Let’s Talk (Corporate) Philanthropy with Bea Boccalandro

April 28, 2014 at 10:31 am Leave a comment

ImageThis week Philanthropy Ohio interviews Bea Boccalandro, president of VeraWorks, who is presenting a webinar series on high impact corporate community involvement.

Philanthropy Ohio: The objective of this webinar series is to explore and implement high impact corporate community involvement. You begin by asking participants to try to imagine their company tripling the impact of the “good” they did last year to address societal causes without raising their charitable giving. Not surprisingly, most of the participants thought this outcome was infeasible. But, by the end of the session most changed their minds and thought this outcome was feasible. How did you get them to change?

Bea Boccalandro: Capitalism is fantastically productive. Even a modestly-sized company might inform thousands of a sale or deliver product across hundreds of miles in a single day.

The typical corporate giving program, however, does not benefit from the corporate might of its own organization. Rarely is corporate advertising used to inform teenagers of the risk of driving drunk. Rarely are corporate logistics repurposed to deliver food or books to underprivileged families. The overwhelming majority of corporate giving is limited to issuing checks amounting, on average, to no more than 1 percent of profit.

Webinar participants were able to see the feasibility of tripling the number of teenagers reached or food delivered or other societal impact after only one hour because they spent that hour thinking “outside the grant.” Specifically, they discovered best practices from other companies and explored how competencies – and other assets – that make their own business commercially successful can “turbo-charge” their community involvement.

people_projectPhilanthropy Ohio: While you don’t dismiss the value of experiences related to traditional “extra-hands” volunteering—for example service days at the food bank or community clean up—you advocate that companies focus on skills-based volunteer opportunities. It seems that moving your focus to skills-based work would be difficult, is it really worth it to try to make this transition?

Bea Boccalandro: Pursuing the innovative is always harder than repeating the customary. However, when a corporate marketing manager helps a nonprofit develop a social media campaign on the dangers of driving drunk or a sales team helps craft a sustainability plan, they make contributions the nonprofit might never be able to afford. To a leanly-staffed community organization, such infusion of skilled expertise might be the difference between succeeding long term and withering to extinction. Indeed, CECP and the Taproot Foundation estimate that every hour of skills-based volunteering results in a contribution to nonprofits valued six times higher than an hour of extra-hands volunteering (approximately $120, versus $20, per hour).

Skills-based volunteering has another advantage. For employees, it seems to “click” better than conducting service that is completely disassociated from work. At Hewlett Packard, for example, skills-based volunteer experiences are both more satisfying to employees and more effective at boosting their workplace morale than extra-hands volunteering.

In summary, embarking down the path of skills-based service might initially add complexity to a corporate community involvement program. Yet, the results – for both societal causes and workplace culture – merit that practitioners seriously consider skills-based employee volunteering.

Philanthropy Ohio: Is it best to integrate employee service into the everyday work experience?

Bea Boccalandro: Yes, I consider work-integrated employee volunteering the new frontier in employee volunteering. FedEx, for example, offers drivers in Florida the opportunity to learn how to recognize invasive species of snakes that the Nature Conservancy is working hard to find and remove from the Everglades. Drivers, then, support the Nature Conservancy as they drive their delivery routes. Their service to a societal cause is so integrated into the everyday work experience that it’s hard to distinguish when they are working and when they are volunteering.

Integrating service into the workplace experience has two key advantages. First, in many cases it makes it easier for employees to find the time to volunteer and it, therefore, can generate many more hours of service. These FedEx employees no longer have to choose between a daughter’s soccer game and attending the Nature Conservancy’s environmental project on Thursday evenings. Second, infusing jobs with a societal contribution appears to positively transform employees’ workplace experience. Employee engagement, teamwork, sense of belonging, pride and connection to mission appear to improve. Again, HP has data showing that, while participation in any HP-organized volunteer activity is associated with an uptick in employee morale, the uptick is higher in volunteering closely linked to their work and workday.

Philanthropy Ohio: Our next webinar in this series will focus on implementing this new strategy. Can you preview one of the success stories we’ll explore on May 13?

Bea Boccalandro: The second webinar will focus on making high-impact corporate philanthropy reality. Thankfully, a number of companies are lighting the path forward. IBM, for example, has repurposed for nonprofit application many of the tools it uses commercially. Any employee (or retiree) can enhance the effectiveness of their volunteering with an IBM Activity Kit targeting that nonprofit’s need, be it marketing, project management or website design. Kits are designed to have everything the volunteer needs to deliver that service to the nonprofit, such as questionnaires, checklists, slide decks or templates.

save the date graphic bannerAn IBM employee who helped a soup kitchen with a fundraiser, for example, might be interested in measuring impact. She can download an IBM-produced Activity Kit on impact evaluation and work with the soup kitchen to apply it. What’s more, the portal provides shared user-provided rankings of the Activity Kits based on a five-star system and helpful user comments.

Other companies, like Aetna and Caesars Entertainment, have taken completely different approaches in their high impact corporate community involvement. But to hear their stories, however, you will need to attend the webinar!

Register for the next webinar in the series on May 13 at 9 a.m.


Entry filed under: Commentaries, Grantmaking. Tags: , , , , , , .

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