Posts Tagged ‘corporate social responsibility’

Leveraging good will from your board

In light of our current Page to Practice feature, The Search for Social Entrepreneurship and its exploration of nonprofits activities as they relate to business practices, we thought it would be a great opportunity to revisit our interview with Alice Korngold, author of Leveraging Good Will.

Korngold is a national consultant who has worked with hundreds of businesses and nonprofit organizations. She is the former chief founding executive, president and CEO of Business Volunteers Unlimited (BVU), a national program that trains and places business professionals and executives on nonprofit boards of directors.

CausePlanet: As nonprofit leaders and board members, our readers know it’s important for businesses to partner with nonprofits and vice versa—how would you build on this case for support?

Korngold: The first step for a business is to create a philanthropy, service, and leadership strategy that aligns with their corporate mission and strategy; then, choose nonprofits that will be good partners as follows:

Companies can communicate key messages about their company and its brand by the nonprofits and causes it chooses to invest in (like a publishing company funding literacy, for example).
By involving employees in volunteerism, companies build teamwork and show support for their employees, while also improving the community.
By encouraging and supporting the involvement of executives on nonprofit boards, companies foster leadership development.

In all these ways, companies improve the communities where their employees and customers live and work, and build good will.

Nonprofits benefit by engaging businesses by:

Accessing individuals with valuable expertise for their boards of directors and in providing useful pro-bono management consulting assistance; and
Accessing financial resources through sponsorships, contributions, and donated services (free printing, for example).

Most importantly, the community benefits when experienced businesspeople are involved in advancing nonprofits that provide vital health and human services, education, arts and culture, and environmental protection and conservation.

CausePlanet: In what ways can business executives be most helpful to nonprofits?

Business executives can be most helpful to nonprofits by lending valuable business expertise. Given that nonprofits must be more strategic in addressing new and greater financial challenges, businesspeople bring useful skills in market assessment, strategic decision making, organizational development, revenue models, public relations and advocacy, finance and investments, information technology, and measurement.

It is especially important for business executives who join boards to engage with the board in envisioning the organization’s greater potential; articulating the case for the organization and its compelling value; keeping the organization focused where it can have the greatest impact in achieving its mission in serving the community; helping to ensure there is a viable revenue model and maximize resources; helping to generate new and additional sources of revenue; and helping the organization to achieve more on behalf of the community.

Korngold: Can nonprofit executives also be helpful to businesses? How?

Yes! Nonprofit executives are highly knowledgeable about their communities. They usually have a breadth and depth of knowledge of the community, its needs, key issues, the pros and cons of various solutions to core issues. They also keep close track of the key players and who is effective for what purpose. Many of them know how to get things done in the community.

CausePlanet: What’s the best way nonprofit leaders can differentiate themselves from other nonprofit opportunities that are presented to a corporation?

Korngold: A nonprofit can distinguish itself in making its case to a corporation for support by researching the company, its mission, challenges, and key strategic goals, and then offering ways for the nonprofit to be valuable as a partner. That is, what positive message will the business get to align with? How can employees engage in productive and rewarding volunteer experiences that meet the nonprofit clients’ needs and also meet employees’ realistic schedules and interests? How can executives support the nonprofit through board service and/or management assistance (contributing expertise in marketing, public relations, human resources, and so on)? If the company makes a significant donation, how will the company be recognized in a way that will resonate in the community? Best of all, can this all be packaged in a nice, cohesive program—under a theme, a partnership concept, something inspiring and wonderful? And even better, can the nonprofit tell the company how this will make the community better, i.e. how many more children will advance from elementary school to middle school because of this company’s involvement, or how many children will learn to read, or how many babies will be rescued and sheltered in the next year because of the company partnership? Results! Outcomes! Making the world a better place!

Read the full summary of Leveraging Good Will by subscribing to Page to Practice™ book summaries. Or, purchase this or one of our other Page to Practice™ executive summaries by visiting the CausePlanet summary store.

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Making CSR good for the nonprofit sector

Kellie McElhaney is on a mission to transform the way corporations do business. As the founding director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Responsible Business, an adjunct professor at the Haas School of Business, a corporate consultant and a sought-after speaker, McElhaney has a highly-visible platform from which to make her case. In her recent book, Just Good Business: The Strategic Guide to Aligning Corporate Responsibility with Brand, McElhaney presents a compelling argument for why businesses should integrate corporate social responsibility (CSR) into their core business strategies. She outlines the features of successful CSR strategies and provides real-world examples of best and worst practices.

While the book a quick and entertaining read is intended for business executives, nonprofit leaders can learn a lot from its insights.

CSR is a growing field. Consumers are demanding that companies become more responsible. Research confirms what we all intuitively know: Employees are more loyal, productive and satisfied when the companies they work for are ethical and give back to their communities. And, studies show that CSR is good for the bottom line.

