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Why One Firm Chose a DAF for Its Corporate Philanthropy

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Why? “There are huge economies of scale,” says Cofounder and Managing Principal Jack Sommers, who had become familiar with the Foundation through his work as one of its investment managers. “You have due diligence staff looking at charities all the time, and many of them are organizations we’re interested in. Rebuilding that internally is impossible. And it’s relatively inexpensive compared to doing it yourself.”

In 2013, IR+M appointed a steering committee of six senior employees to oversee its philanthropy.  Known as the Community Outreach Group, or COG, this panel created a mission statement, set up the DAF, created opportunities for employees to perform volunteer service on company time, and developed a matching gift program, explains Vice President Kate Trevor, who chairs the panel.

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Community Investment Tax Credit“The idea of the DAF was to allow the firm to make some substantial grants and to partner with local organizations,” says Trevor. “The fact that you’re local, that you focus on high-impact philanthropy and that you’re a great hub of information was very attractive to us.”

The Foundation’s donor services team has connected IR+M with nonprofits it never would have known  about otherwise and was also responsible for “the most creative way we have used our DAF,” says Trevor, naming the firm’s wildly popular grant contest.

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Modeled after the Boston Foundation’s “Out of the Blue” awards, in which Foundation staff nominate and vote on a nonprofit to receive a one-time grant, the IR+M contest features an information session where employees can pitch their chosen charity to their peers. Later, the entire firm votes on which nonprofits should receive grants and the winners are announced at a company-wide meeting called “Cheers for Charity.” In just one year, employee participation doubled, says Trevor, and this year the firm awarded 14 grants totaling $170,000 from the DAF as a result of the contest.

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“We’ve been fortunate as a business and one of the things that really motivates people to come to work every day is that we’ve built an amazing culture,” says Sommers, the managing principal. “Now philanthropy is a more explicit part of that culture. By giving back, we all gain a lot.”