Tampa Bay's Smith & Associates Foundation: a model to follow for corporate giving

At Tampa Bay brokerage firm Smith & Associates Real Estate, charitable giving and community involvement are embedded in the company culture.

Smith & Associates, their employees and brokers do volunteer charity work, serve as board members for local nonprofit groups and community organizations and donate financially to support those causes. 

In 2020, the company established the Smith & Associates Real Estate Foundation as a more efficient and streamlined tool to guide its charitable donations and maximize their impact. Smith & Associates also established a competitive grant-giving program through the Community Foundation Tampa Bay to utilize that philanthropic organization’s resources and expertise in vetting nonprofit organizations and their grant applications and tracking the use of grant funds. For other companies looking to formalize and enhance their charitable giving efforts, Smith & Associates’ corporate foundation approach offers a model to follow.

One element of a giving program

Miles Williams, volunteer chief operating officer of the Smith & Associates Foundation, says giving time, talent and treasure to the community are cornerstone values of the company. Miles Williams volunteers as chief operating officer of the Smith & Associates FoundationThe Smith & Associates Foundation website says the impact to date of that overall giving program includes  $1.5 million in contributions, more than 30,000 volunteer hours of time and talent and assistance to more than 125 nonprofit partner organizations.

“Smith has a strong culture of engaging with the community,” says Williams, husband of Smith & Associates President and CEO Robert Glaser. “The Foundation is one way to further that. It’s a more formal structure to engage with organizations through either a one-off or a multi-year arrangement so that we can maximize the opportunity and impact we can have. Because having the support of an established foundation increases the broader community’s awareness of these organizations and the work they’re doing. Also, it’s a very tangible example of our culture. It’s been a great tool to use for attracting talent to the organization and retaining talent. We get feedback on that quite a lot.”

Working with Community Foundation Tampa Bay

With an established track record of community philanthropy through donations and volunteerism, Smith & Associates wanted to get more strategic with their charitable giving, says Community Foundation Tampa Bay Senior Director, Philanthropy Denyve Boyle. Establishing a charitable foundation that worked through the Community Foundation brought in the expertise and experience to see through the plan, she says.

“There are so many companies these days who are trying to find the right way to give back and not every company has the ability to have their own corporate responsibility office,” Boyle says. “Your large companies like your Duke Energy or TECO, those types of companies have a team of people who can help them with corporate responsibility. Community Foundation Tampa Bay Senior Director, Philanthropy Denyve Boyle.But our day-to-day entrepreneurs in Tampa Bay and our companies that are growing, even multigenerational companies, that hasn’t been part of their practice. So what we're trying to do is educate them on those practices.”

The Community Foundation Tampa Bay worked with Smith & Associates leadership on a value-based activity to outline their personal values, company values and areas of interest. Boyle says they then overlapped them in a Venn diagram to come up with a philanthropic mission statement and established three pillars of a giving system: housing, community vibrancy and positive education/mental well-being.

A win-win

After putting $100,000 into a fund for nonprofits in its first year, Smith & Associates increased funding to $150,000 and launched a competitive grant process through the Community Foundation Tampa Bay that focused on the company’s values and giving pillars. 

“If you are giving that way, it puts it all underneath one house,” Williams says. “It’s easier to track because everything is going through the Community Foundation itself. They provide the infrastructure for us to run the competitive grant process. They also award the grants. We make a recommendation and they do the vetting to make sure the organizations are indeed registered nonprofits and that they have all their ducks in a row so they can receive this money. They also ensure, which is really beneficial for us, that those organizations report back. So there is a report that comes back to make sure that the money that was rewarded was used in the way it was intended and that there was a benefit coming back to the organization and their intended audience.”

Williams says in the first year of the competitive grant process, 90 applications came in and 28 organizations received grants.

“These organizations that receive the grants are now registered with the Community Foundation,” he says. “So the Foundation can make them aware of other funding opportunities they may qualify for. So it opens up a broader universe of opportunity for engagement on our side and for funding on their side. It’s a win-win for Smith and the nonprofits.”

Separate from the competitive grant process, the Smith & Associates Foundation also provided funding to the Arts Conservatory for Teens, the Tampa Arts Alliance and The Studio@620 through multi-year agreements.

“The thought behind those was there was an opportunity to give seed money to get those organizations up and running and maintain our engagement to help stand them up,” Williams says. “It also shows their value to the community and their support from the community so those groups could reach out and gain additional support from other organizations.”

Arts Conservatory for Teens CEO and co-founder Alex Harris says the support from Smith & Associates has been vital for the nonprofit, which works to improve the lives - and career prospects- of teens by providing arts education to underserved school systems and communities.

 Arts Conservatory for Teens CEO and co-founder Alex Harris.“Because their brand is very well-respected in the private sector, to have the support of their foundation is a very clear signal to the private sector that helps attract more support,” Harris says. 

Benefits of a foundation

Boyle says the establishment of a foundation has multiple benefits for a corporation. It simplifies the tax process for one. The company receives a tax deduction and a single tax receipt once it contributes money to its foundation, instead of separate deductions and receipts for each nonprofit organization that receives funding. The foundation approach also allows a company to make a large contribution to its foundation, and receive a deduction for it, in a year when profits are strong. That money can then be awarded out to nonprofits over a span of years. 

Working through a philanthropic organization like the Community Foundation Tampa Bay also allows for a customized giving program and makes it easy to track contributions.

“It is highly customizable for the organization,” Boyle says. “Even if organizations know exactly where they want to give, we still give them a solution that helps streamline their giving to be able to keep all their records in one place. With our software, it’s easy to track specific areas of donation, education, human services and different types of giving, over a given time period. They’re also able to say no graciously and yes with the confidence that their dollars are being strategic. For example, somebody could say, ‘Come and sponsor my Little League team.’ Well, youth athletics may not be one of their pillars. They can rely on those pillars or that philanthropic mission statement to say these are the company’s values, or these are the company’s areas of giving. They can say no graciously.”

Williams says corporations, individuals and families should consider a foundation model to structure their giving for the long term.

“I would encourage anyone new to this to think about how they already engage in the community at a corporate level or an individual level and look for ways to optimize or maximize that,” he says. “If they have the interest to look at a formal way to structure giving to improve the impact they have moving forward, that’s the foundation approach. If you have a long-term view of giving and engagement, a foundation is the way to go if you have the opportunity.”

For more information go to Smith & Associates Foundation and Community Foundation Tampa Bay
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Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry has been a writer for the 83 Degrees Media team since 2017. Chris also served as the development editor for a time before assuming the role of managing editor in May 2022. Chris lives in Clearwater. His professional career includes more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys the local music scene, the warm winters and Tampa Bay's abundance of outdoor festivals and events. When he's not working or spending time with family, he can frequently be found hoofing the trails at one of Pinellas County's nature parks.