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Context-Focused Giving, Part 1

Business & Communities Philanthropic Partners

Context-focused giving is a method through which corporate philanthropy and strategy are combined to achieve both social and economic gains. The basic idea behind context-focused giving is giving that benefits the environment in which a company operates and, thus, that company's competitive advantage. More specifically, context-focused giving considers the contextual conditions most important to a company’s strategies and industry, and targets their philanthropy toward improving one of these contexts so that the community and the company both reap rewards from the efforts. When companies are able to clearly identify how their philanthropic initiatives are not only creating good for society, but also for the company, charitable expenditures will not suffer from lack of justification in terms of bottom-line benefit.

In their Harvard Business Review publication, "The Competitive Advantage of Corporate Philanthropy," Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer dispel the "myth of strategic philanthropy" in cause-related marketing efforts. Cause-related marketing, or corporate giving campaigns that often include a vague link between a corporation and a non-profit campaign, are largely intended to benefit the corporation's public image, acting as forms of publicity and marketing to generate goodwill. They argue that most corporate giving programs lack any solid connection to a company's strategy, and that "the acid test of good corporate philanthropy is whether the desired social change is so beneficial to the company that the organization would pursue the change even if no one ever knew about it" (Porter and Kramer 8).

Context-focused giving involves careful research and analysis as to how Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives dually create social benefits and benefits to one or more areas of their competitive context: factor conditions, demand conditions, context for strategy and rivalry, and related and supporting industries. Company's can engage in successful context-focused giving by identifying contextual conditions most important to their strategy and the health of their industry, and developing a giving program that improves the nature of this context, creating social and economic benefits. Just as individuals are impacted and shaped by their environment, the same is true for corporations. Context-focused giving provides an avenue for which to benefit both the individual and the company.

Factor Conditions refers to the size, quality and nature of the specialized inputs necessary for a company to operate. This includes a company's capital resources, its physical, administrative, information, scientific and technological infrastructure, and the availability of adequately trained employees along with natural resources. DreamWorks SKG implemented a successful context-focused giving strategy geared toward improving education and training for low-income students in Los Angeles. Partnering with Los Angeles Community College District and local schools, DreamWorks created a multifaceted program that combined classroom learning, mentoring and internships to provide low-income students in the area with the knowledge and skills necessary to work in the entertainment industry. The program had the social benefit of improved education and better employment opportunities in the community (context), as well as the economic benefit of expanding DreamWorks' availability of specially trained workers. Even for the specially trained graduates who did not go on to work for DreamWorks and instead worked for other companies, including competitors, DreamWorks could still count on the benefit of their project in improving the entertainment industry as a whole. DreamWorks is a part of an entertainment cluster, or "a geographic concentration of interconnected companies, suppliers, related industries, and specialized institutions in a particular field..." (Porter and Kramer, 4).

Corporations may choose to focus on the context of demand conditions when developing corporate strategic philanthropy, or conditions related to the size of the local market, customer sophistication, and potential areas of growth and change in regard to customer demands and needs, both locally and globally. One area that corporations have targeted is improving the sophistication of customers, and thus their demand for more sophisticated products and services. Apple Computer has targeted customer sophistication as a part of a long-standing context-focused corporate giving program that provides schools with Apple products. This creates social benefit of improved education and access to learning products in low-income areas while also expanding Apple's customer base.

Stay tuned for part 2!

CSR-Minded Employees

Corporate Social Responsibility CSR People & Globe

Recruiting talented young employees is essential for a company's long term vitality. Young professionals are looking for an array of features in their employer, which increasingly includes a company's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices. A 2012 Net Impact Report asked students and professionals of a variety of ages to rate job attributes as essential, very important, somewhat important, or not at all important. While work-life balance, job security and good compensation were found to be some of the most essential qualities in a job, two-thirds of students also said that contributing to society and making the world a better place were very important job attributes. Perhaps more strikingly, 35% of students said they would take a 15% pay cut to work for a company committed to corporate and environmental responsibility. In order to work for an organization with values like one's own, 58% of students were willing to accept the pay cut. While enthusiasm for an "impactful" job was a little more muted among working professionals, the study still found that 59% of Millenials (age 21-32), 49% of Generation Xers (33-48), and 52% of Baby Boomers (49-65) said having a job with a positive impact was very important.

