Your business can benefit from philanthropy

When you think about your business and philanthropy, does that conjure up positive or negative images? If you believe that business philanthropy means making a donation from your net income and maybe receiving some positive feedback from your customers, employees, and the community, consider the bigger picture.

The application of philanthropy to business can be looked at as an investment. It can be used as a strategy. Perhaps, philanthropy could be even the most appropriate, effective, and efficient approach to accomplishing some of your business’s key objectives. Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA), formed in 2000, employs this method successfully, and the Community Foundation of Western Nevada plays a key role.

TMWA’s business objectives include the management of water resources and developing solutions that increase efficiency and productivity. In 2004 they approached the Community Foundation about establishing the Truckee River Fund. By setting up a charitable fund outside their operation, they removed barriers related to both the perception and the reality to achieving of the goal of the Truckee River Fund, which is “enhancing and protecting our water resources.” I wish I could claim credit for the novel approach they took to achieve their goal, but it was their idea.

TWMA determined that creating a charitable fund at the Community Foundation to improve water resources was in their best interest.

It was an investment, and it was a strategy. For many water-resources improvement projects, establishing a charitable fund was determined to be the most appropriate, effective, and efficient approach. Working with a committee made up of three appointees from each of our local governments, Community Foundation staff helped craft granting strategies emphasizing matching grants, with rigorous application and evaluation requirements and a high level of accountability for performance. This approach broke down multi-jurisdictional boundaries (which is no small feat considering that the Truckee River flows through two states, five counties, tribal lands, and a number of cities and towns). Funding for projects that achieve the goal of enhancing and protecting our water resources is granted on a competitive basis; applicants are required to provide a minimum 25 percent match. In addition to money, grantees bring expertise, connections, political will, volunteers, property ownership, equipment, and more.

The Truckee River Fund addresses serious challenges and brings the community together.

At the time the Truckee River Fund was created, the Truckee Meadows was just beginning to see some of the greatest challenges to our water quality, including invasive species and drought. As the economic downturn hit, fiscal challenges also came to light. One of the significant goals of the Truckee River Fund was educating the public about the great treasure we have in our river. Truckee River Fund projects highlight the Truckee’s importance to the community for enjoyment and recreational purposes in addition to needing clean and reasonably priced water. The Truckee River Fund Advisory Committee has moved quickly to assist in emergencies such as the Caughlin, Hawken, and Oxbow Fires that damaged watersheds and presented a potential crisis in the form of runoff contamination.

It seems incredible to me, but the Truckee River Fund has funded 166 projects since 2004 granting a total of $10,977,377.83. The match to the community provided by the project grantees comes to nearly twice that much: $19,176,926.49.

If you’re familiar with the concept of the triple bottom line, you couldn’t find a better example.

There are many other examples of nonprofit organizations such as Renown and TMWA, and for-profit companies such as Wells Fargo Bank and NV Energy, that use philanthropy in creative ways that improve the bottom line and the community. If you have a vision that includes philanthropy, I would love to visit with you and have a conversation about how the Community Foundation can help you with your triple bottom line. The Community Foundation has the experience and the track record. Our mission is to connect people who care with causes that matter; and, that includes helping corporations that care connect with causes that matter.

To date, the Community Foundation has been on a 12-year journey with TMWA. We are honored to be an integral partner in their philanthropy. Because of TMWA’s innovative and generous approach, we are all rewarded when we turn on the tap. What an important and impressive legacy. The Truckee River Fund is well represented online at

Learn more by contacting the Community Foundation. 775-333-5499, or

Chris Askin is the president and CEO of the Community Foundation..


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment