why giving matters

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A guest post by Jamie Serino, a Blackbaud colleague

Last year, when I first walked into my company as a new employee, I did so knowing that joining the organization meant making a commitment to service.  And I was totally ok with that.  In fact, it’s one of the reasons I’m here.  Giving back is a part of our DNA.

But knowing that I wanted to serve and actually serving are two different things.  That’s why I’m so glad I took the opportunity to join my colleagues in the New York office to volunteer with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), a great nonprofit that also happens to be a customer (that’s the other thing that attracted me to the company – we provide technology solutions that power philanthropy for nonprofits, foundations and corporations, which is very cool). 

BCRF is committed to being the end of breast cancer by advancing the world’s most promising research. We helped them prepare for their Hot Pink Party, which takes place on April 12 and is their largest fundraising event of the year.  Always a star-studded affair, this year’s event is hosted by Elizabeth Hurley, honors philanthropist Melinda Blinken and features a performance by Sir Elton John.  They raised a record-breaking $7M at last year’s event.

We used our own technology (called AngelPoints but internally branded as the Blackbaud Cares Center) to mobilize people to volunteer with BCRF. We posted the opportunity on our Volunteering page, sent an email to our colleagues to encourage sign ups, managed the event information and volunteer roster, and did post-event follow-up all through the platform.  I also personally used the solution’s new mobile app to see things like how much time I volunteered; how I compare to the company average and to the company’s volunteer rock stars (I need to step up my game!); and also how much money I’ve donated and how much of it Blackbaud matched.

I didn’t know that something like this existed before working here, and now that I’m using it, I can’t imagine not having it for both organizing volunteer efforts with fellow employees and for managing my own giving and volunteering.

The volunteering event was very straightforward.  It was an assembly line of 200 people packing items to create 1,300 gift bags for the Hot Pink Party supporters and attendees.  I’ve been part of and volunteered for these sorts of things in the past and what struck me about this one was 1) how efficiently it was run, and 2) how many volunteers there were! Apparently, this year was the quickest they assembled so many bags.

While there, I had the opportunity to meet Mary Greene, Manager, Development and Events for BCRF.  I followed up with Mary after the event to learn more, such as:

  • They were able to get so many volunteers for this not-so-exciting task because they have a database of past volunteers, BCRF friends and supporters. Mary said that they built this database by asking team members to reach out to friends and family members who might like to volunteer and then building a network from there.  We weren’t the only team of people from a company. Like ours, many corporate groups were there because one person corralled a bunch of their co-workers, so when it comes to reaching out to grow a volunteer base, it’s a reminder to find that connector! This is also informative for corporations running CSR and employee engagement programs – find those nonprofit organizations in your community and raise your hand.  They’re looking for you.  And ask your own employees which community organizations they are connected to, as that’s a great way to engage your employees in ways that are really meaningful to them.
  • BCRF specifically tracks how much money their events raise (vs. their other efforts) and then how the money is spent.  For example, last year, BCRF hosted events in New York City, the Hamptons/Long Island, Westchester, Boston and Palm Beach. This raised more than $14.7 million which funded 59 cancer researchers. Way to measure and tell a story!
  •  BCRF’s corporate partners contribute 50% of their revenue through employee engagement and engaging communities across the country.  I think this shows CSR professionals and those that participate and contribute to CSR programs that you’re having quite an impact!  And again, a reminder for nonprofits to get connected with corporations; and for corporations looking to build or run CSR and employee engagement programs to look in your communities and raise your hands.  You are each looking for each other.

Bottom line?  You can each help each other meet your goals.

Volunteering with BCRF was a great experience, a win-win scenario for nonprofits and corporations running CSR programs. It was rewarding to be able to help such a wonderful organization, but it also provided us the opportunity to spend time and bond with fellow colleagues with whom we don’t usually get to connect every day.  Coming together around a common cause helped grow relationships within our own organization, and it helped create more connections with BCRF, which already seem to be paying off – several in the group have already signed up for more volunteer opportunities with them!

