Charitable funds

OpEdNonprofit Rhoads Jennifer

But the first question to ask is whether or not you have the right assets in place. Some common offerings found in an EVP include employee development and recognition, but programs that show care and concern are often the differentiating factors. For instance, Google offers its employees a class of “benefits beyond the basics,” which includes tuition reimbursement, charitable gift matching, free meals, an onsite doctor and transportation incentives.

While these options may seem cost-prohibitive for smaller organizations, some local companies are finding original approaches that fit their budgets by utilizing charitable funds at the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington.

One example is Columbia Vista Corporation’s corporate scholarship that is available to the children of its 130 employees. Co-owners Bob and Sharon Lewis established this scholarship with $100,000 in 2009 and have since awarded 15 scholarships averaging nearly $2,500 each.

Corporate scholarships provide your company, employees and customers a simple way to support high-achieving students who are pursuing fee-based educational opportunities. They also demonstrate an organizational value of education and encourage employees to share a commitment to that value.

Some companies also tailor Donor Advised Funds to their needs. This charitable fund performs similarly to a corporate or business foundation and allows your organization to implement a wide range of giving opportunities.

In 2002, two casino companies formed the La Center Casinos Charitable Fund at the Community Foundation. This Corporate Giving Fund exists to improve the quality of life in La Center and operates via an advisory board made up of community leaders that reviews applications and recommends grants.

While grants from this type of fund actively make a difference in the community, an organization can also leverage the granting process to make a noticeable difference in its company culture. Including employees on the grants advisory board and encouraging them to become more involved in the grants process allows employees to form personal connections with the program. It’s these connections that increase employee engagement and motivation, which thereby increases retention and drives better business results.

Other companies express value and appreciation for their team members through what is known as an employee assistance fund. These funds provide support for employees who are experiencing financial hardships due to catastrophic events. As an open fund, it creates a clear, tax-deductible solution for companies to support their employees and for employees to support each other.

Bank of the Cascades established the Cascade Employees Assistance Fund and has seen much success engaging its employees in giving to the fund. The company supplements these donations with its own scheduled contributions and offers one-time grants to its employees for expenses such as medical bills, basic living costs and other vital needs.

Programs and initiatives like these are building blocks for a well-formed EVP, but the most successful plans align the company’s mission, vision and values with the employee experience. This prioritizes your human resources agenda and mobilizes your workforce as brand ambassadors who are ready and willing to tout your organization’s mission.

A community foundation works closely with local companies to achieve alignment, engagement and stronger business results. Such charitable funds and services can be used to develop benefits that are proven to attract, engage and retain employees.

More importantly, this trusted model maximizes your organization’s impact while also easing the administrative burden of philanthropic programs. Community foundations take care of processing contributions, managing paperwork and ensuring that all funds are distributed according to applicable tax rules and regulations. This means that you and your staff can focus on what’s really important – the impact of your company’s mission and values at work.


Jennifer Rhoads, CFP®, is the Vice President of Development at the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington. You can contact her by calling (360) 694-2550 or via email at

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.