Thursday, December 30, 2010

Break Open the Bubbly! Best of 2010 Awards for Philanthropic, Benevolent, Purpose Driven Businesses

Benjamin Franklin's adage: "Do Well by Doing Good " has never proven to be so true as this past year. While this has been a tough economic year for many companies, businesses that have been founded on the principle of blending philanthropy and a purpose with good business have been thriving. And receiving recognition for doing so has become an exciting trend in 2010.

This past fall nearly every major city or region has held business philanthropy awards with categories for both large corporations and small businesses and we noted some of these award ceremonies in November. Yet more and more philanthropic businesses and their founders have been receiving  awards or accolades from their industry peers not only for their outstanding commitments and contributions to their communities through volunteering and philanthropy but also, and more remarkably, for their success in building and growing businesses with quality products. These achievements are especially notable as they prove that businesses that do good can indeed do well in spite of the difficult economic times.

The following businesses have been profiled here, and we are proud to have discovered them early on!
Lauren Bush of FEED, was honored to accept the Humanitarian of the Year award at The Accessories Council Excellence (ACE) Awards
Next week I am excited to go hear the founder of the FEED, Lauren Bush speak at my daughter's alma mater, a local girl's private high school in the area. What excites me is that last July we profiled the FEED project, a company that sells FEED bags, handbags and now also other fashion accessories that help support programs that are eradicating hunger. Since then, this philanthropic venture has not only expanded their product line, captured general acclaim for their humanitarianism, but has also garnered awards and recognitions from the fashion accessories industry as well.

Ecojot: has won the Bronze at the 2010 Canadian Design Exchange Award. The category was Visual Communications Brand & Identity.
Last June, we profiled Ecojot, makers of 100% post-consumer recycled paper products which donates school supplies to kids in need around the world through their corporate giving model  "Buy one, we give one". What was special about this award to Ecojot was the acclaim they received for the design quality of their products from the industry, while having their philanthropic purpose acknowledged at the ceremony.

Mission Street Chinese: 2010 winner of the Eater Awards for " Empire Builder of the Year, San Francisco" from
Well I don't know exactly what "Empire Builder" means, but it sounds great and perhaps refers to the amazing transformation that this business has gone through. Mission Street Chinese/Restaurant along with its sister restaurant Commonwealth, began as a food truck and then became Mission Street Food -where they rented the space of a Chinese restaurant two nights a week and donated a portion of their proceeds to local causes. Their story launched and inspired our blog , as they have been a "benevolent business" (as they call themselves) from their very beginnings and continue to do so. I like the idea of benevolent business empires!

Give Something Back: San Francisco Business Times’ Community Change & Impact Award; U.S. Small Business Administration Business of the Year; Newman's Own/George Award; E-Achievement Award; San Francisco Business Times Top Corporate Philanthropists Awards; Inc. Magazine’s “Inc. 100 and Inc. 500” (8 out of 9 years); Classy Awards finalist for Philanthropic Business of the Year
We profiled the company Give Something Back, an office products company in a three part interview with founder Mike Hannigan. Since then, Give Something Back has been receiving awards and acclaim for both their philanthropic business model and their achievement in business growth  from so many organizations and institutions.

Sweets Truck: Classy Awards finalist for Small Philanthropic Business of the Year;named 2010 Los Angeles Small Philanthropic Business of the Year
When we first wrote about Sweets Truck and their commitment to support their community, we found the idea very sweet and charming, not to mention yummy. Then later we were very excited about their nomination for Classy Awards an awards competition recognizing the top philanthropic achievements by charities, businesses, and individuals in eight major cities nationwide.

e-Cycle: Inc. magazine has named e-Cycle number 763 in its 2010 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing, privately-held, for-profit companies in the U.S.
Perhaps the most telling of all the awards and acclaim are the ones that come from industry leaders acknowledging the success of a business. e-Cycle has proven to be a leader amongst philanthropic and green companies achieving business success not in spite of their purpose, but most likely as a result. We were thrilled to interview their co-founder, Tonia Irion about the philanthropic side of their business.