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

As you consider your focus for giving, you should also consider which financial vehicle you would like to use to handle the actual dollars.  Over time, it’s not unusual for companies to have a mixed portfolio, looking to different options to support different programs.

But lets begin at the beginning…

Every company should have a corporate philanthropy budget managed by the person most knowledgeable about how and why you give.  In the early stages, it’s likely that this person might not be called a CSR (corporate social responsibility) professional.  What matters is that the company’s “give back” function resides with the person in the role; someone who can track what is given to what organizations.  This pool is funded annually as a part of the company’s budgeting process.  Keeping all contributions tied to this budget is helpful both to see what you are giving and to provide information to receive tax relief for your donations.

The budget may contain several categories, including donations given because of history, support for organizations where executives serve on the board, funding for a local grant program, and money to support employee-led initiatives.  These categories will change over time as your program matures, but using them helps you better understand how you are giving and how to tell the stories behind your giving.

How much money you allot for giving is up to the leadership of your firm.  Some companies strive to give away a percent of pre-tax profit, while others use a dollars-per-employee formula.  More often than not, the budget evolves, first through discovery of how much you are giving already (as discussed earlier in the series) and then as you decide to take on new projects or donations.  It is not unusual for the strategic argument behind how much to give, in total, to build over time.  If the CEO gave you $1 million today to give away, it might end up being more of a burden than a help if you don’t have the infrastructure in place to handle the work and the thoughtful deliberation.

As you do add line-items to the budget, make sure you keep good notes about why you are adding each investment.  What category should the donation be in (history, employee initiative, etc.).  The better records you keep from the very beginning, the better off you’ll be as new people are brought into the giving process.

Next time we’ll touch on two other important financial vehicles that may be right for you as your business grows — establishing a fund at a third-party foundation (like a community foundation) and establishing you own foundation (which is a lot more involved).

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

Last month, we began to look at deciding what to give to – what your focus should be.  This is actually a lot tougher to determine than you might think.  How do you choose? 

In the last post, I outlined a number of ways to look at the question.  You can align your focus by products and services you offer, by your brand, because of your location or even your history.  But wait!  There’s more.  Before you make a decision, consider three more areas:

  • Your CEO or Leadership – This is a touchy but important one.  What does the founder, owner or CEO care about?  If you’re one of these people and you’re driving the change, then you’re ahead of the game (…and I’d encourage you to think about the point below, on employees).  If you aren’t, and you’re seeking buy in from those who made the giving decisions before, make sure you carefully inquire about what they think and if there are any areas of giving that are important to preserve.  You may have already hit on this in the history discussion as the two are often intertwined.
  • Employees – Who are your employees?  What are they like?  What do they care about?  What do they like?  Are they unique in any specific way?  Taking a look at the demographics, interests and experiences of your employees is important because it provides a perspective you might not have considered.  This doesn’t mean you’re asking your employees to tell you what to give to.  It means you’re looking at who they are and what they care about so that, which might lead you to considering certain kinds of nonprofits that otherwise might not make it into the discussion.
  • What you won’t give to – It might be obvious, but any discussion about what to support should include conversation about what NOT to support.  Are there certain types of nonprofits that aren’t in line with what you do or what you believe?  Does the company have policies against aligning its brand with political candidates, for example, or religious activity?  Or do you prefer not to give to multi-year campaigns or not to give products away?  All of this is important to know.

 Now, take a moment to jot down what you’ve figured out, using a chart like this: 

Category Nonprofits/Causes (ideas)
Products or Services  
What you won’t give to  


This exercise will leave you with a lot of ideas and different potential directions to take.  It won’t answer your question immediately, but it will help to narrow or orient the discussion.  With this information, you can better step through the options, considering which one is the right one for your business.  If possible, involve line employee as well as leadership in this process to help encourage buy in for the choice you make.  After all, you will want the team to embrace the decision and help champion the focus on behalf of your company, your brand.  You want them to be proud. 

