Tuesday, February 1

Adding Value With Philanthropy

Last week, I received a news release from a friend of mine at Bank of America announcing that the Bank of America Foundation gave more than $800,000 in financial support to 83 agencies in Nevada last year. Bank of America volunteers also logged more than 3,500 hours in the community. Nationwide, the company's foundation contributed more than $109.5 million in cash to nonprofit organizations.

Although Copywrite, Ink. is a small company in terms of size, we also formalized a corporate giving program a few years ago. In most cases, we provide nonprofit and professional organizations with in-kind communication services that greatly exceed any monetary contributions our company could allocate. Last year, we assisted 16 organizations by providing an in-kind services that were valued at more than 20 percent of our gross income. I mention this not to 'toot our own horn,' but to illustrate how even the smallest companies can develop beneficial giving programs.

The Bank of America release also reminded me of an article I wrote a few years ago about business giving, which is still relevant today. I've included the article (featuring interviews with Microsoft, Salesforce.com, and the Business Community Investment Council) as a comment to this post with the hope that it might inspire a few ideas for small business owners. Our company has also assisted several companies in developing giving programs as part of their overall communication strategy. Enjoy.

1 comments:

Rich on 2/1/05, 11:16 AM said...

Business Philanthropy | The Impact of Giving
by Richard R. Becker, ABC
originally published by Key News * Las Vegas, 2002

''America needs men and women who respond to the call of duty, who stand up for the weak, who speak up for their beliefs, who sacrifice for the greater good. Everyone can do something.'' -- President George W. Bush

Since President George W. Bush first issued his call to service, Americans gave a record $212 billion to charity despite an economic downturn in 2001, marking the first time in history that giving remained above 2 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product during a recession. Of these donations: individuals accounted for 75.8 percent, bequests accounted for 16.33 percent, non-corporate foundations accounted for 12.2 percent, and corporate giving accounted for 4.3 percent.

While corporate giving remains low in comparison to other sectors and recorded a 12 percent decrease in donations during 2001, there is a philosophical change occurring throughout the business world. On Aug. 30 in Johannesburg, South Africa, the World Tourism Organization (WTO) launched a publication on sustainable tourism and the alleviation of poverty, which called for tourism to make ecological, social and economic well being the cornerstone of the industry. And in the United States, the practice of corporate social responsibility that took hold in the early 1950s is undergoing a significant change in that it is not only ''the right thing to do,'' but also a strategic business imperative that will generate a ''win-win-win'' situation for any company, its employees, and the community.

In June, a diverse group of corporate leaders met at the White House to launch a self-directed, peer-to-peer effort to engage thousands of America's business leaders in sharing a core belief that increased commitment to civic responsibility builds a stronger society and will enable businesses to ''do well by doing good'' because volunteering deepens employee, consumer and shareholder relationships. A few of the companies that have made early commitments to this effort include: AT&T, Federal Express, the Walt Disney Company, United Parcel Service, Inc., Marriott International, Inc., The Home Depot, the Timberland Company, and Citigroup.

While these companies have a lead role in this effort, other companies are increasing their commitment to philanthropy. For example, Microsoft, which is recognized as developing one of the first philanthropic efforts in the high-tech industry, has become one of the philanthropic leaders among all businesses in the United States since 1983.

''Last year alone, Microsoft donated more than $39.9 million in cash and $207 million in software to more than 5,000 nonprofit organizations throughout the world,'' says Bruce Brooks, director of community affairs for Microsoft (Seattle).
''It is important to note that there is no ONE right way to give back to the community. However, in terms of strategic giving, it is vital for companies to consider the need/business problem it is trying to address and design a giving program to best meet this need.''

At Microsoft, the community affairs division has developed four pillars of giving to help steer the company's philanthropic efforts: helping individuals through access to technology, strengthening nonprofit organizations through technology, developing diverse work forces, and building communities. By developing such a strategic philosophy, Brooks says Microsoft can better achieve its mission to empower people, through technology, to realize their potential. The benefits of the plan ensure Microsoft continues to be fully engaged in its philanthropic efforts, strives to offer sustainable solutions that make real and lasting differences in people’s lives, and consistently delivers on these efforts.

''It ensures Microsoft is fully engaged in all types of giving ... a combination of cash, software and support via employee volunteer time,'' says Brooks. ''For example, Microsoft has teamed with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America to improve access to technology for children and young adults. Through this initiative, called 'Club Tech,' technology is being integrated into the structure and programs of all 3,000 Boys and Girls Clubs nationwide, bringing technology access to more than 3.5 million youths.''

Other initiatives developed by the company include the Microsoft and NPower National Partnership, which is geared at providing low cost or no cost technology assistance to nonprofits and now includes six affiliates in Atlanta, Michigan, Indianapolis, New York, Portland, and San Francisco. Its Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Effort donates cash and is currently being expanded to help organizations like Save the Children, Mercy Corps and the World Food Programme develop technology solutions that improve responsiveness and effectiveness. Microsoft's Employee Giving program matches employee donations dollar-for-dollar up to $12,000 per year, allowing employees to direct corporate contributions to thousands of nonprofit organizations.

