businesses doing good (spotlights)

 by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good & Blackbaud, Inc.

Next up is another profile of a firm featured in the new eBook I produced with A Billion+Change and Riggs Partners for #GivingTuesday.  These write ups are being featured one by one with permission from the eBook team.

The SISGI Group – a consulting and training organization that turns good ideas into real solutions for nonprofit organizations.

Our story — The SISGI Group is a consulting and research group that specializes in nonprofit capacity building. Bringing together independent consultants with a variety of expertise, we address cross-sector issues and a range of specialties impacting organizations, individuals and groups working within and on social problems.  Our CEO comes from the nonprofit sector and knows the value of skills-based volunteers in helping organizations meet their missions. When developing the organization’s business model, she incorporated a focus on pro bono work as a part of the firm’s values and approach. 

Why we’re unique — The SISGI Group is committed to operating as an 80-90% virtual organization, leveraging the benefits of technology and cloud work environments. This allows for the least amount of overhead and administrative costs, access to the most talented global staff and partners, regardless of geographic location, and the ability to decrease our environmental footprint.  The SISGI Group also operates SISGI Beyond Good Ideas Foundation as a nonprofit division, focusing on internship programs, educational resources and collaborative work as well as free and low-cost consulting.

Our skills-based volunteerism — Our organization requires each of our consultants to lead a pro bono consulting project annually with a nonprofit organization. This allows nonprofits that do not have the financial resources for consulting services to benefit from our work.  Our consultants provide a variety of services including strategic planning, fundraising planning, grant writing assistance, evaluations, and program design assistance. In addition, nonprofits can submit a request for projects for our pro bono services through our website to meet their specific needs.

Our CEO and a group of 10 interns from across the country did a nine-month engagement with the Alliance Center for Independence (a New Jersey based nonprofit focused on disability support and awareness), helping them prepare for their Disabilities Pride Parade and to develop a social media policy. The organization was severally underfunded and behind in planning for this annual community event, which celebrates the diversity of ability within New Jersey. The SISGI Group helped develop systems and budgets for managing parade costs and assisted with overall event funding strategy. We also provided lone-term program planning support, helping them develop case statements for grant writing and operational systems development.

Our challenges — Our nonprofit partners are sometimes small, which can make it difficult for them to coordinate the work needed to meet the larger outcome of a pro bono consulting project.  Although they see the value in the projects, they also question whether it’s worth the time to learn new approaches and strategies. We address this by helping partners prioritize work so it’s no so overwhelming.  It’s also difficult choosing the organizations that will receive our donated time and talent.  We receive two to three applications per month through our online system and can only manage about six to 10 projects a year.  We are looking at ways to combine nonprofit organizations within projects to increase our outcomes and the number of organizations we can serve.

How serving helps our business — Our consultants have seen a direct return on investment with pro bono projects.  At times, these projects evolve into paid projects with the nonprofit organization or their partners. Our student interns gain valuable real world experience, a better understanding of the challenges nonprofits face and ways to find solutions.  Graduates of our internship program have indicated that this experience has been invaluable in their professional development and ability to problem solve within their careers.

Advice for other businesses interested in skills-based volunteerism — Institutionalize your volunteer efforts as much as possible.  If you find a partner organization or group to work with, allow your staff the time to volunteer in a regular and supported strategy that is part of their existing work plan. This makes it easier to implement and to get buy-in from your team.

Want to learn more?  Contact Thenera Bailey, President and CEO.

 by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good & Blackbaud, Inc.

Next up is another profile of a firm featured in the new eBook I produced with A Billion+Change and Riggs Partners for #GivingTuesday.  These write ups are being featured one by one with permission from the eBook team.

Riggs Partners – a marketing and communications firm that helps clients bring clarity to their brands in a way that enables them to more fully achieve their organizational purpose. 

 Our story — Riggs Partners is dedicated to helping corporations, public sector agencies and nonprofit organizations develop purposeful brands.  We harness the power of marketing and public relations to a meaningful end – whether that’s helping clients articulate and demonstrate their brands, develop innovative products and experiences, or engage their customers, constituents and employees in positive behavior.

