Giving Back Is a Year-Round Responsibility

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10:  Volunteers help to clean up in the heavily damaged Rockaway neighborhood where a large section o
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10: Volunteers help to clean up in the heavily damaged Rockaway neighborhood where a large section of the iconic boardwalk was washed away on November 10, 2012 in the Queens borough of New York City. Twelve days after Superstorm Sandy slammed into parts of New York and New Jersey, thousands are still without power and heat. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

We all know the classic Charles Dickens story about Scrooge's change of heart regarding kindness to others. One rendition that comes to my mind this holiday season is the end of the movie Scrooged, when Bill Murray's character has this epiphany about the miraculous feelings we can experience when we think of others and help those in need. The movie ends with him exhorting his television audience to seize those feelings and experience them every day, not just once a year. For us, that's what #GivingTuesday is about -- a day to symbolize our every-day responsibility to help communities in need. And those with the greatest resources -- like large companies -- have the greatest responsibility.

These past several years of economic recession and its consequences have revealed how companies can be extended families for their people and how much of a difference they can make in their own people's lives and in the lives of those in need in their broader communities. These past several weeks were an unfortunate reminder of these facts, further bringing home how much we have to be thankful for, our obligations to help others, and how meaningful it feels when we do so.

Events like Hurricane Sandy always focus us, at least temporarily, on what is most important and how those with the means can help those in need. The storm affected nearly 10,000 of our people, tearing many away from their homes and putting them in need of help. Like many companies and individuals in the New York area, we offered resources to our people and the broader community, from assistance to our staff through the PwC Charitable Foundation's People Who Care Fund to fundraising and other food and clothing donations. Many of our people opened their homes to colleagues they had never met before, using technology to connect resources with needs.

And that's just the beginning of how our responsibility and desire to help goes beyond our firm's threshold. We have seen our people's generosity at its best these past couple of weeks: PwC partners donated $1 million to the Red Cross. In addition, the PwC Foundation is donating $500,000 to local relief organizations.

Days like #GivingTuesday help if people recognize the need to see beyond immediate crises. Businesses must recognize events- or holiday-driven efforts are not enough and the need for aid and our people's desire to contribute exists year-round. We all must leverage these moments to inspire more frequent contributions and recognize an obligation both to give financially and to enable our people to volunteer in their communities.

Since our 2009 fiscal year, we have increased firm-wide giving 38 percent. And, in response to employee demand, we invested in an internal contributions website, making it easier for our people to donate to the charities of their choice via payroll deductions, credit cards, or other means. The payoff? Over $9.5 million in donations during our 2011 Giving Campaign and, perhaps more noteworthy, an additional $500K in the "off season" when we were not communicating anything about giving dollars through this site to our people. And to date, our 2012 Giving Campaign is keeping pace 7 percent over the prior year.

Moreover, recognizing a growing interest from our people to give back with their skills and knowledge, in 2012 we reinvigorated our commitment to pro bono service with the establishment of a formal program and public commitment with "A Billion + Change." And all of this on top of our five-year commitment to donate $60 million and 1 million volunteer hours (worth $100 million) toward youth education through PwC's Earn Your Future.

We are not unique in our commitment to community service. The above efforts demonstrate what we and companies throughout the United States are doing year-round. And they are a call to action to those companies who are not giving back, but can. Bill Murray's character was right -- we help not just for the difference it makes in others' lives, but also because of the difference it makes in our own. Seize the feelings you get when you help others, nurture them and make them a 365-day-a-year experience.

Heather Lofkin Wright, US National Director of Community Service, PwC