''Microsoft President and CEO Steve Ballmer and Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates have also been very involved in Microsoft's philanthropic activities,'' Brooks said. ''This year, Bill Gates launched the Microsoft Boys and Girls Club tech program in Florida and Steve Ballmer recently spoke at the one-year anniversary of NPower New York and the launch of NPower Michigan. As we look to the future, Microsoft will continue to partner with organizations that share a commitment to helping people realize their full potential at work, in school and in their communities.''

Brooks says that as need in our communities increases, corporate responsibility must also increase. He adds it is important to recognize that such commitment could take different forms and might not necessarily be limited to cash donations. Volunteer time and donations of products are also extremely important to nonprofits.

''Businesses do not have to be established or large corporations to create a giving program. It's easy to do,'' says Suzanne DiBianca, director of the Salesforce.com Foundation. ''When (former Oracle executive) Marc Benioff launched Saleforce.com in 1999, he simultaneously created an independent 501c3 public charity to bridge the digital divide in the communities we serve.''

As part of the foundation's mission, Benioff and DiBianca set out to establish a new model for corporations to better serve the communities in which they operate. The company's model for giving includes an integrated philanthropic plan that donates one percent of the company's equity to the foundation for its programs, one percent of its profits to the community, and one percent of employee working hours toward volunteering in the community.

''We are unique in that alongside private funding sources, Salesforce.com placed one percent of its new corporation's shares into the foundation to start,'' DiBianca said. ''And because the foundation was established with the company, giving has always been emphasized as a core value of our business. It's refreshing to see an environment where employees are engaged and have an increased loyalty to the company. While it is not mandatory that our employees participate, 80 percent of employees donate time or money.''

Since July 2000, the foundation has partnered with others to build and staff 17 technology centers for after-school programs around San Francisco; provide curriculum and training to these centers that serve approximately 10,000 youth; and give more than 1,700 hours of community service. In addition, the foundation launched a multimedia mobile computer technology center for youth in Hawaii and equipped more than 20 international schools with computers, training, and Internet access to assist Tibetan Refugee Communities in India and Nepal and high-conflict areas of Israel and the West Bank, and in Ireland.

Local results have led Salesforce.com to be ranked as 35th out of 40 of the largest local corporate philanthropists in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Business Times. And while the company also ranked high as a leader in the technology industry, second only to Microsoft, its response was more apologetic than self-congratulatory.

''I have to say I am embarrassed to be among the top local companies because I am not the 35th largest company in the Bay Area,'' Benioff said. ''I believe corporate giving should be in line with corporate achievement. Corporate leaders must answer to the communities in which they operate.''

Since, his comments have generated a renewed interest in local philanthropy, and several companies in the Bay Area have already benefited by adopting Benioff's philanthropic model. DiBianca adds that they will always be willing to share the foundation’s model, which includes starting, sustaining, and evaluating programs offered in the community.

''Our future plans are to connect to communities wherever we operate,'' she said. ''For example, in every community where we have at least 25 employees, we plan to hire a part-time foundation employee to coordinate volunteer efforts; it will not only increase our commitment, but will also allow employees to make decisions on how they can best fulfill specific community needs.''

In southern Nevada, 35 businesses are making similar conclusions about business giving and have established the Business Community Investment Council (BCIC) to serve as a local business giving resource. Since Nevada ranks 29th in its average itemized charitable contributions despite ranking 13th in adjusted gross income (source: National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute), BCIC believes that area businesses, regardless of size, can take a lead role in reversing community shortfalls.

''Our mission is to be an educational resource so it's easier for businesses to become more effective in their philanthropic efforts within our community,'' says Gina Polovina, director of government and community affairs for Boyd Gaming Corporation and chair of BCIC. ''I believe that if more business leaders understood where community need exists and shared their best practices, it would change our perspective of philanthropy in southern Nevada. Everyone can do their part--small, medium, and large businesses--based upon what works best for their company.''

On Oct. 15, BCIC will present ''Return On Investment: A Philanthropy Summit'' to begin its initiative for increased business giving in southern Nevada. The summit includes three one-hour sessions that will explore community need and the return on investment that can come with supporting the communities in which businesses operate. Perry Rogers, president of the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation, and Paul Stowell, senior vice president of Business Bank of Nevada, will lead the summit.

''It's time for businesses and nonprofit organizations to be creative and think out of the box,'' says Polovina. ''Boyd Gaming prefers to give back to the community. We have long held that it's the right thing to do, but some businesses may be interested in learning how a giving program can strengthen their bottom line. We all prefer to work with people we have a synergy with and nonprofit work can often forge new relationships.''

-end-

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