Strategic philanthropy and corporate giving in Nevada are growing right along with the state. Simply put, in Nevada, giving is good business. For businesses large and small, it’s not simply “in vogue” to give; corporate giving has become a core business objective.
“Corporate philanthropy in Nevada has continued to grow,” said Barbara Wood, communications and public relations chair for the Association of Fundraising Professionals and director of development for the University of Southern Nevada. At the same time, she said corporations have realized that they cannot be all things to all people, and giving can have more of an impact when concentrated in fewer areas.
Businesses and people have plenty of places for their money. Wood said with the past year’s challenges – ranging from the Asian tsunami to Hurricane Katrina and the earthquakes in Pakistan and India – “Everyone has been bombarded with the need to give and help those left homeless, hurt and hungry.” But it hasn’t dampened the spirit of the people. “What motivates us to give comes from what we have experienced and how we have been touched by life,” said Wood. “Winston Churchill said it all when he stated, ‘We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.’”
Personal and corporate giving have led to a better state, according to Brent Bicoy of the Nevada Community Foundation. “Most of our donor families and corporations feel a strong sense of responsibility toward building a stronger Nevada,” he said. He believes the human need to reach out to the less fortunate is a fundamental value shared by most people, and that it is the motivation behind the vast majority of charitable giving. “It’s that wonderful sense of peace that you feel after sharing of your resources that drives most generosity,” he said. “It’s good for our community and indirectly, it’s good for business. Charitable giving is the ultimate investment in the future of our community.”
Dan Goulet, president and CEO for United Way of Southern Nevada, agrees that the volume of corporate giving has increased in Nevada, which makes for more satisfied employees. “As companies in our community continue to mature, they are focusing their philanthropic sights on long-term impact in each of their specific areas of interest. Supporting United Way’s initiatives and partner agencies allows our community resources to come together to create long-term change to improve more lives. Company-wide employee campaigns generate positive morale and employees appreciate working for a company that cares,” he said.
“Philanthropy allows a company to establish a positive reputation as a corporate leader in the community and helps to improve employee morale,” said Julie Murray, the campaign director of the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation and president of the Business Community Investment Council (BCIC), a group consisting of approximately 40 Las Vegas business leaders who meet monthly to discuss and promote philanthropy. “If a company does not have a large amount of money to donate, it can be creative with the donation of in-kind goods or services, such as printing, food and beverages, public relations services, accounting services, etc,” she said.
Stephanie Hauk, vice president/Foundation for Saint Mary’s Reno said philanthropy plays a major role for the healthcare organization. “Philanthropy is not just ‘icing on the cake;’ it is essential in providing quality healthcare in our community that is second to none,” she said, noting that charity often makes the difference for people with critical health issues and keeps them from having to go to other geographic locations to receive specialized care. “Every day, Saint Mary’s is putting donor dollars to good work here at home, narrowing the distances between poverty and health, between technology and treatment, and between isolation and care,” said Hauk.
Giving and Growing
The Nevada corporate community has been instrumental in the quick and rapid establishment of Nevada Cancer Institute (NVCI), Nevada’s official cancer institute. As Nevada continues to grow and mature, so will giving and fundraising, said Clark P. Dumont, vice president for communications and public affairs for the institute. “There are things that are learned over generations, and over time. Las Vegas is still a very young town. There’s not a history of fundraising here yet, but it is changing and growing rapidly,” he said.
In addition to the corporate philanthropy program at the MGM MIRAGE, the MGM MIRAGE Voice Foundation, formed in 2002, brings together the best of the company’s employee and charitable efforts with greater impact and greater voice. The foundation is structured as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization for the purpose of funding charitable organizations in the states where the company does business: Nevada, Mississippi and Michigan.
The campaign invites employees to give directly to the charity of their choice or to donate through payroll pledge deductions, said Debra Nelson, vice president of corporate diversity and community affairs for MGM MIRAGE. Nelson said, “Our goal is to help improve the quality of life in the communities where our employees live and work. With the understanding that one company cannot meet the multitude of needs each community faces, it is our desire to help strengthen organizations and programs that are located where our employees live, work and care for their families.”