Congratulations to all of these business for their achievements and for their inspiration to others.I look forward to seeing this trend of recognizing philanthropic businesses to build even more in 2011. It is going to be a great year with more and more businesses becoming philanthropic and more and more public acclaim for their mission to "do well by doing good".

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Are You Or Your Business Deluged With End Of Year Requests From Charities?

Have you noticed how more and more of your  friends are starting charities? How more and more friends are on boards and committees of non-profits and so more and more of them are helping raise money for a good cause? Just this week, I have received four newsletters, one phone call, two e-mail requests, one letter and one phone call -all from friends. They all say the same thing: charities have been hard hit, this is a really worthy cause, won't you give, give again, or give more?

Personally, what I find frustrating are the ambivalent feelings rising up in me. Yes, they are all worthy causes and yes, I want to help my friends as I have been there too helping raise money for a cause. I am finding it tougher and tougher to fend these requests off while at the same time feeling guilty that I have to do so.The trap that I am in, and I am sure this applies to many people, is that as these requests increase so has my total giving while at the same time individual donations to my favorite charities have decreased from previous years. It is hard to say to them: "I am giving to you less this year, because I am now also giving to, (for example) an orphanage in Africa.

Is this experience any different if you are small business, or large one for that matter?  You may have already have a favorite community cause or causes that you employees care about that you have been sponsoring all along, If you have a giving plan, you may already budgeted your charitable contributions for the year, Yet, you too are probably deluged with solicitations from local charities and you would like to help-you really would.. Add to all of this the fact businesses this past year have had even less to give than before.

Here is an example from a local business owner in Lane County, Eugene Oregon, where businesses have seen pleas for help from local charities climb as the economy has declined in the past three years.

“There’s so many probably deserving groups that it’s really hard — you can’t even take all the calls,” said Rob Bennett, owner of Bennett Management Company and the Downtown Athletic Club. Plus, he added, “We have relatively less (to give) than what we did three years ago. We’re holding our own, but the decisions are harder and the amount we can contribute is down from earlier years.”

Last year, we posted: "How To Say No (and Yes) To Charity Requests, which gave suggestions on how to cope with this increase in requests for donations.

What I think this holiday scramble really points to is that private giving (not at the Bill Gates' billionaires level) is being tapped out and charities need to turn to seek support from businesses both during the holidays and all year in order to survive. Even if a business cannot give much in cash donations there are so many ways that a business can do to help that private individuals cannot.

Here are some ideas:

  • Create an employee giving program where employees choose which organizations they would like support.
  • Matching grants for private donations( which have proven to be enormously successful) .
  • Engaging customers for a cause-even a jar on the counter asking for spare change to help a worthy cause, can add up to a lot. Check out how Whole Foods and Safeway do this.
  • Donate products, services, expertise.
  • Volunteer, have employees volunteer in teams.
  • Cause marketing promotion, attracting customers to purchase with a portion of the sales going to a cause.
  • Set out collection bins for food, toys, clothing, even cell phones. 
So now- because as a single supporter  I have fewer of these options, I have to go off and write some checks before the end of the year hoping that these will help my favorite causes.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Macy's Newest Cause Marketing Miracle on 34th St.

Not since the movie " A Miracle On 34th St" a 1947 movie where the existence of a Macy's Santa was proven by the submission in court of  50,000  letters to Santa, and "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa" 1897 editorial , has there been better proof that there is someone out there that will grant children's wishes.

For every letter to Santa delivered Macy's has given $1.00 to Make A Wish Foundation an organization that grants wishes to children who are face life threatening illnesses.

Macy's has set up a Believe post office like stations at all their stores nationwide, as well as a website where letters can be written and decorated to be printed up and brought to stations.   

Now practical parents,Scrooges, Grinches and cause marketing cynics as well, must be cringing at this strategy of taking advantage and even furthering childrens' beliefs in Santa as a ploy to bring in customers.

