Getting our hands dirty
In response to this week's On Leadership question: In an era when business leaders are retooling their mission and methods to be more socially responsible, and social entrepreneurs are using market mechanisms to solve social problems, is corporate philanthropy still relevant?
Sure, most organizations, mine included, will continue to write checks, but that's not the end of what many are doing under the heading of corporate philanthropy or community involvement. In fact, I see a new beginning, as businesses look to be far more engaged and strategic in how they work with non-profits. What I find so exciting in this shift is the blurring of roles -- non-profits and social entrepreneurs behave more like businesses, and for businesses, there is a sweet spot where social mission merges with the organization's strategic interests.
It's true "just send the check" philanthropy has been flat lining for years - the figure of about 1% of pre-tax profits for America's corporate giving has hardly moved for decades. But, from my experience, I know that close engagement with leading non-profits makes a difference to my business and allows us to make a real difference to the results achieved by our non-profit partners.
Our philanthropy is founded on helping non-profits run better businesses. So we give them cash and multiply its value by providing skilled volunteers. That's just another side of our core mission - what we do for our clients. It's part of our talent strategy because our people want to give back, so it helps us retain them. And it's part of our marketing strategy -- it helps us build the relationships that expand our business.
Oh - and it helps the non-profits achieve more and grow stronger, so they can go on doing that for longer. Having been directly involved in such efforts, I know how personally rewarding this can be. No more just passing the bucks, then. Today, employees and leaders want to be engaged--humanly engaged, peer-to-peer, with those whom we are helping.
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