In early 2008 Stephen Swander, First Vice President of Investments & Senior Resident Director for Merrill Lynch, requested a meeting with the Community Foundation to discuss partnership opportunities with Merrill Lynch. From that meeting the Merrill Lynch Employee Philanthropic Fund was born. After discussing the needs and concerns of the organization and its employees, the Foundation staff assisted in creating a process that allows Merrill Lynch employees to leverage their time and contributions.
According to Swander, garnering employee support has been a simple task.
“We have a great group of people who made supporting their community a priority long before we established our employee philanthropic fund,” Swander said. “The key to our fund’s success is that our employees take an active role in the philanthropic process.”
Each employee who makes a financial commitment to the fund has a say in which organizations are supported. Maintaining that sense of ownership in the philanthropic process is what keeps employees active and engaged.
“Our aha moment came when we saw how well our office came together as a group. For us, this process has been a great exercise in team building. It is great to see people unite for a higher purpose,” Swander said.
Swander encourages other businesses to create their own philanthropic footprint by creating a culture of giving among their employees. At Merrill Lynch, employees are not only making contributions from their own pockets but are also responsible for identifying opportunities to give in the community.
“Philanthropy helps create economically vibrant communities that are better places in which to live and do business,” Swander said. “Simply put, when the community wins, we win.”