Two final notes on selecting a giving focus.  First, you don’t have to be 100% absolute, never straying from your focus.  You can decide “what you give to as a business” in a public way and still privately support other organizations that are meaningful to you (like those you uncovered in the history of CEO discussion).  Corporate giving budgets usually contain a mix of programs that made it there for different reasons.  You may give to certain nonprofits because of history and others because you have an executive serving on the board.  The publicly stated giving focus should both convey a strong story about your support of the cause and should help the groups asking you for money to focus their requests.

Second, when you ultimately decide on your giving focus, be open that it is something you will revisit over time.  Although it is not a decision to rethink every year, it is appropriate to stop, at key points in a company’s growth and after key events, to reevaluate.  For example, your business outgrows its current building and moves across town to a new location, in a neighborhood with different needs.  What moves to the “history” category, and what’s new about how you want to give?  Maybe you merge with another company that has a different giving focus.  Which one do you keep or do you come up with a new approach altogether that fits who you will be in the future?  These are but two examples of why there can and should be room to change.

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

When I said that giving money away is hard, I meant that it’s hard to choose how best to invest your dollars.  Which nonprofit is the best one to support?  How do you pick one over the other?  Is cancer more important than homelessness, child abuse a higher priority than infant mortality? 

These questions are impossible to answer and vary dramatically person by person.  But as a business, you have some pre-determined factors in place that can help you decide on an approach.  This post is designed to step you through that process.

How To: Determining your giving focus

Work through the list below, carefully considering each category before making any decisions about what you might support.  Give yourself time to think through the options.  Although you can and should update your focus over time – as the business evolves and changes – deciding your giving focus is not something you do every year.  You will likely live with the focus for many years, so you want to make sure it fits.

  • Products and Services – What products or services do you offer?  Is there a logical connection between what you sell and a specific kind of nonprofit in the community?  For example, a landscaping company and a nonprofit that teaches city kids gardening; a  contractor or a hardware store and housing for the homeless; an eye surgery center and an association for the blind… Looking at the obvious connection between your products or services and community need is a logical first step.  But what if what you do as a business doesn’t align so nicely with a type of nonprofit?  For example, what if you do web design?  Although there could be nonprofits that teach kids this skill, you could also take the approach of saying “we’re going to give to nonprofits that have marketing needs like those we fulfill as a business.”  This is a less conventional but extremely important way to think about giving because chances are, there aren’t as many donors out there looking to support this kind of need – funding for web development so the nonprofit can tell its story.  Be creative.  There is no one answer.
  • Brand – Similar to the products and services suggestion above, think about what your brand stands for and whether that leads you to any logical intersections with nonprofits.  This approach is admittedly a bit fuzzier, not so black and white.  If your company’s brand stands for innovation or creativity, then perhaps your giving programs are designed to support those same qualities.
  • Location – Where is your company located within your community?  Are you in an office park, an industrial zone, the rural outskirts, the middle of the city, or perhaps a place where people both live and work?  Are there specific needs in the neighborhood, problems that you want to help fix?  Are there residents close by with specific needs?  Answering these questions will help you come up with options for how to give – perhaps to a local community center, a program for people who speak English as a second language, to help preserve woodlands or maybe to encourage environmentally friendly transportation options.  Again, there is no right answer.  These are just clues to help you decide.
  • History – Businesses grow up in communities, rarely on their own.  They have connections to people, places and causes that develop naturally.  Just because some of the early donations you made might not have been strategic, that doesn’t mean they weren’t good and important to keep.  Looking at what you have already done, ask if there are certain nonprofits that feel central to who you are as a company.  Is there a group that’s always been there, that you feel connected to, that has – in some way – grown up with you.  This is the outlier category in many ways because the organization might not fit into any of the other categories you’re considering (product, location, etc.)  You might just feel a passion for them, and if that commitment is strong enough, then it’s important to think about how to maintain it.

