A Culture of Workplace Giving

Sarah MayerCommunity, Non-Profit Organizations

Shift Collaborative has been in business for almost four years, and I believe that we are only at the beginning of defining our company’s culture. This process of defining is likely [we hope] to be an ongoing and evolving process as we grow, expand, and adapt in the creative industry space. One of many things that our small group sees eye to eye on, is making an impact beyond our work, and creating space within the organization for each team member to explore their individual impact in the community.

Doing good is an individual and personal thing. To ask that the entire team to support one charity, or do one good thing together, feels prescriptive. I suppose that that would be better than not doing anything at all.  Workplace giving is a major support pillar for many nonprofit organizations. According to American Charities, $4 billion is raised annually through workplace giving. While money is the visible and tangible asset of workplace giving, we desire our workplace giving to go deeper.

We’ve decided to support each others’ endeavors, and when we can the company also gives back to the change-making activities of a team member or a client. Our team members sit on nonprofit boards, volunteer in the community, speak out on issues of importance to them, and advocate for social justice. The community and charitable activities that team members engage in and what they gain from those rich experiences allow them to see our work at Shift through a different lens.

Here are a few examples

  • Sara Coffey is a co-organizer for TEDxPittsburgh and co-founder of Open House PGH, an intentional community known for their weekly Community Dinner and social justice work. These efforts keep her connected to the community in a way that brings her joy. She gains a perspective on a variety of subjects around diversity, inclusion, leadership, and community sustainability. And, her design work at Shift is reflective of those experiences. Her self-description on Facebook sums it up nicely:

     Living in #Pittsburgh inspiring positivity & motivation through art, health, & social change.

  • Andrew Gordon is involved in the Pittsburgh community through his church, Shadyside Presbyterian Church. He has served as a mentor to members of the youth, and donates money toward the charitable and community-oriented missions of the church. Contributing to Shadyside Presbyterian’s mission of loving and caring for others, both locally and globally, is rewarding to Andrew, as it helps him feel connected to the positive changes taking place in the places where he lives, works, and travels.
  • Therese Joseph gives back to the community through service and encouraging individual growth within her churchtherese-cleaning-up-detroit community, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. An example of this type of impact includes the youth service trip she chaperoned this past June. Partnering with Catholic Heart Work Camp, she led a group of teens from her parish, Holy Trinity Church, to Detroit, Michigan, where they spent a week cleaning up abandoned properties and houses across the city. The service trip served multiple purposes:
    • Their service and hard work helped to prepare the abandoned land and buildings for their next stage of life within the community.
    • The physical illustration of their work as a team and the kind of drastic changes that can take place when there are simply enough hands helping, encouraged local residents to get involved with community organizations to continue the revitalization work after their trip had ended.
    • And most importantly, the service projects, interactions with local residents, and team discussions helped to teach our local teens, the next generation of Pittsburgh change makers, how to see beyond themselves and their screens in order to empathize, love, and serve others, including those whose circumstances may be different from their own personal experiences of life.

Yes, we are a regular office of humans coming and going. Work comes in, work goes out. But we care for our clients; we are excited by the work. Those are the assumed and shared feelings among the team.  The office is also a place for discourse and debate, a thoughtful space to express reactions to what is happening on the streets outside of our windows, what is going on in the city at large, and the good and bad that we see beyond the city and state borders.

I hope these greater connections are always a part of our company culture.