Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Insurance Giant Allianz Backs Wildlife Works’ REDD Campaign

Insurance giant Allianz backs Wildlife Works’ REDD campaign to save the world’s threatened forests

SAN FRANCISCO, Ca – October 11, 2011 – Wildlife Works Carbon LLC (WWC), the world’s leading REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) project development and management company announced today that insurance giant Allianz SE, headquartered in Munich Germany, has made a 10% equity investment in Wildlife Works Carbon.

Allianz has also agreed to a multi-year option to purchase carbon credits from Wildlife Works Carbon pioneering Kasigau Corridor REDD Project in Kenya, the first REDD project in the world to achieve validation and verification under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard (CCB).

This groundbreaking REDD project will result in the avoidance of over 1 million tonnes of CO2-e emissions per year for the next 30 years while protecting endangered wildlife and bringing the benefits of carbon finance to more than 100,000 people in the surrounding communities.

Allianz’ equity investment backs Wildlife Works’ plan to quickly develop a portfolio of additional REDD projects to protect five million hectares of native forest, mitigating at least 25 million tons of CO2 emissions per year, resulting in the creation of thousands of sustainable jobs in forest communities, while strengthening the rights of forest dwelling peoples.

“We believe that REDD should play a major role in combating climate change. We (the private sector) can do something about this as market-based REDD can scale and significantly contribute to reversing the global warming trend. Wildlife Works Carbon's holistic approach and community focused REDD project portfolio has made them a leader in this critical effort, and that is why we are backing them so strongly,” said Dr. Armin Sandh√∂vel, CEO of Allianz Climate Solutions, a 100% subsidiary of Allianz SE which carried out the WWC investment process as Allianz’ dedicated investment company for carbon related investments.

“Widespread private sector engagement is the fastest solution to stop the destruction of the world’s forests. Allianz’ investment in Wildlife Works Carbon demonstrates that private sector financed REDD can and should play a leading role in the global effort to reduce deforestation. We are grateful and extremely pleased that Allianz has joined our campaign to save the threatened forests of the world,” said Mike Korchinsky, founder and CEO of Wildlife Works.

Gerald Prolman
(415) 548 0973 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (415) 548 0973 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

About Wildlife Works:
Wildlife Works is the world's leading REDD project development and management company with a unique approach to applying innovative market-based solutions to biodiversity conservation and helping local landowners in the developing world monetize their forest and biodiversity assets whether they are governments, communities, ownership groups, or private individuals. In 2011, Wildlife Works’ flagship Kasigau Corridor REDD Project in Kenya was the first in the world to achieve validation, verification and issuance of REDD carbon credits under the VCS and CCB standards. The Wildlife Works Kasigau Corridor REDD Project protects over 500,000 acres of forest and brings the benefits of direct carbon financing to more than 100,000 people in the surrounding communities while also securing the entire wildlife migration corridor between Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks. Wildlife Works is actively developing a portfolio of REDD projects with an aim to protect five million hectares of native forest, to mitigate 25 million tons of CO2 emissions per year, and create thousands of sustainable jobs in rural communities.

About Allianz Climate Solutions GmbH
As a 100% subsidiary of Allianz SE, Allianz Climate Solutions GmbH (ACS) is carrying out, inter alia, carbon related investments on behalf of Allianz Group. Its investment strategy focuses on the growing markets for renewable energy, clean technology and energy efficiency as well as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) projects. Acting as the Group-wide centre of competence on climate change, ACS also serves other Allianz entities as well as external customers with its risk analysis, investment and insurance expertise, bundling the competences and experience of various Allianz business entities.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Classy Awards for Best Philanthropic Small Business

The Classy Awards hosted in San Diego on Sept 17, just released a whole bunch of videos on YouTube,each one featuring the actual awards as they were handed out for each of the categories. My favorite, of course, is the award for the best Philanthropic Small Business of the Year.

As the presenter of the award,  Assistly's CEO Alex Bard said: "I used to think that philanthropy was something that big businesses did to help support causes like some of the ones you see here tonite..."

...and then as the recipient of the award a representative form Nika Water, said:

"There is a new wave of doing good, there is a new style of charity, and there is a new business of giving back... we hope that social business as a term becomes redundant and it is about business giving back."

Friday, September 30, 2011

USA TODAY Polls Pink Campaign Shoppers

Just as when the Holidays roll around every year you can be sure to see the red and green everywhere, it is a sure bet that in October you will see pink all over the marketplace. Yes, another October has come rolling around and more and more businesses are getting on the pink ribbon bandwagon helping promote breast cancer awareness and  research. But research findings have addressed the many questions that many of us have asked as to whether the pink campaign has gone too far and whether it has proven worthwhile. A recent Gallup Poll in USA Today bears some good news about the pink campaign in that it has raised awareness of the cause and has brought in contributions. 

The ensuing article in USA TODAY, however, points out that with all the hoopla and additional funding there has been little advance in finding a cure for the disease and questions remain whether the intense focus on this one cause detracts from other causes just as worthy. 

No one has yet studied, as far as I can tell, whether the pink campaign has provided retailers with an additional boost in sales. Presumably the industry thinks so, unless of course, the campaigns are done out of altruism. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Philanthropy: An Effective Tool for a Good Business

Philanthropy, a wonderful thing for any business to be involved with, as it is a universal law that "to give is to receive" and is proved true on so many occasions, in so many ways.
I've also observed that those with the least to give are the ones who give most in terms of time and money to various causes such as homelessness, domestic abuse, children with cancer, and the list goes on.

I suggest that anyone who has not dabbled in philanthropy should try it. For every hundred dollars that you make, give ten dollars to a cause that you would like to support. Save the Whales, Hug a Tree, Stop Pollution, Halt Elder Abuse, House the Homeless. The choices are endless.

Corporations in the Unites States annually give away over $11 billion to non-profits and other charitable organizations - an average of 1.3% of pre-tax income. Yet, many do so without realizing the strategic value it provides. Philanthropic donations provide a useful, though seldom fully-leveraged, channel for improving outcomes for both the corporation and the community.

Large corporations typically have a staff dedicated to philanthropy with structure and parameters built in, giving at small companies tends to be more grassroots. Small and non-publicly traded companies can often utilize unique ways to give, such as putting their companies in a charitable trust or donating company stock. In fact, 80% of Minnesota businesses with fewer than 500 employees contribute annually through some type of giving program, according to the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. Businesses of any size reap the benefits of social investment with successful communities in turn supporting successful businesses.
It's important to be very observant. Upon donating your time or money, you will see a return on this investment in ways you may not have imagined.

The idea is to give what you can without any strings attached. Once you have started this movement of energy, then "what comes around goes around," and you will be pleasantly surprised at what ensues. I suspect that people like Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Buddha and Jesus were well acquainted with this universal law, and thus spent their lives practicing it.