Tune in latnext time for more advice on choosing a cause for your business, looking at the role the CEO, your employees and what you WON’T give to play in the decision.  And if you know small-to-mid-sized businesses that have done a great job selecting a giving approach that’s right for them, please do share at BusinessDoingGood@blackbaud.com.

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

Giving money away is hard.

From the outside, it seems like a joy.  When corporate philanthropy professionals like me meet people and they figure out that I “give the company’s money away,” they’re delighted.  “What a great job,” they say.  And it is.  Working alongside of nonprofits every day, figuring out how we can align the company’s resources with their needs, is a joy.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  The key word is “align.”  Matching resources and needs takes time, effort and a lot of thought.  Before you can even attempt to do this effectively, you have to know whatyou can give, why you’re giving and how.  You need to be thoughtful, carefully considering the approach your company should take or how, like many, you can “get more strategic” about your giving after a few years of going on impulse as requests come in the door.

There’s no right answer to these questions because each business is different – your brands, locations, employees, products.  So the expression of how each organization decides to give back will vary, sometimes dramatically.  Taken to its fullest potential, a company’s giving can be a part of its brand personality.  It can live right at the core, in the firm’s values.  That doesn’t work for everyone, and that’s ok.  In the end, the way you decide to approach philanthropy should fit with who you are.  That means you should take the time to think about it. 

Over the next several weeks, we’ll explore this topic in a blog series offering a step-by-step approach and tips to help you build a plan.  This series will help you think about what you give today, what you’d like to give tomorrow, what cause or area you’d like to embrace, and HOW to establish a process or function that lasts as you grow.  We have a HUGE opportunity to do good in this world, but it does take some planning.  So get moving on that plan.

In the meantime, if you have specific questions about philanthropic giving for your small-to-mid-sized business, contact me at BusinessDoingGood@blackbaud.com so I can incorporate your questions into the series.

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

A special note from the authorIt was almost two years ago when I launched this blog, aimed at teaching small businesses (really any business for that matter) how to weave good into the every day.  And you know what?  I’m heartened to see businesses in my community and the world embrace what the pros call CSR as a part of their strategy.  But it’s still just a part, sometimes a piece left over to the side or thought about when time allows.

What’s my point?  It’s this.  We still have a huge, largely untapped opportunity to drive positive social change through the businesses we work in every day.  For this reason, I want to go back to the beginning for a while, revisiting the ideas I shared when I launched this blog.  I’m going to begin with a little data then will follow up with advice I think still stands true and firm today, advice about building a giving plan.  Although doing good has many faces, giving is at the heart.

I began this blog first andexplaining CSR  then getting to why it mattered today.  As a part of this, I talked about the sheer size of small business in America.  That’s where I’m going to pick this trip down memory lane, hoping a visit to this blog’s past helps further jumpstart things for the future.  Here we go…

When you look at where people work, in America alone, the vast majority of those in business take home their paychecks from small firms, defined by the US Small Business Administration as having less than 500 employees. That’s an estimated 70.2 million people (or 49% of the 2013 business workforce) at almost 6 million firms. When you add mid-sized businesses (with up to 5,000 employees), the number increases an additional 25 million to 95.4 million people, which is two-thirds of all those working in business in the United States today.

These numbers are staggering, as is the impact that these businesses make as they function within communities every day, in ecosystems where for-profit, nonprofit, individuals and government depend on each other. With more strategic advice about how to formalize the building blocks that are “about good,” these businesses – and the people in them – can have dramatic, positive impact.

Although small businesses employ half this major segment of the workforce, there’s no current way of gauging how many are formally adopting programs aimed at doing good. However, a March 2013 survey by Business4Better indicates that mid-sized companies are “recognizing the value of corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a tool to drive true community engagement, increase employee loyalty and improve business performance.”

