With the afterglow of Martin Luther King Day still bright, one of Dr. King’s trenchant aphorisms reverberates through the cultural air: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” Like many of Dr. King’s enduring thoughts, this question rings with a note of urgency, a challenge to action and charitable service.
Of the many companies dedicated at the corporate level to such efforts, perhaps none puts such a premium on the service and philanthropy of its members as Blackbaud. The Charleston, South Carolina-based company, founded in 1981, bills itself as “the leading global provider of software and services designed specifically for nonprofit organizations, enabling them to improve operational efficiency, build strong relationships, and raise more money to support their missions.” And that’s more than just a mouthful of corporate self-promotion - Blackbaud is a major force in the nonprofit world.
A successful, publicly-traded corporation, Blackbaud employs nearly 2,000 service-minded employees across an array of offices in the US, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. In addition to Charleston, the company’s US operations include Cambridge, Massachusetts, Denver, San Diego and Indianapolis.
More impressively, Blackbaud’s client roster represents a who’s who of vital and thriving nonprofits, 22,000 in all, ranging from the American Red Cross to Lincoln Center and the Special Olympics, as well as a wide array of educational institutions like high schools, charter schools, and prestigious colleges such as Dartmouth.
Blackbaud’s services run a wide gamut, too. Though they specialize exclusively in nonprofits, the company offers an array of consulting services, particularly for the identification and acquisition of new donors, the creation of a strong web and social media presence, and the development of lasting organizational growth strategies for their client organizations.
But all that falls within their profit margin. What about the over-and-beyond, the extracurriculars? After all, what good is a corporation dedicated to assisting philanthropic organizations if they don’t engage in robust philanthropy themselves?
Here’s where Blackbaud truly distinguishes itself. First-rate volunteerism is woven into the very fabric of the company.
For starters, Blackbaud takes action on the local level. For the past ten-plus years, the Blackbaud Fund has teamed with the Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina to distribute grants to organizations in the Lowcountry region of the state. With an eye toward helping disadvantaged youth, Blackbaud selects small grassroots nonprofits, and relies on the Coastal Community Foundation to manage the subsidies. Despite their efforts around the world, Blackbaud continues to reassert a foremost commitment to charities in its own backyard.
More significantly, Blackbaud multiplies its impact by empowering employees to make service a part of their own lives. The organization offers a popular Volunteer for Vacation program, in which employees earn extra vacation days each year by committing to a volunteer cause of their choice.
Plus, any employee who joins in either corporate philanthropic projects or their own private effort is considered a member of Team Blackbaud, the organization’s vast “corporate volunteer corp.”
Among its many initiatives, Team Blackbaud hosts an annual volunteer fair, in which charitable groups visit Blackbaud headquarters and recruit volunteers from the corporation’s ranks. To similar effect, Team Blackbaud maintains a massive web-based “job bank,” through which employees can research further volunteer opportunities.
Team Blackbaud is governed by a committee of rotating leaders culled from each of the corporation’s offices, collectively known as Team Blackbaud Global. Together this body coordinates events for their specific branches, as well as the corporation at large.
One such regional project, a Blackbaud Cambridge effort, is the Everybody Wins Power Lunch, in which Blackbaud employees visit local underprivileged schools during the lunch hour to serve nutritious meals while assisting students with their reading skills.
The Blackbaud site even features a wide array of blogs featuring various aspects of their services with one in particular, Service to Others, devoted entirely to their corporate philanthropy.
Over and beyoind the corporate structure, though, Blackbaud values and rewards the personal initiative of its employees, too. To that end, the company recently unveiled a program designed to identify charitable groups to potentially receive what are called Employee Volunteer Impact Grants. In essence, Blackbaud invites employees to nominate an organization with which they’ve recently volunteered; then each quarter, the leadership of Team Blackbaud Global selects an array of winners to receive cash grants honoring the Blackbaud employee’s service with that group.
According to the company’s website, recent winners have included a Charleston-based organization, Louie’s Kids, designed to fight childhood obesity. Another grant recipient, a Southern California group called School on Wheels, provides tutoring services, school supplies and one-on-one mentoring for homeless children.
For Blackbaud, the calling to help nonprofits hone their mission isn’t just a corporate one. It’s infused into the culture of the company, and extends down to every single member.