Why we’re unique — Our commitment to corporate social responsibility is best demonstrated in CreateAthon, an annual 24-hour marketing marathon we developed in 1998 to benefit nonprofit organizations in South Carolina.  Seventeen years later, CreateAthon has grown from a single-market event to a 501(c) 3 organization that has engaged 99 different marketing organizations in the US, Canada and Europe.  All together, these events have served over 1,300 nonprofits and delivered more than $16 million in pro bono marketing services.

Our skills-based volunteerism — Riggs Partners was continually being asked to provide pro bono marketing services to nonprofits in our community. As a small firm, we struggled with determining which nonprofits to adopt, when to provide the pro bono work, and how to manage the work in a way that would not overburden us. We decided to focus our service efforts at one time, via a unique delivery model that would engage and motivate our staff while allowing us to do more work for more nonprofits. Our thesis proved immediately true with the first CreateAthon event in 1998, when our team of 11 marketing professionals selected and served 13 nonprofits.

CreateAthon teams are comprised of people with expertise in brand strategy, visual design, copywriting and content development, media placement, digital marketing, public relations, and project management. Deliverables range from comprehensive brand strategy, brand design, marketing and public relations planning and digital marketing strategy, to the development and production of projects such as web sites, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, television, video and radio, outdoor and place-based advertising, direct mail, print collateral, and so on.  Counsel provided through CreateAthon also has expanded into helping nonprofits build and market social enterprise initiatives designed to diversify revenue stream and boost long-term sustainability.

Our challenges — Our biggest challenges are selecting the nonprofits that have the kind of marketing and public relations assignment we could address effectively within a 24-hour marathon, adapting our project management protocols to facilitate work in this model, and managing expectations with the pro bono clients about what we can and cannot solve or provide in 24 hours. For example, we have to ramp up the work faster, deliver it in a concentrated period of time, facilitate client approval, and wrap up the projects in a timely fashion. Surprisingly, this challenge is the very thing that makes us most successful, uniting us as a firm and helping us all see what we can achieve when we are united in mission-based service.

How serving helps our business — CreateAthon has certainly generated a tremendous amount of goodwill for Riggs Partners in our community, both in nonprofit and business circles. It has positively impacted business development, recruiting and retention, and has led to more staff engagement in volunteerism such as board service.  We’ve been recognized for our leadership in expanding the program nationally, and have greatly benefited from meeting other leaders in the pro bono movement.  While we’re proud of all that CreateAthon has achieved, we’re most inspired by the way CreateAthon has moved thousands of people in the communicating arts to put their talents to work for good.

Advice for other businesses interested in skills-based volunteerism — Force yourself to think outside of the ways in which you typically deliver services to your clients. While your business service protocols may be the perfect way to manage pro bono services, our experience in talking with other small businesses is that they have difficulty in making pro bono work fit into their existing business models. For us, it was embracing an outrageous idea like a 24-hour marathon.  Think about a new way to approach pro bono work, and odds are you might discover something that will open up new ways of carrying out your work, just as CreateAthon did for us.

Want to learn more?  Contact Teresa Coles, managing partner.

 by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good & Blackbaud, Inc.

Next up is another profile of a firm featured in the new eBook I produced with A Billion+Change and Riggs Partners for #GivingTuesday.  These write ups are being featured one by one with permission from the eBook team.

Mizzen+Main – the classic American-made clothier for athletic professionals that elevates their innovative lifestyles.

Our story — Six years ago, while working in Washington, D.C., in the summer heat, Kevin Lavelle watched a staffer run into a very important meeting – soaked in sweat.  The staffer was a mess.  His shirt had turned two different colors and was sticking to him.  Here was a guy making a name for himself on Capitol Hill, but he looked terrible.  It took an hour for his shirt to dry, leaving him wrinkled and disheveled. About this time, collared performance shirts were becoming popular for golf and tennis, which helped spark the idea for a moisture-wicking dress shirt.  Mizzen+Main was born.

