Why One Agency Network Is Pledging to Donate Up to $1 Million Each Year to Nonprofits

Project Worldwide will match employee donations of up to $5,000

Agencies are among those donating time and money, supporting local communities and showing their employees they care.
Nick Onken

Now more than ever, young people want to give back. A recent study from Omnicom Group’s Cone Communications points out that 70 percent of millennials will spend more with brands that support charities. It makes sense then that more companies and agencies are finding ways to donate time and money, support local communities and show their employees they care.

Independent agency network Project Worldwide, which includes Argonaut, Pitch and Partners + Napier, has an ambitious plan to help local and national charities, but also show employees that the network cares about more than just the bottom line. On March 1, Project launched its ambitious Project Pledge program, with help from donation platform Benevity, to match charitable donations for all of the network’s nearly 2,000 employees. The group will match donations up to $5,000 per employee, tax-exempt, pledging to donate an overall total of $1 million per year.

The Benevity platform tracks each employee’s donations, making it a relatively seamless process for the network to manage. Plus it allows people to donate, say, $10 to one charity and $100 to another, picking and choosing among 100,000 registered groups on their way up to $5,000 in donations.

“Giving has always been part of Project’s DNA,” said Eva Miller, svp of human resources at Project. “I couldn’t be more excited. It’s really come top-down from Robert Vallee Jr. [chairman and CEO of Project Worldwide].”

Not only do the network’s dozen agencies encourage employees to volunteer, but also many count nonprofits as some of their closest clients. One shop, Boulder, Colo.-based School, for example, got its name after partnering with Pencils of Promise—an organization dedicated to giving children around the world access to education by building schools in countries as far flung as Guatemala and Ghana. Meanwhile,  Argonaut works with Code Tenderloin, a San Francisco-based group that helps the homeless find jobs and get off the street by teaching them to code.

Another key benefit (and goal) for the network in launching this project is its ability to attract and retain talent. “People are really passionate about giving and giving back. They want to be part of a company that not only does that, but also supports them in giving back,” said Miller.

Stuart Sproule, president, North America, for Landor, a branding consultancy that over time has worked with many nonprofits, agreed, adding, “People want to be part of a culture that actively [gets involved with] the community it’s in and cares about important causes.”

Finding a way to support charities—whether through monetary donations or otherwise—also proves to clients that agencies are considerate and worthwhile partners, Sproule noted.

Matching is one way to do it, but some agencies have gone so far as to donate a portion of their profits each year to different organizations. Boulder, Colo.-based agency Voltage has promised to give 4 percent of its annual profit to charities. The catch? The agency is asking its clients to select charities they would like to see the money go to. Clients that have given the agency more business over the years will be delegated a larger portion than others.

“All of our clients have charities they support,” said Eric Fowles, Voltage’s founder and CEO. “So for us to be able to give them an extra $1,000 or something at the end of the year for those is something we are all really excited about.”

This story first appeared in the March 13, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.