For More details, Please visit

Eric Melin has been writing since the age of 16. His favorite topics include women's issues, homelessness, homeless veterans, the arts, cinema, biographies, nature and video production. His work has appeared in many publications around the world. You can read her blog, at . His business site is

This article is free for republishing

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Apple's Sleekest Design Yet-Corporate Philanthropy

I try not to comment too much about huge companies and their corporate philanthropy strategies- unless they have created a model that can be replicated by small businesses. The latest flurry of commentary and news about Apple's corporate philanthropy( or lack of) have left some valuable lessons for businesses of all sizes.

A few weeks ago after the announcement of Steve Jobs' resignation, the New York Times published a critical article about the lack of his personal philanthropy and the absence of any corporate giving.

Not less than two weeks after these stories, Tim Cook the new CEO laid out Apple's new corporate giving plan as reported by PC Magazine. This program comes as a  sleek and straightforward employee matching gift program where Apple will match every employee's charitable donations up to $10,000.00 a year.

The beauty of this approach can be seen from several points of view: first, it's an effective tool engaging the employees in their own giving as it both motivates and rewards them for doing so; secondly, this plan becomes a very efficient tool for supporting  local community causes as employees are more likely to identify and care about the local causes that are closest to their hearts; finally, this program streamlines the process of deciding on the recipients as Apple itself does not need to create any kind of application process

But mostly, any small or large business can replicate or adapt this program to create their own giving plan. It's simple and elegant and very effective, just like Apple's products.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Votes,Tweets, Stars and Athletes Score for Puma's Project Pink

Well it seems that again, nominating and voting for charitable organizations is becoming a preferred method of businesses engaging their consumers in throwing their support towards worthy causes. Last week we wrote about the Classy Awards and this week, we have this press release forwarded to us about Puma"s Project Pink. As you can read below, nominations end on Sept. 22 and voting is from Sept. 26th thru Oct 7th.

And for every tweet with the hashtag #projectpink, Puma will donate a dollar to the winning charity.

And there is more-an expanded multi faceted cause marketing effort:
Stars supporting Project Pink in public service announcements
Soccer teams donning pink Puma uniforms for games
Athletes donating proceeds from games towards these causes.

PUMA® Encourages Fans to Make Pink Their Project in 2011
Actress Nina Dobrev joins team as Project Pink supporter

Westford, Mass. (July 6, 2011) – Wear pink, do good. Simple, right? Exactly, says sportlifestyle brand PUMA®as it kicks off year two of Project Pink, a more-than-just-October initiative that puts the fight against breast cancer in the hands of young soccer fans. Launched in 2010 in response to a group of female soccer athletes looking to support breast cancer awareness and research – and now cheered on by PUMA soccer athletes and Project Pink spokeswomen Amy Rodriguez, Leslie Osborne, Karina LeBlanc, Alex Scott, Tasha Kai, and Marta, plus PUMA Women’s Soccer Ambassador Julie Foudy – the program is entering its second season on the heels of an over $60,000 donation to the Breast Cancer Research and Education Fund at Magee-Womens Foundation in 2010. Also joining PUMA and its fight against breast cancer is actress Nina Dobrev, who, as an athlete in her youth, couldn’t wait to work alongside PUMA and the athletes to support the cause.

“We’re so proud of the remarkable athletes and young fans who supported Project Pink in 2010, rocking their pink gear at WPS games, nominating their favorite charities and rallying behind them to drum up votes, and, of course, tweeting up a storm,” said Tara McRae, PUMA North America’s Vice President of Marketing. “The donation we made at the end of the season is a true testament to their passion. We’re excited to build upon that enthusiasm in year two alongside our roster of athletes, as well as with the incredible support of our two new teammates, Julie Foudy and Nina Dobrev.”

PUMA’s Project Pink expands in its second year, with more supporters, a more robust product offering, and more fundraising activities and events, all while staying true to the foundation of the program: putting the power and the energy of Project Pink in the hands of young soccer fans and enthusiasts who choose to make Project Pink their personal projects, thus choosing to inspire change and do good.

The Stars Align
PUMA is excited to announce that actress Nina Dobrev is lending her support, alongside some of the best women’s soccer athletes in the world, to Project Pink 2011. As one of Project Pink’s supporters, the Vampire Diaries star will appear in the program’s Public Service Announcement, act as a media spokesperson, make appearances in support of the initiative, and engage with fans throughout the season via her Twitter handle, @ninadobrev.

“I’m truly excited for the opportunity to work on this season’s Project Pink initiative,” said Dobrev. “I love that it truly empowers young women to get involved and make a difference. Plus, I’ve always been an athlete, so I jumped on the chance to stand alongside and in support of some of these amazing female soccer players.” Dobrev, a former gymnast, is a natural fit for the PUMA brand, which celebrates the active lifestyle and supports the health and well-being of women worldwide.

Look Good in Pink
PUMA’s Project Pink Collection has been expanded this season, with offerings that include a full Project Pink uniform – down to a fabulously fluorescent pair of pink soccer socks – supercute lifestyle tees, a brand-new PUMA Project Pink watch, and a gym sack perfect for stowing the line’s full-sized and mini soccer balls. In step with the 2010 initiative, PUMA has pledged to donate 100% off the profits from the sale of its Project Pink gear at PUMA Stores, online at, and at partner retailers across the country, including Eurosport and, as well as Niky’s Sports and Soccer West locations.

Make Your Voice Heard
Again this year, PUMA is leaving the decision of Project Pink’s ultimate beneficiary up to young soccer fans, gathering nominations for deserving charitable organizations at July 17 and September 22; voting opens on September 26 and runs through October 7. The group with the most votes will receive 100% of profits from the sale of PUMA Project Pink merchandise, as well as additional funds raised via initiatives throughout the season, at the culmination of the program in October.

Get in the Game
The athletes of Women’s Professional Soccer are swapping out their team colors in support of Project Pink for designated games throughout the 2011 season. Home teams will take to the field in pink PUMA jerseys and shorts, and fans will have the chance to get involved with special activities in-stadium. Game dates are as follows:

     - Sky Blue FC: July 17                        - Atlanta Beat: August 6
     - Boston Breakers: July 24                        - magicJack: August 10
     - Philadelphia Independence: July 31        - Western New York Flash: August 14
Of course, those who haven’t quite made the pro leagues yet will also have the chance to “Score a Goal Against Breast Cancer, netting additional donations from PUMA, during tournaments like USA Cup, the Blues Cup, the Big Foot Tournament, and the Top Hat PUMA Cup. Participants at the PUMA Women’s vElite Showcase in July will also have the opportunity to show their support for Project Pink.

