Building a Stronger Business Community Through Corporate Philanthropy
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Episode 59 Transcript:
Chris Curran: Growth Igniters Radio, episode 59 − Building A Stronger Business Community Through Corporate Philanthropy. This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of growth. On the web at www.businessadvance.com. And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks, Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated, and with me, as always, is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi, Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi, Pam. As always, it’s so exciting to be joining you again for another episode of Growth Igniters Radio, and if this is your first time listening, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders to take themselves and their companies to their next level of success. So Pam, what are we exploring today?
Pam Harper: Emerging trends in corporate philanthropy. It’s clear that there’s a growing promise in combining business purpose with social purpose, but there are just so many models, and it seems like there are more that are emerging every day. Today, we’re fortunate to have back as our guest, Karen Eber Davis, author of the book, 7 Nonprofit Income Streams: Open the Floodgate to Sustainability. Karen is also President of Karen Eber Davis Consulting, which helps businesses use philanthropy as a propulsion tool to grow their profits and performance. She’s the leading authority on ways that non-profits and for-profits can engage with each other to create dynamic partnerships. You’ll recall that we spoke with Karen − it was about a year ago − on the topic of achieving business goals in for-profit/non-profit partnering. We’re so excited to have her return to talk about what’s new on the cutting edge. Welcome back, Karen.
Karen Eber Davis: Hello, Pam and Scott. It’s great to be here. I’m excited.
Pam Harper: I guess we have to just start out and say, “What’s new here?” There’s an emerging trend you were talking to us about not very long ago about how companies are innovating in their interaction with non-profits to increase the impact of the philosophy of “doing well by doing good.” Can you tell us a little more about this?
Karen Eber Davir: Since we spoke, I’d been doing a lot of interviewing and working with people on this topic. Really, discovery, and almost every day I find something new. As recently as 2013, Forbes said that corporate philanthropy or corporate responsibility takes on almost infinite number of forms. On one level I agree with that, and on another, I disagree.
Scott Harper: Why do you disagree, Karen?
Karen Eber Davis: Because I see lots and lots of options, but I see them falling into four categories.
Scott Harper: All right. They are?
Karen Eber Davis: They are − the first is, “I’m just giving back because somebody asked me.” So, that’s response.
Scott Harper: Okay; right. So, that’s the more traditional kind of philanthropy in a way?
Karen Eber Davis: Right. No pattern necessarily, just say, “This sounds good. Let’s do it” kind of thing.
Scott Harper: Right.
Karen Eber Davis: Then I see attempts to make corporate philanthropy stick in two ways. One is by trying to gather new customers − and you’ve seen this; this would be sponsorships of various kinds.
Scott Harper: Right. We’ve been seeing that.
Karen Eber Davis: The other side is things that basically reduce cost. That’s things like having your employees work better as a team and be more engaged when they do work, or helping current customers feel like they’re special and belong. Those are two ways to say, “How can I get some value out of my corporate giving back?”
Scott Harper: Okay. The last time we spoke, you mentioned some emerging trends that are more innovative and may give companies a new niche.
Karen Eber Davis: What’s really interesting is when − Your listeners will like this because it’s really about getting ahead of the curve − is when people decide to be strategic about their philanthropy. That is thinking much longer term than, “Oh, I’ll fund an event or sponsor an event and see some returns in the next few months.” It’s more about, “I will see things happen, maybe out there in the future.” What’s interesting is that this provides a lot of leverage.
Pam Harper: Karen, when you’re talking about this, you’re talking about an existing for-profit business that is partnering with non-profits that exist already. Is that right?
Karen Eber Davis: Correct.
Pam Harper: Because they see something different. It sounds like another step on that journey of coming up with new ways to work together, to do good.
Scott Harper: Yeah. Now Karen, you have told us that in all of your work with non-profits you’ve seen that corporate cash really holds a lot of sway in the non-profit world. How does this relate to this new trend that you just described?