However, many companies’ CSR strategies fall short. McElhaney points out that nonprofits have what corporations need to make their CSR strategies successful. Nonprofits have the trust of community members and constituents, credibility, knowledge of social issues and how to address them, and a proven track record for making a difference. Unfortunately, nonprofits typically just ask for money from corporations instead of leveraging their strengths in forming CSR partnerships. As McElhaney stresses repeatedly, “This is a major missed opportunity for nonprofits.”

This is a clear call to action for nonprofit leaders to position their organizations to reap the rewards of CSR initiatives.

Nonprofit leaders should meet this challenge head on and not let preconceived notions of the corporate sector hold them back from pursuing strategic partnerships. Sure, not all businesses are “good guys,” but nonprofits should avoid falling into the trap of a knee-jerk dismissal of these opportunities on “principle.” They should not let themselves be type-cast as the type of NGOs that McElhaney describes as those “for whom being cynical is easy” or, worse yet, “whiney.”

Instead, read the book to better understand what businesses are seeking in these partnerships. Then, figure out whether a CSR partnership is right for your nonprofit and, if so, what you want to get out of it (in addition to financial support). Consider the strengths that your nonprofit brings to the table and develop a set of criteria to use in finding and shaping a partnership that will support you in achieving your strategic objectives and furthering your mission.

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For-profit company makes its mark in social movement

 

OK, so TOMS Shoes isn’t technically a nonprofit – and this blog is about the nonprofit sector – but it’s hard to resist talking about a company that runs itself like a social movement. The premise of TOMS – after the concept of “shoes for tom-orrow” – is simple: For every pair of shoes you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of shoes to a child in need. To quote the company’s Web site, TOMS is “using the purchasing power of individuals to benefit the greater good.” If I have to make a connection to the nonprofit sector, TOMS would be a prime example of corporate philanthropy – or what one of our contributors talks about when she discusses the “Triple Bottom Line” – addressing social, environmental and economic objectives.

We’re seeing this more and more: entrepreneurs who want to make a difference in the world. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is one of the more well-known social enterprises. Their ice cream company donates 7.5 percent of pre-tax profits to nonprofits, uses environmentally-sensitive packaging products, and supports “employee-led community action teams.”

TOMS is still new. But, since its inception in 2006 when Blake Mycoskie, a young American traveler who decided to help Argentinean children with no shoes to protect their feet, the company has given over 140,000 pairs of shoes to children in need through the One for One model. In 2009, TOMS plans to give over 300,000 pairs of shoes to children around the world.

What struck me most when I read about Mycoskie and his company was this quote by clothing designer John Whitledge: “Blake ends up doing all the things everyone else just talks about. He just goes for it and learns along the way.” While most of us long to make a difference and struggle with how best to allocate our resources – be it our time or money – Mycoskie just does. He quickly found out about podoconiosis, a form of elephantiasis believed to be caused by walking barefoot in silica-rich soil. And, as Mycoskie said in The Denver Post, “It’s literally shoes, not medicine, that cure it. The idea is to hyper-focus on this one area, then take what we do there to someone like Bill Gates, who could eradicate this disease worldwide” (April 23, 2009). (That’s the Bill Gates, the epitome of social entrepreneurialism.)

Mycoskie and his company are inspiring, and he and people like him are the wave of the future. With more Mycoskies and Gates’ in the world, maybe our societal problems will get solved.

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Partnerships between corporations and nonprofits are crucial for earth’s future

 

It was encouraging to read The Necessary Revolution for this month’s Page to Practice™. It’s easy to focus on who’s not doing their part to help combat global climate change – and, by doing so, shift the blame for the crisis – so, it was heartening to read that, in fact, many big companies – including Coke and DuPont, just to name two – are taking the lead in global sustainability efforts.

Coke, for example, has partnered with WWF, the largest multinational conservation organization in the world, to conserve water resources and replace the water used to produce its drinks. And DuPont was ranked number one in the United States and number two globally by Ceres, a well-respected environmental watchdog, for meeting the business challenges associated with climate change.

What the authors of Necessary Revolution stress, however, is that even if a business such as DuPont wants to commit to sustainable practices, partnerships with nonprofits are essential to make any real progress. Coke couldn’t do it alone; it needed WWF’s expertise to help it better understand water conservation and how water affects whole systems, particularly within the communities where Coke operates. Dupont reached out to Greenpeace, which had spent decades attacking the company.

Companies are starting to realize that they must partner with nonprofits when developing any business strategy that involves sustainability. No one entity – not even a global nonprofit such as WWF – can address sustainability issues alone. Companies can offer market clout and financial resources; nonprofits can offer their credibility, knowledge of the larger system, and their ability to bring the right people to the table; and governments have regulatory power. All are needed to make any real progress.

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