Steve Beatty of Las Vegas-based InVest Financial Solutions for Business said giving should go beyond tax benefits. “First, give because you have a desire to give, and enjoy the tax benefits as frosting on the cake,” he said. “Second, give to a cause you are passionate about. Third, remember that if a charitable strategy sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
With the expansion of personal wealth over the last 10 years, individuals have sought out and expanded their ideas of giving, according to Doug Fries, regional president of the private wealth management office of Mellon Financial Corporation, which sets up philanthropy programs for high-net-worth individuals and families. “Ten years ago an individual might have had a few hundred thousand dollars to give to charity and did so through a foundation,” said Fries. “Now that same family is faced with several million to give away. They may see this as an opportunity to target their giving to have more of an impact, as well as a tool to keep the family structure in place.”
When he was named chancellor of the state’s university system, well-known business leader and philanthropist James Rogers led a charge to increase the volume of private donations when the state Legislature changed the approach toward funding higher education. “One of the great things about Nevada is that we have a lot of high net-worth individuals,” said Rogers. “Nevada has made a lot of people rich, and they want to give back.”
There’s more to giving than cash. Anne Cory, president and chief professional officer for United Way of Northern Nevada and the Sierra, said Northern Nevada’s culture values corporate involvement in the community, and most of her organization’s member companies provide in-kind donations and encourage participation of employees on boards of directors. “Providing opportunities for employees to volunteer is not universal, but many of the larger companies give release time, and some organize employee volunteerism projects,” Cory said.
No doubt about it – Nevada has some very generous organizations. The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation has awarded approximately $132 million in major grants, with $93 million awarded in Southern Nevada and $39 million in Northern Nevada. Since 2000, in Nevada, grant donations by the SBC Foundation and contributions by SBC Communications and its employees total more than $3.8 million.
Andre Agassi created the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation (AACF) to provide recreational and educational opportunities for at-risk boys and girls. The organization’s Tenth Anniversary Grand Slam for Children in October raised $10.1 million. “Every year, I am overwhelmed by the tremendous support the Grand Slam for Children receives from the Las Vegas community, business partners and the entertainment industry,” Agassi said. “It is gratifying to know that 100 percent of the money we raised will directly benefit children who require our assistance.”
Cox Communications, Las Vegas gives over $1.8 million annually to more than 100 non-profit organizations and community groups through PSAs, cash and in-kind donations, as well as hundreds of hours of employee volunteer service. It also provides free Cable in the Classroom programming and high-speed Internet connection to all public and private schools in Clark County. Cox has created an annual event in Southern Nevada called Cox Connects Day, which features employees donating a day of service to the local Boys & Girls Clubs organization.
“SBC is pleased to be a prominent partner in the communities in which we
live and work,” said Sylvia Samano, president of SBC Nevada. “We are
especially proud of our commitment to enhance technology-related initiatives
that help to bridge the digital divide in our state.” In 2004, the foundation, company and its employees contributed nearly $650,000 to key initiatives in the state. The SBC Pioneers, the volunteer arm of the company, worked more than 53,000 hours last year, representing more than $918,000 in sweat equity.
Little Business, Big Heart
But even Nevada’s smaller organizations show a big heart – and a good dose of creativity – when it comes to philanthropy.
Las Vegas-based Focus Property Group and Landtek developed a program to promote giving throughout the company from the entry-level employee to the executive. John Ritter, CEO of Focus Property Group, issued a challenge to team members in the form of a reality TV show called Community 911. The program’s goal is to integrate philanthropy into the fabric of the corporate culture, while building team spirit and having fun. Community 911 culminates in a live finale at the company’s holiday party, when a winning charity receives $50,000. But there are no losers – all charities involved will receive cash donations from Focus Property Group and The Ritter Charitable Trust.
Attorney Kevin Stolworthy of Nevada law firm Jones Vargas helps provide a future to student “Dreamers” in Southern Nevada. Stolworthy co-founded the Las Vegas “I Have a Dream” Foundation with Julie Murray. The project motivates students from low-income neighborhoods to reach their education and career goals by providing mentoring, tutoring and tuition assistance for higher education. More than 50 students from a federal housing project became Las Vegas’ first group of Dreamers. The program provides opportunities for college visits and other field trips to local businesses. This fall, four of Stolworthy’s Dreamers are attending community colleges and universities, including UNLV. One Dreamer will be attending junior college in Texas on a basketball scholarship.
