“Be Fearless, Be Intentional in our approach to social challenges. This country and the world are crying out for innovation.” This was the advice Jean Case, CEO of Case Foundation, had for businesses and nonprofit partners to create social change and overcome challenges while at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC) National Conference in Atlanta.
Our team had an opportunity to attend the event on April 16th to 18th and engage in discussions on nonprofit capacity building, skills-based volunteerism, education and more.
Speaking at a plenary session on creating sustainable, systemic social change, Jean went on to state that in today’s interconnected world of shared economic downturns and civic unrest, the need to address social issues is becoming more urgent. Social sector leaders must create a road map to disrupt old, ineffective efforts with diligent and innovative approaches that represent measureable progress. And one cannot achieve this goal alone; effective cross-sector partnerships are critical in pushing boundaries and raising the bar on social change. Jean asked the leaders to “be bold, and be fearless with a sense of urgency when we approach social challenges.”
Jean shared with the audience that time and time again cross-sector partnerships that buck tradition have proven this African proverb to be true … “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
While the traditional role of businesses in the social sector was through their philanthropic arm, the leaders at the BCLC conference focused on identifying and promoting innovative solutions to complex challenges that break down silos and remove barriers to sustainable change.
“Partnerships between nonprofits and corporations should not be about more money and fundraising” stated Rhonda Mims, President of ING Foundation. In addition to the grant making and sponsorships that ING Foundation handles, Rhonda spoke about the partnership with Girls Inc., which is a multi-year innovative investment challenge for girls ages 12-18 where they learn the basics of long-term investing while managing $50,000 virtual portfolios. Speaking about the effectiveness of such partnerships, Rhonda explained that “There’s always debate about how to measure the success of CSR. Every industry has different measurements and objectives. At the end of the day it’s about impact, and the way social goals are structured and measured is important. The days of just giving away money are long, long gone. Design metrics specifically for your organization.”
Opportunities for businesses to take on alternative and collaborative approaches to social change were a recurring theme from the speakers with conversations around skills-based volunteerism on a local and global level moving center-stage. Evan Hochberg from Deloitte, Bo Miller from The Dow Chemical Company, Dale Herzog from UPS and Christine Salerno from Marsh & McLennan spoke about the intricacies of starting a skills-based volunteerism program in a large corporation, shared best practices, and the opportunities of using specialized expertise in addressing local and international challenges.
“Research has shown that philanthropy is flat-lining but skills-based volunteerism (SBV) has increased significantly,” stated BCLC Executive Director, Stephen Jordan. 82% of conference attendees stated to have volunteer program at their businesses, but only 38% of these programs currently have a skills-based component. The conference discussions were a clear indication that greater emphasis will be placed in changing that statistic.
A CDC report released in April supports this trend and even showed significant growth in International Corporate Volunteering (ICV). Companies have steadily invested in these programs and are also improving their abilities to measure the benefits they receive. The annual growth rate of number of corporate volunteers sent on these programs increased 52% from 2006 to 2011. Leadership skills development and staff retention are at the top of the list for the goals of the program. And since 2006, corporate volunteers have worked in over 62 countries versus 4 countries in Africa and South America prior to that. PepsiCo’s first-ever PepsiCorps program last year is a great example of the newer initiatives being explored by corporations towards addressing social challenges using business acumen.
It was evident that there has been a shift in the kind of partnerships formed between the business world and nonprofit community. The relationships today are more mutually beneficial and in a lot of ways more meaningful for both parties. This new socially responsible model and corporate culture is pivotal for nonprofits to understand so they do not go about seeking partnerships in the same manner.
Click here to view BCLC National Conference Photo Stream