Why we’re unique — Mizzen+Main proudly manufactures our dress shirts in the United States, working with suppliers, sewing shops and distributors across the country.  From the material to the stitching and finishing, every detail that goes into our shirts is designed to benefit our country’s resurgence as a textile manufacturing power.  Our founder, Kevin Lavelle has always admired and respected servicemen and women, who voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way defending the United States.  Mizzen+Main has adopted this focus, putting its give-back energy into helping veterans through volunteerism, hiring and by donating percentage of all sales to wounded veterans.  We think of this as “A Shirt for a Start.” 

Our skills-based volunteerism — Mizzen+Main leverages its employees’ skills to help former servicemen and women, working specifically with veterans’ service organizations with a focus on training and career development.  We aim to help veterans get experience, contacts and references they need to successfully make the transition from the military to their next careers.  As an example, Kevin and others volunteer their time and experience to speak with veterans about such topics as entrepreneurship and marketing, both presenting information and spending time answering the specific questions unique to someone coming out of the military.  Under his leadership, we are expanding our skills-based volunteerism program by launching an internship program that provides veterans on-the-job training and exposure to the world of startups.

Our challenges — There are a lot of veterans’ organizations, but even with so many offering services, our former servicemen and women aren’t getting all of their needs met.  Our challenge is to determine how to fit into what might seem like a crowded market while providing unique services our veterans need.  There are thousands of veterans here in our community with a wealth of experience who need a bit of help getting started on their careers.

How serving helps our business — Our focus on career development for veterans has become intertwined with the culture and purpose of the company.  In addition to providing a core value around this concept, our commitment to veterans has led us to hire one former serviceman (so far), who is the arguably one of the hardest working people on the team.  So in a cool way, we are benefiting as a company from the way we give back.  We have also have formed partnerships with various veterans’ service organizations as we seek to find unique ways for our people to engage the general public and veterans’ communities to raise awareness and encourage others to make their voices heard.  This all results in a strong, unified, happy work culture committed to doing good.

Advice for other businesses interested in skills-based volunteerism — Find something that you are passionate about – and seek out opportunities that both suit your business goals and support your community.

Want to learn more?  Contact Jen Lavelle, Marketing Director.

 by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good & Blackbaud, Inc.

Next up is another profile of a firm featured in the new eBook I produced with A Billion+Change and Riggs Partners for #GivingTuesday.  These write ups are being featured one by one with permission from the eBook team.

M Powered Strategies – a consulting firm focused on service, accountability and better communities.

Our story — M Powered Strategies (MPS) is a small consulting firm based in Washington, DC, that specializes in advanced management strategies for senior executives in the federal government.  Under the leadership of CEO J. Kendall Lott, MPS offers four primary service lines: Program Development, Organizational Development, Collaboration, and Professional Development.

Why we’re unique — Although our primary client is the federal government, we’re in the business of serving not only our clients, but also each other and our community as a whole.  It’s this desire to serve that led us to launch our Community Engagement Portfolio, which includes pro bono programs and skills-based volunteerism.  This portfolio allows us to extend our mission of positively transforming the effectiveness and quality of organizational management into the nonprofit sector.

Our skills-based volunteerism — Our Projects for Partners program is just one way we empower nonprofit organizations to achieve their goals.  The focus of this pro bono program is on providing skills volunteers to organizations facing management challenges through customized three-month projects.  For every engagement, our consultant team takes a unique approach to project design by compelling the partner organization to be highly involved in determining the scope of their pro bono project.  By working together to understand the problem, we enable the partner to better understand their condition, identify solutions and then help them to execute actions that will lead to improved operations and maximized social benefit.

Our challenges — A primary goal within all of our pro bono programs is to ensure that our partners receive the same quality of service as our federal government clients.  To maintain the strong reputation of our company, we treat all pro bono projects the same as we do our federal contracts, ensuring that the work is performed by qualified consultants who have the capacity to transfer necessary knowledge and skills to the client.  As a small business, availability of appropriate subject matter experts can sometimes be a challenge.  Although we gain so much through our pro bono consulting, it is often difficult for us to predict future resource demands that may affect the availability of our consultants for these projects.  To overcome this challenge, we have put processes in place to ensure that once engaged on a pro bono project, our consultant team is fully committed to the scope over the duration of the project.