Fans will catch flashes of pink on-field in October, too, when PUMA-sponsored male and female soccer athletes will be sporting limited edition Project Pink soccer boots to further heighten awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And PUMA athletes from other disciplines are getting behind the cause, too: Cobra-PUMA Golf athletes Lexi Thompsonand Anna Nordqvist will be sporting head-to-toe Project Pink during the women’s golf major on July 8th, while PUMA Running is hosting a five-mile race in August beginning and ending at the brand’s North American Headquarters in Westford, Massachusetts, with all proceeds going to benefit Project Pink’s ultimate beneficiary. Visit register.

Tweet Better, Do-Gooder
And finally, with an eye to spreading the word even further and offering up yet another easy way for fans to contribute – no purchase, cheering section, or soccer skills required – PUMA is bringing back its popular Twitter hash tag, #projectpink. Tweet #projectpink between July 6 and October 31, and, counting one tweet per user per day, PUMA will donate an additional $1, up to $25,000, to the ultimate beneficiary.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Classy Awards To Honor the Best Philanthropic Achievements

They're back! The Classy Awards will be happening again this year on Sept. 17th in San Diego. Last year, two of our featured businesses were nominated, Give Something Back and The Sweets Truck.

The Classy Awards, the largest philanthropic awards ceremony in the country honors the best philanthropic achievements, as decided by public voting and judges in several categories, including philanthropic businesses.
The Classy Awards are hosted by, a Social Fundraising platform that offers powerful fundraising and communications tools to nonprofits without any upfront charges.

This year we are happy to report that again two of our featured businesses, have also been nominated:
Panera Cares and Comcast's Care Days, which we mentioned in our post about back to school corporate volunteerism. In addition Panera has been named as a finalist!

There are so many nominees and finalists in all the categories including business philanthropy that are worthy of receiving the award - I congratulate all of them and wish them good luck.

I look forward to the hearing who all the chosen winners will be at the ceremony. This year I have been invited as a guest to attend the Classy Awards and will get a chance to personally meet the nominees and the winners. This will a terrific opportunity to meet the founders and the creators of these businesses and  philanthropic programs and learn firsthand about their mission to make their communities and the world a better place through their business and their employees.

Check out the stories about their featured nominees and come join me at the Classy Awards. For tickets to this fun and inspiring event check out their site.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

One Town Helps Support Children's Hospital With 25,00 Dairy Queen Blizzards

The small town in Madison, SD, comprised of only 6,000 residents, raised more than $60,000 for their local children’s hospital. The town bought more than 25,000 Blizzards (equating to four-plus per person) from their local Dairy Queen as part of a campaign called Miracle Treat Day, a day dedicated to raising money for 170 children’s hospitals across the nation through the sales of Dairy Queen Blizzards.

The town’s success was led by a hometown hero, DeLon Mork, the owner of the Madison Dairy Queen. DeLon is so passionate about the cause that he set the goal of selling 25,000 blizzards this day, which seems impossible for just one store to do. They not only met their goal, but exceeded it beating out all other locations including those in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago in donations. DeLon will now join the Police Chief in jumping out of an airplane to fulfill his promise to his staff for meeting their goal (this is the now the talk of the town).

Anyone can still donate to their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals at

Friday, August 19, 2011

Where Good Deeds Are Always In Style

High, a website that features very cool stories about trendy retail with a focus on e-commerce has provided fashion aficionadas with philanthropic tendencies with ever more reason to buy from their favorite designers.

As they wrote to me: "Trends may come and go, but a good deed’s always in style.  The cheese factor of that statement aside, it’s true — which is why we saw fit to compile the best philanthropic initiatives coming from the fashion industry.  These are endeavors seeking to improve a variety of issues, from domestic violence to AIDS to the lack of clean drinking water in many countries. "

You can check out their gallery in their story, 7 Philanthropic Leaders in the Fashion Industry  to learn more about how some standout retailers are making an effort and how consumers can be become part of these initiatives.

Included in this gallery are (of course the well known to our readers,) TOMS Shoes, as well as: Donna Karan's Urban Zen Project; Edun, founded on the commitment to encourage trade with Africa, Liz Clairborne's Love is Not Abuse Program; Giorgio Armani's Acqua For Life, Marc Jacob's Aid for Aids Charity Tee Shirts, and Diane von Furstenburg who supports an array of causes and non-profits.

Not only are good deeds always in style, but never has looking good and doing good felt better.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Stinky Kids Helps Books, Bears, & Bonnets, Inc. Bring Smiles To Cancer Patients

After Merrily Ansell lost her sister, Emily, to cancer, she channeled her grief into helping to ease the suffering of those with the same affliction. In fact, she made it her life’s mission. In 2000, Merrily created Books, Bears & Bonnets, Inc., which donates gift boxes to various hospitals for patients of all ages undergoing treatments for cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.
For five years, Merrily watched her sister undergo multiple treatments to help her beat her cancer. After Emily passed, Merrily decided to encase her passion for helping others into a thoughtful and meaningful box that would be delivered to as many hospitals that would take them. Each box, hand-assembled by Merrily and volunteers in her community, contains a book, a stuffed bear and a “bonnet” or hat of some sort for the patient. The book is for the patients to read and keep them occupied during the long days of treatment. The stuffed bear is meant to bring the patient comfort and something to hold during treatment procedures. Finally, the “bonnet” would help hide the after effects of the different treatments of various diseases.
Since its inception, Books, Bears & Bonnets, Inc. has donated approximately 21,000 gift boxes to many hospitals. And according to Merrily, that doesn’t mean that only 21,000 people were affected by them.
“If you multiply that number by four, that math gives you a more accurate total number of people affected by these comforting boxes,” said Merrily. “Patients usually open their boxes with at least one person with them, whether it is a nurse the patients have bonded with or their entire family. These boxes reach more than just the patients.”
Merrily often receives cards telling her that patients do not always keep the boxes for themselves. Fighting cancer is a group effort. Parents undergoing treatment, for example, often share a part of their gift boxes with their children or possibly a nurse that they have grown attached to. Merrily hopes to have touched the lives of at least 84,000 people.
Books, Bears & Bonnets, Inc. receives their funds through donations from private individuals in their community and those that have been affected or have received one of the gift boxes Merrily so lovingly assembles. Only one franchise donates to this noble cause. StinkyKids, created by Britt Menzies, Merrily’s daughter, donates 10% of its profits every year towards the efforts of Books, Bears & Bonnets, Inc. StinkyKids is a doll and book franchise that teaches children to be “leaders of good” and help the “little stinkers” solve their way out of sticky situations. The StinkyKids will be expanding into a musical as well as animation soon. A line of 12” plush StinkyKids dolls is manufactured by Madame Alexander.
For more information regarding Books, Bears & Bonnets Inc. or StinkyKids please visit:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cause Marketing for Meals on Wheels is Rolling Along

Meals for Wheels seems to have caught on as a popular cause for businesses to help support. This may not be as splashy as the pink, or the red, or other colored ribboned causes that businesses have taken on. Meals on Wheels focuses on the needs of a somewhat neglected population, the elderly. We have mentioned here before a partnership with Gallo Family Vineyards and Meals On Wheels that helped feed homebound senior women on Mothers Day.

