Giving your time and dollars to the most effective change-agents

By Rob DeMichiei, executive vice president and CFO, UPMC

Corporate social responsibility is a movement aimed at encouraging companies to be more aware of the impact their businesses have on our society. As leaders here in Pittsburgh, it is our job to be the eyes and ears of our area’s needs and take the necessary steps to help solve our community’s direst issues in order for our economy to prosper.

As a financial officer myself, I know it’s not uncommon to question if your money and time are going to the right cause. How can you know if your efforts are really making a difference?

No one has the time to individually vet each and every organization in our community to ensure they are doing good work, making a big impact, and returning on your investment. However, there are some steps you can take before you make a large charitable choice to ensure your offering is going to the organization that will meet your philanthropic needs and meet the needs of the community.

  1. Establish your goals. Before you make a big philanthropic decision, ask yourself: What are my values? What are some things that I am passionate about? What change do I want to see in my community? Answering these questions will help get your search started.
  1. Give with both your head and heart. Having an emotional tie and a passion for the work will certainly help feed your desire to continue giving, and hearing stories about the people impacted by an agency’s work will let you know you’ve made a difference. Seek out those stories and hear from the people right in your community benefitting from this work.

But the head and the heart should be on the same page. Seek out resources and ask questions to understand an organization’s financial situation and the way they use donations.

  1. Charity Navigator is a great way to start the process of understanding whether or not an organization is fiscally responsible. Use this as your guide to intelligent giving. The charity evaluator aims to guide intelligent giving and advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace, where givers and charities work together to combat pressing issues. United Way of Southwestern PA is proud to have received a four-out-of-four-star rating from Charity Navigator for eight consecutive years for its strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency.

Ultimately, this achievement provides donors and volunteers with a sense of security and trust as they give their dollars and time to United Way. This designation is something you can look for on the organization’s website, or you can simply search on Charity Navigator’s website.

  1. Approach your investment as long-term. Once you’ve done your research and found the charity that’s right for you, settle in. The biggest way to make a difference is becoming more involved with the work of an organization, so you can better understand their processes and work with them to continue meeting needs as times progress and needs in your community change.

As corporate leaders, we must work together and with our local organizations and change-agents to help our community members in need. For me, I am able to see firsthand the difference in our region from United Way’s efforts because I have become more and more connected with the work. For many, their involvement with United Way begins in their workplace, but there is so much more to learn and so much work to be done.

You can join United Way or follow the steps outlined to discover the cause most suited for you, your passions and your dollars. When you ensure your making a sound investment in an organization, you are ensuring you’re making a large impact in your community.