How serving helps our business — MPS is vested in making a sustainable impact on our community and is proud to support our employees’ interest and passion for giving back.  Providing pro bono consulting services to nonprofit organizations opens up another market to us where we can exercise our skills and expertise while providing our consultants with a new perspective for management challenges.  Operating in this different environment leads to thought innovation that can later be applied to projects with our federal clients.  This ability to strengthen our company’s core competencies and diversify our employees’ experiences is bolstered by the unique professional development opportunities that our pro bono projects offer to MPS consultants.  Each pro bono project allows consultants to grow personally and professionally and to hone their technical skills.

Advice for other small businesses interested in skills-based volunteerism — The strategic decision to make community engagement initiatives a priority in our company has contributed to the success of our pro bono programs.  Pro bono work is one of MPS’ core capabilities, and our Community Engagement Portfolio is a significant contributor to our ability to attract and retain our employees.  The launch of pro bono programs requires serious commitment as well as financial investment.  If you plan to do something similar in order to differentiate your firm in the workplace, you will need to make the program a strategic priority.

Want to learn more?  Contact Kat McDonald, Community Engagement Manager.

 by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good & Blackbaud, Inc.

Next up is another profile of a firm featured in the new eBook I produced with A Billion+Change and Riggs Partners for #GivingTuesday.  These write ups are being featured one by one with permission from the eBook team.

Harry’s a direct-to-consumer men’s grooming brand that makes razors and blades to improve guys’ shaving experiences while also having a positive impact on the world.

Our story — Harry’s seeks to deliver the best shaving experience for our customers. This is why we run a vertically integrated business, owning the entire process from manufacturing to the point of sale. This allows us to offer factory-direct pricing and also have a personal relationship with our customers, taking their feedback and putting it right back into research and development.  Our razors help our customers get ready for the day ahead, but we realize there is a lot more to readiness in life. That’s why we created Harry’s 1+1, our pledge to give 1% of our sales and 1% of our team’s time to City Year and other organizations that get people from all walks of life ready for their next big step.

Why we’re unique — Harry’s is best known for entering a market dominated by a couple of major institutional players with a direct-to-consumer model and high-quality, thoughtfully designed products sold at factory-direct prices.  We make ergonomic razors and premium shaving cream, which we offer to customers à la carte and in shave plans.  We built the company on the value of respect and believe all businesses should leverage their core strengths for social change.

Our skills-based volunteerism — At Harry’s, we consider our team’s 21st century skillsets to be chief among our strengths and one of our most valuable assets. We love to contribute what we do best – whether it be design, engineering, or marketing – so that our nonprofit partners can focus on what they do best, inspiring others and delivering impact.  Our team has a truly varied set of skills, such as graphic design, engineering, data science, and user experience. With our partners, we curate skills-based volunteering sprints where we tackle specific, carefully scoped projects, such as wire framing a website, rebranding creative collateral, building a pitch deck, or developing a data dashboard.  In April, our entire team participated in our first 1% Hack. We set aside an entire day for our whole team to focus their skills on tackling—or “hacking”—a challenge that City Year faces. In the span of a single day, we collectively committed more than 300 hours of time in skills-based service, developing ideas that could help City Year recruit more male corps members. Though the hack-a-thon is over, a smaller team at Harry’s is now working closely with City Year to develop the winning idea—a mobile app—into a fully-functioning product that City Year’s recruiting team will actually implement. As one of our team said, “This is one of the most meaningful volunteer activities I’ve done. It was incredible to actually solve a real organizational problem of a nonprofit that doesn’t have the resources to solve it themselves.”

Our challenges — When we first created Harry’s 1+1, we were a six-month-old company of about 15 people.  As a small business, it was challenging to understand how we could make meaningful impact for our select partners. We created the 1+1 model because we understood that giving not just money, but also time would allow us to drive the most positive change.  It wasn’t until our hack-a-thon and a handful of other service events that we realized how much impact we could have as a team, in a day and sometimes even in an afternoon. That key observation led to the launch of our “skills-based sprint” model.  To ensure this model was successful, we focused on scoping service engagements so everyone knows at the beginning what we need to do in order to get the work done well and efficiently.