But I am sucker for such causes like Make A Wish Foundation; and for myths like tooth fairies and Santas, and I always cry when I watch movies "The Miracle on 34th Street". As a mom I know the pain and heartbreak of having a child injured or sick, as well as the joys and delight of children at Christmas time.

To date Macy's has received 1,001,002  letters. This campaign has translated to Macy's delivering a $1,000,000.00 check to Make A Wish Foundation, with an additional $500,000.00 from their facebook promotion- proving once again that kids' letters to Santa must mean that somewhere out there he does exist -and so does charitable giving tied in with some brilliant cause marketing.

If Macy's can help me "believe" that that there is "someone out there" that can give some joy and hope to children with life threatening illnesses, then I truly hope that Macy's wish for profitable season has been granted too.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

RibbonBook Founder Finds His Mission

What motivates business innovators? Is it their strengths and goals, or also their turmoil? This was the question I asked in my post on Tuesday, citing business strategist Rosabeth Moss Kanter and her theory that personal obstacles, losses and challenges can often be a powerful driver in the creation of businesses and social ventures. It's been a recurring topic on this blog, going back to businesses such as InspireNotes, and one seemingly answered by Scott Kurland and his venture, RibbonBook.

Scott conceived his service based on a simple principle: how to streamline the process of stamping, mailing greeting cards to all your family and friends? Most importantly, how to keep from forgetting important dates and occasions? With these questions in mind, he set about creating RibbonBook, a site that will allow users to prearrange the delivery of cards for a variety of events like holidays and birthdays. Currently, the Beta version of the site allows visitors to send free greeting cards via Facebook.

Once the site fully launches in early 2011, the $3.79 card price will include a $1 contribution to one of the "RibbonBook funds," philanthropic causes selected by Scott and his users.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the service, though, is its genesis. Recently, facing a variety of personal challenges, Scott struggled to find renewed meaning in his life. As he told me, "The loss of my father in 2005 was a real wake-up call. I was married the same year to my beautiful wife and have had two children since. In early 2009, I began to experience a series of failures that led to some difficult financial times and bankruptcy. After spending over a year struggling unsuccessfully with both job interviews and get-rich-quick start-up ideas, I burned out and found myself depressed and directionless."

After reflecting on his goals and passions, Scott found a renewed sense of purpose and mission in helping others, then combined it with his unique and inventive business concept. Now this self-described "serial entrepreneur" hopes to recruit customers to the cause with RibbonBook. We'll check in with Scott again in 2011; for now, he and his business provide a reminder of how helping others can often provide a guiding light in challenging times.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Yourself, Improved: Innovation as a Vehicle for Personal Growth

With Oscar night right around the corner, the film that seems to have caught everyone's attention this year is The Social Network, the story of restless Facebook wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg and how he carried off his coup of web innovation. Depending on who you believe, the film involves as much fiction as fact. On a pure narrative level, though, it raises some fascinating questions about the nature of motivation, creativity, leadership. Did Mark Zuckerberg's vision for Facebook arise from shortcomings in his own social life?

Last month, acclaimed business strategist and Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter addressed some of the film's core issues in a blog post for the Harvard Business Review. In it, she asks, are misery and personal weakness prime motivators for successful entrepreneurs?

In her own words:

Entrepreneurs always have something to prove - the viability of their ideas, for one thing. They must make good on their promises that they can create something new or live up to the claims on their business plans or project proposals. But are they also, consciously or unconsciously, seeking to prove that they can transcend a personal deficit through their venture? And does this increase the motivation to throw themselves fully into the venture? Does psychic compensation fuel the passion to succeed? Is inner misery a motivation?

Surely, negative motivators can be just as persuasive and powerful as positive ones, and drive is a necessary key to launching any venture on the scale of a business. As Moss Kanter continues:

Restless dissatisfaction - that feeling that something isn't quite right - propels entrepreneurship and innovation. Sometimes the motivation is straightforward and doesn't require pop Freudian analysis. Get annoyed about something that isn't working, and invent a gizmo to fix it. See your mother suffer from cancer, and become a scientist seeking a cure. Get angry about the sorry state of urban education, and start an organization to tackle it. Personal stories lie behind many successful social or business ventures.

