Charitable giving means different things to different people. For some, giving is second nature. For others, it’s a tax benefit. For many, giving is an afterthought. Although a struggling economy may force us to cut spending in some areas, charitable giving should not be one of them. Hard times are the most important in which to give.
Delaware businesses have a long tradition of giving. WSFS will celebrate its 180th year of operation in February and has a history of actively supporting the Delaware community.
“If it wasn’t for the community that we serve, we wouldn’t be here today,” says Janis Julian, WSFS director of community strategy. “We work in this community, we live in this community and we send our children to school in this community. We have a corporate and social responsibility to improve the quality of life here.”
Julian says the giving culture at WSFS starts at the top.
“Our CEO, Mark Turner, strongly believes in supporting the community,” she says. “All WSFS associates are encouraged to give back and are offered four hours of compensated time monthly to volunteer at the nonprofit of their choice. We’ve noticed that our associates are so passionate about helping others that many of them volunteer in the evenings and on weekends.”
Associates who donate their time make up Team WSFS, the bank’s volunteer program.
Julian says that it is an active group, and several of these associates serve as committee chairs and in board positions at the nonprofits they support.
Another aspect of WSFS’ giving philosophy is the WSFS Foundation.
“The foundation’s focus is on education,” Julian says. “Our goal with this program is to support innovative educational programs that result in positive, systemic change that can be replicated.”
Julian says the corporate giving process is far from simple.
“As a bank, we receive roughly 800 giving requests annually,” she says. “Qualifying organizations must be a 501c3 and located in our geographic footprint. Our corporate contributions committee will then make a decision where to donate.”
The committee is comprised of associates from various locations and business lines of the bank to ensure a diversity of views. “We want all of our associates’ voices to be heard in the decision-making process to help guide us to make the right decisions,” Julian says.
The bank aims its philanthropy at four areas: education, health and social service, homeless and underserved programs, and efforts that support economic development and business growth.
As director of corporate community alliances for AstraZeneca, Tyrone Jones is heavily involved in the Delaware community. “Our goal is to make a meaningful difference in patient health that goes beyond the medicines we make,” Jones says. “While we support general health initiatives, we believe we can make the biggest impact by focusing our giving efforts in areas in which we have the greatest expertise, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and respiratory illness.”
One initiative that AstraZeneca supports is the University of Delaware Healthy HENS (Healthy Exercise Nutrition and Sleep) program. This initiative evaluates the health of 2,000 students at the university by researching physical activity and obesity. AstraZeneca also supports Junior Achievement Delaware, an organization that educates children in science, technology, engineering and math.
Doug Phillips of Horty & Horty says his firm strongly backs United Way of Delaware. “United Way makes a tangible difference in our local community, such as its early education programs for the less fortunate,” he says. “Horty & Horty has had success in Delaware. Our firm’s members feel that we owe it to the local community to show our appreciation.”
Phillips has a long experience dealing with nonprofits, and has seen great results from giving. “There are things out there that the market can’t address, and charitable giving is a perfect example. Nonprofits fill a vital role and are efficient at what they do. By donating, you help these organizations combat real problems in the community. Nobody else will do it, so it’s up to us to make to it happen.”
Deciding to give is the easy part. The options available to the donor appear endless, as do the concerns about the impact gifts will make. Julie Van Blarcom, CEO of the Delaware Children’s Museum, understands the dilemma that donors face.
“When our museum opened in April of 2010, many donors didn’t initially understand the function we would provide to the community,” Van Blarcom says. “Actions speak louder than words. Seventeen months later, more than 200,000 people have visited the museum.”
The Delaware Children’s Museum is a hands-on, playful learning center for kids. The museum offers seven major exhibits, which range from a 30-foot climbing structure from which children learn patience and motor skills to a pumpkin-launching demonstration that teaches kids a unique physics lesson.
“Our museum operates on the belief that people are better learners when they’re engaged, and children are no different,” Van Blarcom says. “We provide a framework for children’s mental processing. Every day I see kids gain knowledge and learn while they play.”
Children’s museums are a significant industry in the museum world. According to Van Blarcom, it is the fastest growing segment of museums during the past 30 years. Although there are more than 350 of these museums across the country, DCM is Delaware’s first.
Jewish Family Services of Delaware also fills a vital need in the First State. For 110 years, JFS has provided mental health counseling, care management and youth development for individuals in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland.
The youth development program was initiated more than 10 years ago and has continued to expand due to its success. “This program serves at-risk adolescents and has opened up a world of possibilities for those involved,” says Dory Zatuchni, JFS’ executive director. “We teach these young adults job skills that will serve them for life while providing a supportive environment.”
Zatuchni says that a major facet of the program is peer to peer messaging. This communication flow helps participants hone their technical and computer skills.
The REEL Talk program allows JFS participants to create and share short films. “The value of REEL Talk is that our young adults get a civics lesson and gain respect for public service,” Zatuchni says. “They find a sense of self-worth and see what they are capable of.”
Another effective branch of JFS is the care management program. Designed for senior citizens, this program serves 700 adults and is growing.
“The focus of this area of JFS is to give senior citizens options,” Zatuchni says. “We combine professional services with volunteer services. Whether it’s a leaking faucet at home or a ride to the doctor’s office, we can help. It’s all about support.”
Part of this support is creating a Preferred Provider Directory which Zatuchni plans to publish in early 2012. The directory will list local businesses that provide services to seniors at a discount.
“Many times, seniors don’t know who to call for little things such as cleaning their yard. This directory will showcase businesses that have been pre-screened to ensure trustworthy and reliable service.”
Donations: Where Do They Go?
Every donor wants to know that his or her gift will be put to good use. Zatuchni stands by her organization’s ability to stretch every dollar that comes in. “We run an efficient organization,” she says. “Our staff goes the extra mile, and we do the job until it’s done.” Zatuchni estimates that roughly 85 percent of donations go toward direct services, while 15 percent goes toward administration and running JFS.
“People who give to us don’t have to worry that their gift won’t make a difference for someone—it will,” Zatuchni says.
At the children’s museum, Van Blarcom says donations go to providing the best possible guest experience. “We try to minimize spending on operating components and supplies,” she says. “Other than that, all of our resources go toward creating opportunities for kids to grasp the importance of math and science. Donations to the DCM directly help children learn the everyday science of our lives.”