Profiles of giving

Fall into philanthropy

Use this autumn season to reflect and focus on ‘values-based’ corporate giving

Nancy Hales is the president of the Community Foundation, where she has served for 15 years.

Late autumn begs reflection. This is the season of reflection, of assessment, of taking account of our year’s harvest. It seems that nature slows down her pace a little, and we follow suit.

I encourage you to heed this season and its cycle of introspection. Use it to reflect and re-focus your corporate giving.

Our best ideas come when our pace slows a little, and we take the time to think. What really matters to us? To our employees? What do we stand for as a company? How are those values reflected in our corporate plans?

These musings are the cornerstones to effective, values-based corporate giving. It is here, that the more progressive business philanthropists have found satisfaction and a more meaningful "return" on their giving. This is certainly true for local business owners Brenda Alling and Betsey Henning.

Alling and Henning are co-owners of Alling Henning & Associates, (AHA!), a marketing and communications firm located in downtown Vancouver. Their staff of twenty-seven are writers, public relations consultants, journalists and editors.

AHA!’s giving philosophy is closely tied to their profession and their employees. "Our employees are the core of our business success," said Betsey. "Our giving complements our corporate culture. We focus our giving and our pro-bono work on organizations that share our values." The company supports Vancouver Women’s Foundation and the Confluence Project. It’s no surprise that AHA! also donates lots of books and book baskets. "We’ll support almost anything that puts books into the hands of children."

This was a particularly good year for AHA!, and management wanted to reward the staff. "We decided on an across-the-board employee bonus," said Betsey. But in the wake Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, she knew employees would give their bonuses to charity. After careful reflection, Brenda and Betsey decided to donate an amount equal to the bonuses to charity and also award the bonuses concurrently to their staff.

"The real benefit of our donation was furthering the giving culture of our company," explains Betsey. "It sent the right message to our employees, that the company they work for supports them and causes they care about. It was a real morale booster."

This story illustrates key principles in effective, values-based corporate giving.

Corporate giving affirms personal values. As owners of a small business, Betsy Henning and Brenda Alling want their corporate philanthropy to model authenticity. "We give because we believe in certain causes. We don’t seek recognition. Our ‘return on our investment’ is that it makes us all feel really good," says Betsey.

Corporate giving supports the whole company. Giving by the owners sets the right example for the employees. "Our employees all work very hard for their compensation. Their generosity doesn’t surprise us, but always pleases us," says Betsey. She knows that doubling AHA!’s donation concurrently with the bonuses sent the right message to their employees that the owners wanted to reward them first, but also honor the company’s giving tradition.

Corporate giving supports the community. The community will always benefit through corporate support. Clark County, alone, has more than 8,000 charitable organizations, many addressing the very needs AHA! and others care about.

Do you have questions or ideas you’d like to share? The Community Foundation has successfully helped businesses with their charitable giving for more than two decades. Please call 360-694-2550, or e-mail me at I wish you joy, peace and a chance to be reflective this season.

The Community Foundation is a three-county charitable institution, managing private endowments and donor-funds for local philanthropists. The Community Foundation has $45 million, and grants about $3 million per year to worthy community causes. Visit us on the web at

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