As Moss Kanter goes on to suggest, this sort of compensation can have real-world applications. Perhaps managers, in motivating staff, should look not only at each individual's strengths, but also at what deficits they hope to overcome.

In this, then, the inwardly driven, improvement-minded entrepreneur shares much with leaders from among the ranks of any philanthropy or social venture. Later on this week, I will continue to explore this concept, profiling small-business innovators who found inspiration in overcoming personal obstacles by turning toward giving.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

CSR FOR HR or HR FOR CSR- a Win Win For Everybody

Reading CSR FOR HR by Elaine Cohen has successfully answered some key questions that have I been chewing over in my head.  The book follows the very engaging format of a fictionalized character, Sharon an HR executive, guided by another fictional character named Arena, who initiates her into the world of CSR. As the main character meets and learns from other CSR practitioners, that serve as her teachers and guides, the various functions of CSR within corporate organizations, she also learns what role and responsibility  HR can take in changing corporate culture by integrating a CSR perspective into all of the its functions.

As though I was initiated too, this book was an eye opener for me to view what I have considered to be primarily HR functions as a form of Social Responsibility. Some of the traditional HR responsibilities this book addresses include: responsible workplace, work life  balance, employee development and engagement ,employee rights and diversity,  rewards and recognition, health and safety, recruitment and retention, training and development, corporate culture, values and ethics.

Having worked as an organizational development consultant, facilitator and trainer I have seen how the role of corporate culture change often falls on the shoulders of HR. Now CSR practitioners are also change agents banging on the doors of the traditional corporate mindset to become more aware of their responsibility to bring about the kind of social benefits that affect their companies, the employees, and now the world.  An alliance of these two change agencies may be just the line of attack to bring down the some of the barriers to change that many companies still hold up.

Elaine makes a strong argument in this book for tying these HR objectives with CSR objectives. In her first sentence in the Introduction she says:  “This book is about a wake-up call for the human resources HR profession and a toolkit written to help members of the profession to act.” And while “the intended audience is anyone practising, teaching, learning, aspiring to be in the HR function”, I see value in expanded the audience to include anyone practicing, or aspiring to be in the CSR function as well.

Sometimes when I participate in a gathering that brings together CSR, Community Relations, Corporate Volunteering and Corporate Philanthropy folks, where the discussion centers around employee programs, I wonder: “where is HR?”. For although, stuck in thinking about its traditional roles, HR may be not only unaware of the potential of partnering with CSR, as yet CSR endeavors in organizations sometimes seems dissociated from the HR department.  For example, Just look at the list of CSR and Corporate Citizenship titles of the attendees at BCCCC’s annual conference,where only one HR position had been named amidst the dozens of CSR domain positions.

Or, as another example, a  terrific study, which we reported here before, by Manulife a Canadian-based financial services company operating in 22 countries and territories worldwide, carried out by the community relations department, reported the many  benefits of their employee volunteer program to the company in hiring, retention and employee satisfaction, normally areas that are the purvey of HR. This would have, could have, should have, been big news for the HR department too-hopefully it was. 

Thankfully, this book helps bring this issue to the forefront. My favorite chapter, Employee Volunteering in the Community, co-written by Elaine Cohen, Chris Jarvis and Angel Parker of Realized Worth (two of my favorite CSR people)  addresses  employee volunteering within the rightful  context of HR concerns such as employee job satisfaction, recruitment,  employee career development, team building and leadership training.Elaine Cohen makes a strong argument for the integration of these domains, as doing so would create  value for the companies and the employees as well.  HR’s partnership with corporate philanthropy and employee volunteer programs makes a lot of sense. Why duplicate the allocation of resources to address employee satisfaction, training, and employee relations, when these types of community volunteer programs are of benefit not only those causes that they serve but to the entire company as well?