How serving helps our business — Although many employees are drawn to Harry’s in part because it is a socially responsible company, what 1% Time achieves is a regular and reliable avenue to engage all of our employees in that aspect of our business.  Our teammates are eager and excited to give their time. Caitlin D., on the Customer Experience team at Harry’s, articulated well some of the benefits employees reap from the service program.  She said, “I really enjoyed being involved in and hearing from an organization that is very different from Harry’s. It broke up the day and gave me a feeling of fulfillment in different and exciting ways.”  Our approach to giving time has also garnered attention and awards, landing Harry’s speaking engagements at respected social innovation conferences as well as shout-outs in articles and other media about socially responsible companies.  As an e-commerce company, we also see skills-based volunteering as a unique way to interact with our customers in the real world and hope to engage our customers as partners in service in the future, inspiring and empowering them to share their skills.

Advice for other businesses interested in skills-based volunteerism — Begin with the people on your team who don’t need to be convinced that service is important. Use their positive experiences and enthusiasm to build broader base support.  Make sure you have senior leadership on board from the beginning. That doesn’t simply mean your leaders should approve of a volunteer program.  It means they should show up and help.

Want to learn more?  Contact Laura Zax, Social Mission Manager.

by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good & Blackbaud, Inc.

Next up is another profile of a firm featured in the new eBook I produced with A Billion+Change and Riggs Partners for #GivingTuesday.  These write ups are being featured one by one with permission from the eBook team.

Edgeworth Economics — working under the motto “Complex Problems, Clear Solutions,” the firm performs economic, financial, and quantitative analysis and expert testimony for world-class law firms and Fortune 500 companies across the globe.

Our story — The guiding principles in founding the firm were developed by a 19th century economist, Francis Edgeworth, who created a model of trade (known as “pareto optimality”) in which all individuals could be made better off without anyone being made worse off.  At Edgeworth Economics, this theory has steered our decisions from the beginning – a belief in a company culture where clients can be served and a work environment can be created where everyone flourishes by putting the needs of the firm above those of any single individual. This guiding mantra is also the foundation on which we have built our pro bono practice.  Our CEO and President, Dr. John Johnson, worked on a pro bono project early in his testifying career and knew immediately the benefits of such work to the individual professional and the community, realizing that it could prove to be a growth pillar for a business, as well.

Why we’re unique — Edgeworth experts provide comprehensive economic and data analyses and expert testimony in a variety of antitrust, class action, labor and employment, and intellectual property litigations on behalf of clients.  Our commitment from the beginning to establshing and nurturing a significant pro bono practice fundamentally distinguishes us from our industry competitors.  

Our skills-based volunteerism — Our economists offer high-level economic consulting to community members who would otherwise not be able to afford such services. At Edgeworth, pro bono work receives the same attention and dedication as our other projects.  Last year, our professionals donated more than 1,300 hours of skills-based service work.  Over the past five years this work has included economic analysis and testimony in a variety of matters such as assessing the impact of legal reforms on certain subpopulation, the economics of distinct markets and industries, damages resulting from the violation of federal disability rules, and damages resulting from discrimination.  Examples include:

  • In Samuel Payne v. Tamia Wells and D.C. ex rel. Bryson Agnew v. Leo Alexander, we provided testimony related to the potential earnings capacity of an individual involved in a child support dispute.
  • In Mario Alvarado v. Tenants of 10 49th Street SE, we designed a model and provided testimony on economic issues related to a petition filed by the owner of a rent-controlled property requesting that a rent increase be granted.
  • In Robert W. Gettleman and Elaine Bucklo v. United States of America, we calculated damages regarding the withholding of deductions for Federal income taxes, Medicare, and Judicial Survivors’ Annuities System.

