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Corporate Philanthropy & Volunteering Blog

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Will Your Business Recover From Disaster?

Disaster earthquake

The massive 6.0 earthquake in San Francisco on Sunday is another reminder that Mother Nature doesn’t play by the rules, so we’d all better be prepared for the unexpected.  If disaster struck five seconds from now, are you ready?  Are your employees?  

You should be.  According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), more than 40% of businesses never reopen after a disaster, and for those that do, only 29% were still operating after two years.  And guess what likely becomes of those that lost their information technology for nine days or more after a disaster?  Bankruptcy within a year.  

As it happens, September is National Preparedness Month, so the timing is perfect for company leaders, corporate philanthropy managers and individuals everywhere to examine their awareness and plans to handle the full range of disasters, whether natural or man-made.  

Throughout September, the FEMA is sponsoring National Preparedness Month to educate the public about how to prepare for emergencies, including natural disasters, mass casualties, biological and chemical threats, radiation emergencies, and terrorist attacks.  which features activities across the country to promote emergency preparedness.  More than 3,000 organizations – national, regional, and local public and private organizations – are supporting emergency preparedness efforts and encouraging all Americans to take action.

Transforming the Meaning of 9/11

day of remembrance police officers

9/11 has scarred all of us forever.  The question is: how do we make sense of what happened, and how can we move forward?

Each year, as September 11th approaches, the nation relives the unspeakable events and tragic loss of that day.  But because of the organizers of the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, September 11th is no longer just about mourning, but about community, giving back, and hope.

To keep alive the spirit of compassion and service that united Americans in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, September 11th is now federally recognized as a National Day of Service and Remembrance, establishing a tradition of national engagement in charitable acts as a tribute to the victims, survivors and first responders of 9/11.  

The observance of this day is led by MyGoodDeed, a nonprofit dedicated to using the power of service to overcome the tragedy of September 11th.  It’s an organization borne out of a very personal connection to the 9/11 tragedy, as co-founder Jay Winuk’s brother, Glenn, was killed in the line of duty as a volunteer firefighter that day, after helping to evacuate the Twin Towers-based law office where he worked as a partner.  Inspired by his brother’s heroism and dedication to community service, Jay and his friend, David Paine, launched the 9/11 Day Observance initiative.  

More than a day of volunteering, the National Day of Service and Remembrance is filled with commemorative events, charitable acts and community outreach.  The collective community service is led throughout the country by nonprofits, service organizations and corporate philanthropy programs as a living memorial to the victims and heroes of 9/11, and as a reminder of the importance of working more closely together in peace to improve our world.  

Causecast Partners with 9/11 Day of Service to Help Companies Step Up

911 Day of Service Campaign Screen Cap

Also read:As the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approach, people throughout the world reflect on what they can do to commemorate a day that changed the world. In America, September 11th is now a national holiday, the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, when every citizen is encouraged to volunteer or engage in some sort of good deed or act of service.

Last year, more than 47 million people from throughout the U.S. and in 150 countries observed September 11th by performing good deeds that help others. Causecast celebrates this extraordinary volunteering effort by partnering with MyGoodDeed, a nonprofit dedicated to using the power of service to overcome the tragedy of September 11th.  The goal is to help company employees find gratifying and inspiring ways to give back on this nationally recognized occasion.   

As a part of this corporate philanthropy effort, any company that participates through Causecast’s volunteering and giving platform can opt into its instant 9/11 campaign, which is then immediately available to help employees take action.

How can employees make a difference?

Fast Stats About Giving in America Today


The annual Giving USA Foundation report has just been released, and the numbers tell an interesting story about corporate giving.  

Let me rephrase that.  An alarming story.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Americans gave $335.17 billion to charity in 2013.  Which sounds good until you read the fine print and understand that we’re barely keeping up as a percentage of the GDP.

  • Charitable contributions in the U.S. grew 4.4 percent in 2013 but still haven’t rebounded to peak levels achieved before the economic recession.

  • Individuals donated $240.6 billion to charities, up 4 percent from 2012.

  • At 72% of all giving, individual giving represents the largest portion and fastest growing area of giving.

  • The increase in individual giving is leading the charge to create a fourth straight year of growth in total giving.  

  • Of four sources of giving that were assessed - individuals, foundations, bequests and corporations - every kind of giving rose in 2013 except for corporate giving.

  • Corporate giving fell by nearly 2 percent, to $17.9 billion.

The drop in corporate giving is troubling for all parties involved.  Nonprofits lean heavily on corporations for giving, and when numbers are down they must scramble for alternative sources of funding.  And companies are playing with their own bottom lines when they skimp on corporate philanthropy.  Now more than ever, employees are paying close attention to the philanthropic behavior of corporations and evaluating them accordingly.

Employees Share Volunteering Stories

employees talking

According to the Corporate Leadership Council, employees with lower engagement levels are four times more likely to leave their jobs than those who are highly engaged.  But the importance of employee engagement isn't just increased employee retention; it's also about higher productivity.  One study by HR strategy firm Kenexa found that of 64 organizations studied, the organizations with highly engaged employees achieved twice the annual net income of organizations whose employees were less engaged.

One of the most powerful ways to engage employees is by helping them engage with the world.  Employee volunteer and giving programs have increasingly become the gift that keeps giving - to communities, employees and companies alike.  

And employees are noticing.  For example, check out these employee engagement quotes about the effect of corporate volunteer programs:

Letter to a CEO: The Surprising View in the Mirror

view in the mirror

Dear CEO:

Congratulations.  You’ve worked hard, built a business and can now enjoy the fruits of an impressive level of personal wealth.

In recent times, you’ve shifted your focus beyond the day to day grind of your core business.  Now you want to engage in a deeper level of corporate philanthropy.  Spread your wealth around, say thank you to the world for your good fortune, step back and figure out how you can really make a difference in the big picture of your local or global community.

