Give Thought to How You Give Back

November 13, 2023
Kelly McNees

As the holiday giving season approaches, firms face decisions about the best way to give back to their communities — and how to frame this activity for external and internal audiences. Here are some best practices for making the most of your firm’s generosity:

  1. Think local. If you’re deciding which causes are worthy of your firm’s support, prioritize staying local. Investing in the communities where most of your firm’s employees live and work may be the best option as it’s often where most of your clients are too. It generates goodwill locally and may even deliver a public relations boost, which brings us to #2.
  2. Be careful about taking credit. Firms take different approaches to marketing their giving efforts. Some firms are comfortable pointing to results and outcomes achieved with their assistance. They believe that meaningfully marketing their giving encourages more donations to the causes they support — while increasing visibility and brand awareness for the firm. Others prefer a “quiet giving” approach. Each approach has its pros and cons; just make sure you’re consistent as to when you do — or don’t — tout your firm’s giving.
  3. Align giving with your firm’s capabilities, resources and expertise. Connecting your firm’s holiday giving to your pro bono work, charitable foundation or matching-gift programs can support the organizations where your lawyers and staff already invest their own money and time. Be sure to establish guidelines around the types of organizations eligible to receive your firm’s donations or matching funds. For example, some firms shy away from supporting religious and political organizations to avoid alienating employees, and most firms financially vet organizations before donating.
  4. Involve employees. Beyond encouraging pro bono work or providing employees with a set number of volunteer hours per year for giving back, firms can involve staff in holiday giving.  You can organize a firmwide activity, such as fulfilling a wish list for a local nursing home or children’s hospital unit, hosting a food drive for a food pantry, or coordinating a winter clothing drive. These activities can be done in conjunction with the firm’s holiday party. If your colleagues are competitive — sound familiar? — you can up the ante by dividing into teams and recognizing the team that contributes the most.
  5. Write a check. Sometimes the most effective way to offer support is by writing a check to organizations and letting them handle the rest. This allows your firm to make an impact while acknowledging that it’s a hectic time of year; not everyone can go above and beyond by donating or volunteering. Just keep the above guidance in mind — on vetting organizations and avoiding those that may be divisive — when you contribute. Finally, make sure the organizations you support align with your firm’s values.

Giving back enables firms to make an impact while ending the year on a heartwarming note. We hope these tips have provided some inspiration on how your firm can help spread holiday cheer!