Our challenges — We are increasingly seeing greater demand for our pro bono economic services, which means we are having to transition from actively seeking opportunities to prioritizing the work we are asked to take on.  We have established some basic parameters for the projects we work on.  For example, we initially assess whether our skills can best serve the client, and if not, find an organization who can better assist them.  We also examine the ways in which a proposed project will provide experience and professional development in ways that will enhance our economists’ core strengths.

How serving helps our business — As our professionals work on projects, we both foster and enhance our working relationships with attorneys while simultaneously enabling our economists to grow their skillsets. In some instances, pro bono work has provided our economists with their first testifying opportunity, which can sometimes be difficult to get. Others have been given a first opportunity to lead data work or present to a client. These opportunities enhance and build their experience, making that next time a little easier. It is also a point of pride, share by employees and others, that our community impact is so visible — on the steps of the DC Courthouse, where our professionals provided analysis that led to the installation of a handicap-accessible entryway after our client was injured walking into the building, for example.  We are proud that our reach has been wide in helping members of our community win social justice and access to basic human necessities.  That pride has become a critical part of our brand image.

 Advice for other businesses interested in skills-based volunteerism — Your pro bono practice should be an integrated part of the culture of your organization from the top down. Dedicating resources to doing good in your community not only feels great and helps others, it also creates a positive culture of giving and collaboration within and gives back to your organization in tangible ways you might not have expected.

 Want to learn more?  Contact Kara Gorski, Chief Marketing Officer.

by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good & Blackbaud, Inc.

Next up is another profile of a firm featured in the new eBook I produced with A Billion+Change and Riggs Partners for #GivingTuesday.  These write ups are being featured one by one with permission from the eBook team.

COTTON7 Global Enterprises builds alliances and partnerships for a better world

Our story — COTTON7 Global Enterprises exists to solve high-risk problems other shy away from.  We are heavily involved in developing and deploying environmental security solutions that better protect the earth and the people that inhibit the planet.  Our clean technology products support road construction, hazardous waste management, mining operations and a wide array of other industry specific needs.

Why we’re unique — More than 70% of our employees are former military personnel.  They come to COTTON7 Global Enterprises with unique skill sets (strategic planning, logistics, engineering, human resources and leadership) that equip them to manage complex projects in high-risk areas around the world all while ensuring the people involved are safe.

Our skills-based volunteerism — The vast majority of our employees have always volunteered their time to special causes, both while in the military and as civilians, sharing their expertise as a way to give back.  As a company, we advise two nonprofit organizations that build schools and clinics in hostile parts of the world.  Our interest in education also led us to establish STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) internships that allow students to work on real-world projects and to get engaged with Junior Achievement’s Titan Business Challenge and Finance Park initiatives.  We are especially proud of our internship program at Brighton High School, which made it possible for about 25 students to participate in a clean technology research and development project.  The program was so well supported by the school community that we are working to enhance the offering.

 Our challenges — Our employees are located throughout the United States, which create some logistical challenges for our skills-based volunteerism projects.  However, given who our employees are and the kinds of experience they bring to our firm, we were able to overcome this hurdle through the use of technology.  We now have a good system for cross country collaboration that really draws on the kind of communication and teamwork our people rely on for our business every day.

How serving helps our business — Skills-base volunteerism temporarily removes our people from their “comfort zones,” which supports their growth as employees and citizens.  It’s one thing to donate money to a community outreach center and another thing entirely to use your skills to completely reconstruct a center to better serve those in need.  Our people are enlightened by the work while being able to help address some of the more pressing social and educational issues in our community and the world.  In the process, they also hone and expand the very skills they use to benefit our customers and the company.  It’s a true win-win.

Advice for other businesses interested in skills-based volunteerism — The key to success in skills-based volunteerism is to start small and establish a plan of action that uses all your technological capabilities.  This plan should include a strategy for how employees can participate in person.  Also, you really need buy in from your top leadership.  That can make or break a program.

Want to learn more?  Contact Spencer Shull, Director, Corporate Logistics.

by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good & Blackbaud, Inc.

Next up is another profile of a firm featured in the new eBook I produced with A Billion+Change and Riggs Partners for #GivingTuesday.  These write ups are being featured one by one with permission from the eBook team.

