours volunteered on company time grew 37% from 2010 to 2013

  • 86% of companies match employee gifts

  • 64% of companies make non-cash gifts, including product, pro bono and other in-kind contributions

Your army of employees possesses amazing potential that is going largely untapped.  So please, let me just give you a little nudge to avoid the crime of wasted impact.  Don’t keep the skills and passions of your employees within the walls of your company; deploy them into the community for the greater good of all.

I admire your magnanimous streak, in whatever form it may take.  Now just take it a step further and consider the power of numbers.  With that, I hope you’ll be encouraged to look at both sides of the mirror, taking into account not just what you can accomplish in improving  the world, but what those looking back at you can accomplish as well.

Also read:

Real Corporate Philanthropy Starts with Real Stories

The Key Ingredient of CSR

Corporate Giving: “Most Dramatic Shift We’ve Ever Seen”