Amongst other companies that are supporting Meals On Wheels with funding and by buiding awareness are:

Walmart Foundation is donating more than $1 million to 20 Meals On Wheels programs through their Building the Future Vision Grant Program.

MetLife Foundation has awarded $200,000 to the Meals On Wheels Association of America (MOWAA) for the creation of a new program that helps MOWAA develop a self assessment tool to evaluate the operations of their programs. Using  the program's self-assessment model, MOWAA will develop training modules in several cities to help the address any program deficiencies implement changes.

And keeping up with the times of social networking cause marketing, MOWAA has announced a competition on Facebook. Twenty one amazing Meals On Wheels volunteers from across the country are now competing to become the Meals On Wheels 2011 American Volunteer. In this third year of the competition some of the nominees include a 94-year-old woman who has volunteered for her Meals On Wheels program in her home state for 25 years and a Vietnam War veteran who never misses a day volunteering for his hometown Meals On Wheels program.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Honest Tea Gives Proof of Honesty As Well of Their Own Giving

Remember when sceptics of Panera's Cafe's "pay as you go" social giving experiment, suggested that people aren't honest enough for it to work? Well now, Honest Tea has put that question to the test and found that a surprisingly high proportion of people will pay for what could be an opportunity for a freebie drink.

In twelve cities,Honest Tea set up pop up stores with their tea on the stands and a sign suggesting people drop a dollar in the box for every bottle they took. Most cities were in the 90th percentile of honesty, which was a bit of a surprise to Seth Goldman,CEO of Honest Tea.

Now that Honest Tea has tested Americans’ honesty in twelve cities with our Honest Cities campaign, it was time to decide where all those honest dollars would go. They polled their Facebook fans and asked who should receive the money. Out of 4,980 votes, City Year is our winner with 56 percent of the total vote!

Here is the full breakdown:

* City Year – 2,779 (56% of the vote) will receive $5,000
* Share Our Strength – 1,451 (29% of the vote) will receive $3,000
* Rails-to-Trails Conservancy – 750 (15% of the vote) will receive $2,000

No one even mentioned the fact that no one ran off with the money!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Spy Kids Movie Premier Red Carpet Includes Make A Wish Foundation's Granting A Wish

The entertainment industry is a unique sector of the for profit world. The intersection of entertainment industry and causes creates its own form of cause marketing.
I look forward to writing about this as, I receive more and more communication releases about this.
On Sunday, July 31st,The Weinstein Company will partner exclusively with NowLive and bring families together across the globe offering full-access to the star-studded world premiere of “SPY KIDS: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD IN 4D” live from Regal Cinemas, L.A. LIVE.
WHO: From the film: Robert Rodriguez (Director), Jessica Alba, Joel McHale, Jeremy Piven, Rowan Blanchard, Mason Cook, Alexa Vega, Danny Trejo, Producer Elizabeth Avellan. Celebrity guests: Salma Hayek, Joel and Harlow Madden, Angela Bassett & Courtney B. Vance with twins, Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men), Charlotte Ross (NYPD Blue) and Melora Hardin (The Office), among others.

Another highlight of the day will be when the Make-A-Wish Foundation grants 15-year-old Elijah’s dream of meeting Jessica Alba. Not only will Elijah get to meet Ms. Alba but he will also get the opportunity to interview her live on the red carpet. The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. Last year, the Foundation granted 13,580 wishes to kids across the United States. A wish come true helps children feel stronger, more energetic and more able to battle their life-threatening medical conditions. For many of them, it marks a turning point in their fight against their illnesses.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Are You a Company That Is Socially Responsible Or a Socially Responsible Company?

Huh! What's the difference? That's what I thought when I heard about research done by social psychologists out of Stanford about the effects that a slight change of wording had on voting behaviors, a personal form of social responsibility.

In a survey, half of the group were asked whether it was "important to vote" versus the other half  which were asked whether it was "important to be a voter". The group asked about being a voter, voted in a following election almost 30% more  than the other group. The conclusion the researchers made was that a simple change in wording helps increase the voter's self concept, or as they suggested vanity, which led to an increase in that positive behavior.

Might the issue of self concept apply to businesses also? Plenty of companies might answer that, yes, it is important to be socially responsible. But is it more effective for a business to think of themselves as a socially responsible company? Look at how Indira Nooyi: CEO of Pepsi in a video clip from a former post defines PepsiCo: "I want Pepsi to viewed as a socially responsible business."

Sounds like playing with semantics, and yet think about it.  This sounds more like pride and commitment than just vanity, and that commitment implies that social responsibility permeates through every strategic decision. Being thought of as a socially responsible company also brings about value to the company: values that permeate the culture; a great emplyee hiring and development tool (especially through volunteering); and a marketing advantage with customers who prefer to buy from socially responsible businesses.

I encourage companies to engage in social responsibility in any way they can, either through their community involvement, philanthropy, or through  environmentally sustainable practices. Every little bit matters.

But choosing to be a socially responsible company throughout sets the bar to a greater height and creates value for the companies and their communities. What a slight change in wording can do!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Exploring Expertise: Verizon & Groupon Leverage their Competencies for Good

In my conversations with the leaders of businesses large and small, I have been intrigued by a motif I see running through effective philanthropic endeavors, and it's a pretty basic one. I'm starting to realize that any organization is at its best when it relies on its core competencies to drive not just its bottom line, but its good works. In other words, what are the capabilities or routines that propel the success of your business? How can you spin those to promote a nonprofit or help a cause?

Let me offer a couple examples that caught my attention. I recently upgraded my phone with Verizon Wireless, and received a postage-paid envelope in the mail along with my new cell. The envelope encouraged me donate my old phone to HopeLine, a program that collects old mobile devices and repurposes them, keeping batteries and electronic waste out of landfills, but also donating thousands of the devices to victims of domestic abuse for emergency contact purposes. Verizon does this via a unique nationwide partnership with numerous domestic violence prevention organizations around the country.

And the core idea is such a simple one. With cellular technology evolving so fast, many of us upgrade our devices pretty quickly, and of course Verizon has a vested interest in this - they sell more phones that way. This trend must have laid an intriguing question before Verizon: how best to put all those old phones to use?

Consider another example. The hot business lately seems to be Groupon, the deal-of-the-day site that regularly features a pretty staggering area of discount offerings and coupon deals. But they've also got a secondary arm called G-Team that specializes in "Supporting Causes & Causing a Scene." According to Groupon, "G-Team campaigns range from ridiculous flashmobs to fundraisers that benefit local community organizations. Every G-Team campaign connects you with enough people to achieve something awesome that you couldn't have done alone."