The survey, which was launched in advance of the first CSR conference designed specifically for mid-sized firms, tells us that companies are embracing this work to make impact in their communities, although only one third had what they deemed a “mature” program. According to the executive summary, “The remaining two-thirds do not have a CSR program, are just beginning to develop it or are seeking to improve an established program.”

Bottom line? There’s a lot of desire to do good. Companies want it. Employees want it. And if you’re reading this blog, you want it. That’s a wonderful start. So what we’re going to do now is dive into how to identify the seeds that have been planted in your own business and how to cultivate them into a flourishing program that enhances your culture, your company and your contribution to the world.

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

Happy New Year!  It’s 2015, and I can’t quite believe it.

But I’m happy about the fact that the calendar has flipped us beyond 2014.  Although many good things happened, there were too many “not so good things” for my liking.

So that makes me extra determined to ensure this year is one to remember, in a good way.  And that brings me to the topic of this blog – GOOD.  What are YOU going to do about it at your small business?  Launch a giving program for the first time?  Add new programs that encourage your employees volunteer?  Be kind to the environment?  There really are tons of ways you can choose to do good.  You just have to do it.

One fabulous way to give back is to carve out some time for your people to donate their skills.  Even with a small project, the good can be great.  So when we reconvene for more inspiration next time, I’ll continue to tell the stories of a series of small businesses that are doing just that.  They are making skills-based volunteerism a priority.  Who knows, maybe that’s what you’ll do with your team this year!

by Matt Combs of YourCause

 If you tuned it for Building A Culture of Goodwill: Part 1 last week, you now have a goodwill committee established…right!?! Ok, so maybe you haven’t gotten that far, but once you do, you will have made HUGE strides in creating a culture of goodwill in your business. Now you may be asking, “Is that it? Is there nothing else I can do…easily?” Of course not! Below are a couple of ideas on how you can easily integrate giving into your employees’ work life.

 Supporting Individual Passions – It is important to foster and support your employees’ individual passions. A good way to ensure that you are supporting personal causes is to weave goodwill into your employee benefits by introducing philanthropic personal time off (PPTO), also know as volunteer time off (VTO). PPTO is paid time off that employees can use to volunteer during office hours with a charity of their choice. PPTO parameters vary by company, but at YourCause we have found a common cap at two business days or 16 hours. The simple gesture of adding PPTO to your policy manual shows that you are encouraging employees to give back.  After participating in a PPTO event, employees should be invited to share their stories with their co-workers, how serving made them feel and whom or what they impacted. Their enthusiasm about the program will be contagious, allowing the goodwill culture to grow.

Employee Performance and Goodwill – Throughout the year, your goodwill committee will create multiple opportunities for co-workers to participate in social responsibility projects. The project can be as big as a company-wide Habitat for Humanity build or as small as individual opportunities to donate cans to a food pantry. Regardless of how employees get involved, their participation demonstrates how invested they are in the company’s culture and overall performance. Managers should be aware, recognize and encourage participation.

Why should this be important to you? Because companies with engaged employees outperform the competition by as much as 202%. With this in mind, managers should chat with employees about their involvement in goodwill activities during 1×1 check-in meetings and quarterly/annual performance reviews. Although you cannot force participation in goodwill programs, you can gauge their likelihood of sating with your firm based on how invested they are in supporting the company culture.

Ingraining goodwill into your company does not have to be time-consuming or costly. By simply tweaking current practices, adjusting a few benefits, asking for help, and encouraging conversations about goodwill, leaders will begin to see a shift in the company’s culture. I encourage you to make the decision to kick off your goodwill program and quickly reap the benefits of a more productive and retained team of employees.

