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How to Ask Your Employer to Give Back

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- For people with a big heart, it's only natural that your desire to give would extend to the office. Many companies offer matching charitable gifts for employees who volunteer with a nonprofit, while others frequently coordinate group events for giving back, such as food bank donations or building homes with Habitat for Humanity.

But what should you do if you want your company to make a substantial donation to the charity of your choice? There's no one-size-fits-all policy when it comes to corporate giving, so asking for a philanthropic gift can be tricky. Experts weigh in on the best, most professional ways here to ask for corporate support for your favorite charity.

The first step is to learn what your company does for philanthropy.

"It's very easy to find out, but it's not always where employees begin," says Rachel Hutchisson, director of corporate citizenship and philanthropy at Blackbaud and lead blogger for 

"Often people are so passionate about their cause that they just say, 'This is something good, we should do it,' but they haven't done the necessary advance research. If your company already supports your charity or another similar charity, then asking them for more will just make you look uninformed."

Don't be afraid to talk to the boss.

"If your company doesn't have an identified volunteer or community development leader, I would suggest approaching your CEO," says Ruth Dufresne, employee health and wellness manager and manager of community development for staffing firm WinterWyman.

Community service is a powerful way to build employee engagement, and a successful program needs senior management support, Dufresne says. Good managers also realize that having a vibrant philanthropic effort is an excellent differentiator when hiring employees and a great retention tool for current employees.

"I would start the discussion with my boss and let them suggest the next steps," says Angelo Kinicki, professor of management at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. "If you can't convince your boss about the value of giving back, you probably won't succeed with upper management."

In a small firm, you might be able to go straight to the top to present your proposal for charitable involvement, says Chad Tragakis, chief talent officer for H+K. But in a large firm, it's good practice to follow the normal chain of command.

"In our case, go to your supervisor. Discuss your idea and get buy-in -- you'll gain a natural advocate for your plan in the process. Next is your practice lead, and then, if necessary, the general manager or senior leadership team."

Make sure you convey how the company will benefit.