Public accounting firms are well known for being deeply involved in their communities, and the best firms in the field are taking this to a whole new level, with tweaks to the traditional giving models that both make it more effective, and help boost recruiting and retention.

To start, many of Accounting Today’s 2017 Best Firms to Work For deploy all their staff in coordinated campaigns like the one at Smith Leonard: “Every year, we close the office for a full day in the fall for a day of service,” the High Point, N.C.-based firm reported. “Our community involvement committee chooses between four and five organizations in the community of varying missions to deploy our team members for a full day.”

Smith Leonard staff with donated food
Smith Leonard staff with donated food

Picking just a few charities maximizes the firm’s impact; the group activities promote camaraderie and build stronger bonds among staff; and more and more firms are making a point of giving employees input into the choice of beneficiaries.

At Philadelphia’s Brinker Simpson, for instance, the charity that will receive the money donated by staff members for the privilege of dressing down on Fridays is picked by an individual staffer – who is also responsible for promoting it and collecting the funds. The firm gives each individual and their charity a month of Fridays, so that they have a chance to amass a greater sum of money.

Similarly, at Miller Grossbard Advisors in Houston, “We support initiatives brought to the firm by its staff, so we are supporting what they care about. This goes to our vow to not be 'top-down,” and at Raleigh, N.C.-based Hughes Pittman & Gupton, firm employees nominate 12 local nonprofits to receive the contributions donated in exchange for dressing casually, plus a large additional contribution from the firm.

Ft. Wright, Ky.-based Rudler, meanwhile, puts its money where its mouth is in a way that’s particularly meaningful for accountants: “We have a time entry code called ‘community activity’ that pays employees for serving on boards and other consistent volunteering.”

Similarly, Atlanta’s Bennett Thrasher contributes half of 1 percent of its top-line revenues into the BT Foundation on an annual basis. The money funds gifts for the local community that are suggested by firm associates.

Also in Atlanta, Williams Benator & Libby backs its employees and their favorite charities with matched giving: “As a holiday tradition, we encourage our clients and employees to financially support the charitable organizations of their preference with the firm matching up to $50 of client and employee contributions made.”

The Best Firms aren’t just donating sweat and money, though – they’re also giving their expertise. In Long Beach, Calif., Windes contributes financially to more than 70 charities, but its staff and partners sit on the board of more than 100, bringing professional knowledge to organizations that definitely need it.

And in Las Vegas, Houldsworth, Russo & Co. supports nonprofits with free monthly educational seminars on relevant topics presented by firm staff and invited experts.

For more ways to create a top workplace, see 20 Days: Building a Better Firm.

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