Karen Eber Davis: This allows us to even do more as for-profits, because in non-profits, even those who are extremely well-funded, cash that they can use for whatever they need − undesignated cash − is really short. You might be surprised; I have one group that I have worked with who has about 65 million dollars in income and they have less than half a million that they can use at their discretion. Imagine you’re in a corporation and you’re trying to run a business. You can’t really literally buy new furniture because you don’t have a line for it, or you see something really good you want to jump on, but you have to find cash to do it with. Because there are so many restrictions, having some cash from you as a corporate partner makes you a very, very valuable player. Really, out of proportion, necessarily to what you think your gifts might do.
Pam Harper: That’s very interesting. What do you think is behind this? Just speculating. Why is this happening now?
Karen Eber Davis: For one thing, I think the lines between for-profits and non-profits are getting less distinct. You have people like Tom coming in with social enterprises and they’re developing … that company developed a concept of, “We want to do good and we want to make money” and so, they have Tom’s shoe. You buy a pair of shoes from Tom’s and they provide a pair of shoes to someone elsewhere in the world who needs shoes.
Scott Harper: Okay. You also have the Daniel Lubetzky kind model where they have a − what was it? Not …
Pam Harper: Not only for profit.
Scott Harper: Not only for profit model.
Pam Harper: That’s built into the company. We’re talking about a slightly different thing here where it’s much more about partnering. That’s why I wanted to clarify that. It’s very exciting. It’s very exciting to hear about this and we’re going to learn more. You have some stories for us, I understand.Buthat we’re do now is take a quick break, and when we come back, we’ll talk more with Karen Eber Davis about examples of companies that are building stronger business communities through corporate philanthropy. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: You are listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − on the web at www.businessadvance.com. We enable successful companies to accelerate to their next level of innovation and success. If you like what you’re hearing, spread the good word. Go to www.growthignitersradio.com, select episode 59, and use the share links for Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter on the top right of the page to tell your social media communities all about us. And while you’re there, sign up for our weekly alert of upcoming episodes so you’ll always be up-to-date.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper − that’s me − and Scott Harper. Scott and I are talking today with Karen Eber Davis about the promising rise of corporate philanthropy − some of the newer things that are starting to happen here. You can find out more in the resources section for this episode by going to www.growthignitersradio.com and selecting episode 59. Karen, can you tell us how people can find your book?
Karen Eber Davis: Sure. It’s on Amazon for one. It’s called 7 Nonprofit Income Streams.
Pam Harper: That’s great. Let’s go back to your discussion here. We talked about this trend, − let’s bring it alive with some of these stories. What would be an example of one that you’ve seen that was really rewarding for everybody?
Karen Eber Davis: The concept is to get into the future and see what you need to make your business better. You look out there and you say, “To make my business better, I need something that’s missing.” I call it the first option or the first opportunity or way to look at this is, “Help, I need a plumber.” This is a place where you look and you say, “I need something in my workforce,” and you invest money to create that in the future. It’s not getting this immediate ROI; it’s about, “I’m going to invest my social giving back into something that helps my business that I see now and will help me down the road.”
Scott Harper: How does that work, Karen?
Karen Eber Davis: An example would be, you fund a scholarship for plumbers and situate them at the local tech school. People would apply for that, and they would hear about and you − you come on their radar − as well as you would have connection with people applying for that scholarship. That’s one way. Another way …
Pam Harper: Wait a moment…
Karen Eber Davis: Okay.
Pam Harper: Just a second. The first real piece of this is that they’re looking at a much longer-term horizon for when they’re going to get a return on their investment, and they’re okay with this? Is that right?
Karen Eber Davis: Right; because many people don’t expect much return from their giving back.
Pam Harper: So, anything is good?
Karen Eber Davis: Anything is good. When you move into the future, the future moves − I want to say, easier. You can make more input in the future. You can leverage what you’re doing.
Scott Harper: Now, you’re getting multiple impacts. You’re getting the halo effect of, “I’m a good citizen giving to this cause” and you’re getting the opportunity to harvest some of the fruit that comes out of that.
