The headquarters of Cynthia McKay's boutique gift-basket business in Castle Rock, Colo., often resembles a pet store. Cases of canned dog food are sometimes stacked five feet high in the reception area. Her four employees stockpile cat litter, chew toys, and doggie treats. And though McKay's 13-year-old Samoyed, Keeana, does frequent the office, this clutter is actually part of McKay's charitable giving program. She's one of a number of entrepreneurs crafting new giving approaches to inspire others in their companies and communities.
Two years ago, McKay started selling her old purses and suits on eBay and donating the proceeds to local shelters to help injured strays. When she invited employees at her company, Le Gourmet Gift Basket, to get involved, she named the program Purses for Pups, Heels for Hounds. It's now raised more than $30,000 and heaps of pet food and supplies for hurt animals in the Denver area.
Giving programs like McKay's are on the rise, says Charles Maclean, a consultant in Portland, Oreg., who coaches CEOs in giving decisions. He says that a growing number of entrepreneurs are dissatisfied with the usual check writing to charities. "They're using what makes them successful as entrepreneurs, like their creativity and cutting-edge ideas, in their giving projects," Maclean says.
That's what Roger Greene is doing. Every time one of his 150 employees has a child, Greene's software company, Ipswitch, based in Lexington, Mass., donates $500 to a child welfare program. So far nearly 30 employees have given birth or adopted. After a staffer has been at the firm three years, Ipswitch donates $1,000 to the employee's charity of choice. "It's not just about Ipswitch," says Greene. "It's about getting our employees thinking about how to give money away and who would make good use of it."
Another example can be found at Nashville-based Village Real Estate Services, where founder Mark Deutschmann puts 5% of company stock in a so-called Village Fund and allows employees to distribute it to local charities of their choice. And in Houston, Linda Marroquin, CEO of FrogPad, maker of one-handed computer keyboards, is donating her product to wounded soldiers who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan. She says it's both a gift and a challenge. "To these corporations who are profiting from the wars," says Marroquin, "I say, now that you've got money, put it where your mouth is."
These programs have inspired employees to keep up the good works. Back in Castle Rock, McKay's people often drive around picking up donations on the weekends. "We come to work to make money," says McKay, "but we like ourselves better when we're doing this bit of altruism."