Support our nonpartisan, nonprofit research and insights which help leaders address societal challenges.Donate
18 Dec. 2020 | Comments (0)
Our annual two-day convening of corporate citizenship and philanthropy professionals took place in the first week of December. Highlighting a theme of "how we do our work,” participants heard [the product of] non-profit, academic, and corporate leaders’ reflections on this trying year, including what they learned and the following key takeaways on how those lessons can be applied to helping companies optimize the efficiency and impact of their corporate citizenship and philanthropy programs.
Determine and Pursue your North Star
Corporate citizenship professionals are on a constant quest for better program outcomes. Asking community grantees to define their “North Star” can help to identify mutually desirable and achievable outcomes, the creation of metrics to measure progress towards them, and how the company can best help with cash, volunteers, products, etc. Or as one participant phrased the idea, it can help “leverage every single asset of your company; it is more than just the money.”
Be Authentic and Build Trust
Corporate citizenship professionals are the nexus between companies and the communities they support. As “bridge builders,” companies must lead with authenticity and match words with deeds to lay the foundation of trust over the long term. In the words of two participants, “sincerity needs to be felt in the community,” and “co-creation with community will have a better impact.”
Focus and be Intentional
How to balance company goals with the interests of communities is a challenge facing corporate citizenship professionals. Prudential’s Inclusive Solutions team set about addressing this challenge by living their company’s purpose and values through their community work, employee engagement, and business practices. Since these first steps, the team has enhanced its approach to balancing corporate and community goals by simultaneously and consistently considering business strategy, community needs, and diversity, equity and inclusion practices– both internally and externally. Evidencing their success, the Inclusive Solutions team was sought out by leaders from Prudential’s Sales and Procurement teams to discuss, respectively, how to leverage the company’s values as a competitive differentiator and to qualify vendors.
Build Better Together
A single organization cannot solve long-standing, entrenched social problems. Realizing that government, business, and nonprofits are “radically interdependent” can lead to these three sectors working in coordination with one another to create an equitable and thriving nation.
Corporate citizenship professionals can also leverage the scale and scope of their efforts by working with industry colleagues. For example, pharmaceutical companies are working in concert to increase the public’s knowledge of basic science. Such efforts can increase our citizenries’ decision-making capacity and critical thinking skills.
Giving and Taking “Thumbs in the Side”
Corporate citizenship’s stakeholders have expanded from business leaders, employees, and community members to investors, corporate boards of directors, and government officials. Accountability, honesty, transparency, integrity and the openness to giving and taking a “thumb in the side” – that is, a friendly poke in the ribs when calling out a transgression – is an important component of genuine relationships and successful partnerships. It requires an ongoing open-ended conversation – not just a year-end performance presentation or report. Ultimately, corporate citizenship work is about our common humanity. Compassion, consciousness, and credibility become drivers to work in good faith partnerships.
Follow the Data
New tools such as The Price of Impact Index can be utilized by companies to optimize the efficiency and impact of their grant making through: 1) identifying priority social outcomes; 2) setting budget allocations and goals for each outcome; and 3) benchmarking grantee program costs.
Similarly, disaggregating data by race is an emerging practice to help corporate citizenship professionals make better decisions; specifically, helping to achieve racial equity through philanthropy. The Annie E. Casey Foundation report, By The Numbers: A Race for Results Case Study Using Disaggregated Data to Inform Policies, Practices and Decision-making, makes the case that, “greater access to and breakdown of racial data helps to underscore racial trends and disparities more clearly and will provide greater accountability in policymaking” and philanthropy.
“If you wanna fly, you have to give up the [stuff] that weighs you down” – Toni Morrison, Nobel laureate in literature, American novelist, essayist, book editor, and college professor.
Our rapidly changing world requires corporate citizenship professionals to reconsider how they do their work. Are our investments having the affect we intended? Are our advisors best informing our decision-making? Questions such as these need to be answered to connect business strategies with achieving outcomes that serve the needs of communities – the “how” we do our work is as important as the “why.” On that note, a participant advised, “be willing to get out of the way and be led.”
ESG is on the Rise
With increased demand for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics from asset owners; CEOs making public statements regarding sustainability issues; company commitments to do more to address racism; stakeholder demands for transparent governance; and more, 2020 saw ESG move from a “nice to have” to a “must have” in the corporate world. Similarly, investors increased their emphasis on long term risks such as the effects of climate change. And the correlation between companies’ ESG performance and returns is being more widely recognized. Corporate citizenship leaders have the opportunity to take advantage of the rise in ESG to demonstrate the importance of their work and how it can serve the company’s sustainability programs in mitigating risk, reducing cost, and/or generating revenue - thereby integrate citizenship and sustainability with their company’s business strategy.