Other aspects of the Net Impact study highlighted the link between CSR and employee satisfaction. Forty-five percent of respondents who provided input on sustainability/corporate responsibility in their workplace said they were very satisfied with their jobs. This satisfaction might have been the result of internal motivations. For 58% of workers, the desire to work for a socially responsible company had to do with aligning corporate and personal values.

The appeal of working for a positively-impacting company was linked to a feeling of personal fulfillment.

In order to attract these CSR-minded employees, companies must cultivate their internal CSR image. Businesses in which employees at all levels are engaged in a dialogue about CSR tend to create this environment. By communicating CSR initiatives to potential recruits, companies can begin to differentiate their actions from the altruistic endeavors of their peers. If a business is to attract today's talented and CSR conscious workers, these actions are a must.

How to Host a Food Drive at Your Workplace

The Holiday Season is a great time to plan an event at your workplace geared toward giving back and can remind us to consider all of the privileges and comforts we enjoy, such as food to nourish our minds and bodies. Holding a food drive at your workplace is a great way to support your local food shelter and instill a culture of giving and philanthropy at work. Hosting a food drive is also a relatively easy task, and with a little planning it can be very successful.

The first step to planning a food drive is to select a food bank or food-rescue organization where you would like the collections to be donated. Once that has been decided, contact the organization to tell them about your plans and ask if they have any tips, suggestions or standard operating procedures for the process. Some food banks or food-rescue organizations will provide you with a helpful boost to running a drive, such as collection bin signs, help with food drop-off, or marketing/promotional materials and tips for getting the word out about your drive. Remember that both your organization and the food-bank/rescue organization have a stake in the success of the drive. They will be more than happy to contribute their knowledge and tools!

Most projects are aided by using a team approach; this also applies to running a food drive. Forming a team of individuals, or a committee, to plan and implement the drive can create a cohesive structure of leaders for this project, just like other projects your business may undertake. When you have a team together, you can brainstorm the best strategy for carrying out a food drive at your business. You will want to decide whether or not you wish to hold the drive on one day or several days. The benefit to holding your drive on more than one day is that if some employees forget to bring in their donations the first day, they will have other opportunities. A rule of thumb is to make sure that the drive does not go on for too long, for risk of people losing interest.

After you have chosen a date, decide on the specifics of where the drive, or collection bins, will be located. Good places to set up collection bins are locations that most, if not all, employees pass through or see on a daily basis so collection bins can also serve as reminders/promotional material during the drive. Some examples of a good collection site include the cafeteria, the reception desk, the H.R. office, or even outside of restrooms!

Just like your business uses strategy in advertising goods and services offered, it is important to advertise your drive. Sending out email blasts and posting flyers around the office in visible and frequented locations are two easy ways to get the word out about the upcoming food drive. Make sure that in your promotional material you include important information about the drive such as date(s), collection locations, what materials are being collected (food donations? cash donations? both?, etc.), what organization the collections will be supporting, and information on why food drives are important and how they benefit individuals and the community. Again, many food banks and food-rescue organizations provide promotional materials, often with customizable parts to adjust to fit your specific drive. They also provide information and examples of what type of food goods they collect. These details remove obstacles to giving, such as a lack of knowledge about what foodstuffs are acceptable to donate.

Not only should you decide on collection locations, but also the collection receptacles you would like to use. You can use boxes, bins or bags. Remember that size matters when the time comes time to drop off donations. Medium-sized boxes, bins or bags make for easier drop-off. They should be clearly labeled for visibility (your food-bank/rescue organization may also provide signs or printable PDFs for this). If you choose to hold your drive over several days, you will want to have a plan for what to do with the goods at the end of each day. One option is to designate a committee member or two to be responsible for the collected goods either to ensure the security of the donations or perform daily deliveries to your chosen food bank.

