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Erin Shakespeare of the Macquarie Group Foundation: Employee-driven corporate philanthropy

Erin Shakespeare, Macquarie Group Foundation: Employee-driven corporate philanthrophy

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The Companies that Care podcast highlights companies and business leaders who are making a difference in the world, like Acting Global Head of the Macquarie Group Foundation Erin Shakespeare.

Erin leads a team that directs Macquarie’s efforts on philanthropic grantmaking and employee volunteering, working closely with the company’s people around the world.
Macquarie employees volunteering in their community
Macquarie employees volunteering in their community

Macquarie Group is an Australian-headquartered multinational financial services company, operating in 32 markets. Their company purpose is “empowering people to innovate and invest for a better future,” a purpose not written by senior management but formulated by listening to employees all over the world.

I knew Macquarie had a foundation because my sister-in-law Shemara Wikramanayake has worked there for 34 years and is now the CEO and managing director. Until I interviewed Erin, however, I had no idea of the incredible scope and depth of Macquarie’s employee-driven philanthropic investments and social impact in their communities.

The foundation provides support to hundreds of community organizations around the world each year through financial support, volunteering, and skills sharing. A serious commitment to philanthropy has been part of the company culture since it was founded in 1969.

The company’s community advisory committees in many local offices around the world consist of staff who plan how to give back and volunteer in their communities. Giving back is part of the company ethos, and that’s reflected in the new employee-driven purpose statement.

Erin shared how she got into corporate philanthropy and the history of Macquarie’s staff-led philanthropy. The company has a generous matching program, providing each employee up to $A50,000 per year in matching donations for any fundraising they do. Over 200 of their employees serve on nonprofit boards, and they also provide other types of pro bono consulting to nonprofit organizations.

Child receiving treatment at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute World Scabies Program
World Scabies Program

Last year was a huge year for the foundation, reaching a total of $A64 million in contributions to community organizations around the world. In 2020, the foundation arranged a COVID-19 fund of $A20 million to support immediate relief and economic recovery.

To acknowledge the company’s 50th anniversary in 2019, Macquarie established an $A50 million fund awarding $A10 million grants to five organizations around the world.

Erin explained which nonprofits they chose to fund (Social Finance US, Last Mile Health, World Mosquito Project, Murdoch Children's Research Institute World Scabies Program, and the Ocean Cleanup) and the impact of those investments.

In 2020 Macquarie also created its first racial equity fund, bringing together a working group of staff across their business to discuss where they could make a difference toward racial equity solutions.

They’ve made grants in four big markets in the United States: Jacksonville, Houston, Philadelphia, and New York City, based on where Macquarie staff live and work. Although the dollars are important, just as critical is finding ways to engage their staff through pro bono skill sharing or educating themselves on these issues.

Employees in masks volunteering
Macquarie Group Foundation website
I’m impressed with the way Macquarie empowers its employees to invest in their communities, backed by the foundation’s support.

Knowing your company gives away this much money each year and each person can have a say in where the money is spent must be so gratifying for Macquarie staff.

“Every day I wake up and I'm just so grateful I have this job,” said Erin. “I really feel incredibly lucky to do this impactful work and to do this work at Macquarie.”

Two masked women cleaning up litter at a street corner
Macquarie Group Foundation Website

Next week on the Finding Fertile Ground podcast I interview Terri Kozlowski, who is a proud Native American warrior from the Athabascan; Tlinglet Tribe - Raven Clan. She has journeyed through the pain of child sexual abuse and utter fear of life after her mother abandoned her at the age of 11 on the streets of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

On both of my podcasts I strive to highlight voices from historically excluded populations, especially people of color, women, people who are LGBTQIA, non-Christian, and immigrants, people who don't always get a platform.

The Companies That Care podcast is brought to you by Fertile Ground Communications. If you enjoyed this podcast, please give us a rating and subscribe to hear our next episode.

Contact us if you can use some help with your writing, editing, communications, or marketing. With 30 years of experience in the environmental consulting industry, I am passionate about sustainability and corporate citizenship, equity & inclusion, businesses that use their power for good, and doing everything I can to create a kinder, more sustainable, and just world. We help organizations and people discover what makes them special and help them share that with the world.

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