Aligning for-profit and nonprofit strategies multiplies the impact of giving

A private foundation’s core business is the thoughtful and strategic giving of grant funds to the nonprofit organizations that will best advance community prosperity. A for-profit company’s core business is driving the success of the enterprise — fulfilling a market need, offering the goods and services that will lead to a healthy bottom line.

Yet in Northeast Ohio, many of our for-profit businesses also make it their business to engage in meaningful philanthropy. In today’s era of global competition, shorter business cycles and disruptive technology that changes the game almost daily, one might forgive businesses for sticking to their knitting and passing on corporate philanthropy. The fact that corporate philanthropy is alive and well given these challenges and demands is cause for celebration.

Perpetual benefits

Today’s businesses understand that corporate giving enables them to achieve many goals. At the most rudimentary level, corporate giving is great marketing. Each gift affords a business the opportunity to get its name in front of a lot of eyeballs, building brand awareness and goodwill.

Businesses cite corporate giving as a key means of showing gratitude to the community where they sell their wares, rely on customers’ loyalty and patronage, and draw their employee talent. Increasingly, businesses are becoming more targeted and strategic with their giving, focusing their grants on causes that reinforce key strategies or address problems that affect their business.

Additionally, many corporate philanthropy programs are going deeper within their target strategy areas, making fewer, larger grants to advance a small set of priorities rather than taking a buckshot approach.

Today’s businesses also recognize that they can offer a unique “fringe benefit” to their employees through corporate giving and voluntarism. Offering workers paid time off to volunteer in the community with co-workers advances a company’s community engagement goals and builds ties within the employee team.

Local effect

In Greater Akron, our United Way campaign is evidence of corporate generosity. Last year, the United Way of Summit County set a record, raising $12.2 million. Those dollars were deployed to advance high-impact programs in education, income and health. Businesses plowed investment back into the community that has enabled them to thrive and grow through United Way, the conduit that aligned those investments for critical mass, backing proven initiatives.

Business has also stepped up to support a unique moment in our region’s history: Northeast Ohio’s hosting of Gay Games 9. From industry heavyweights to local mom and pop operations, over 160 companies stepped up to support the event, enabling the region to put its best foot forward in the international spotlight.

Can our businesses do even more? Sure. Can they deepen their commitment to key areas like education and arts and culture? Indeed. Can they deploy more leadership talent in service of quality community organizations? Absolutely! We have a well-established culture of corporate generosity in this region, a culture that pays dividends on all sides by making this the kind of place where businesses, and their employees and customers, want to be.

2013 Columbus Pillar Award Winners Unveiled

COLUMBUS, OH (Jan. 21, 2013) – Smart Business Network Inc. is pleased to announce the category winners of the 2013 Medical Mutual Pillar Award for Community Service program, presented by Smart Business and sponsored by Rea & Associates, GREENCREST, Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board, and Catering by Design.

At an awards recognition program held at the Ohio Statehouse January 17, 2013, 15 organizations were unveiled as Pillar Award winners in five distinct categories and participated in a series of panel discussions with TV-10’s Kristyn Hartman about the tie between the for-profit and nonprofit worlds.

Pillar Award for Community Service
• Cardinal Health
• Columbus Crew
• Donatos
• Fifth Third Bank
• Mettler Toledo
• RockBridge
• Safex

Medical Mutual SHARE Award
• Safelite®

Rea & Associates Executive Director of the Year Award
• Jay Jordan, president & CEO, OCLC
• Tammy Wharton, CEO, Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland Council

Nonprofit Board Executive of the Year Award
• Brooke Billmaier (Victoria’s Secret), St. Stephen’s Community House
• Michael J. Fiorile (The Columbus Dispatch), Columbus College of Art and Design
• Laura Warren (Limited Brands), Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland Council

Kent Clapp CEO Leadership Award
• Jane Grote Abell, chairman, Donatos
• Mark Swepston, president & CEO, Atlas Butler Heating and Cooling

“This class of honorees, combined with this year’s group of finalists, is truly inspirational,” says Dustin S. Klein, publisher of Smart Business. “They give back individually and as organizations. They get involved in causes they care about. And the nonprofit leaders have forged meaningful relationships with the for-profit companies and their executive teams to better deliver upon their missions. All told, the Pillar Award class of 2013 truly understands how to strengthen the regional communities where we all live and work.”

The Pillar Award program was founded in 1998 and honors organizations and individuals that best demonstrate a commitment to making a difference. For information on the award winners, along with profiles of the finalists for this year’s Pillar Awards, visit To receive a nomination for the 2014 awards program, or to learn more about the Pillar Awards, contact Smart Business at [email protected] or (440) 250-7026.

Denise Robinson is actively involved Alvis House’s mission

Denise Robinson, president and CEO, Alvis House

Medical Mutual 2011 Pillar Award
for Community Service — Columbus
Executive Director of the Year
Denise Robinson’s six-plus-year tenure as president and CEO of Alvis House has been marked by her professionalism, hard work, determination and dedication to the organization’s mission of assisting at-risk children and adults with a wide variety of programs devoted to enhancing quality of life. Her traits as a leader are all reasons why she has received numerous awards and recognition.

Robinson is a strategic thinker who sets measurable objectives required to advance the quality and success of the agency’s programs and services. She has an uncanny ability to see emerging trends and view the big picture surrounding a particular challenge. Much of what Alvis House (the DBA name of Alvis Inc.) has achieved is a direct result of Robinson’s vision and ability to assemble key people, bringing out their best attributes in the process.

She is quick to give credit and has imbued the agency with a strong emphasis on professionalism, quality assurance, research-based programming and staff development. Robinson is a leader who works hard to help others ― staff, clients and colleagues ― to succeed.

Robinson’s impact is evident in some of the agency’s recent achievements. In 2008, she spearheaded the process to develop a new strategic plan, intended to take the agency through 2012. The plan envisioned continued growth into services for individuals with developmental disabilities, and providing more services to at-risk individuals and families while still maintaining and seeking growth in Alvis House’s core business of corrections and re-entry programs.

When the plan was developed, Alvis House had seven executive staff members, 25 managers and 200 total staff, operating at 15 locations. By this year, the agency plans to have 10 executive managers, 35 managers and 330 total staff operating at 30 locations.

How to reach: Alvis House, (614) 252-8402 or