The business case for philanthropy: It pays to give

United Way of Whatcom County workplace campaign a vital connection for business and community

Community giving is just good business.

In a 2017 Cone Communications Corporate Social Responsibility Study, not only did 78 percent of people say they want companies to address important social justice issues, but 87 percent indicated they’ll purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about. Three-quarters of respondents also said they’ll refuse to purchase a company’s products or services after learning it supported an issue contrary to their beliefs.

“When businesses support their community, through financial donations, volunteering or other contributions, it’s not only about doing a good thing, it’s also profitable,” says Peter Theisen, President/CEO of United Way of Whatcom County.

With 39 percent of Whatcom County households struggling to make ends meet, “the business community is vital to United Way and the community we serve,” Theisen says. “When I think of the value the business community brings to our work, there are literally tens of thousands of people we help. It brings together non-profits and businesses to solve the most pressing human problems.”

With information and data about the areas of greatest need, United Way is uniquely positioned to invest donations directly where they can do the most good, and through the annual workplace campaign, individual donations and volunteer opportunities, it supports 34 local social service programs of all sizes.

When it comes to supporting the United Way of Whatcom County, the GeoEngineers typically have 100 percent participation!
When it comes to supporting the United Way of Whatcom County, the GeoEngineers typically have 100 percent participation!

Working together for strong communities

“Supporting the United Way helps those in the community understand the commitment North Coast has to improving the communities we do business in,” says Marilyn Brink, President/CEO of North Coast Credit Union. “United Way and North Coast have a similar purpose in working to create stronger communities. We are especially pleased that they are focusing their work on solving specific problems that impact the ability for people to become self-sufficient,” Brink adds.

“Employers in Whatcom and Skagit counties have a long history of supporting our local non-profit organizations. These organizations do tremendous work. I wouldn’t want to think about a community where local business didn’t believe in making our communities stronger.”

Philanthropy as a recruiting tool

Corporate philanthropy also impacts prospective employees. A 2016 Millennial Employee Engagement Study found that 64 percent of Millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work, and 64 percent won’t take a job if a company doesn’t have strong corporate social responsibility values.

Compared to a 70 percent national average, 83 percent of Millennials say they’d be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues and 88 percent say their job is more fulfilling when they’re provided opportunities to make a positive impact on social and environmental issues.

Value in volunteering

In addition to giving back monetarily, many businesses choose to offer opportunities for their employees to give back through volunteering. Offering on-the-clock volunteer opportunities is good for morale and employee retention. In some cases, they even come with the added benefit of providing employees new skills that they can bring back to their daily work.

“There is an inherent sense of pride that comes with being part of a United Way campaign,” reflects Spencer Palmer, Vice-President of PowerTek Electric. “It brings a company together and creates a sense that the work you do is more important than just the physical output of the company.”

For PowerTek, company engagement in charitable giving is a critical piece of turning a county or city into a community.

”Without charitable giving many of the extra services and opportunities that make Whatcom County a special place to live would not be possible,” Palmer says, pointing to the power of the business community in spreading the word about the importance of getting involved. “We first learned of the great work that United Way does through our partnership with BP Cherry Point Refinery and have had a strong campaign for 18 years now.”

To learn more about United Way of Whatcom County and how to grow your business through philanthropy, visit

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