Three Important Concepts for Corporate Philanthropy

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Posted Date : April 8, 2013

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Evolving the narrative. Leadership imperative. Our path forward.

Three simple, but important concepts discussed in yesterday morning’s corporate pre-conference forum at the Council on Foundations Annual Conference. Or as my friend, colleague, and recently retired IBM executive, Ann Cramer, said, “Stewarding our resources for the betterment of the world!”

This year’s session was a follow-up to last year’s debut of the Council’s report: “Increasing Impact, Enhancing Value: A Practitioners Guide to Leading Corporate Philanthropy.” Ann moderated a panel with Joy Marini of Johnson & Johnson, Jacob Gayle of Medtronic, and Nicole Robinson of Mondelez International. It was fascinating to learn how these three are evolving their company’s philanthropy, and more broadly their corporate citizenship, as their businesses change. The changes are many and include a spin-off, a new CEO, and a changing competitive landscape.

Nicole made a statement that eloquently re-states the concept of Shared Value, “Fueling business by creating well-being.” The case was made for how awareness of company initiatives, or amplifying priorities, can help move an issue’s agenda forward. True impact, and how you can measure real outcomes, continues to be a challenge. Companies, foundations, nonprofits, and government can deepen investment in social issues through collaboration. You should start out expecting resolve, based on evidence, with a cause that is aligned with the brand and engages employees, consumers, and other stakeholders—and then measure (and celebrate) the success.

The session then broke into small discussions on real issues facing practitioners, using role playing to discover viable solutions. The results from the table discussions will be used to help inform the development/refinement of the new companion to last year’s report, an assessment framework, and toolkit. The session was ended by Ann with a simple, but powerful sentence on the evolution of corporate philanthropy: “Spare change into real change!”

Jeff Hoffman is president of Jeff Hoffman & Associates (www.JeffHoffmanAssociates.com).

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