Designer giving

If you’re looking for a way to get more employees involved in your charitable giving program, look no further than the employees themselves.

“We asked our employees what we could do to have a meaningful impact on the community,” says Blane Walter, chairman and CEO of inChord Communications Inc. Walter says the company had participated in the annual United Way campaign for years but felt its program needed more focus.

“We wanted to continue supporting the United Way but in a more directed way,” Walter says.

The company conducted formal and informal surveys and discussions with its 525 employees, and through them, the idea of a customized, focused program was born.

“The creative group came up with our concept, the name and a lot of the program,” says Walter.

Since a large part of the company’s clients are pharmaceutical companies and others in the health care industry, the idea of creating a fund for senior citizens’ medication made sense. Called GRACE (Giving Relief and Care to our Elderly), the program was launched in 2000 and has granted $60,000 to seven Columbus-area nonprofit organizations to provide prescription drugs and medical services to seniors who could not otherwise afford them.

“GRACE is consistent with our culture,” Walter says. “This is the business our clients are in; it’s a great match for the company, our clients and our employees.”

Marcia Frederick, director of corporate communications, administers the program, which continues to grow.

“As the company has grown geographically, we’ve been able to do it anywhere we have offices through the United Way,” Frederick says.

In 2002, the program raised $116,000 and 65 percent of employees participated.

“We have seen a significant improvement in the amount we’re giving,” says Walter.

Frederick says inChord Communications traditionally sent Christmas gifts to its clients but now donates that money to GRACE in the client’s name.

“Our clients are so much more excited to receive the card letting them know of the donation than a gift,” she says.

And the company has realized an unexpected benefit, Walter says.

“It brought us together and gave us something to talk about,” he says. “So many times these things come from the top down. What made this program a success was to let the ownership come — from the beginning — from deep within the organization.” How to reach: inChord Communications Inc., (614) 848-4848 or