One of the last steps to organizing and carrying out a successful food drive is to drop off the donations! This process should be guided by instructions or tips from your chosen food bank or rescue organization. They will tell you when and where to drop off, or sometimes even offer to aid in the process of collections. Before dropping off donations, you will want to record some measure of how much food or cash was collected. Your food bank may have processes for determining this at the drop-off; make sure to ask if this is the case, as it will make the process easier. If not, you may want to get a rough estimate by counting how many boxes, bags or bins were collected in total. This concrete example of the result and success of your drive will be important for reporting and celebrating the work and donations of staff after the drive is over. Send out another email blast with the results to commend those who donated and re-instill an organizational culture of giving.

Food drives are being held all over the country; they have both a local and global impact and are easy to implement at your business. Just as the Holiday Season is a time for showing our gratitude toward friends and family through gifts, food and celebration, it is also a time for showing this same gratitude and spirit of giving to the communities in which we live.

You can also adapt these tips for planning to host a different kind of drive such as a gift drive or clothing drive. Further, even though the spirit of the holidays is a great backdrop for hosting an altruistic giving program or event at your organization, any time of the year is a good time to hold a food as well! But for now, you can take advantage of the unique setting that winter and the holiday season provides for giving, and plan a drive today!

8 Tips on How to Run a Successful End-of-Year Fundraising Campaign


The Holidays are the busiest time of the year for the fundraising teams at non-profits, with roughly 33% of annual giving occurring in December. While older, traditional methods of giving (e.g. the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign) are still important mainstays in collecting donations, innovative internet giving campaigns are an important part of any non-profit's fundraising strategy. In order to capitalize off of this exceptional period of giving, here are some useful tips, ideas and insights for running a successful end-of-year giving campaign using email.

Sending out a series of emails thanking and asking your donors to give should be a part of your year-end fundraising strategy. If someone has donated previously, you know they are already committed to your cause. Here are some keys to emails that successfully generate donations:

  1. Send out a series of emails: People are more likely to donate when they are given reminders and a series of opportunities to give. One email is more likely to be missed or ignored than three. A series of emails can also play off of the theme: "12 Days of ___," (e.g. 12 Days of Giving)
  2. Thank donors: It is important to thank donors for the gifts they have already given; it helps them feel appreciated and also gives your non-profit an opportunity to explain how their gifts haves been used.
  3. Be specific about the importance of donations: Stress how donations are an integral part of your non-profit's ability to have a social/environmental impact.
  4. Explain where donations go: People are more likely to give when they know what programs, grants, etc. their money is helping to fund, and furthermore, how their money is creating social value. Use examples that also show the impact/value of donations. When people can attach a face or name/identity to a story, it makes that story more real. Including examples with pictures of beneficiaries or field staff can be very effective.
  5. Encourage donors to share: Ask supporters to share your email with friends and family. You can also include widgets for sharing via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. Another great way for donors to share is through their blogs. Encourage donors with blogs to write a post about your giving campaign. Provide bloggers with a prompt or phrase to include that touches on giving and the holiday season, and of course, your non-profit's work. Provide them with a link to your donation page.
  6. Optimize emails for mobile: Many people check their email frequently from their mobile devices. If donors cannot open up your emails, how will they know to donate?
  7. Streamline your donation page: Given that so many donations come in during the last weeks of the year, it is important to make sure that people can easily donate, and that your webpage will not crash! Test how user-friendly your donation page is before you start your email campaign. Get several volunteers to do a "dry-run" through the donation page and get their feedback on the process. Make any necessary tweaks so donors do not hit a roadblock once they have decided to give.
  8. Report back: Let old and new donors know about your fundraising success, and thank them! Some things to consider noting in your wrap-up emails include total amount raised, total supporters who gave, reminders about where the money will go/how it will benefit, plans and goals for the year ahead.

'Tis the season for giving, and we hope this guide will help and inspire your team to run a successful email campaign during this spectacular season for giving, and receiving, donations!

Good Corporate Citizenship

Companies around the world are increasingly focusing on their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a means of strengthening their reputations. A study conducted by the Reputation Institute, a consulting firm in New York, gives some indication as to why such a practice is important. The decisions one makes regarding a company such as whether to buy their product or recommend it to a friend is dependent more on the perception of the company than the perception of its products. As 42% of a company's reputation is based on its CSR practices, it is important companies consider what makes a good corporate citizen. To better understand this question, the Reputation Institute issued an online questionnaire asking consumers about the corporate citizenship of a variety of companies. For the purposes of this study, corporate citizenship was defined to include actions such as supporting good causes and protecting the environment. Consumers were also asked if each company was responsibly run and whether each seemed like an appealing place to work.

