The ABCs Of Engagement And Philanthropy

South Carolina Federal Credit Union encourages staff members to get more heavily involved in its nonprofit work, but that involvement requires a bit of a balancing act.

 
 

Top-Level Takeaways

  • Charity liaisons at SC Fed keep the credit union up to date about the charities its foundation supports and advocate for the charities with co-workers.
  • Communication is key and liaisons use a variety of tools to keep others informed.
  • Passion and personal connection are the driving motivation for most successful charity liaisons.

South Carolina Federal Credit Union ($2.4B, North Charleston, SC) created its foundation in 2012 to support the charitable or educational efforts of other nonprofit organizations, thereby formalizing its own philanthropic endeavors. According to the foundation’s website, anyone can become a member of the 501(c)(3) with a donation of $5 or more, but the credit union makes it even easier for SC Federal employees to participate.

Beth Jaskiewicz, Executive Director, South Carolina Federal Credit Union Foundation

“The foundation allows employees to contribute to a specific number of charities via payroll deduction,” says Beth Jaskiewicz, executive director of the South Carolina Federal Credit Union Foundation. “So, engagement is important.”

Employee engagement, in fact, is the driver behind the credit union’s “charity liaisons,” a group of SC Federal employees who stay on top of a selected charity partner’s needs and advocate for the charity with co-workers.

The Structure

The foundation’s charity network currently includes six external charities and one internal charity, although the network number changes from time to time. Each charity has one dedicated employee charity liaison, a position that comes complete with a job description and a recruitment and selection process whenever there is an opening.

“We post it internally and treat it just like our other job postings,” Jaskiewicz says. “Candidates are interviewed and selected based on who is the best fit.”

Charity liaisons serve two primary functions:

  1. To serve as the liaison between the foundation and the charity, learning about events and ongoing needs and coordinating volunteer opportunities.
  2. To be the advocate for that charity within the credit union, posting on the employee social media page, publicizing upcoming events, and recruiting other employees to volunteer with the charity.

The Selection Process

To apply to become a charity liaison, an employee must secure a recommendation from their manager. Ideally, they also have an interest in that specific charity’s mission and values. If a manager supports the employee’s desire to become a liaison and deems it a good fit, the interview process moves forward.

“The time commitment varies a lot between charities,” Jaskiewicz explains. “Employees need to negotiate with their manager the amount of time they plan to volunteer.”

For example, the local food bank offers a monthly opportunity to fill backpacks with non-perishable items for students to take home over the weekend. This recurring event takes place during the business day. Similarly, the foundation’s charity liaison with the American Red Cross — who has a personal story about how the ARC helped her family — ensures the credit union hosts at least six blood drives per year and personally recruits other employees to volunteer.

Other organizations, such as the Boys & Girls Club typically have larger annual or semi-annual volunteer events. However, the Boys & Girls Club charity liaison also sits on the non-profit’s board, so he personally contributes more time.

“The time commitment varies a lot between charities. Employees need to negotiate with their manager the amount of time they plan to volunteer.”

Beth Jaskiewicz, Executive Director, South Carolina Federal Credit Union Foundation

Keys To Success And Lessons Learned

Succeeding at being a charity liaison is as easy as ABC: always be communicating.

“You cannot overcommunicate,” Jaskiewicz advises.

In addition to using the credit union’s private FB group for employees, charity liaisons also post news items internally and on electronic displays within each office. And the credit union devotes time during leadership meetings to highlight charity activities.

Flexibility is also important. Originally, and still technically, liaisons serve a three-year term and then rotate out. However, SF Federal will make an exception if a passionate, effective liaison wants to continue and no one else has risen to their level of engagement. Conversely, for liaisons whose priorities or availability has shifted during the three years, the term limit allows them a graceful way to exit.

Finally, personal connections are key.

CU QUICK FACTS

SOUTH CAROLINA FCU
Data as of 12.31.21

HQ: North Charleston, SC
ASSETS: $2.4B
MEMBERS: 165,793
BRANCHES: 26
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 13.6%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: -1.1%
ROA: 0.84%

“Although we want to give everyone who is interested an opportunity, to be successful, you have to pick the individual with the most passion and personal connection,” Jaskiewicz says.

It is personal experiences that typically motivate an employee to become active with a specific charity.

Advice For Others

Jaskiewicz encourages all credit unions to start with the why. Why does the credit union want to be an active participant in the community? What’s in it for the individual, the organization, and the community?

“To foster engagement, it’s important that employees understand why,” Jaskiewicz says.

Another tip from Jaskiewicz is to set the tone from the top. Ask the leadership team to get involved in volunteer activities and then share how they are personally serving in the community.

Lastly, for credit unions establishing foundations, be sure to build flexibility into setting up structure and legal details. Focus on the why, but include enough room to pivot if needed, Jaskiewicz says.

“That’s a lesson learned during the pandemic for all of us.”

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