By Matt Combs of YourCause

Today we welcome a guest post by Matt Combs of YourCause.  His focus is on your people, the employees who work side-by-side to make your small business great every day.  By investing in those people, and building what he calls a “culture of goodwill,” you can enhance their experience and help your brand.  This is just part one, so stay tuned next week for the second installment! – Rachel

Ingraining goodwill into your company’s culture might seem like a huge task. Between balancing cash flow, as well as customer and employee satisfaction, it can be overwhelming for leaders to even think about beginning to develop a culture of goodwill. But what if I told you that a goodwill culture could significantly help fulfill your goals for employee satisfaction?  According to a recent study performed by Net Impact, 53% of today’s workforce would be satisfied if they worked for a company that contributed to society. I know, I know…another thing to add to your plate. Before you panic, I am here to say that you can easily create a culture that is neither time-consuming nor daunting, but instead, helping relieve your day-to-day stresses.

The first thing you need to understand is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You may not know it yet, but you already have employees who participate in charitable events and would love to be involved in developing, organizing and executing a plan to ingrain goodwill into the company culture. Lean on your employees, and develop a goodwill committee.

You may be wondering, “How do I fill the committee seats?” Simply by asking. Generally, only employees passionate about goodwill and giving will volunteer to be a part of the committee. By gathering volunteers together, you can rest easy knowing that “goodwill” plans and events will not be forgotten in the hustle and bustle of day-to-day tasks.  Committee members would manage:

  • Brainstorming company goodwill events and ideas
  • Vetting events presented to them from other employees
  • Organizing and executing all goodwill activities
  • Internally promoting and participating in events

Before you set the team loose, you will want to communicate your expectations for the committee. In the inaugural goodwill committee meeting make sure you are in attendance to communicate your vision at a high level.  Areas I recommend you cover:

  • Overall reason the committee was formed
  • Execution expectations
  • Ground rules for supporting causes that reflect your company’s mission and values
  • Approval process for events or other plans that influence the company’s goodwill
  • Budget broken out by annual spending criteria and event caps
  • Metrics that will be used to measure the committee’s success

These parameters will allow the committee’s imagination to run free – that is – free within reason. By surrendering the power and details to the committee, you are able to focus on the business and keep your participation high-level so that you are only approving proposed events and associated costs.  In part two of this series, I’ll discuss additional ways you can use goodwill to create bonds between employees and encourage those not participating to join the fun.

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

So you’ve made the decision to at least consider being involved in #GivingTuesday?  That’s fabulous.  Congratulations on taking that important step!

As a part of that leap, you’ve also taken the time to research and document how you have given back in the past.  You’ve looked at your expenses, your marketing plan and your overall community engagement, creating a list of what you have done and what money you have spent.  Equipped with this information, you’re ready to move to the next step.

That next step is to look outside of your small business into the community itself.  What’s going on this fall that might be an opportunity for you to engage, adopting the activity or event as a way to celebrate #GivingTuesday?  What do I mean?  Some examples:

  • Are there special events that take place in the community each October or November that bring people together to celebrate the season?
  • Are there nonprofit fundraisers or initiatives going on that might be good to support?
  • Are there volunteer opportunities or perhaps a day of giving that’s held, convening members of the business community to serve?

Creating a calendar of these events is a helpful tool.  Once you have an idea of what’s going on, add some notes about any special promotions or activities you know your business will offer.  Do you have a Halloween promotion, for example?  Or do you launch new products timed with the holiday season?  Make sure all of these items are noted on your calendar.

Why did I suggest you do all of this?  It’s simple.  With this kind of information in your hands before you make any decisions or even do real brainstorming about #GivingTuesday, you will be better equipped to come up with cool new ideas.  From experience over the first two years of #GivingTuesday, we know that organizations often struggle to come up with a good, doable idea.  So following this simple “what do we already give and what’s going on in the world around us” approach takes the pressure off.  It gives you time to get a view across what’s happening in the fall.  And with that information in front of you, ideas are bound to bubble up.

Next time, tune in to talk about how your team can help you decide what to take on this December 2nd!