Yes, Elaine Cook’s book is a must read for anyone in HR function of any sized organization, and let’s not forget for CSR  practitioners too. For much more great stuff from Elaine about CSR and HR check out her blog: csr-reporting.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Catchafire Concept

Any nonprofit or social enterprise ought to utilize the available skills and resources in the most effective manner. On the flip side, too, high-skilled volunteers don't want to see their energy and expertise squandered on the wrong sort of work. That's the impetus behind Catchafire, a New York-based for-profit business that specializes in matching skilled volunteers with nonprofit organizations that need their specific sort of help.

Founder Rachael Chong, a former investment banker, stumbled on the idea for Catchafire after joining a volunteer project offered by her firm. Helping to build a house in the Bronx, she found herself hauling lumber in an effort that wasn't exactly putting her financial and organizing expertise to optimal use. When she sought out a more effective volunteer opportunity, she found few offerings, and immediately sensed a niche to be filled.

Catchafire, which describes itself as "an eHarmony for skilled volunteers and social mission organizations," specializes in making exactly that sort of love connection. The site solicits small-scale, achievable projects in the areas of marketing, public relations, social media, strategy and finance, then matches the projects with volunteers eager to use their professional skills on a flexible pro bono basis, charging only a fraction of typical market rates for the services provided.

You can hear some success stories right here, or peruse a list of organizations Catchafire has assisted, including the Go Project, a group that provides academic support to low-income students, the African Rainforest Conservancy, the Tibet Fund and the Business Council for Peace.

But the true strength of Catchafire, it would seem, lies in the simplicity of its concept. Properly matching skilled volunteers with causes where they can make a difference in a manageable amount of time makes for the most fulfilling type of win-win. Imagine if every business took a page from the Catchafire playbook, relying on built-in capabilities and leveraging them to benefit a cause for good.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Facebook Causes

Since its founding in 2007, Facebook Causes has become an indispensable resource for many nonprofits. The pioneering social media application, created by Sean Parker (played by Justin Timberlake in the movie) and Joe Green, allows any Facebook user to create a profile for an issue or organization of their choosing, network with other groups, then solicit friends and family to join and even donate.

The fundraising stats have grown gradually since the app's creation. So far only two groups have broken the $100,000 threshold: The Nature Conservancy and Students for a Free Tibet. According to Susan Gordon, Nonprofit Coordinator for Causes, the Nature Conservancy is Causes' largest fundraiser to date with $262,984 in donations.

But there's a catch here and there, ones which any participant might want to heed. There are the usual privacy concerns, of course. Also, as with much of the user-created content on Facebook, the site itself reserves the right to re-purpose your organization's logos, copy, graphics, photos and miscellaneous content. What's more, 4.75% of all donations are tithed by Causes' donation distribution partner, Network for Good, in order to cover their operating expenses. While none of that money benefits Causes directly, the application is a for-profit enterprise that earns revenue through advertising.

Many in the media have been sharply critical of Causes. According to the Wall Street Journal, social media in general and Causes in specific are among the most ineffective means of nonprofit fundraising.

As their article points out:

Only a tiny fraction of the 179,000 nonprofits that have turned to Causes as an inexpensive and green way to seek donations have brought in even $1,000, according to data available on the Causes developers' site.

Research shows that the Internet and email are generally considered the least successful nonprofit fundraising techniques, according to a report by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

"The prevalent fantasy among nonprofits during the early days of the Web was that a random person would come to your Web site, see that they could donate, and donate a million dollars," said Aaron Hurst, chief executive of a California nonprofit, who has blogged about the ineffectiveness of Causes. "But that wasn't true then and it isn't true on social networks."

Just this past October, too, Malcolm Gladwell took on social media activism in a controversial article for The New Yorker. While I disagree with many of Gladwell's conclusions about the organizing potential of Internet platforms like Causes, the piece makes for a thought-provoking read.

In it, Gladwell contrasts Facebook and Twitter networking with the highly organized, centralized, disciplined and passionate techniques of the civil rights movement. Gladwell asserts that social media cause support requires comparatively little of web-users, often entailing nothing more than the clicking of that "Like" button. It demands little material or physical sacrifice, largely because Internet-based networks are loose-knit communities, counterproductive to strong activism, as opposed to "strong tie" organizations with a centralized strategy and deep, lasting, value-based social bonds.

