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

A series on building a giving plan.

When businesses start up and begin to market themselves – whether they’re a new store in the shopping center down the street or an IT company – people come calling, asking for money, asking for involvement.  This is all good, but it can be overwhelming if you haven’t thought through what to do and what not to do.

The typical business responds case by case, selecting an event to support, a nonprofit to help or a school to champion.  Often these decisions are made by the founder or owner of the company and have a lot to do with what that person cares about.  Make no mistake, this isn’t bad.  It’s where most businesses begin when it comes to philanthropy, and it can help you learn what works and what doesn’t.

Over time, it’s easy for a lot of money, effort, time, and even product to be used to support the requests you receive – more resources than you might expect.  So when you are seeking to be more strategic about giving, deciding to drive it versus respond to requests, it’s important to stop and figure out the actual amount of giving you do.  This is kind of like going on a treasure hunt.

How To: How much are you giving?

Review your company’s spending, working with the people who lead key areas marketing, product fulfillment and accounting.  Ask everyone to document, the best they can, what the company does for free.  This may include:

  • Philanthropic donations – If you have a specific budget established for this, great.  That makes your life easier.  If you don’t, then figure out where the donations are hitting your General Ledger.  Are they being assigned to marketing?  Or does the CEO have a discretionary fund that’s tapped here and there?  This is anything but scientific.  You may need to dig through details with your financial team and ask follow up questions to understand why the company spent money on certain things.  You are literally building a philanthropy budget line by line.
  • Sponsorships - It’s not unusual for companies to mix sponsorships and donations in the same budget.  The language people use when they ask for money can be confusing.  For example, a nonprofit may ask you to sponsor an event.  Is that a marketing expense or a donation?  It depends.  Ask why the money is being invested.  If it is being spent to promote the company and drive business, then it’s marketing (which usually comes with promotional opportunities, logo placement, tickets, and so on).  If it’s a charitable gift, done to support the nonprofit because you believe in it and you want to do good in the community, then it’s a gift.
  • Employee/community relations – Another area worth exploring is the HR budget where you may spend money on events or efforts that are aimed at connecting your company or employees to the community.  For example, you might belong to the local Chamber of Commerce or the Rotary Club.  Again, ask yourself why you are involved and whether the money is about benefits you receive in return or about giving.  It’s easy to get confused.  For example, you may have a membership at the local children’s museum so employees can take their kids to visit.  That’s a membership and a company benefit for employees, which is an HR investment.  The children’s museum asks you to sponsor an event.  You decide to do it because the museum store is a potential customer for the products you produce.  That’s a marketing investment.  The museum’s executive director then asks you to make a donation to the annual fund, supporting the museum’s operations.  That’s giving.
  • Products or Services – The final area to consider is the actual products and services you provide to the market.  I’m talking about what you, as a business, sell.  Say you are a local beverage company, making a new organic product.  How many bottles of this product do you donate to nonprofits for their events?  What, in dollars, does this equate to?  The same applies for professional services.  If you provide a service, like Web design, how much of this do you do for free, for charitable reasons (not to help appease an unhappy customer)?  Assign the appropriate dollar value to the donation, and count this in your giving total.

Adding it all up!

Philanthropic donations $ ________
Donations disguised as sponsorships $ ________
Donations disguised as employee relations $ ________
Donations of products or services $ ________
Total giving  = $ ________


Now that you have a good sense of what you’re giving (and what that totals up to in terms of $s), it’s time to think about what kind of cause you’d like to adopt – what makes sense for your business, your employees, your community.  Tune in to the next post we continue the focus on building a giving plan.

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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.

School’s out!  At least it is in my house.  And that means a lot of things, including summer reading.

I’m always interested — more interested than my kids, I’m sure — to see what the teachers assign.  Beowulf, A Passage to India, 1984, A Brave New World…all good, important things to read.  But I also look at summer as a time for my kids to relax and dip into something completely different.  Something read by choice, out of interest, that helps them just be.

Of course, that means I’m always on the lookout for books that might appeal.  And I just found one in the soon-to-be-released teen version of Marcus Samuelsson’s memoir Yes, Chef.  This book, due out on June 9th, is called Make it Messy: My Perfectly Imperfect Life, and it’s targeted at teens.

I read Yes, Chef: A Memoir, back when it was released, and I enjoyed it not just because it was about food.  I enjoyed his voice, his story and the way he talked so openly about the challenges he had faced in life.  How those challenges ultimately prepared him for opportunity and made him who he is today.  I genuinely loved the book, and when I was finished, thought “my kids should read this.”  And they certainly could as there’s nothing in the book that precludes a teenager from dealing with the content. 

