Vanguard Shifts From Giveaways to Charitable Giving During Career Fairs

August 8, 2022 | By Kevin Gray


TAGS: best practices, branding and marketing, nace insights, talent acquisition,

Several years ago, Vanguard did away with giving out swag at career fairs. Instead, as part of the sign-in process at its table, Vanguard allows students the option to choose between three charitable organizations for the company to make a donation to on the student’s behalf.

“Career swag was effective from a branding standpoint, but ineffective in differentiating Vanguard from other companies,” explains Fedora Hunsaker, a specialist in Vanguard’s emerging talent and diversity recruiting strategy team.

“We found many companies offered the same promotional items, so for us to be unique, we wanted to connect with students in a more meaningful, impactful, and memorable way.”

Prior to the change, some items Vanguard gave away at career fairs included pens, water bottles, sunglasses, mini lint brushes, USB battery chargers, Pop Sockets, and more.

However, Vanguard revisited its career fair giveaway strategy to control inventory management and align its interactions with its mission of community stewardship.

“We found that many career swag items became outdated, were no longer useful to students, and did not align with our process of eliminating waste,” Hunsaker explains.

“Donating to charity instead of managing inventory allowed us to better measure our business performance and eliminate problems associated with inventory management.”

In addition, Hunsaker adds, giving students an option to donate to a charity at career fairs has allowed Vanguard to create memorable, impactful experiences.

“We pursue charitable donations based on the interests of students, focusing on their passion for sustainability and giving back,” she says.

“This new practice allows us to engage in meaningful conversations with students by providing an entry point to focus on Vanguard’s core values and mission. As a Vanguard ambassador at career events, empowering charitable giving opportunities paves the way for emotional connections and higher levels of conversation; students further understand that Vanguard cares about our people, our communities, and our environment.”

In exchange for forgoing a promotional item during career fairs, Vanguard gives students the option to donate to a charity of the candidate’s choosing. This is managed on the firm’s talent acquisition platform via a link shared with candidates when they sign into Vanguard’s booth or via a link for virtual career fair events.

Candidates can select from one of the three charitable organizations, which currently are:

  • National Park Foundation;
  • Meals on Wheels America; and
  • Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

“These organizations were selected in partnership with Vanguard Charitable, as they cover a variety of causes and are reputable, national organizations,” Hunsaker says.

“The charity is the same for each fair or event, and a set amount is disclosed per sign-in, which then is directly donated to the national organization on behalf of the students.”

She says the students’ reception to this change has been positive as it is both a memorable experience for students and further highlights Vanguard’s spirit of caring.

“Donating to a charity creates a platform to speak about our values and company culture, and it helps students align their values and interests with us as a potential employer,” Hunsaker says.

“At Vanguard, we care about doing the right thing by seeking to serve the greater good, whether it is through volunteerism, serving our communities, or focusing on sustainability. Instead of giving a tangible item that may end up lost among other items a student receives at career events or eventually as a throw-away item in a landfill, donating to charity aligns with our commitment to minimizing our environmental impact and reducing our carbon footprint.

“It offers a glimpse into our strong corporate culture of being connected to our belief in integrity, focus, and stewardship.”

Hunsaker suggests that organizations that want to change their approach to career fair swag in a manner similar to Vanguard’s think about what sets them apart from other organizations in their industry.

“What are positive, meaningful changes you can make that will make a broader impact long-term for attracting students to your company?” she prompts.

“Think of ways you want to draw their attention to your company values and mission, and importantly, get creative. We can all do the right thing as a society. Despite the change of removing tangible swag, students welcome the opportunity to give back, and it allows us to differentiate our offer of being a community-focused employer.

“Additionally, it allows us to give back to our communities through students and be more inclusive in a virtual environment while tackling those inventory issues.”