The Art of Corporate Giving



Increasing corporate philanthropy has been increased as executives seek rewards beyond monetary returns. Connie E.W. Smith, senior vice president and Florida Community Affairs manager at Wells Fargo and Company, spoke as the keynote speaker at SRQ Media Group’s most recent event, SB2: The Art of Corporate Philanthropy, held Thursday at The Francis in Sarasota. Smith said at the event that corporate leaders must realize creating a stronger community is “not only good, but good business." 

Wells Fargo provides automatic matches to team member causes and support for projects around the country. The company's philanthropic arm also involves itself in major efforts that benefit the specific areas of education and community development, which has led to a wide array of projects backed by Wells Fargo in some way, including the Florida House Institute locally. “We are focused on encouraging the next generation of leaders at Wells Fargo,” said Smith. 

A panel of local leaders gathered to discuss the matter said corporate givers in Southwest Florida recognize a need for both a philanthropic spirit and a supportive community. “We need to make a commitment to the communities in which we live and work,” said Lisa Krouse, FCCI Insurance Group executive vice president and chief human resources officer.

And that includes not just financial support from executives, but the time and talent of staff members at all levels. Companies like Venice-based PGT Industries work in a number of service drives and initiatives, ensuring people can engage in corporate giving regardless of income. “That’s the risk of being friends with anybody at PGT,” said Rod Hershberger, co-founder of PGT Industries. “You will be contacted. You will be tapped.”

The desires of many behind philanthropic efforts are evolving as well, with people desiring the make an impact for the community rather than simply keeping accumulated wealth within a family lineage. “In succession planning, we are seeing more would like not to give all their wealth to their children,” said Aubrey Lynch, principal at CS&L CPAs. “It feels counterproductive in some way.” So major stakeholders in a company often want a legacy that boosts the charity and nonprofit world.

Kelly Caldwell, CEO and president of Caldwell Trust Company, shared a story of a client he has worked with who was setting up donations to a nonprofit that would last 300 years, and wanted to structure accountability so that the money was being spent as intended for that time. “That’s his major focus,” he said. Local institutions can ensure that philanthropic efforts are executed properly over the long-term, in this case well beyond when anyone alive now can hover over the deal.

The next SB2 event, Investing in the Arts: the Finance of Culture, will be held Jan. 28.

Photos by Wyatt Kostygan: Panelists answer questions at The Art of Corporate Philanthropy. Left to Right: Kelly Caldwell, Rod Hershberger, moderator Wes Roberts, Lisa Krouse and Aubrey Lynch. Top: Connie E.W. Smith gives keynote address.

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