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Summer 2018
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CTDO Magazine

A Great Place to Embrace Community

A large public accounting, consulting and technology firm is teaming up with employees to give to local communities.

To celebrate its 75th anniversary year, Crowe Horwath CEO Jim Powers challenged personnel to volunteer 75,000 hours in the communities where they live and work. Three-quarters of the way through, Crowe personnel have already volunteered more than 60,000 hours.

That's just one example of the many ways Crowe, one of the largest U.S. public accounting, consulting, and technology firms, supports the community. It's because of efforts like this that Crowe was named one of Fortune's 2018 Best Workplaces for Giving Back.

Setting a foundation

Crowe has a long history of community support. Through grants, sponsorships, and local contributions, the firm supports civic and charitable organizations' causes and needs, and employees demonstrate the company's values by contributing individually to nonprofit organizations through firmwide fundraisers.

In 2017, Crowe and its staff donated nearly $250,000 to the American Red Cross to help victims of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and the California wildfires. "Crowe personnel displayed consistent support to help people affected by an unprecedented string of disasters this year, each time going above and beyond what is typical in these situations," says Susan Westerfield, American Red Cross regional philanthropy officer.

Overall, Crowe gave $1.71 million to a variety of nonprofit organizations in its most recent fiscal year, which ended on March 31.

To help formalize its charitable giving, the company formed the Crowe Horwath Foundation in 2006. "Our foundation's giving is based on directly supporting the philanthropic passions of our people," says Stuart Miller, Crowe partner and Crowe Horwath Foundation trustee chairman. "Unlike most company foundations in which nonprofits submit grant requests, the Crowe Horwath Foundation only accepts grant requests from our people on behalf of a nonprofit," he adds.

The foundation's Volunteer Investment Program (VIP) also provides financial support to many nonprofit organizations where employees volunteer. To honor a Crowe individual who has completed at least 30 hours of service in a calendar year, the foundation grants a $250 VIP award to the organization. An individual can request VIP funding for up to four separate nonprofits in a year. The Crowe Horwath Foundation awarded 131 VIP awards in 2017.

The foundation also supports individuals serving on not-for-profit boards by providing a 3 to 1 match to their personal financial contributions for the organizations where they serve. The Crowe Horwath Foundation awarded 106 Board Member Match awards in 2017. To further prepare and encourage individuals to pursue not-for-profit board leadership opportunities, the foundation has also launched new board engagement training that began in May.

Volunteering in the community

It's not just about financial contributions, though. Crowe makes a point to align firm contributions with employees' volunteer efforts. The company supports this culture of volunteerism through a generous community service policy that allows individuals, with the permission of a career coach, to volunteer up to eight hours per month without taking paid time off. During the most recent fiscal year, employees provided more than 60,000 hours of service to their communities, which is equivalent to 29 full-time employees working at the charitable organizations where they served.

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Case in point: Sixteen Crowe locations volunteer with Junior Achievement USA, the largest organization in the United States dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their futures, and make smart academic and economic choices.

Consider the example of Shirley Laudati, who has volunteered with Junior Achievement of Chicago since 2009. Her first experience with JA was teaching a class of first-graders. "I'll never forget that day," Laudati recalls. "I was looking for a way to improve my presentation skills, and my career coach suggested teaching a JA class."

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Today, she teaches two first-grade classes once a week for five weeks, plus twice a year she teaches five lessons in one day. She also helps to recruit and schedule volunteers and distribute materials to volunteers, works closely with the JA regional coordinator, and coordinates thank-you luncheons for the JA office in Oak Brook, Illinois.

In February 2018, Laudati received the JA of Chicago's Superhero Award for her outstanding work. "It is so rewarding to know that I might have made a difference in the life of a student—something that may have helped them to stay in school, to graduate and go on to college, and to eventually pursue the kind of future they need and want," she says.

Mixing giving with learning

Crowe also integrates giving opportunities into some of its talent development programs to emphasize the role volunteering plays in personal and professional success.

For instance, the firm sponsors four people resource networks (PRNs) supporting its African-American, Asian, Latino, and Gay and Lesbian Allies professionals. PRNs provide a forum for networking, support, recruiting, and engagement to promote inclusion. More than 300 individuals across 26 Crowe offices participated in a PRN day of service. Volunteers played games with kids, prepared snacks, and helped with facility and community cleanup projects. The Crowe Horwath Foundation approved a grant of $500 per office to the nonprofit organization each office supported, resulting in a total donation of $13,000.

These community-support efforts likewise play a role in key learning experiences, starting even before recent college graduates join the firm. A good example is the firm's summer leadership experience, called Learn2Lead, a program designed for college students pursuing potential internships with the firm. Last year, nearly 300 attendees took part in a two-day leadership program, which featured a community service activity where participants built 50 bikes and donated them to West Town Bikes and Chicago Youth Programs. Putting the focus front and center on boosting the community early on is a part of the firm's culture.

Another example comes from the Crowe Lead with Values Promotion Academy. The academy is a three-day program where participants from across all Crowe business units enhance leadership capabilities and discover tools for business development, coaching, and understanding client experience. Crowe closed the November 2017 event with a community service project that had participants decorate 300 pairs of children- and young adult-sized TOMS Shoes, a Crowe client. Crowe donated the shoes to Atlanta Children's Shelter, which provides quality child development and support services for homeless families striving to become self-sufficient.

Giving back, moving forward

Crowe's core values, "We Care, We Share, We Invest, and We Grow," lay the foundation for how the company builds lasting value for its communities. Through community involvement, Crowe employees live those values every day, enabling them to provide professional experience, passion, and commitment and hands-on labor to hundreds of organizations.

"We encourage our people to be leaders in their communities and are pleased to help support those efforts," says Powers.

Crowe believes this is not only beneficial to the charitable organizations but also to employees as they grow leadership skills, network with community leaders, contribute thought leadership and professional experience, and support valued organizations. The firm also believes that giving to the communities in which its employees live and work is an important part of driving employee engagement. Creating a sense of purpose and supporting people to have an impact by helping others leads to higher levels of commitment to the firm.

About Crowe Horwath LLP

One of the largest U.S. public accounting, consulting, and technology firms, Crowe Horwath uses deep industry expertise to provide audit services to public and private entities while also helping clients reach their goals with tax, advisory, risk, and performance services.

Are You Giving Back?

Giving back to our communities doesn't just mean reaching into our wallets. Many nonprofits and community organizations can use the skill sets of talent development professionals. How do you define "giving back" and how do you think it affects your organization? What are you or your employees and organization doing to give back to the profession or society at large? CTDO would love to share your giving back story.

Contact Ann Parker, senior content manager for the Association for Talent Development, with your ideas and stories.

Read more from CTDO magazine: Essential talent development content for C-suite leaders.

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About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs, as well as ATD's government-focused magazine, The Public Manager. Contact her at rellis@td.org. 

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