Chegg – a student-first connected learning platform that makes higher education more affordable, more accessible and more successful for students.

Our story — Chegg helps students save time, save money and get smarter.  Students in today’s world are used to doing things their own way.  The school says you need a textbook; the student finds it cheaper online.  The professor gives you a strict class time; the student makes her own course hours.  The college says it can’t help with funding; the student earns the money.  Chegg is founded on the concept that today’s students need something better than yesterday’s rules.

Why we’re unique — Chegg is all about putting students first.  The company keeps the student perspective at the heart of every decision, action, product and service it makes.  Everything the company does is aimed at improving outcomes for students and making their time more fulfilling and enriching and their lives easier.  We do this by serving as an all-encompassing hub and serving as an online advocate for students.

Our skills-based volunteerism — Chegg employees participate in a wide variety of volunteer events, making personal decisions about how and where to serve.  Examples of popular skills-based service include volunteering in STEM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) mentorship programs with middle school students and participating in hackathons for local nonprofits.  Chegg employees worked with TechBridge, a nonprofit that inspires girls to discover a passion for STEM, coordinating a full day of learning in the Chegg offices.  This project, which was led by two Chegg interns, brought a dozen middle school girls to the office and provided them a chance to meet talented women working in different departments while getting a general sense of what a career in technology might be like.

Our challenges — Chegg has found it challenging getting middle school students to interact with its technology platform, which is designed for high school and college students.  But, in the end, the company actually learned from the process and the students found some bugs in the program, which helped the technology get even better.

How serving helps our business — Chegg is a mission-driven company committed to helping students be more successful.  Employees cite the company’s mission and values as reasons why they come to work and why they stay at Chegg.  Part of being mission driven is building the collective sense that the employee base is all working toward something more important than any one person or even the company as a whole.   Chegg has a sense of obligation to give back to the community, serving with pride and eagerness because it’s central to both employees and the brand.

 Advice for other businesses interested in skills-based volunteerism — Providing time for employees to give back during work hours is a fabulous way to encourage service and build pride in the company.  Chegg encourages employees to invest 40 hours of company time each year in volunteer service.

Want to learn more?  Contact Heather Hatlo Porter, VP of Marketing.

by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good & Blackbaud, Inc.

Today we’re beginning a round up of great small businesses that are making hay with skills-based volunteerism.  These firms were featured in the new eBook I produced with A Billion+Change and Riggs Partners for #GivingTuesday.  These write ups are being featured one by one with permission from the eBook team.  I figure what better way to close out the year but with some inspiration.  So here goes…

BetterWorld Wireless – a national voice and data provider that leverages the power of people and mobile for making positive change in the world.

Our story – In 2002, James Kenefick’s mom asked him a question.  Sitting across from Jim at her kitchen table, she asked, “Jim, how about starting a company that does something good for the world?”  Kenefick and Matthew Bauer did just that, creating BetterWorld Wireless Telecom, which works with businesses and nonprofits.  Flash forward to 2013 and a conversation with TechSoup Global’s Gayle Carpentier about delivering mobile services for the nonprofit community, and the idea for BetterWorld Wireless was born.  The company’s formal launch was announced at the United Nation’s Changing Worlds Through Wireless conference that same year.

Why we’re unique — Mobile devices allow people around the world to access information and opportunities that can empower them to create pathways out of poverty.  BetterWorld Wireless is the first firm of its kind to apply the thriving buy-one-give-one business model popularized by brands like TOMS Shoes and Warby Parker to the U.S. mobile market through a program called Phone for Phone.  A full-service national voice and data mobile provider, the company is focused on meeting the needs of nonprofits and socially conscious consumers who want to use their purchasing power for good.

Our skills-based volunteerism — BatterWorld Wireless looks at skills-based volunteerism as core to its business and its business model.  As a start-up technology company, the firm leverages its employees’ IT skills as a way to give back.  One example is the company’s work with Black Girls Code, a nonprofit devoted to showing the world that African American girls can not only learn to code, but also to be the “programmers of tomorrow.”  The nonprofit accomplishes this work through workshops and afterschool programs for girls from underrepresented communities.  BetterWorld Wireless employees participated in a day-long workshop for girls of color ages 8-17.  The company also donated 100 android devices used in workshops that teach girls how to make mobile apps.