After all, isn't that exactly what the business does? They leverage huge discounts from retailers by guaranteeing an assured quantity of customers, plus a generous helping of free promotion in the process.

From there, G-Team organizers must have asked themselves, how can we utilize this quantity discount model to help causes in our communities and abroad? One of the answers came just a few days ago, when G-Team partnered with several global hunger prevention organizations to offer a three-day Groupon campaign, encouraging small-dollar donations to benefit displaced refugees in Darfur. An anonymous donor offered to match the donations, ensuring that participants got that trademark Groupon savings by seeing their donation doubled.

The effort was a success, enabling the World Food USA's SAFE Stove Project to purchase thousands of clean burning stoves to help in cooking and spare women the laborious and often dangerous task of venturing outside their encampments for daily wood-gathering.

So next time you're brainstorming ideas for charitable giving, ask yourself, what does my organization already do better than others? How can we leverage these competencies for the benefit of our causes? Sometimes well-honed routines can give small ideas a big reverb effect.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dear Small Business, Welcome To Our Community

We are excited that you have brought a new business to our town and we’re glad to have you. In an interview with our local paper you said that as your company settles in, it will become involved in the community. You also said that your involvement will depend on what your people are passionate about. I congratulate you on your commitment to being socially responsible and helping to make your new community thrive.

Our community has many organizations that need help and so I can pretty well guess that already that you will be swamped with requests for help from every non-profit within striking distance of your new headquarters. Presumably, once you know what your passion is this will help determine which of these charities you will passionate about partnering with.

But how will you determine exactly what your people are passionate about? First, may I suggest that you determine whether your "people" is an all inclusive company group, or whether it is a committee, or just your top people. If you truly want to create your community involvement from passion, as much inclusivity as is possible from a practical point of view will create the most engagement.

Once you have sorted out the issue of who it is you want to involve, may I suggest a few steps to take to find your passion and create the action steps to execute a socially responsible plan that will deliver shared value to your company and the community.

Engage your employees in a dialogue that determines your company's values and creates a mission about which causes hold real meaning for your people. The more collective the vision, the more you engage them, the more engaged they will become. This is a process that can be facilitated in a variety if ways, either within your company or through an outside consultant trained in interactive facilitation methods.

Explore the opportunities within the community that are a best match with your company's values.

Study how some similar companies to yours in size, I am thinking companies like Give Something Back that have developed outstanding models for employee engagement in community involvement.

Define what "community" means to your company. Is it just the city the company is based in? Does it expand to the communities surrounding yours, where many of your employees live in?

Do you feel you a responsibility to the state, your country, or to the global community where many of your products reach?

Create a plan for community involvement that includes monetary donations,in-kind donations, employee volunteerism, with consideration to specific skills that your employees have that can be offered as pro-bono services.

These are a few ideas, but I am sure your talented and creative teams will come up with more, if you just give them the opportunity.

I look forward to seeing all the great things that will come out of this new relationship between you and our community.

Yours truly,
Your New Community

Friday, July 15, 2011

Heifer and Green Mountain Coffee: Partnering to Support Rural Growers

On Wednesday, I introduced you to Heifer International, a global non-profit working to end hunger through a community-based approach to livestock donation. One of their most exciting enterprises of the moment is a partnership with Vermont-based gourmet coffee company Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, itself a business with a long track record of sustainable, fair trade, eco-friendly coffee production. The pairing may remind you of another corporate initiative I wrote about a couple months back, in which Pepsi worked with farmers in San Gabriel, Mexico.

The Heifer/Green Mountain partnership focuses on the Chiapas region, where coffee farmers deplete the income from their crop just prior to the rainy season, resulting in what is known as los meses flacos, or "the thin months," a period of extreme food scarcity and hunger.

Here Heifer and Green Mountain are aiding farmers in diversifying their food sources and income via Heifer's dynamic methodology. As the below documentary short illustrates, as demand for gourmet, sourced, high-quality commodities has increased globally, agricultural production has become increasingly specialized. While high coffee prices can be a boon for growers during the flush times of the year, their methods, land use and abilities leave them without a source of income for the thin months.

This is where Heifer and Green Mountain help. Because the buyers at Green Mountain have long fostered partnerships with supply-chain communities, including the cooperative involved here, known as the CESMACH, or the Campesinos Ecológicos de la Sierra Madre de Chiapas, they have the relationships necessary to assist Heifer in making livestock donations tailored to fit each community's unique needs, and also enhance their assets.

The cows, goats, fish or horses donated provide an alternative food source during the thin months, but they also enable community members to consider alternate business options. For instance, one pocket of communities within CESMACH has banded together to sell the honey produced by their Heifer-donated honeybees. During the upcoming season, they are estimated to produce and sell around nine tons of honey, raising thousands of dollars.

It's intriguing to see what kind of success can result from a partnership like this one, in which Green Mountain knows its agricultural partners, their needs and abilities, and Heifer boasts such an effective record of success.

For a little more discussion of their efforts, check out this brief documentary, called "After the Harvest," narrated by Susan Sarandon.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Heifer International: Making Living Loans Around the World

Last summer, in advance of attending an old friend's wedding, I perused the gift registry set up by her and her fiancee. There I found a unique section that, in lieu of traditional gifts, requested donations to Heifer International. I had never heard of the organization, but I appreciated the other-oriented spirit they had shown in setting up the donation alternative on the registry, so I went ahead and donated. First, though, I read up on Heifer, and was fascinated by what I found. I don't think it's too much to say this group is one of the most dynamic global non-profits on the scene right now.
Their concept is pretty simple, but the implementation is quite a bit more nuanced. Heifer's model revolves around livestock donations made to needy communities around the planet, but first the organization begins with an analysis, done in conjunction with the recipients, asking hard questions like, "What resources does this community already have? What do they need? What sort of livestock or agricultural donation could help provide sustainability?"

From there, Heifer makes the appropriate donation, a "living loan" of a cow or goat that can provide milk, eggs, wool or draft power to the community. Heifer then facilitates training in the maintenance of this investment, as well as argroecology, techniques for environmentally sustainable natural resource management.

From there, the community continuously evaluates and refines its animal and land management practices in light of the benefits provided by the gifted animal. This is all done with the goal of "passing on the gift," a core facet of the Heifer approach, in which Heifer families become donors themselves by passing on the offspring of their animal to another family in need.

You can hear one Rwandan woman's "passing on the gift" story here, or read about a "passing on the gift ceremony" at the Tunayac Project in Guatemala over here.