The top performing companies in the study included Disney, Google, and Microsoft. Some of their current strategies involve classic examples of corporate altruism like Microsoft's Employee Giving Campaign in which employees run fund-raising events for non-profit organizations. Other strategies take advantage of a company's unique resources like Google's support of clean water and anti-poverty campaigns. Google helps non-profits by running free ads and aiding in the collection of data, and therefore has a visible charitable impact. The findings of the Reputation Institute study indicate that the best corporate citizens are those that have messages that resonate with consumers in many regions and extend beyond marketing campaigns. In order to achieve this status, companies must demonstrate how they can use their resources to benefit both others and themselves.

CSR Starts from the Top

As Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has assumed a greater place in contemporary business dialogue, discussion has been increasingly centered on the importance of senior executives in its implementation. While ideally socially responsible endeavors are practiced at all levels of a firm, it is clear that a business cannot become a leader in CSR if its decision-makers are hesitant about the benefits of corporate responsibility. Certainly, it helps a company's charitable practices if its CEO is personally altruistic. The example that executives at Microsoft have set has helped establish the CSR culture present throughout the entire company. But increasingly, the most important role executives play in CSR is their ability to anticipate its long-term payoffs. Rather than viewing corporate responsibility as a short-term cost, wise leaders understand its long-term payoffs such as the boost it provides to a company's reputation, employee morale, and sustainability in certain locales.

A look at IBM's 2008 Global CEO Study provides greater insights into how CEO's view their own roles. Each understands his or her role as an individual capable of looking at the company as a whole. This means they are able to understand trends and their customers/stakeholders' interests. Across the biennial CEO studies three external areas continue to assume greater importance: socioeconomic factors, environmental issues, and people skills. Each of these areas is linked to CSR, meaning CEOs are increasingly recognizing its importance to their entire business. Most importantly, senior executives are able to take a look at their entire supply chain and enterprise, giving them the opportunity to implement CSR values throughout the business. While socially-conscious employees may be able to improve the behavior of their departments, no one has the resources to enact policies throughout the company like those at the top. Given their holistic view and ability to rally workers, top executives are absolutely essential for the growth of CSR.

Non-Profit/Business Partnerships

As social challenges merge with business challenges in the contemporary world, corporations are beginning to look for opportunities to engage in shared value initiatives. Increasingly, shared value projects involve partnerships between NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and businesses designed to address common issues. When these partnerships are formed correctly, they can be instrumental in tackling some of the toughest problems currently faced by the business community.

Successful partnerships occur when each party complements the strengths of the other. Businesses are able to provide a conglomeration of resources that many nonprofit organizations lack. They are able to implement change on a massive scale. This opportunity allows nonprofits to expand their impact and take on initiatives that require many resources. Businesses also provide a natural discipline that ensures all agreed upon solutions are sustainable in the private sector. For their part, NGOs are able to fill certain knowledge gaps in the private sector. Some understand specific cultures and relationships in under-served markets, while others are attentive to the specific needs of different communities. Often NGOs are called upon to evaluate unknown areas of the market. Valuations of areas like biodiversity are critical for businesses looking to transform their supply chain.

The partnership between Coca Cola and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is exemplary of a successful shared value relationship. The WWF began working with Coca Cola in 2007 to conserve freshwater resources. The partnership has been extended through 2020 and will now focus on 11 key regions of freshwater basins. The two parties have also elected to expand the initiative to other conservation areas. By 2020 Coca Cola hopes to reduce carbon embedded in drinks by 25%, begin implementing plant-based renewable packaging, and ensure all ingredients are sustainably sourced. The WWF's detailed knowledge of biodiversity, ecosystems, and climate change is an essential tool in each of these projects. By developing environmental models and a system to evaluate the tradeoff between conserving biodiversity/ecosystems and minimizing costs, the WWF hopes to embed environmental sustainability into decision making. Coca Cola hopes to demonstrate the business case for investing in natural capital. The two parties have much to gain from the joint venture. If their actions are successful, society will gain too.


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