Innovative corporate philanthropy empowers staff to give

Chris Wilson, Philanthropy and Social Capital Partner at Koda Fri, 2 Feb 2024 Estimated reading times: 3 minutes

Independent wealth management firm Koda Capital has launched its own company foundation that empowers employees to become philanthropists in their own right. The Koda Endowment creates an appealing option for staff to structure their giving, building up their philanthropic capital via their salary in a similar manner to how they build up their superannuation – creating a lasting legacy for themselves and the community. Chris Wilson, Philanthropy and Social Capital Partner at Koda, explains how it works.  

The Koda Endowment was launched in 2023 and is a corporate foundation born out of a collective vision from seven years previously when all Koda staff collaborated to create the Allies Program at our firm. This program encompassed a number of initiatives harnessing our combined time, resources and skills to support the communities in which we work, such as volunteering and workplace giving, among others. For Koda, our community work through the Allies Program is a centrepiece of our culture and the Koda Endowment is the embodiment of that commitment.

When we formulated the Koda Endowment, we set out to develop a structure that would provide a deeper connection to giving for our employees. With this in mind, our team had the following guiding principles:

  • Rather than centralise decision-making, we wanted to use the endowment to empower our staff to support the causes that were most important to them.
  • We wanted to develop a platform that would encourage our staff to personally contribute to the Koda Endowment.
  • We wanted to leverage the power of an endowment to build a legacy that would last generations, for our organisation, our people, their families and most importantly, the community.
  • We would commit 1% of our profits to the Koda Endowment on an annual basis.

Finding the right strategic partner

We decided that the most effective way to leverage the Koda Endowment was to empower our team members to become structured givers and philanthropists in their own right.

In a strategic partnership with Australian Communities Foundation (ACF), Koda brought the vision for the foundation to fruition, leveraging the existing infrastructure and deep expertise of the ACF team.

Breaking down barriers to structured giving

At the core of the endowment is a unique platform that empowers team members to build up their philanthropic capital over time and actively contribute to causes they are passionate about via their own giving accounts. These accounts, established under the ACF and Koda Endowment umbrella, allow team members to contribute via their salary, with Koda matching contributions up to $200 per month. This approach makes structured giving:

  • Accessible – $100 per month is the minimum commitment.
  • Cost effective – Koda covers the fees, allowing staff giving accounts to grow in a tax and cost-free environment.
  • Easy to initiate – the ACF platform enables accounts to be set up in minutes.

This reflects Koda’s commitment to breaking down barriers that often hinder individuals from engaging in structured giving.

Not only does the Koda Endowment make philanthropy accessible to everyone in our team, it also helps to grow giving.

For example, if over a 25-year career at Koda, an employee contributes $200 a month, matched by Koda, the accumulated worth of their giving account is estimated to be in the vicinity of $206,000, with $81,000 donated to charities of their choice along the way.

So far, 38 accounts have been established in the first 3 months, with employees contributing an average of $257 per month through their salary.

A commitment that will deliver cultural dividends

By committing to allocating 1% of Koda’s profits to the endowment, we aim to significantly accelerate its growth. This reflects our commitment to giving back to the community and creating a lasting impact.

We also know it is a commitment that will pay cultural dividends. We see the Koda Endowment as an embodiment of our culture that helps create real purpose in the careers of our people. We are confident that this will further bond staff through shared community passions and help attract and retain talent for our business.

Over time, we hope that the Koda Endowment can be used to engage the families and loved ones of our staff in our business, through the work we do together in the community. We have been overwhelmed by the positive feedback from staff and delighted that some of our newest and youngest staff members have jumped on board and set up giving accounts.

When staff retire, we hope that they continue to connect back into the business via the Koda Endowment, providing a unique opportunity for current staff to engage with the generations that have gone before and the history and stories that come with that. In the future, as the endowment grows and funds are distributed, we envisage fostering deep conversations in our team about the causes they care about and the values we share in a way that enriches our organisational culture.

The Koda Endowment has received positive feedback from staff. So far, 38 accounts have been established in the first 3 months, with employees contributing an average of $257pm through salaries.

The Blueprint to Grow Structured Giving

The launch of the Koda Endowment aligns with the goals outlined in Philanthropy Australia’s Blueprint to Grow Structured Giving. By promoting structured giving in a new and accessible way, Koda is leveraging corporate giving to inspire personal philanthropy among its team members.

We have long held the view at Koda that if people can build up their own philanthropic capital in a similar manner to how they build up their retirement capital, via regular contributions through their salary, then we can change the landscape for structured giving. Koda’s people will retire from Koda with a superannuation pool to support their retirement and a philanthropic pool to continue to support their community interests.

Importantly, for Koda Advisers, having their own individual or family giving account through the Koda Endowment enables them to connect with their philanthropic clients as peers, with lived experience of their own structured giving. This puts them in a unique position to better promote the benefits of structured giving to clients when advising them on their wealth.

A powerful legacy

In launching the Koda Endowment, we hope we have not only developed a new model for corporate philanthropy, but also a blueprint for other organisations to follow.

We hope that by creating a space where team members can channel their generosity effectively and collaboratively through the power of structured giving, we will be a philanthropic organisation that empowers its people to be community leaders and philanthropists themselves. This is a powerful legacy for our organisation, our people and the community that will last generations.