If your company is interested in establishing or enhancing its collaboration with philanthropic organizations, Dan D’Armond, community and government relations director for BMC Software, offers some excellent observations and questions to ask as you review your involvement.
Here is my interview with him:

Deena: What are corporations typically asked about corporate giving and forming strategic partnerships?

Dan: One of the most commonly asked questions corporations receive from nonprofits is, ‘What is your giving strategy?’ Maybe the better question is, ‘Can a corporation afford not to collaborate with nonprofits as part of its strategy?’

Many nonprofits approach potential corporate partners with the promise of a short meeting as to not take much of the corporate giving officer’s time, and then go through a long list of information such as what they do, who they serve, events they have and the all-important, ‘What can we put you down for?’

In an attempt to keep on schedule, they forgot to do a vital task — listen.

A truly strategic partnership results from an actual discussion on goals and objectives.

What is it that the company views as strategic? What does a good partnership look like to them? What types of program elements are they looking for? What are examples of partnerships that have been successful and valuable?

Companies that are active participants in their communities do so for a variety of reasons — good corporate citizenship, cause marketing, community engagement, branding, building community credibility and so on.

Determine, ‘Why do we do what we do?’ and, ‘What do we hope to get out of our community partnerships?’ Having a clear mission statement on areas of philanthropic focus is the starting point.

Talk to sales leaders to find out where their customers are involved. Take the internal temperature on what motivates employees to become involved in volunteerism.

Each corporation must have these internal discussions so that it can effectively communicate its goals and objectives to the community partners and therefore select the best partnership programs.

Nonprofits need to ask these same questions first of themselves and then of the corporations. Nonprofits know the programs and value they provide to the community and to their clients. They also know the tools they have in their tool chest to deliver on a true partnership.
Deena: How do nonprofits and corporations measure success?

Dan: Having a clear and agreed upon set of outcomes and how they will be measured is critical to renewal of the program collaboration.
In the current climate of shrinking budgets, corporate giving officers must demonstrate the return on the investment of each of their collaborations.

I feel the most important element to building effective community collaboration is by knowing your audience — both internally and externally.
Both corporations and nonprofit organizations must know what success looks like to them inside and outside, as well as what the most important tools are needed to reach success.

The combination of these well-thought-out strategies and resulting collaboration will bring positive and lasting change to the communities that both organizations serve.

Deena Carstens Munn is the founder of the Houston Philanthropic Society. Deena has more than 10 years of experience in corporate philanthropy and over 20 years of experience working with nonprofit charitable organizations. She is the founder of, and also works for, IHS as a senior sponsorship manager for CERAWeek. Deena has enjoyed volunteering for Hospice of North Central Florida, Texas Children’s Hospital, the Greater Houston Partnership (Energy Collaborative), Houston Technology Center, Christian Community Service Center (CCSC), P.A.W.S. Houston and The Nature Conservancy. More is available at www.houstonps.org.

Learn more about the Houston Philanthropic Society at:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/HoustonPhilanthropicSociety
Twitter: @HoustonPS

Published in Columnist
Monday, 23 December 2013 01:42

Charitable Giving Front: Deena Carstens Munn

Donate with a plan: Is charitable giving good for business, or just good business?

Companies big and small are seeking ways to give back to their communities. As they do, they’re marrying corporate objectives with community needs, resulting in a victory for businesses and charities alike.

The days of absently writing checks have passed and the era of strategic giving is upon us, which means more work for both parties.
For companies, it means having a well thought out strategic plan for community investment, which includes internal and external engagement. For charities, it means they must better understand each company, their philanthropic programs and business goals, and offer appropriate options for support.

For a company to create a sustainable strategic plan that supports its triple bottom line — people, planet and profits — it must first determine the types of contributions it may offer. A robust philanthropic program will typically offer a combination of non-cash or in-kind product, cash through foundation, or corporate grants and volunteerism.

Non-cash or in-kind product could include software, hardware, printing services, computers, airline tickets, books or corporate assets such as used tables and chairs. Cash is the top means of support offered to charities, which may fund events that in turn fund programs. But it’s advisable to review a full list of funding options to determine the best strategic fit.

As for volunteerism, there are many ways to engage employees, but here are a few:

Employee giving programs

Employees are often looking for ways to get involved. Offering them a structured program such as United Way, EarthShare or your own signature program through which they can engage a charity will empower generosity and engagement. Company matching goes a long way as well, but isn’t a must.
Day of giving

Create an occasion to come together as a group for a day of volunteering or a community project. It will show your employees and the community that you care, and you will find employees are happier because helping the community is the right thing to do. It’s a great team building opportunity, too.

Paid volunteer time-off

Offer employees one day off per year to support causes that are aligned with your business. It promotes goodwill and allows your company to work together with employees to make a difference. Skills-based volunteerism, or volunteerism that capitalizes on talents, business skills, experience or education, requires more thoughtful engagement and is the perfect intersection of business and community.    

The biggest challenge I see with corporate giving today is what I call “repeat philanthropy,” meaning companies will fund the same causes and organizations year after year. While repeat philanthropy is financially beneficial for charities, it also introduces risk when budgets, management or focus areas change.

Thoughtful planning will promote proper engagement on all levels and build sustainable programs to ensure long-term success. After all, corporate giving can help attract and retain employees, imbue employees with pride and let employees know that the company cares about not only building its profits, but about the community and the planet, which certainly makes charitable giving good for business as well as just good business.

Deena Carstens Munn earned a degree in sociology from the University of Florida. She has over 10 years of experience in corporate philanthropy and over 20 years of experience working with nonprofit charitable organizations. She is the founder of the Houston Philanthropic Society and also works for IHS as a senior sponsorship manager for CERAWeek. Munn has enjoyed volunteering for Hospice of North Central Florida, Texas Children’s Hospital, the Greater Houston Partnership (Energy Collaborative), Houston Technology Center, Christian Community Service Center (CCSC), P.A.W.S. Houston and The Nature Conservancy. For more information, visit www.houstonps.org.

To learn more about the Houston Philanthropic Society, like its Facebook page www.facebook.com/HoustonPhilanthropicSociety and follow on Twitter @HoustonPS.

Published in Columnist