Once you've read Gladwell's piece, hop over here for a spirited response from Facebook Causes' Susan Gordon.

Indeed, while Gladwell raises some legitimate points, the bright future for many nonprofits lies along a middle path, combining the capabilities of traditional activism and cause marketing with the unparalleled information dissemination and fundraising potential of social media. To that end, Facebook Causes, like Facebook itself, makes for a valuable marketing platform. It has its downsides, and every user would do well to read the fine print of the user agreement, but ultimately makes for a powerful source of increased awareness.

Monday, December 6, 2010

B1G1 – Global Giving Partnering Businesses With Charities

Buy One Give One (BOGO) is the home of transaction-based giving.

STOP. Take a breath. And imagine you were part of a world where every single transaction made a difference.

Imagine, for a moment, you purchased a television, and automatically a cataract-blind person got the gift of sight. Automatically. Or imagine if today you purchased a cup of coffee and someone in Africa got access to clean, pure drinking water as a direct result. Again automatically.

It’s all happening right now. Already Buy1GIVE1 (Buy1/Give1) has become a true global giving ‘village’, bringing together businesses, their customers and worthy causes in a way that’s never been done before.

It’s happening globally, every second, every day and in every way with a staggering 556 projects already underway and making a difference.

That’s because in the Buy1GIVE1 world, every single sales transaction, be it buying a cup of coffee in Cape Town or renting a car in Reno (and everything in between) gives back in a well-defined, resonant and measurable way.

In this present economy, when both corporations and charities have seen a decrease in profits and donations, cause-related marketing appears to really be catching on. Cause-related marketing is a business scheme involving a partnership between a company with a product to sell and a charity with a cause to advance. As opposed to “corporate philanthropy,” which simply involves a company making a tax-deductible charitable donation, cause-related marketing benefits both the company (by helping to increase sales, and thus, profits), and the charity (by giving contributions and calling attention to the cause.)

You buy a book, a tree gets planted. You dine out, a child is fed. Buy One Give One – simple. The list is endless and the giving simply happens automatically, every second, every day and in every way.

And it is beautifully simple. Buy1GIVE1 is now becoming a global movement as more and more businesses jump on board and enjoy the incredible benefits of transaction based giving.

In Buy1GIVE1, they made sure that in all cases, the consumers are not only involved in CSR initiatives on a daily basis. Buy1-Give1 generates answers to that and it does it every second, every day and in every way.

Discover more about how Buy1GIVE1 (BOGO) can transform your business using Cause Marketing.

This article, B1G1 – Global Giving Partnering Businesses With Charities has free reprint rights.

Article From Articles Cafe

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Starbucks and World AIDS Day, Help Fight This Disease With A Song

I first became aware of the impact of Aids in Africa on children who had been orphaned, when I met an extraordinary women, Chellie Kew. Chellie recounted the story of how she founded the Q Fund, to help bring education to AIDS orphans in Africa. The account of the children who are shunned as a result of their family tragedies and of Chellie's personal journey to build schools for them, can be found on her website. Back when Chellie lived here, I helped her raise money towards her schools with a sponsored walk at my son's high school on Dec.1st, World AIDS Day.

Chellie has now moved to a different city and while I continue to support the QFund , every Dec.1st, I am  reminded every of the importance of eradicating this horrible disease in the world.

Starbucks and dozens of other businesses, such as the GAP, and Converse have supported the RED Campaign year round, helping to eliminate AIDS with the sale of their products.

Today Starbucks has a special promotion, a beautiful video of a performance by the The Killers. For every viewing of this video, including from this site, Starbucks will donate 5 cents to the Global Fund to help fight AIDS in Africa. Please watch and listen, the music is beautiful and pass this on to your friends today.

For more ways you can help fight AIDS today and to see other happenings please see:
(Blog) Red-Buy( Red),Save Lives.