Pam Harper: People don’t usually think about it that way, so it’s a giant win. You’re going to talk about another example which is great.
Karen Eber Davis: Another. That’s about personnel. Now imagine − I need to change and keep some of these stories I’m telling you a little generic, Pam and Scott − because I’ve got to protect the marketing draw.
Scott Harper: Sure. Of course.
Pam Harper: Okay. Sure.
Karen Eber Davis: Okay. Now imagine you’re in the insurance business and you are literally getting hundreds of requests [for donations] every year. Your staff brings you requests for funding, the community does, your customers know, they kind of know you. You’re a known quantity of giving generously, but that’s not very satisfying. Instead what the insurance company did, was switch to a very, very simple grant process that had to do with non-profits, who could apply for up to 500 dollars to make property insurance-related changes on their sites. For instance, you want to change the locks; that will be a great request. What does this do? You’re in your field as an insurance company; you’re an expert on property insurance in this case and so, you know when the request come in whether they make sense. In the fall of time, you reduce the claims because you have better security around buildings that are filed in your community.
Ideally, you can even impact rates down the road, but this also provides for the non-profits to win because who wants to fund things like security lighting? It’s not very popular. It’s hard to get money for those things. It’s got a lot of levels in it with a long term perspective that provide a lot more return than just giving money because someone asked.
Scott Harper: It’s a little bit like, “I’ll scratch your back and not you scratch mine, but somehow, rather I’m scratching my own at the same time.” It’s kind of a weird analogy but …
Karen Eber Davis: “I’m an expert at insurance. I see what could fix my community and I want to invest there and I’m using my expertise.”
Scott Harper: I’ve got it.
Pam Harper: It goes back to being visionary, no? Doesn’t it? Somebody who can really see the possibilities, challenge, what’s unconventional − The conventional thinking of, “You can’t do that.” Well, yes, I can.
Scott Harper: Yeah.
Pam Harper: Very exciting.
Karen Eber Davis: How can I make that happen so that it helps everyone and uses what I’m good at? One of the things we didn’t talk about, is some of the challenges with doing corporate giving is as more and more this is done, people are more and more skeptical. For instance, one survey said that only 10% of respondents think that cause-marketing campaigns are sincere.
Pam Harper: Why is that then?
Karen Eber Davis: So, you’re running into this 90% of people are thinking, “Why are you doing that?”
Pam Harper: Yeah. Why do you think people feel that way?
Karen Eber Davis: Because many don’t have any fit with what the organization is doing. I ran into a bumper sticker recently that was pink. I won’t say the name of the company, but it was all about how we sell cars, and we also support breast cancer. Hard to see a connection there. A lot of people or customers have concerns about that − “but does it really fit?”
Scott Harper: Okay. This really ties into a book that we reviewed last week, “Start With Why,” by Simon Sinek, and the premise is that you have a driving purpose, a big idea that you believe in that your company and other people can join in and identify with that. So if my giving doesn’t match up with my why, people are going to go, “That seems insincere.”
Pam Harper: It’s about credibility.
Scott Harper: Yeah.
Pam Harper: Karen, what do you think?
Karen Eber Davis: I think that’s very good. I think what people often forget is that even their giving back can tie into their why.
Pam Harper: The decisions that people make − they have to really to think about, “How does my decision to do this connect with the bigger picture of what our purpose is and that the people who are our stakeholders, whether they’re employees, whether they’re clients, whether they community, whoever it is can actually see it.” How can they demonstrate it? There’s a lot of thought that has to go into that, isn’t there?
Karen Eber Davis: Absolutely. Also, it’s energizing, because if you can get something like a gift or a partnership with a non-profit to contribute, it opens up all kinds of creative new doors that no one else is going to be there competing with you.
Scott Harper: Okay. Now Karen, you said that there was another model that you wanted to talk about.