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Nevada franchise’s philosophy is deeply rooted in its relationships with local non-profits. Billy Boise, general manager of the Reno Krispy Kreme store, said he likes to be involved any time a non-profit group is having a community event. “We regularly work with several Northern Nevada groups like the local Multiple Sclerosis chapter, the Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful program and the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey Run,” said Boise. “While Krispy Kreme has several programs we support across the state, like the Special Olympics and Estee Lauder’s Breast Cancer Research Foundation, we have the ability at the local level to select the groups we want to support.”
Marilyn Brainard and her husband, Bill, who reside in Sparks, are active in the Wingfield Springs Community Association. They are also active in Community Associations Institute (CAI) and support various charities and community groups, including the veteran’s guest home in Reno and golf lessons for children. “Our board members bring in recommendations for charities to support,” Marilyn reported.
Business Bank of Nevada President and CEO John Guedry recently led by example and raised $15,000 for the Lance Armstrong Live Strong Foundation by personally participating in a ride alongside Armstrong to raise money for cancer research. The bank actively supports at-risk schools, Opportunity Village, Juvenile Diabetes and other groups.
According to Lou Emmert, vice president and general manger for Sprint Nevada, the company’s charitable gifts include funding, equipment and in-kind donations to help support education, youth development, senior services, civic organizations, health and human services and the arts. “Sprint Nevada is committed to supporting qualified non-profit organizations that enhance the quality of life in Southern Nevada,” Emmert noted.
Allyson Nathan-Birk, vice president for the Las Vegas-based Aging in Place Consultants, works closely with seniors on reverse mortgages and volunteers extensively for senior organizations. “I have a great passion for generating awareness of Alzheimer’s Disease and the needs of lower income seniors,” she said. “There is no way to measure the reward that comes from knowing I may have made a difference for one person, and the more I am able to do, the more people I may help.”
Corporate giving can be especially important in rural areas Newmont Mining Corporation, with regional offices in Elko, establishes an annual budget to provide financial support to educational and community organizations. Mary B. Korpi, director of external relations, said contributions to community organizations and events occur not only as financial donations, but also through giving of time and effort by employees. “One aspect of our program is providing significant support for non-profit organizations in the rural communities in which we operate,” said Korpi. “Newmont employees invest their own time and abilities to make their communities stronger.”
In Southern Nevada, Frank Martin, president/CEO of Martin-Harris Construction, and his wife, Bonnie, are known for their support of many organizations, including Opportunity Village. “My wife’s uncle was a client at OV and the impact that having a job made on his life will never leave my memory of him,” said Martin, who holds an annual fundraiser at his ranch for the organization.
DP Partners is a real estate development firm that focuses on industrial property development and management. Michael J. McCabe, vice president of leasing for the Reno office of DP Partners, said the company has supported and sustained organizations that focus on the arts, education and the family, with special emphasis on children and the elderly. Over the last five years, the DP Foundation has awarded in excess of $70,000 per year in grants to community organizations. Most recently, DP Partners launched an initiative in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity with the kick-off contribution of a four-bedroom house constructed in the Reno area, valued at just under $90,000.
Stefanie Scoppettone, director of development for the College of Business Administration at University of Nevada Reno, is also an active member of the Society for Fundraising Professionals. She noted that all the large gaming companies have strong philanthropic programs and “even the smaller gaming businesses support their local communities in ways that may not have been available to them years ago.”
“It doesn’t necessarily take money to be philanthropic,” said Tami Belt, president of Blue Cube Marketing Solutions in Las Vegas. “In-kind gifts of service, knowledge and goods are also growing in popularity.”
And the good keep on giving. “Community involvement also builds relationships with employees, customers and the community at large,” said Belt. “People want to work for – and do business with – a company they feel good about and one they have a connection with.”
Benefits of a good philanthropic program:
It can increase employees’ feeling of pride in working for the company.
A company’s generosity in giving to good causes may differentiate it from competitors.
Overall reputation of the company is improved when it is viewed as a good corporate citizen.
Customers will be attracted and will remain loyal.
The company really helps to improve the quality of life in community.
Source: Ann Cory, United Way of Northern Nevada & the Sierra