But then along comes this new version, aimed specifically at teens, turning Samuelsson’s memoir into more direct advice for kids trying to find their way.  Kids who are thinking about where they fit in school, what college path to follow, what life could or might bring them.  So I’ve placed my order, taking that risk that my $15 will bear fruit in the form of a “yea, that looks interesting” response when I pass it under the nose of a teen living in my house. 

To be serious, I’m not just doing this because I want my kids to read.  I’m doing this because I care about what’s next in life.  And Samuelsson touches on so many important themes so well, including the importance of heritage, of the farm-to-table approach in cooking, of not losing sight of who you are as you journey to new places and try out new things.  All of us in the business of doing good probably share this desire, to help not only our kids but anyone get the bug — to do good work that you enjoy, to do it well, and to do it in a way to helps the world.  That’s the ideal.

So check out the book.  See what you think.  And share it with the kids you know who might, someday, be the people you want working for your business.

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

When we last met, we were talking about how YOUR small business can and should launch its own skills-based volunteerism program.  Really, it’s a completely doable thing.

Last time, I covered the first three steps – 1) Developing your plan, 2) Engaging your people, and 3) Identifying your partners.  Now it’s time to finish that list, with steps 4-7.  Ready?

Step 4 – Do something – making it clear that it’s a pilot (so you have the flexibility to make adjustments), identify a couple small projects to take on.  They could be individual service opportunities or small group projects that last for a finite period of time.  Identify work that is important for the nonprofit but not overwhelming for your team.  You want them to be successful, and you want the nonprofit partner to be happy with the work, asking you back to do more as you get to know each other’s needs better.  A wise woman I know once said “doing something is doing something,” and I think that advice is great.  You have to begin somewhere in order to learn what worked, where you need to rethink things, and what project you should take on next.  Above all, be patient.  It’s not about how MUCH work you do how quickly.  It’s about the quality of the result.

Step 5 — Debrief – following the completion of the project (or projects) sit down with the nonprofit partner and the team to debrief.  What did each party expect going into the initiative?  Was the goal met?  What happened differently than you expected?  Is there a logical next step?  Although some might prefer the actual service to the debrief, this step is essential and will help ensure you build a meaningful program over time.

Step 6 — Measure success —evaluation and measurement doesn’t have to be scary, but you do want to document feedback from your volunteers and partners on whether expectations are being met, how many hours employees are volunteering, and what social and business impact you are having. There are many great resources available to help companies evaluate not only their activity and outputs, but also their outcomes associated with skills-based service. (See the Points of Light’s Employee Volunteer Program Evaluation Framework).

Step 7 —  Celebrate – recognize the employees who were involved in front of their peers, making it known that you value service.  Involve the nonprofit partner and recognize them for the part they played in identifying, scoping and overseeing the work.  Highlight the project and people in your newsletter and on your website, give volunteers a special badge to wear, give out formal awards or get creative and offer your top volunteers a special parking place for the month.  Whatever you do, make sure you take the time to share the story of what was accomplished – with your people, the community and your customers.  As you grow your skills-based program, it will become a part of your company culture and how you are known by others.

And after you celebrate, it’s time to begin again.  Because a good volunteerism program never ends.  It keeps evolving, learning from past efforts and finding new ways to tap into the skills of your people.  Doing projects and sharing the results is a great way to generate more ideas and requests to serve.

 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.

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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 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.

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 here we are, the day after Labor Day, facing reality that the “fall work season” is upon us.  School is in session. Work is gearing up.  And you might even be able to find Halloween candy in the stores (yikes).

I thought it might be helpful, as a way to turn from summer to fall, to recap the many wonderful books we have talked about for budding do gooders in business.  In case you missed the posts or just didn’t have time to read everything you thought you’d get to, here we go…

1. Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS Shoes

2. SuperCorp: How Vanguard Companies Create Innovation, Profits, Growth and Social Good by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, the Ernest L. Arbuckle Professor at Harvard Business School

3. Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help by Robert Lupton

4.  The Purpose Economy by Aaron Hurst, founder of the Taproot Foundation 

5. Leveraging Good Will: Strengthening Nonprofits by Engaging Businesses by Alice Korngold

6. Give and Take by Adam Grant, Wharton professor

And just in case that’s not enough, here are two others I have mentioned in the blog (just not this summer).  Both are well worth the time and will give you ideas about how to approach give back programs in your business.

7. A Better World Inc. by Alice Korngold

8. Changing the Business from the Inside Out: A Treehugger’s Guide to Working in Corporations by Timothy J. Mohin 

We are going to turn our attention, next, to how to establish a matching gift program at your small business.  But don’t worry.  As I come across other good reads that will help you develop into a leader in doing good, I’ll share!