Innovative Benefit Planning: Creating a Culture of Giving Back

Creating a Culture of Giving Back

On the surface, employee benefits look like retirement plans, workplace wellness programs, healthcare plans or employee engagement. But at its heart, it’s about giving people the support and resources they need to live their best lives. For Moorestown’s Innovative Benefit Planning, that goes far beyond support for employees alone.

“Providing benefits is about making a difference in someone’s life,” says Innovative Benefits Planning CEO Terriann Procida. “We have very passionate employees providing that for our clients, but what really makes our business – and ourselves – better is taking that connection and dedication to give back in a different way, on a larger scale.”

Innovative helps businesses understand, navigate and take full advantage of their employee benefits, freeing up HR departments to support their employees even more. Helping people in their jobs is the core of what they do, so it was only natural to extend to helping South Jersey communities as well.

The company casts a wide net that allows Innovative to get involved with organizations that support South Jersey residents, everything from chairing the Samaritan Gala to organizing a backpack drive for Oaks Integrated Care to working with teens at Camden’s HopeWorks.

“Our efforts fall into 3 different branches,” says Procida. “One: We donate our time by doing things like chairing committees for nonprofits or organizing donation drives. The second arm comes from our Culture Committee, which puts together volunteer opportunities like park cleanups. Then, we let employees determine what they’re passionate about and give them the time and resources they need to pursue that.”

The company’s volunteer time off policy allows employees to volunteer during office hours. In the office, the staff organizes events and challenges like an office Cook-Off to raise money – and the winner gets to decide where that money goes. It’s part of the company culture, Procida says, and it’s grown every year. When Innovative celebrated 30 years in business, the team decided to do 30 giveback projects – and ended up far exceeding that number.

Procida is no stranger to nonprofits in South Jersey. Today, she is a volunteer and donor. But as a kid, it was as a member of the community in need of help.

“When I was young, I was the beneficiary of so many nonprofits that supported my family,” Procida. “My sister had Down syndrome, and we couldn’t afford the specialized care she needed, so we relied on many nonprofits to help.”

So when Procida started her business more than 3 decades ago, she was naturally drawn to nonprofits that care for vulnerable community members. “I wanted to support them,” Procida says, “because I knew firsthand how important it is.”

Deciding what nonprofit to partner with is a team effort, says Jamie Bratton, VP of marketing and engagement, and Culture Committee chair.

“We make a conscious effort to make sure our giving is not just leadership-driven, it’s also employee-driven,” Bratton says. “Nobody wants to feel like they go to work every day and do a job that doesn’t matter. We want to make a difference.”

“They’re always coming to us and saying, ‘You know, my church has a family in need, can we help? There’s an issue in my community, can we contribute to fix it?’ We’ve been introduced to things that we would never think of, and I think it makes all of us better citizens,” says Procida.

Alongside Innovative’s longstanding partnerships, the company is quick to help out when an unexpected crisis occurs. That ability to pivot came in handy during the pandemic.

“When Covid hit, instead of putting a pause on our giving, we ramped it up,” says Bratton. “We couldn’t just stop, so we changed course to focus on supporting essential workers.”

Innovative got to work obtaining PPE for Virtua and Cooper, assembling “baskets of cheer” to boost morale of ER staff and collecting donations for local food banks struggling to keep up with the community demand.

“There was so much need, and we worked to contribute in every way we could, especially for vulnerable communities,” says Procida.

Mental health also became a top priority for the company.

“Isolation became a huge challenge,” says Procida. “Internally, we offered even more support to our clients, and externally we got more involved supporting issues like substance abuse and mental health. It’s something many people didn’t want to talk about. My family has been touched by these issues, and more and more, I realize that there probably aren’t many families that haven’t been affected.”

“Having a successful business doesn’t seem rewarding if we’re not able to give back and make people’s lives better.”

Last year, instead of sending out client gifts during the holidays, Innovative donated to the Mental Health Institute in each client’s name. And while the company has worked with many different organizations, some causes have stuck with them, says Procida.

“One night, I got a text from someone I work with whose mom was sick,” she says. “‘My mom went into hospice, and when I saw your name on the door at Samaritan, I just knew she was in the right place.’ It was very emotional. I felt like, ‘Wow, we were able to be there for this person when they needed it, to make them feel comforted.’ That was so moving for me.”

Innovative’s employees are passionate about what they do, and they want to extend that passion toward something more significant than the company itself.

“When we’re successful, we want to make sure we’re sharing that with the community and bringing them with us,” says Procida. “Having a successful business doesn’t seem rewarding if we’re not able to give back and make people’s lives better.”