Sure, you’ve always been generous when it comes to sponsoring charity fundraisers, snapping up items at the silent auction, throwing your company logo around town.  That sort of thing.  When nonprofits (or your alma mater) ask for money, you usually say yes.  

But now you’re ready to step up your game and really burnish your legacy.

So you’re taking things to the next level.  Starting with joining the board of your favorite nonprofit.  Bravo!  Board service is a gift that keeps giving, allowing you to lend your expertise, skills, and network of contacts to charities that are hungry for myriad areas of leadership.  It’s a critical asset to nonprofits and an invaluable source of personal and professional growth for you.  Not to mention an elegant way to raise your company’s profile in the community.

You’re fired up, boarded up, and now have a real stake in a charity that you’re helping to steer.  You understand the issues, have a vision for the future and are driven by a sense of urgency to bring new ideas to this cause.  Next stop: changing the world.

Fantastic!  But can we pause for a moment?  

Corporate Philanthropy Takes More Than Technology

dreamstime m 32619923

Sure, an odd headline coming from the CEO of a SAAS (software as a service) company that’s focused on
corporate philanthropy.  But let me explain why I’ve come to recognize the limits of my first love, technology.

In the beginning, it was a teenage crush.  I was a pimply nerd building mainframes and technology was my one true soulmate.

The love affair continued when I founded my first tech start-up, NetCreations, the originator of opt-in email marketing.  After I sold NetCreations, I set out to be a philanthropist.  

What did that mean, exactly?  Mostly writing checks.  

Somewhere along the way, it dawned on me that one person bequeathing charities with checks is helpful... but limited.  No matter who you are, there’s only so much impact that a single individual can generate.  

I started to think about how I could leverage technology to better support nonprofits and give them what they need to address the world’s problems.  And I realized that corporations are in the best position to help charities realize their vision; not just because of the awesome collective financial power of companies (although there is that), but because they all have their own armies.  

A Fallen Hero's Legacy Endures Through Corporate Philanthropy

Stephen Robinson

The other day, I received the terrible news that Steve Robinson, a leading advocate for veterans and a friend of Causecast, had suddenly passed away.  He died at the age of 51, while working at his desk at Prudential, laboring to the very end to improve the lives of veterans.  

Steve’s work at Prudential was a remarkable example of just how creative and effective corporate philanthropy can be.  As Prudential’s Vice President of External Veterans Affairs, Steve was charged with strengthening and building relationships with military and veteran service organizations and related government agencies, all in the service of helping Prudential be a corporate champion for veterans.  In this capacity, Steve interfaced regularly with his peers in the Fortune 500 and the highest levels of government, including the White House, Congress, the Department of Defense, the Department of Labor and the Veterans Administration.

It was a dream job for Steve, granting him the generous philanthropic resources of a company committed to backing his vision for supporting veterans, particularly in the area of employment and in helping returning veterans fully integrate back into society.  The role afforded Steve an ideal opportunity that he never imagined could exist in Corporate America.  

What was amazing is that so much of Steve’s work for Prudential didn’t directly benefit Prudential at all.  As I wrote about a couple of years ago when I interviewed Steve, one of his key responsibilities was to help Prudential develop best practices with regards to veterans employment issues and ensure that the company is a welcoming place for veterans transitioning to the workforce.  But his duties didn’t stop at Prudential’s door; he was also charged with sharing these best practices with other corporate leaders to widen the national support net for veterans.   

Using Corporate Philanthropy to Train Future Millennial Leaders

Millennials future

Recently, I was skimming an article about how company managers can prepare Millennials to take on leadership roles in business.  The piece addressed the looming explosion of Gen Y-ers in the workplace - they’re projected to comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025 - and noted that this is a generation with an entrepreneurial bent, with an estimated 70% of young professionals around the world aspiring to be their own boss.  So what, the writer wondered, can business leaders do to make sure that that Millennials (anyone born between 1980 and 2000) are prepared to take the reins of their companies?

What caught my eye was the usual pattern that I notice with almost any article that tackles employee engagement, retention or training.  That is, every proposed solution could be at least partially addressed by leveraging corporate philanthropy.

Let’s review:

How Corporate Giving Helps Employees Succeed


I’ve been catching up on the work of renowned organizational psychologist Adam Grant. Wharton’s youngest full professor and single highest-rated teacher, Grant has been recognized as one of BusinessWeek’s favorite professors, one of the world’s 40 best business professors under 40, and one of Malcolm Gladwell’s favorite social science writers.  And Grant’s life work has led him to the conclusion that giving is the secret to getting ahead, as a New York Times Magazine cover story about Grant put it.

Many of you might be aware of Grant’s 2013 bestselling book Give and Take, which was hard to miss last year.  It was a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller that was also named one of the best books of 2013 by Amazon, Apple, the Financial Times, and the Wall Street Journal.  Oprah named it one of her riveting reads, Fortune deemed it a must-read business book, Harvard Business Review considered it amongst the ideas that have shaped management, and The Washington Post named it a book that every leader should read.  

OK, so I’m a year behind the curve, but the book lives up to the hype.  It’s a fascinating - and important - read.

As an organizational psychologist, Grant has devoted himself to understanding how work can be designed so that people will actually enjoy doing it and want to continue doing it.  The traditional theory was that employees were driven by straightforward areas of self interest, be they financial incentives or work that is interesting and offers a path to advancement.  Grant’s research has exploded this thinking, asserting that people can be deeply motivated by the opportunity to be of service to their fellow mankind.  In fact, Grant has proven that when an employee’s work contributes to improving the lives of others, that worker is more productive than he would be if his job only benefited himself.  

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