Our challenges — Although there are now more cell phones in the United States than people, bridging the digital divide is still a problem.  Working with the Community Technology Alliance and Downtown Streets, BetterWorld Wireless provides mobile services to unhoused adults as a way to connect people with family, services, housing and job skills.  When training participants in this Mobile 4 All program, the company saw firsthand that, although everyone had used a phone, many had never had a smart phone.  BetterWorld Wireless addresses this learning curve by training the trainer, teaching participants to develop new skills and help each other.

How serving helps our business — BetterWorld Wireless wants people to love their mobile company.  That means the company needs to provide more than a fair price and high quality service.  The firm must offer a service that connects with customers’ personal values.  In addition, volunteerism makes the company’s Phone for Phone impact that much more meaningful and real for everyone at the company.  Employees get to meet amazing people, get valuable feedback and witness the impact.

Advice for other businesses interested in skills-based volunteerism — Volunteerism not only inspires your employees, it also helps them understand the impact they can truly make in the world.  When they see it first hand, they channel new enthusiasm back into how they serve customers.

Want to learn more?  Contact Amy Tucker, Chief Impact Officer.

Today’s guest post is a spotlight on a cool new company called Amp Your Good.  This business is all about social good, seeking a better — more efficient and more health-conscious — way for individual people and organizations to conduct and donate to food drives.  Check it out!

Who/What: Amp Your Good, “crowd feeding” and the future of food drives

Need: Food insecurity in the United States continues as a massive social issue and a root problem.  It’s hard to work productively or to learn at school if you’re hungry.  In fact, it’s hard to do anything well.  Successfully addressing this problem requires not only the right quantity of food, but also the right quality.  There are millions of food drives conducted each year that generate billions of cans of food.  The good news is that these drives are evidence that people and organizations want to help.  The bad news is that these drives produce many items that can’t be used at all or are not the best food to help those in need.

Action: Amp Your Good has developed a crowd-feeding platform that takes the traditional physical collection model and replaces it with an online donation model that radically improves how food drives work — and what people who run them and donate to them can accomplish.  The plaform:

  • Ensures that hunger organizations get the food they need
  • Enables people to donate fresh produce and other healthy food items
  • Makes it easier to organize drives that produce better results
  • Creates a better donation experience through engagement tools
  • Ensures that every donation makes a positive impact

Crowd feeding, which is similar to crowdfunding, allows people and organizations to set up food drives hosted on Amp Your Good’s platform.  However, instead of donating money, supporters choose the food items they would like to donate and pay for them via a standard e-commerce purchase.  When a drive ends, Amp Your Good delivers all of the food donated directly to the food pantry, soup kitchen or shelter supported by the drive.  Nothing ever sits in a collection box.  The system ensures that all of the donated food will help feed someone and addresses one of the biggest problems with traditional food drives — waste — by getting rid of it, completely.  It also provides an easy way to help with better quality food in an environmentally friendly, socially engaging and fun way.

Results:  Amp Your Good just launched its platform, and the early results are exciting.  The firm already has a number of organizations using the platform, including The Boys and Girls Club, AT&T, YMCA’s, food pantries, hunger advocacy organizations, faith-based organizations and schools.  The feedback has been terrific, showing that what they have developed resonates with people and organizations focused on how to best address food deserts, health issues such as obesity and diabetes, and how to educate the public about how they can have the greatest impact.  The feedback has fueled the organization’s vision of a day when people think of food drives as an opportunity to donate strawberries, sweet potatoes and broccoli instead of canned goods and the stuff that no one wanted to eat at Thanksgiving.  The day of “personalized” food drives — drives to raise fresh produce, organic or gluten-free food, drives that raise the specific good that is needed, the food that will do the best job — is a lot closer than people think.  It’s actually here right now.

For more information, visit Amp Your Good or contact Pat at Patrick.ONeill@AmpYourGood.com.  You can also follow this cool new business doing good on Twitter at @ampyourgood

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