DFK International's charitable giving drive

Zoe Marsden, Marketing Manager, DFK International discussed with Zoya Malik the objective and strategy for charitable giving, the appeal of the campaigns and getting member firms involved

Zoya Malik: What are the objectives of DFK’s charitable giving?

Zoe Marsden: At DFK we support three charitable initiatives annually – the DFK International Women in Leadership (I-WIL) Committee’s chosen charity which they select each year in recognition of International Women’s Day, the global charity Movember which aims to raise awareness of men’s health issues and the Red Cross, which we donate to in lieu of sending Christmas cards.

We see charitable giving as part of our corporate social responsibility and, as an association, we are very conscious that while it’s great to work together in business, it’s also important for us to give something back. Being a global association means that we can do this on a much wider scale.

Zoe Marsden, Marketing Manager, DFK International

Zoya: How much has been raised by DFK International over the past two years? How did this come about?

Zoe: At DFK International we have raised a total of CAD $60,000 for the Movember charity over the past two years. We had more than 100 members take part in the annual moustache-growing initiative in both 2019 and 2020.

The funds raised for the DFK I-WIL Committee’s chosen charities include £7,000 for HerStory in Bangladesh in 2019, £7,000 for Comparte por una Vida in Venezuela in 2020 and, most recently, £4,725 for global charity Kiva in 2021.

DFK International also donated £500 to the Red Cross in both 2019 and 2020 in lieu of sending Christmas cards.

Zoya: What criteria do you use to select the charities? What are the challenges in terms of mobilising funding, reporting and ensuring transparency?

Zoe: Movember was selected by our Vice President of DFK Canada Paul Panabaker who is very passionate about the project. He expanded the fundraising efforts of DFK Canada to the whole of DFK International, and we have now raised more than CAD $600,000 for the charity during the last 11 years.

The I-WIL Committee selects a different charity each year, which both supports women and is based in the region of our annual international conference. This not only enables us to support that area, but also affords the opportunity for a representative from the charity to meet the members and share their story.

In any charitable endeavour, it’s about making sure people are engaged, so we try and highlight the full potential of each charity and what it can achieve as much as possible to our members. We’re also very big on transparency so fully communicate any fundraising efforts to members.

Zoya: Can you describe the campaign in Bangladesh and Venezuela.

Zoe: We have supported Movember for a number of years and have developed a strong relationship with the charity. Our members are very aware of our annual campaign, so on the run-up to the event we post information on social media and also include details in our newsletters, as a reminder. We also highlight the teams taking part on social media and post check-ins and follow-ups. The campaign is rounded off with a news article on our website informing members of how much was raised.

The I-WIL chosen charities are selected a number of months in advance, so we are able to work with them and gather all of the relevant information and marketing materials to best promote them to our members. This is communicated through news articles on our website, newsletters, newsflash specials and on social media. We also invite a representative to our international conferences where possible.

Zoya: Kindly describe the campaign in Bangladesh and Venezuela.

Zoe: Our campaign in Bangladesh was a really nice example of collaborating with a DFK member. DFK’s I-WIL Committee selected HerStory Foundation as their chosen charity for 2019 which was set up by Zareen Mahmud Hosein - a partner of member firm Snehasish Mahmud & Co.

The foundation was launched to empower women and girls and show that opportunities are not constrained by gender. It creates books telling the stories of successful and empowering women which it then uses in schools to break down gender stereotypes and start discussions around equality.

Having a connection with Zareen meant that we were easily able to get hold of a wide range of marketing materials to promote across our channels, and member firms were encouraged to hold fundraisers to show their support. Zareen also attended our EMEA annual conference 2019 and was able to give a real insight into the work of the charity.

In 2020 DFK’s international conference was due to take place in Panama and the I-WIL Committee asked members based in the area for suggestions of charities to support. The committee then selected Comparte por una Vida, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) established in Colombia to alleviate malnutrition among children migrating from the bordering country of Venezuela.

Although we were unable to hold our conference due to Covid-19 restrictions, we promoted the campaign across our channels and saw member firms from around the world hold fundraising events including raffles, karaoke and bingo, in addition to making donations.

Going through members to select a charity is key as not only do they know their area, it also gives them the opportunity to shape DFK’s charitable giving.

Zoya: How does the network support and sustain this charitable work once you embark on it?

Zoe: At DFK, we like to support our members by providing ideas of fundraising activities they can complete within our newsflashes and newsletters. We also send them any relevant supporting documents to ensure they have all of the knowledge and resources at their fingertips to not only promote the work they are doing, but the charity they are supporting.

Zoya: How do you engage member firms to participate?

Zoe: We have had a huge amount of success with our charity initiatives, with member firms right across the world taking part. Our main way of engaging member firms to participate is by keeping in contact with them through our various channels. This includes our newsletters and newsflash emails and news articles on our website. We work hard to actively promote any charitable work across our social media channels to both keep members informed and encourage others to participate. We also keep in touch with those member firms taking part via email to help promote any updates they have.

Being a global association means that although we love to get together at conferences when we are able to, we are very used to engaging with our member firms online.

Zoya: How does this strengthen the brand’s position in the market/industry?

Zoe: Our initiatives around charitable giving demonstrate that we take our corporate social responsibility seriously. We are an association that genuinely cares about our local communities and our responsibilities within those communities, and this is something that our members really value. We have a responsibility to give something back, and we join together as an association to make that happen which is something, we’re very proud of.

Zoya: How difficult is it to plan charity initiatives internationally under the duress of the pandemic?

Zoe: The pandemic has seen our teams go above and beyond to both come up with a fundraiser that all of our member firms could take part in and also keep everyone engaged digitally. This year our I-WIL Committee held a ‘Marching through March’ challenge in which teams of up to five people were challenged to take a combined 310,000 steps in March.

Because our international conference was held online, the committee chose to hold the challenge in aid of Kiva, an international charity which crowdfunds loans which are then distributed to individuals across the world to help grow businesses or create opportunities. When the loans are repaid the funds are then given to new recipients. We have been working closely with the charity, and not only will any funds raised be distributed to projects run by women, we will also be forming a committee to select the recipients.

The challenge was promoted heavily across all of our channels and we had a fantastic response, with 24 teams taking part. This not only included teams from individual member firms, but also teams with representatives from several member firms which was fantastic to see.

All of the communication around the challenge was really fun and light-hearted, and all of the teams taking part stayed in touch digitally, so we had some great friendly banter via email. It was an excellent challenge not only because it was something that was simple to take part in, but it also benefitted the participants’ wellbeing – something that’s so important during a pandemic.

Zoya: Can you outline some upcoming projects to involve member firms globally?

Zoe: As well as our annual Movember support and Red Cross donation, our next international conference is set to take place in London next year and will mark DFK’s 60th anniversary. As part of this the I-WIL Committee will be selecting a charity to support in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. We would expect this charity to be selected in the coming weeks.