At present, Heifer is sponsoring a dollar-for-dollar matching funds drive to benefit three large umbrella-style projects in Honduras, designed to help thousands of families improve nutrition and community income through donations of cows, hens, goats, fish and bees. Part of the initiative calls for a three-year program to support the country's micro economies and small businesses by facilitating the selling of surplus dairy, pollen, eggs and other food supplies. As you can see, Heifer has a pretty wide reach. Currently they're also supporting a children's orphanage in Latvia, developing sustainable communities in India, and helping to improve the resource access of local farmers in the Mississippi Delta region of Arkansas.

On Friday I'll put the "business" back into the story by talking about a new joint effort between Heifer and Green Mountain Coffee designed to support coffee-growers in Mexico.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Corporate President Uses His Passion To Raise Money For a Good Cause

Last weekend, Century 21 President and CEO, Rick Davidson, will take his love of climbing to new heights – the Alaska Mountain Range– where he and his five-member team will raise money for Easter Seals.

The Climb for Kids team’s goal is to ascend 30,000 feet of elevation over the course of eight days and raise $30,000 for children with autism, development disabilities, physical disabilities and other special needs. That’s $1 for each foot of elevation!

Their journey will begin in Anchorage, Alaska, on July 2; then the team will head north to Talkeetna and ascend to the summits of Mt. Eldridge and Explorers Peak. A third summit will be determined based on weather conditions and access from the Eldridge Glacier.

You can follow Rick and his team at the CENTURY 21 Facebook page where they’ll be posting live updates.Here is the press release about their adventure.

CENTURY 21 Real Estate Takes Its Commitment to Easter Seals to New Heights
2011 CENTURY 21 Climb for Kids Team will Ascend Alaska Mountain Range with Goals of Raising $1 for Each Foot of Elevation Climbed
CHICAGO, June 29, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The CENTURY 21® System has been supporting Easter Seals for more than three decades, and this July, Rick Davidson, president and chief executive officer of Century 21 Real Estate LLC, will lead a five-member team through the Alaska Mountain Range to raise money for children with autism, development disabilities, physical disabilities and other special needs.
The Climb for Kids team's goal is to ascend 30,000 feet of elevation over the course of eight days and raise $30,000 for Easter Seals. That's $1 for each foot of elevation! Visit the CENTURY 21 Easter Seals Champion Page to support the climb and "Like" the CENTURY 21 page at 21 to check out the team's live updates from the mountain.
"It's only fitting that Rick and the Climb for Kids team will be embarking on this awesome expedition over the Independence Day Holiday," says James E. Williams, Jr., president and chief executive officer, Easter Seals. "The CENTURY 21 System's generous support has been helping children and adults with disabilities gain greater independence for more than 30 years. CENTURY 21 brokers and agents are true Easter Seals Champions, having raised and contributed $102 million to Easter Seals since 1979."
Rounding out the team are four CENTURY 21 System members who will join Davidson on this extreme adventure, including:
  • Scott Becker, CENTURY 21 New Millennium
  • Greg Cornelius, CENTURY 21 NorthBay Alliance
  • Dennis Pysz, CENTURY 21 South America
  • Robert Struk, CENTURY 21 Curran & Christie
The Climb for Kids journey will begin in Anchorage, Alaska, on July 2; then the team will head north to Talkeetna and ascend to the summits of Mt. Eldridge and Explorers Peak. A third summit will be determined based on weather conditions and access from the Eldridge Glacier.
"The CENTURY 21 System's ongoing commitment to the community and our sole philanthropic partner is as strong as ever," said Rick Davidson. "The Climb for Kids is meant to help continue this incredible legacy of giving to such a fine and deserving organization. Let's help kids reach their own personal summits and live their lives with independence."
About Easter Seals
Easter Seals is the leading non-profit provider of services for individuals with autism, developmental disabilities, physical and mental disabilities, and other special needs. For more than 90 years, we have been offering help and hope to children and adults living with disabilities, and to the families who love them. Through therapy, training, education and support services, Easter Seals creates life-changing solutions so that people with disabilities can live, learn, work and play in their communities. Support children and adults with disabilities at  or
About Century 21 Real Estate LLC
Century 21 Real Estate LLC ( is the franchisor of the world's largest residential real estate sales organization, providing comprehensive training and marketing support for the CENTURY 21 System.  The System is comprised of more than 7,900 independently owned and operated franchised broker offices in 71 countries and territories worldwide. Century 21 Real Estate LLC is a subsidiary of Realogy Corporation, a global provider of real estate and relocation services.

Friday, July 8, 2011

What Can One Person Do? Activist Reveals How One Act of Community Service Can Spark Thousands More

Don’t tell Lisa Sellman that one person can’t make a difference. She knows better.

Sellman, a community activist and lifelong volunteer, recently learned how one act of kindness can set off a chain reaction that can span the globe.

“It just started out with me asking a regional pet food company for a donation of dog food for Red Lake Rosie’s in Minnesota,” said Sellman, a professional dog trainer and owner of a pet care business. “I called Solid Gold Northland, and one of the marketing managers there advised me that they were trying to increase the number of people who ‘liked’ them on Facebook, and that if I could get 40 new Facebook members to click on their ‘like’ button, they’d give me $200 worth of pet food.”

So Sellman, who currently volunteers for six different community groups, sent a message out to all her Facebook friends inviting them to Solid Gold Northland’s fan page on Facebook. Somehow, the invite made it to the Facebook page of The Patrick Miracle, a page devoted to the story of a two year old pitbull found by a janitor in a dumpster. Their Facebook page has charted over 109,000 “like” clicks from users. When the founders of the page posted Sellman’s invite, Solid Gold Northland received more than 2,000 new fans from all over the world in the course of about 48 hours.

“When I contacted them the next week, they were blown away by how quickly the response took off,” said Sellman, also author of the children’s book The Legend of the Wolves of Gunflint Lake (, which contains the theme of the value of community service and which she hopes will serve to inspire others. “As a result of the combined outreach, Solid Gold Northland and Chuck and Don’s Pet Food Outlet have committed a donation of $2,000 worth of pet food, and I’ve helped to forge new friends from other countries who all care about the same things I care about. And it all started with a simple posting on Facebook because I wanted to help a local animal shelter. It’s been magical.”

Sellman’s simple act was a drop in the bucket compared to her schedule of volunteer activities. She works as an after school care volunteer at the Minneapolis Indian Center, a special events assistant at the Loft Literary Center, a volunteer marketing director for canine events at the Gunflint Lodge (the real location contained in her children’s book), and a trail staff assistant with Wilderness Inquiry, where she and her husband take disabled children and adults on outdoor adventures throughout the US. They’ve been volunteers with this organization since 1997.

