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Philanthropy in the Workplace 

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By Meril Amdursky, executive director of the Sentara Health Foundation

Most people understand the principles around philanthropy — love of people and doing good works for others. However, don’t let the word fool you. Many people think that only rich people can be philanthropists, but philanthropy is something that everyone can do.

Any donation of money or time to a charity is considered philanthropy. More than one-third of all Americans are asked to give to charity in the workplace each year, according to the Center on Philanthropy. Have you been asked to give?

Most companies engage in some level of giving to nonprofit organizations. Whether it’s the holiday food drive or the annual United Way campaign; charity is hard at work in the workplace. The Chronicle of Philanthropy estimates that 2010 was the worst year for charitable giving in the nation’s history. The recession caused individuals to rethink their giving amounts and scrutinize charitable organizations more than ever.

As the executive director of a foundation for a large health system, I see philanthropy as an opportunity for individuals to be empowered; a way to give back to the community and to become leaders. Anyone can accomplish acts of good will toward others.

At the Sentara Health Foundation, we invite our employees to give back to the community and to those in need within our own organization. For example, we have the H.O.P.E. Fund which assists employees who find themselves in financial need due to a wide-variety of reasons —it’s coworkers helping coworkers.

Additionally, we are currently engaged in a public fundraising campaign for a new air ambulance to replace an aging helicopter that has served the community for nearly 25 years. Patients, employees, municipalities and the community have been asked for donations to support this needed service. So philanthropy is alive and well at Sentara.

Employers can offer many ways for employees to support charities . Through champion programs, matching gifts programs, as well as paid time-off for volunteering. As employees evaluate these opportunities at the workplace they should consider the following three areas:

1.      Collaboration. Did the charity work with other organizations? Does it duplicate efforts in the community?  Is it providing a true need?

2.      Relationships. Does the charity do a good job of building positive relationships with you and other donors? Do you feel connected?

3.      Innovation. Is the charity innovative? Are they utilizing modern technology to enhance their program/service?

There is a new generation of donors today who are seeking greater accountability from charities in an effort to gauge the good an organization accomplishes. Findings suggest that changes in corporate environments, the economy, and technology have allowed enhanced workplace giving campaigns to offer year-round opportunities for giving and volunteering. Effective giving campaigns can take a variety of forms and can be adapted to meet the philanthropic of employees, companies, and communities.

Giving has declined by 11 percent across the country to the nation’s biggest charities, according to The Chronicle, that ranks the top 400 organizations that raise the most from private sources. So, if you have the capacity to give, do so and consider giving even more. As a member of your community, you never know when you will be in need of the services offered by the charities in which you donate.

 Meril Amdursky is the executive director of the Sentara Health Foundation serving the Hampton Roads community. Questions regarding this article, contact Becky Lawson at or 757-552-7304.

Related Links:
Sentara Health Foundation
Nightingale Regional Air Ambulance

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