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Corporate Philanthropy & Volunteering Blog

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Corporate Philanthropy Takes More Than Technology

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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.  

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.  

5 Ways to Summerize Corporate Philanthropy

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It’s not just your imagination: summer is getting in the way of getting things done at work.  To the tune of a 20 percent drop in workplace productivity, according to a Captivate Network study, with projects taking 13 percent longer to complete and workers becoming a whopping 45 percent more distracted.

Holy guacamole! (Preferably served poolside, with extra chips, thank you).  Should we all just surrender to the sunshine and rendezvous back in September?

If only.  But how to corral all those wandering minds and keep them focused on work during the lazy days of summer?  

Companies Expect More from Nonprofits, Report Finds

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When it comes to corporate philanthropy, corporate and employee donors expect more from charities these days.  And in a digital era defined by greater transparency, charities face new challenges and opportunities with their corporate partners - all of this according to a new study on employee giving.

The Snapshot 2014 report from America’s Charities focuses on issues and trends at the intersection of corporate giving, employee engagement and nonprofit impact, based on a survey of over 240 charities across the country.  The report reveals some eye-opening findings about the alignments and dissonance between employer and charity expectations.

Letter to a CEO: Why Your Corporate Philanthropy Is Languishing

CEO listening

Dear CEO:

Your heart is in the right place, it really is.  

You know that corporate volunteering and giving are essential programs to have in place at your company if you want to create a positive culture and brand, keep your employees engaged, and recruit top talent - especially Millennials.  And giving back to your community is important not just for the benefits it accrues to your company but also, of course, for the support it offers to the nonprofits and causes you care so deeply about.  You’d like to get your company on track with volunteering and giving, and maybe you’re even scoring a few base hits here and there with your efforts.

But...can I be honest here?  You’re going about it all wrong.  And unfortunately, you’re only scratching the surface of your company’s potential, making the lives of your program administrators needlessly stressful, and - worst of all - failing to inspire your employees or bring out the best in them (or even bring them out to participate at all), which undermines the whole point of your cause venture in the first .  

Here’s where you’re missing the boat:     

Fundraising Ideas for Employee Engagement in Corporate Giving

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It’s no secret that corporate volunteer programs are a must.  One study (amongst many) shows that almost one-third of U.S. corporations now embrace some form of employee volunteering, representing a growth of nearly 150% in the last few decades.  Millennials in particular are demanding that office perks include the opportunity to volunteer as a part of their company’s supportive, inspiring and innovative program.  I hear it all the time - leaders at companies without these programs are realizing that young people aren’t knocking on their doors that often, and, consequently, their workforce is growing noticeably grayer. 

But if employee volunteer programs function as a corporate fountain of youth (amongst many other benefits, of course), what about employee giving programs?  Are companies also turning to these programs to stay attractive and relevant to the next generation? 

5 Ways to Create Social Impact With Matching Gifts

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Companies like financial services firm Ernst & Young understand that matching gifts programs aren’t just a perk for your staff. Indeed, Ernst & Young doesn’t see these programs as a perk at all: rather than a side project, their matching gifts program is an integral part of Ernst & Young’s overall strategy.

The matching gifts program at Ernst & Young has tight parameters, rewarding employees for donating only to an accredited nonprofit college or university in the United States. Small donations need not apply - the company only tracks donations over $25 (or $100 for more senior personnel), and the donations to a single college or university must be over $2,500 for a calendar year to be matched. Despite the restrictions, or perhaps because of them, the program has flourished, allowing Ernst & Young to maintain close connections with the accounting and business programs at top American universities.

Companies looking to create a matching program of their own are often at a loss for where to start. Even companies with long-standing matching gifts programs would do well to examine potential improvements. Ellen Glazerman, Executive Director of the Ernst & Young Foundation, the nonprofit that oversees matching donations for Ernst & Young employees, was happy to sit down with us and describe how her company’s matching gifts program has thrived.

Here’s Glazerman’s list of the five ways you can maximize the benefits of your own matching program:

Crowdfunding + Corporate Philanthropy = New Fundraising Software


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Crowdfunding is generally defined as an internet-based collective effort between people who pool money to help fund an activity or an entrepreneurial endeavor. Also called crowdsourcing, crowdfunding is used to underwrite a variety of activities, including new products, artistic efforts, political campaigns or scientific research, just to name a few.  In return, if a product or project actually gets developed and produced, investors often either receive the final product, a portion of the profits or small shares of equity.  

In their May 2012 Crowdfunding Industry Report, reports that about $1.5 billion dollars was raised via crowdfunding in 2011.  Crowdfunding platforms (CFPs) like Kickstarter and global site Indiegogo facilitate crowdfunding efforts with big number successes;  since 2009, Kickstarter has raised over $250 million in pledges while Indiegogo has funded over 100,000 projects from more than 196 countries.  Given the rising popularity of crowdfunding, it’s not surprising that the number of CFPs is expected to increase to 530 by December 2012, up from the last count of 452 in April 2012.  

When is Corporate Philanthropy Like a Great Game?

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Crowdfunding is a term generally reserved for raising money to support the next new startup, but it can also be used to define a new kind of employee giving program. This growing trend combines gamification and social media to boost employee engagement and increase community impact. Mix these elements together and you get corporate competitive crowdfunding.

Corporate competitive crowdfunding is the hot new buzzword helping to define one aspect of corporate giving, a charitable category that has been on the rise.  In fact, according to a 2011 report by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, 65% of corporations increased their corporate giving from 2009 to 2010, and 53% gave more in 2010 than they did before the economic downturn in 2007. With so many companies jumping on the corporate philanthropy bandwagon, it’s important to not be left behind.  Crowdfunding is an excellent tool to lead the way.  

Leading Corporate Philanthropy Impact from the Bottom Up


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The best ideas in corporate social responsibility don’t always come from the boardroom or the CSR manager.  Sometimes they come from ordinary folks just trying to do their best.

Case in point, a corporate fundraising effort by AT&T to support Cell Phones for Soldiers, a project that stemmed from the hearts, minds and piggy banks of Robbie and Brittany Bergquist, 12 and 13 years old at the time of the project’s launch eight years ago.  Since the Bergquists launched their effort, Cell Phones for Soldiers has paid for over 168 million minutes of free talk time, provided more than 2.3 million calling cards and recycled over 10.5 million phones to help America’s servicemen and women. Other companies sponsoring CPS include Chevrolet, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Comcast, Recellular and Verizon.

AT&T saw the program as a natural opportunity for employee engagement, not to mention a way to make a direct, immediate and measurable positive change in the community. Few things are going to cheer up a soldier faster than hearing a friendly voice on the other end of the phone.  CPS also gives back in the form of responsible electronics recycling of a related product, taking the proceeds from these recycled phones and using the proceeds to buy international cards for enlisted men and women.

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