“Although I work hard, I love being able to serve my community.” Sellman said. “The people in all the organizations I’m involved with, all share my values and my world view and they are my friends and my family. The people and the activities fill up my life with fun, joy and a purpose I could never have achieved any other way. It doesn’t mean that I think everyone should take the same path that I have. I know most people don’t have the time. My point is this: it only takes one simple act, one click of a mouse button to start a movement. It happened to me and it can happen to you. All you need to do is give it a shot.”

About Lisa Sellman

Lisa Sellman, owner and professional dog trainer at Aloha Pet Care & Dog Training, volunteers for half a dozen charitable organizations. She believes that community service is its own reward, a message that resonates throughout her new children’s book The Legend of the Wolves of Gunflint Lake.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Storytelling As a Great CSR Asset

Stanford Social Innovation Review is likely my top choice for great reading about social change efforts by the non-profit, for profit, and social venture sectors.  A recent article by Dr John Brothers, a professor and non-profit consultant: How the Non-Profit Sector Is Misusing Its Greatest Asset,proposes that non-profits need to engage each other and their communities in the sharing of real stories about the real people that they have affected. They, and the non-profit community that includes foundations, need to convey the more tangible data related to their impact on the causes they serve.

My view is that this idea can extend to businesses and social ventures also, as they may have even better communications vehicles through which to spread the word about the causes that they support. Think of  businesses that support charities and causes that do this well like  Better World Books which we have written about before, that has live-time updates of how many books have been saved from landfills and how much has been donated towards literacy programs; or, Whole Foods that has fliers and posters with stories of real people who have been impacted by the micro-loans that Whole Foods Foundation has provided them with. Another example of great corporate CSR storytelling is Deloitte's documentary videos. Potential communication vehicles for businesses are: their own websites and social networking sites, newsletters, you tube videos, in-store promotional materials. And these vehicles are available to both large corporations and small businesses alike.

Yes, donations of money, time and services are valuable and necessary, but spreading the word by conveying these stories about needs and then communicating the data about their impact of the CSR programs, create a multiplier effect that can be far reaching. In many ways these may be the greatest assets businesses can use to create social change and promote social benefit.

Friday, July 1, 2011

UPS Keeps America Beautiful

The UPS Foundation Awards Keep America Beautiful Affiliates with Community Grants
Thirteen Communities Receive Grants Totaling $130,000 for a Wide Array of Local Projects

STAMFORD, Conn. (June 14, 2011) – The UPS Foundation awarded 13 Keep America Beautiful (KAB) affiliates with $10,000 community improvement grants, each supporting programs across the country that address recycling, beautification and community greening, litter prevention and waste reduction. The projects will take place during 2011 and into early 2012.

The grant awards were presented to KAB affiliates in recognition of their volunteer initiatives with local UPS locations throughout the United States. UPS employee volunteers will actively support many of these merit-based award programs in their respective communities.

“The UPS Foundation is a leader in supporting and initiating volunteer engagement throughout the country,” said Matthew M. McKenna, president and CEO, Keep America Beautiful. “Keep America Beautiful values this partnership because we know our affiliates will make significant and sustainable differences in their respective communities with the help of these grants.”

The local affiliates of Keep America Beautiful continue to come up with creative approaches to addressing environmental challenges,” said Ken Sternad, president of The UPS Foundation. “UPS and our employees are proud to see it happen and stand ready to support projects that improve the communities where we live and work.”  

The winning KAB affiliates and a description of their UPS Foundation-supported projects are:

Keep Arizona Beautiful (KAZB), through its Oasis Beautification Project, is seeking to mitigate the cumulative impact of blight in the Lower Grand Avenue neighborhood of Phoenix and convert the Oasis Hotel into an affordable housing project, which will offer 60 one-bedroom and studio live/work residential units, with an emphasis on serving the needs of local artists. KAZB will also reseed community and pedestrian infrastructure in adjoining, public rights-of-way.

Keep Oakland Beautiful is supporting volunteerism through its Community Small Grant Program, which is providing small dollar amount grants to neighborhood groups. These projects are awarded to groups who propose creative and highly visible projects ranging from neighborhood park makeovers to beautification of entire median strips.

After recognizing the overwhelming need in the community to support revitalization efforts in the neglected community of Indiantown, Keep Martin (Fla.) Beautiful (KMB) plans to coordinate a series of improvements to 10 different structures in need of painting and minor structural improvements as part of its Indiantown Makeover.

Santa Rosa (Fla.) Clean Community System will create a Recycling Innovation Station at the site of the old firehouse in the county seat of Milton. This site will not only have recycling centers, but will show off recycled materials and give out recycling information at the park adjacent to the area.

The goal of KAB – Topeka/Shawnee County’s “No Children Left Inside” program is to help local youth realize how important Earth is and to create a legacy in future environmentalists through fun and educational lesson plans that would include outdoor activities for youth of all ages. 

Keep Covington (La.) Beautiful plans to create a Covington Nature Trail at the Covington Recreation Complex. The project will include planting supplementary native trees along the trail as well as providing educational information about trailside native plant species.

The goal of the Senior Citizens’ Center Landscaping Project is to install landscaping, an irrigation system, benches, and raised handicap accessible planters a new Center, which was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Keep Slidell Beautiful will involve senior citizens by forming a 15-member Senior Citizen’s Green Team trained by local Master Gardeners to plant and mulch shrubs, perennials, and ornamental trees.

The Roundup Recycling Project will address the needs of Miles City’s local recycling facility at Eastern Montana Industries, a sheltered workshop employing individuals with developmental disabilities. Keep Miles City (Mont.) Beautiful will work with the facility to contain the recyclable materials and improve the area’s appearance by providing covered bins. Volunteers will prepare the area, local youth will participate in a contest to develop a portable mural for the area, new bins will be placed, new paint applied and unsightly signage will be replaced.

“Got Your Bags?” is a promotion for reusable bags at local grocery stores. Keep Lincoln & Lancaster County (Neb.) Beautiful will partner with small franchise grocery stores to increase the number of customers using reusable grocery bags and decrease the use of plastic bags at their stores.

Keep Beatrice (Neb.) Beautiful will restore 18.2 acres of grasses along the Big Blue River Trail to a high-diversity native-ecotype prairie restoration as part of the Big Blue River Trail Riparian Restoration. Staff and volunteers will return this historic area to a state more closely resembling what it looked like when the first settlers planted native grasses along the Big Blue River. This project would have the distinction of being first of many planned improvements in this area.

Keep North Carolina Beautiful aims to address the problem of uncovered truck loads, which accounted for 50 percent of North Carolina’s roadside litter and contributed to $14 million of litter removal costs to the state last year alone. The goal of Tarp Day is to reach, educate and activate convenience center or landfill users to properly secure their cargo with the distribution of free tarps administrated by the 31 local affiliates.

