What does it mean to "Give With Purpose?"

Employees with bikes in front of IGS Energy Van

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Jen Bowden, our Director of Community Investment. She has fearlessly led IGS Impact, our community investment program, since 2015. Learn more about IGS’s community investment program.

What Do We Mean When We Say Giving With Purpose?

From localized donations such as food and toy drives to broader efforts like our annual Bundle Up campaign, we, at IGS, are ramping up our corporate giving programs. Given that many of us are in the spirit of generosity, we thought we would share some insight into our giving philosophy here at IGS, which is giving with purpose.

When we created IGS Impact, our community investment program, in 2015, we felt pretty strongly that every investment we planned to make should be intentional, focused and aligned with the key priorities that resonated with our business and with our employees. It should be on purpose. And as simple as that sounds, it can be harder than it looks. It’s something that many companies set out to do but fall short. While all giving is good, lots of companies – and individuals, for that matter – take a “peanut butter” approach and spread small gifts to many organizations rather than making more significant investments in fewer organizations.

Company giving aligns with community needs and the IGS vision.

IGS believes that we can respond to community needs in a way that allows us to take our best skills and resources and match them with community needs. By doing this, we can maximize the effectiveness of our donations. To remind ourselves of this intention, we created the tagline, Giving with Purpose.

Here are 3 ways we stay true to our Giving With Purpose mission:  

1. We define key focus areas that resonate with our business.

There is no shortage of need in our communities and there are thousands of nonprofit organizations doing tremendous work to improve our world in some way. And that’s the problem – there’s just too much need for us to meet every request that comes our way. We can give more intentionally when addressing social issues that line up with our industry, core values, or even those issues that impact our business. This is because, in those scenarios, we can give more than just money. Our core competencies, industry knowledge, and the brain power of our people (our best assets!) can help lift up the organizations we choose to support. We identified the following as causes that we knew we could impact in a meaningful way:

  • Energy Sustainability
  • Social Enterprise
  • Entrepreneurship

2. We opt for “narrow and deep” versus “shallow and wide.”

Going back to the “peanut butter” metaphor, we can give 1,000 organizations $100 or 10 organizations $10,000 and it’s the same cost to IGS. What is different, however, is what impact those funds can have within a nonprofit organization. This really becomes true when we think about more significant investments that enable organizations to purchase machinery, hire program staff, or expand into new markets. Sometimes it is easy to underestimate what it’s going to take to solve problems. It usually takes significant time and money to achieve impact. For this reason, IGS has opted to make fewer but larger investments within those key focus areas of Energy Sustainability; and Social Enterprise and Entrepreneurship.

3. We adopt a true partnership mentality.

Unlike some corporations, we don’t generally accept unsolicited requests for support. We actively seek out partners and work with them to craft new, innovative programs or expand existing programming to increase, for example, the number of social entrepreneurs in Central Ohio or the number of children who understand the difference between a need and a want because of financial literacy education delivered through Junior Achievement. By focusing in on a few key issues and doing lots of research, we gain a better understanding of what needs to be done on the ground and who can best carry that out. We, then, turn to a specific organization and begin discussing potential programs, measurements, and what successful outcomes would look like. Together, with the organization, we build the grant and once it’s approved, the organization begins its operations on the ground. Also, we don’t assume that we know more than the nonprofit partners. The nonprofit partner brings a lot of expertise to the table, so we take measures to balance the power dynamic that can often present itself between the group that has the funds (IGS) and those seeking the funds (the nonprofit organization). When possible, we make multi-year commitments which provide some predictability and stability for the partners, especially when we are creating a program that hasn’t previously existed.

Operation Warm and IGS

One of our key partnerships is with Operation Warm. We have worked with them for 4 years on an annual cause-marketing campaign that enables them to distribute brand-new coats to children in need throughout the country. At the conclusion of this year's campaign we were able to donate over 13,500 brand-new, warm coats.

Giving With Purpose is a discipline.

For certain, it takes more time to approach giving in this way. It requires us to be disciplined and focused and not say “yes” to every request that comes our way – it also means sometimes saying “no” to requests that come our way from employees, connections, and even executives when those requests don’t fit within the structure we know will provide the biggest impact. But in the end, we will have a bigger impact when we operate with purpose. You can read more about the work we are doing in the community in our most recent Impact Annual Report.

Check out IGS Annual Giving Report