Handing over a check to a charity is an easy and kind thing to do. But when there’s a personal connection or a purpose behind the contribution, it becomes even more meaningful. Three St. Louis companies share how that idea drives their charitable giving and why their employees are going beyond just monetary assistance.
When you’re turning down eight out of 10 gift requests, you’re not accomplishing your charitable goals. This is what the Moneta Group Charitable Foundation realized a few years ago after being inundated with appeals for donations. “We sat down and tried to find a different approach to giving money away,” says Moneta principal Chandler Taylor, president of the Foundation board. “We decided to combine our idea of giving away money with getting our employees more involved.”
Instead of just handing out grants, the company created a volunteer initiative, Moneta Momentum, in which employees are actively involved in a charity, particularly one that aids women, children or educational programs in the community.
The Foundation will donate money to the programs that Moneta employees are involved with. Two of the more popular programs are Habitat for Humanity and Junior Achievement’s ‘JA in a Day.’ In addition, the Cancer Support Community’s recent survivorship walk included a large group of Moneta employees.
Although the Foundation has accumulated more than $1.5 million in donations directly from Moneta employees, Taylor hopes that it continues to grow. “It’s important to show those causes that our employees are willing to donate their time and give back to the community on a personal basis.”
Commerce Bank considers itself a community bank with strong connections to the neighborhoods it serves. “We really believe we need to be in the community and support the areas where our branches are located,” says grant manager Cynthia Crim.
To that end, Commerce is heavily involved in charitable giving through employee-focused fundraising and volunteering, as well as its three foundations—the corporate Commerce Bancshares Foundation, as well as the William T. Kemper and Norman J. Stupp foundations, of which the bank serves as trustee. “All of our charitable giving is governed by a strategic direction,” Crim says. “We focus our giving on strengthening the region, building strong communities and neighborhoods, and helping youths succeed.”
Those goals are carried out by supporting organizations like Forest Park Forever, Beyond Housing, Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club and City Academy. Groups that request money or other contributions have to submit grant proposals every year and fit Commerce’s strategic direction.
The bank also encourages its employees to be engaged in the community. More than 80 employees are part of the community service committee that decides upon various fundraising activities throughout the branches, such as cookie sales and Toys for Tots drives. Hands-on involvement includes participating in Habitat for Humanity and the Teach Kids to Save program.
Through all of its charitable efforts, Commerce contributed $3.5 million to various causes last year. “It’s important that we support organizations that are helping those in need,” Crim says. “It sustains the quality of life of our region and neighborhoods.”
Spencer, Fane, Britt & Browne
A table at a fundraiser here. A golf sponsorship there. The St. Louis office of Spencer Fane always has been involved in charitable giving, but a redefined focus has enabled the firm to make a greater difference in the local community. “We wanted to make a bigger impact by making larger contributions to a smaller number of organizations,” says associate Anne Lindner, a member of the firm’s charitable committee.
The law office identifies specific charities that “have a strong connection to our firm, where either Spencer Fane attorneys volunteer, or our clients support,” Lindner says. Those attorneys work hand-in-hand with the organizations to create proposals that a committee then reviews. Last year, Spencer Fane committed $37,500 to seven charities, including Covenant House Missouri, Voices for Children, Covam Community Development Corporation and North Grand Neighborhood Services. With the donation, Covenant House was able to buy a new van to transport its kids to workplace training.
“The firm encourages us to volunteer, and in the office, the feeling is that everyone wants to give back,” notes Lindner, who has been involved with Voices for Children for three years.
In addition to the strategic donations, Spencer Fane also contributes to other causes, including Legal Aid of Eastern Missouri and the United Way of Greater St. Louis.
Lindner looks forward to what else the firm can do to improve St. Louis. “We just want to continue to have a positive impact on the community.” LN