In an effort to raise the quality of life for Oklahoma City’s residents, Oklahoma City Beautiful is launching a “No Butts About It” cigarette litter prevention campaign. The objective of this program is to reduce the amount of cigarette litter in Oklahoma City by half. Cigarette receptacles will be placed in public parks in areas that smokers frequent; volunteers will distribute portable ashtrays; and a public education campaign will be utilized. Success will be measured based on the scans that a volunteer task force will perform before, during and after all aspects of the program are completed.

Keep Yankton (S.D.) Beautiful will use grant funds to landscape and re-purpose an existing storage building for community and public event use at Tripp Park. The plans for the Tripp Park Project include landscaping the park and encourage outdoor use and enjoyment of a well-used bike trail in a section of town with no such public gathering spaces.

About The UPS Foundation
UPS (NYSE: UPS) is a global leader in logistics, offering a broad range of solutions including the transportation of packages and freight, the facilitation of international trade, and the deployment of advanced technology to more efficiently manage the world of business. Since its founding in 1907, UPS has built a legacy as a caring and responsible corporate citizen, supporting programs that provide long-term solutions to community needs. Founded in 1951, The UPS Foundation, which celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2011, is responsible for facilitating community involvement to local, national, and global communities. In 2010, UPS and its employees, active and retired, invested more than $95 million in charitable giving around the world. The UPS foundation can be found on the web at To get UPS news direct, visit

About Keep America Beautiful, Inc.
Keep America Beautiful, Inc., established in 1953, is the nation’s largest volunteer-based community action and education organization. With a network of more than 1,200 affiliate and participating organizations, Keep America Beautiful forms public-private partnerships and programs that engage individuals to take greater responsibility for improving their community environments. For more information, visit

Monday, June 27, 2011

Project Open Hand: The Peanut Story

Readers of this blog know that I tend to be a culinary adventurer, and one of my current obsessions is San Francisco ice cream parlor Humphrey Slocombe, the kind of innovative and very offbeat place where you're more likely to find foodies gobbling down flavors like Strawberry Black Olive, Sour Cream and Prosciutto than, say, your typical Chocolate, Vanilla or Rocky Road.

Earlier this week, a tweet from Humphrey Slocombe caught my eye. It seems that the business has become a supporter of Project Open Hand, a non-profit that provides groceries and hot meals to HIV/AIDS sufferers, seniors and others with homebound illnesses throughout San Francisco and Alameda.

Recently, the chefs and volunteers in the kitchens of Project Open Hand noticed that the recent spike in food prices - particularly for a staple of theirs, peanut butter - had taken a big bite out of their resources, so they decided to try grinding their own peanut butter.

The crunchy, and surprisingly healthy, result became such a hit that neighbors, friends and volunteers started asking to purchase containers for their own use. Whole Foods and several local markets soon began stocking it at their stores, and Humphrey Slocombe made it the preferred peanut butter for use in zany ice cream flavors like FlufferNutter and Peanut Butter Curry. Now Project Open Hand Peanut Butter has become a popular staple at stores and businesses throughout the Bay Area. As you might guess, the bulk of the proceeds go back into funding Project Open Hand's services. Not a bad way to turn generate revenue and grow the organization, right?

Check out this fantastic documentary short about the peanut butter innovation:

Friday, June 24, 2011

How Benevity's "Spark" Transforms Workplace Giving

More from my conversation with Jana Taylor of Benevity.www, This time we talked more specifically about their newest product Spark, an online platform for employee giving and volunteering.

Employee engagement is a big buzz world for companies in general. It takes time to build that kind of engagement, to give employees a voice  in a many areas of their worklife, but certainly not in workplace giving programs. Companies are asking employees to give and it is from their heart and yet they haven't been given the opportunity to express what it is they care about.

We have been around for three years now. Spark workplace giving has been around only for a short while. We are very interested in the whole concept of engaging employees in corporate philanthropy.

When we were talking to companies about how to engage their employees and consumers in giving Companies told us that they really like the idea of workplace giving and even told us what were the challenges.Some of the challenges that the companies have told us about is that they are struggling to deliver workplace programs that are truly engaging, that have broad adoption and generate interest with their employees.

Likewise on the employee side, there is quite a lot research that links giving with employee engagement. So they don't want to just give their money away to charity they want to engage their company employees in doing this. Employees have increasing expectations from their companies to help them give back and they also have increasing expectations that they live in a web based world . They want a seat at the table and they want to participate more proactively in giving back.
Unfortunately a lot of the programs that are in existence are really for status quo, check the box off kind of thing. But they are very top down, they don't even involve the passion of the employees. A lot of times they outsource programs to charity aggregators for the workplace giving programs, simply a digital touch form, That doesn't really align with the web based world their employees live in.

I think when companies look at their goals then,yes, they want to be good corporate citizens and they want to engage their employees, if they really want to boost their employee participation and engage their employees and move the needle on other employee related issues, When you look at the metrics on attracting, motivating and retaining of great talent, then they have to do workplace giving in a new way.

The tool that we built for employee giving and volunteering, it's called Spark. It allows the company a tool that is already built and it is a very engaging way to get employees involved with company volunteering and giving, and it can be done in a way that aligns with the companies charities that they support. Using Spark they can enable their employees to give to any registered charity and they can create any campaigns around individual charities or campaigns around funds. They can create the company fund, for whatever cause, a real time matching campaign where an employee can donate to any charity or to the company fund and the company can match that.

There is a reporting section within Spark that the administrators can see, where they can create reports on any different aspect of the programs and they can see the result of the campaigns so that they will be able to look at and track the metrics and success. And for employee giving a lot of companies have an internal or external employee engagement survey and where they can ask questions around how well they are we doing with employee engagement.

There are many ways the platform can be used and we continue to spark their imagination in terms of how it can be used. But there are specific opportunities and whenever a company uses the Benevity platform, so that is why we developed Spark on top of the Benevity platform, in a sense we built our own car on top of the engine.

Giving is personal, it is from the heart. People need a way to tap into supporting the causes that resonate with them personally. At the same time it gives companies the software that's their own brand. They can roll out their own program and at the same time have the ability to create the cause funds. They have the ability to create campaigns that align company giving with employee giving. It is an easy way to communicate with employees what causes the company supports.

It really inspires employees. One person told me recently that when she saw Spark it had shifted her thinking. She said the way that they had been doing it it was a chore and a process. Spark makes it more of an experience.

We are building a volunteering model that will give companies' opportunities to communicate internal or external volunteering opportunities and will be able to create campaigns around volunteering, where employees can then select the opportunities that resonate with them, create accounts and then track them. And for employee giving a lot of companies have an internal or external employee engagement survey and where they can ask questions around how well they are we doing with employee engagement.

Development team is working on right now the ability for companies to reward for volunteerism, with donor dollars in an employees account.

We are very passionate about helping companies with their corporate giving programs.