Karen Eber Davis: Sure. That first model was again, I call it “I need a plumber.” This is more about, “Where do I want to live?” I don’t want to live some place without blank, blank, blank − that’s a fill in the blank. The next story here is about someone in the marine industries; he’s a specialist in that area. He was doing a good deal of private giving back and the conversation I had working with him was, what happens if you apply that giving back in a way to attract customers or affirm your current customers? He was in a long-term business, so it was a mature business. He got into the point where he knew who he wanted for customers. He liked customers who like giving back. Just with the quality of people, because he felt that they really were looking at things holistically, but he had a problem.
His politics were, shall we say, “Bernie Sanders;” his customers were on the opposite end of the spectrum. Environmental causes and causes he cared about − about supporting the ocean are controversial, believe it or not. We think they’re not but when you get into it and for him, they were. We haven’t sort through who might be a good match for both of them. In that, we came up with some program that involves creating reefs that had already been destroyed by people. So, it’s replacing broken reefs and putting them back again. This was something that was a benefit to him because he thought it was a good idea. His customers won’t going to have a problem with it and in the fall of time, he would know where the good fishing spots would be because of his relationship with the non-profit. There was this multiple level of success and give back and synergies happening.
Pam Harper: Karen, how did you find that solution?
Karen Eber Davis: There are 1.5 million non-profits out there. I start with the premise and there’s someone out there who can do that. We also went through a long list of possibilities. For instance, I’d suggested there was a group who brought school children to the ocean who’d never been. Would he be interested in that? He said, “That’s great, but I’m not interested. I’m interested what happens to the water and I really …” He wanted the things on that level.
Pam Harper: Okay. Sounds like, is that the more you can keep the vision in mind and then think really creatively to go beyond with the first line of ideas would be? I mean, you really were digging with them, so that you can come up with some fabulous opportunities.
We’re going to take another quick break, and when we come back, we’re going to talk more with Karen Eber Davis about ways you can start exploring how you might be able to take your corporate philanthropy to the next level. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: Pam, can you tell our listeners why clients engage us to speak at events, conferences, and company off-sites?
Pam Harper: They’re seeking new insights to dramatically accelerate company transformation and growth. They’re also seeking new leadership about themselves, their teams, and their organization so they can make bold new decisions about strategy and implementation. It’s been especially rewarding to find that some of our company off-sites have resulted in breakthrough decisions that have generated as much as tenfold growth over five years.
Scott Harper: So contact us today at www.businessadvance.com to arrange for a brief call to discuss your needs and options for helping you achieve your most important goals.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. We’re talking with Karen Eber Davis about new ways for for-profit companies to partner with non-profits to advance their specific business objectives and make a stronger community. Karen, how can people find you?
Karen Eber Davis: I’m at www.kedconsult.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pam Harper: That’s great. Of course, we’ll have links under resources that will take you over to Karen’s book and all kinds of other things at www.Growthignitersradio.com, episode 59. Okay. Let’s get to ways we can put this all to use for ourselves. Now, you’ve written an e-book. Tell us the title of that.
Karen Eber Davis: Sure. It’s 100 Plus Questions to Ask Before You Invest in a Non-Profit.
Pam Harper: Let’s talk about three of the top questions that our listeners can ask if we want to take our corporate philanthropy to the next level. What’s the first one?
Karen Eber Davis: Here’s the first one, and it’s a thought question you should be thinking about before you ask it. Here it is: “I’m trying to achieve this kind of world, how will my investment or involvement be used to create it?”
Pam Harper: Okay. Talk to us about why that’s important.
Karen Eber Davis: First, you’re clear about what you want.
Pam Harper: Do you find that people are often not clear about this kind of thing?
Karen Eber Davis: In this situation, I believe more commonly, the non-profit knows exactly what it wants and the business leader is not at all sure or even know that something could happen for them.
Pam Harper: Because it maybe we’re stuck in the traditional ways of thinking about philanthropy and we’re now as expansively as we could.
Karen Eber Davis: It’s also important because when you start having this discussion, you’re going to go into a deeper level. You want to be really engaged in a place where you both think about how you might work together.
