Team effort: How one company involves employees in charitable acts

September 15, 2016 -  By

lm0916_img_3432rHow one landscape company involves employees in its charitable donations.

Dennis Dautel wanted to get employees involved in his company’s ongoing charity efforts. So five years ago, the CEO of Landscapes USA, headquartered in Austin, Texas, launched the Giving Back Program, which lets employees choose the recipient of a weekly company donation.

“This is really the employees’ program, and I stay out of it,” Dautel says. “The whole idea is that it’s not my decision where our charitable giving goes.”

Team members across the company, which has locations in multiple states, submit nomination forms weekly via email, suggesting where to donate. The company, which did not disclose its annual revenue, donates an average of $1,000 a week, though certain needs have warranted more, Dautel says. Since the program started, the company has given away a six-figure dollar amount.

Contribution requests vary. Many are for nonprofit organizations employees are involved with, but the program also assists specific needs of employees’ families and friends. Mike
Salceanu, a partner with the company’s San Diego branch, serves on the selection committee. He has made several requests on behalf of employees over the years. In his time on the committee, money has gone to spouses and children battling cancer, an employee who needed emergency surgery for blood clots and countless nonprofit organizations.

To keep things fair, the three-person committee changes every six months. An effort is made to have employees from different locations and different departments serve on the committee, which meets once a week, usually by conference call.

“I think we do a good job of choosing a committee that spans different locations and positions within the company so that varying viewpoints can be considered,” says Jacqui Stenglin, human resources director. “It’s hard to turn anyone down, but we have to consider the gravity of each situation and what each approval opens up in terms of future requests.”

The committee reviews each submittal to determine whether it’s an extreme need and could be well-served with the one-time donation, Salceanu says. Of course, many nonprofits need ongoing donations, and the company has revisited some organizations in subsequent years.

“The idea is to give a lot of people in the company an opportunity to give to organizations that they care about,” Salceanu says. “I submitted one for a veterans’ organization that provides meals within the community, and it’s something I may submit again down the line. But we want to give everyone a chance to have their organizations and needs considered.”

The Giving Back Program exists on top of other donations the company already makes. One of the company’s core values is to be profitable in order to be charitable. Dautel says that he knows that many landscape firms already give back, but it’s the employee involvement that makes this program different. In fact, the company was already donating money before the program had employee involvement. He says other companies could benefit from involving their employees, too.

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Photo: Landscapes USA

Company leaders say this program has improved employee relations.

“Employee loyalty has been strengthened across the board,” Salceanu says. “It’s humbling to see how much need is out there and even more humbling to be able to do something about it.”
Dautel says the program is important to everyone but seems to resonate strongly with millennial team members.

“We have a lot of employees in their 20s and 30s here, and research has shown that millennials rate the overall experience of their job as being very important—perhaps more than salary,” Dautel explains. “Being involved with charitable giving is one such way that our employees like coming to work here.”

Photo: Landscapes USA

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About the Author:

Payton is a freelance writer with eight years of experience writing about the landscape industry.

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