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Philanthropy and Analytical Science


Look deep within ourselves and we all discover a love of humanity: a desire to care for, nourish, develop and enhance the lives of less fortunate fellow human beings. For people like analytical scientists, much of whose time and attention is taken up by work, the philanthropic programs of employers and key suppliers can form an important element of how we fulfill this philanthropic urge.

Corporate philanthropy can be defined as the donation of profits and resources to nonprofit organizations. There are two main approaches: cash donations, which often take the form of companies matching personal gifts by staff members; and the provision of facilities and/or volunteer time. The latter may take advantage of the competencies of the company – for example, an organization that employs a lot of scientists could become involved in science education – this called “strategic philanthropy.” Alternatively, the contribution may be purely humanitarian – responding to a natural disaster, for example.

Many of the leading companies in analytical science have considerable financial clout and other resources that allow them to engage in strategic philanthropy, which addresses problems at their core. Here, we describe the philanthropic programs of a selection of them: Agilent Technologies, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Waters Corporation; thanks to Cynthia Johnson, Taryn Corbino and Jeff Tarmy, respectively. The article “Setting a Good Example,” profiles the charitable and philanthropic work of Phenomenex, as described by CEO Fasha Mahjoor.

What is your philanthropic strategy?

Agilent: It is focused on scientific education, but covers other areas, such as health and the environment. One-third of the employees lend their talent and time to charities, while being paid up to four hours per month.

Thermo: Helping build stronger communities through hands-on service programs and charitable contributions that align with our mission and engage our employees by being involved and making a difference.

Waters: Our charitable giving is primarily focused on supporting organizations dedicated to science, education and health care. We are also actively involved in supporting local organizations dedicated to strengthening our communities in the arts, health and human services, recreation, education and the environment.

Why do companies give?

Thermo: The charter of our philanthropic program is to promote science education by supporting initiatives that inspire students to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Waters: To improve the quality of life in the communities in which we work and live. This is mostly done through financial support to selected non-profit organizations operating within those communities.

Agilent: It is part of our culture and the way we do business around the world to help make our communities better. Employees want and expect to be part of giving back.

Is it just about “doing good” or is there self-interest on the company’s part too?

Agilent: It is both. There is definitely a self-interest, driven by our employees’ interest and our desire to harness our own expertise to make communities where we live and work better, healthier places to live.

Thermo: We consider it to be an investment in the future of science – we rely on individuals who are passionate about science both as our future employees and customers. It’s a logical fit.

Who decides on strategy?

Waters: Our Charitable Giving strategy is set by Waters Corporation‘ Executive Committee led by our CEO.

Agilent: CEO and top executives, led by VP of Corporate Relations set strategy. Individual communities have employee panels that decide on the local activities/support. Our programs are active in about 40 countries.

Thermo: The strategy is defined by our CEO with the support and guidance of our SVP of Corporate Development and Strategy, our VP of Corporate Communications, and our SVP of Human Resources.

Do you offer company products and services as part of your philanthropic mission?

Thermo: We receive requests for in-kind donations from many different areas of the business. Typically, these donations are facilitated through our Community Action Councils, which oversee local giving and involvement. In addition to providing financial and in-kind donations, these employee-led councils provide our employees with hands-on volunteer opportunities in their local communities. These can range from support of a community science day to donation of instruments for an academic laboratory.

Agilent: Yes, for universities. We donate to universities based on invited proposals, and separately, we match employees’ personal donations of cash and equipment up to $20k list price of equipment per employee, per institution per year.

Do you partner in giving with employees?

Waters: Yes. Our employees are encouraged to contribute individually through our Matching Gift Program, which matches employee contributions to qualified non-profit organizations.

How do you measure the impact/value of your projects?

Agilent:Major projects have regular milestone meetings in collaboration with recipients. For smaller, local grants, we rely on employee volunteers to provide feedback and support.

Thermo: We are continually monitoring the impact we have on our local communities. From improved test scores to college preparedness, we ensure our volunteer work and financial contributions are supporting students, teachers and educational institutions with the greatest need.

Describe one project that was particularly successful.

Agilent: In China, after the Sichuan earthquake several years ago, Agilent adopted and re-built a school that was destroyed. Our employees have traveled to the school every holiday and provided equipment, and have led the students in innovative programs.

Thermo: We participated in the Massachusetts Math & Science Initiative (MMSI), a $30 million initiative organized jointly by Mass Insight Education and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to help close the achievement gap for underserved students. Our $1 Million contribution is having a measureable impact on STEM education: MMSI has grown from enrolling less than 5,000 students in 2008 to nearly 11,000 in 2012.

Waters: In 2006, Waters Corporation received the Circle of Humanitarians Award from the American Red Cross for our corporate contribution and employee engagement efforts in support of a Hurricane Katrina disaster relief fund.

What has been the response of employees?

Thermo: The feedback has been positive. Our employees share a sense of pride that the company they work for is giving back in a sustainable manner.

Agilent: Employees are highly supportive and many tell us it is one of the reasons they want to work at Agilent.

The companies approached for this article clearly have well thought-out and executed philanthropic strategies. What do you think? Are we/they doing enough? Do you have a personal philanthropy experience and, if so, did your passion and talent translate into positive results? Do you have suggestions for increasing the impact of analytical scientists on education and other areas of philanthropy? Is there someone you know who sets a great example to the community? Let us know!

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About the Author
Richard Gallagher

Richard Gallagher is no stranger to quality, style or credibility. With Science, Nature and The Scientist all under his editorial belt, Richard teamed up with two good friends to form Texere Publishing, a new company with a great deal of know-how. Richard's also no stranger to contention: "You've constantly got to have an eye out for an editorial subject that will really stir the pot. We're aiming to be always relevant, but never predictable. About The Analytical Scientist, he says, Our vision is to capture commitment and success in analytical science in very particular way: by telling stories. Getting it right is an enormous, exciting challenge. Like so many professionals in the analytical sciences, we'll be thinking it, dreaming it and living it every day.

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