Pam Harper: That’s great. Let’s talk about another question.
Karen Eber Davis: Sure, here’s the second one, “What part of your work is most difficult to fund?”
Scott Harper: Okay. This is the for-profit company talking now − “What part of my work is most difficult to fund?” Help me understand that.
Karen Eber Davis: You’re asking them what it that really is difficult for you as a non-profit to get money for. Why you care about this, is because it’s going to be the elephant in the room.
Scott Harper: Okay. I’m speaking as a for-profit company. I’ve already identified a non-profit that I think would be a good fit, now I’m asking them what’s the most difficult thing for them to fund. What’s the benefit to that kind of question?
Karen Eber Davis: Again, as the visionary leader, you may have a way to impact that and it is going to be part … If you have a long term partnership, it’s always going to be something that the non-profit goes back to in their heads. They’re always looking to fund this challenging thing. Sometimes, it’s a key back to your thinking about how you could help them. For instance, child literacy is a big issue. I’m assuming, I’m not an expert of this, but that funding, helping children to learn to read is pretty easier to get funds with but it’s harder to get money for adults. As the corporate person, you may recognize that your customers or people you want to be with are the parents of these children and teaching the parents to read might be the trick.
Scott Harper: Okay. I guess another side benefit could be, if you have more literate adult workforce out there. You may be able to benefit from a wider selection of qualified workers.
Pam Harper: Publishers come right to mind for me.
Scott Harper: Yeah. That’s right.
Karen Eber Davis: It’s also seeing it in a different way. Because we assume, we understand how non-profits works off and what their issues are. Often, what really slows them down surprises us.
Scott Harper: Okay. What’s the third question that somebody can ask?
Karen Eber Davis: Here’s the third question: “What is the first part of your stewardship experience?” This is something I’m going to go ahead and segway into − stewardship is one of those inside non-profit world language pieces. What it really means is what happens to donors after they give you money? You want to hear what they have to say because it suggest how you might be treated if you write them a check and what happens next?
Scott Harper: You went to avoid the “no good deed goes unpunished syndrome.”
Karen Eber Davis: Correct. It’s a couple other things. It’s important, too. It’s their ability to get into your shoes and have thinking about how that works, but also, you would like to also, in most cases, join part of a community around that cause. If there’s good people who are there connected who you’ll see time after time − that could be business connections.
Scott Harper: Okay. We’ve just had time for three questions out of more than a hundred. For people who want to get your e-book, go to www.growthignitersradio.com, episode 59, and scroll down to resources, and we’ll have a link for you.
Pam Harper: There are a lot of those questions. I have one final question. There are a lot of things that you’re talking about − when would somebody know that they need help getting beyond just doing it themselves? What would be a sign or two?
Karen Eber Davis: If you have poor or no return on your investment, it would be one. Another one is if you have some assets and you’re not sure how they could be best shared with non-profits.
Pam Harper: Okay. It always helps to get an extra person who really understands all the possibilities out there, for sure.
This has been wonderful. Karen, thank yo,u as always. Any final thoughts on this topic?
Karen Eber Davis: I want to thank your listeners for giving back and the activities they’re doing now. I’d love to hear, if they have anyone − partnerships that are really making them excited, because I’d love to share those. I think there’s more seeds of what’s out there. We’re just beginning to see what’s out there, so I’d love to hear more.
Pam Harper: Okay, listeners. You heard it. Thanks again, Karen. We are so glad you could join us today.
Karen Eber Davis: My pleasure.
Scott Harper: Karen, thank you so much, and thanks to you out there for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To check out resources related to today’s conversation, including downloading Karen’s e-book, 100+ Questions to Ask Before You Invest in a Non-Profit, share on social media, find out about upcoming episodes, read Karen’s bio or open a conversation with us, go to www.growthignitersradio.com and select episode 59.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper…
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success and leaving you with this question to discuss :
Scott Harper: What decisions can we make in our business that could increase our ability to do well by doing good?