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Corporate Philanthropy Reality Check

Monday, November 23, 2015

NCG guest blogger Lalitha Vaidyanatha gives her expertise on Corporate Philanthropy and CSR practices.

In my 6 years working with corporations at FSG, I’ve come to realize that being in charge of your company’s foundation or CSR is reason to both celebrate and weep with frustration. What do I mean? Consider the fictional yet all-too-familiar story of Christine…

Six months ago Christine couldn’t believe her good fortune. She had just landed her dream job as Executive Director of her company’s corporate foundation and Vice President of Global Corporate Responsibility. With $30 million in annual cash giving and a global footprint, she imagined the sky was the limit for the impact she could have around the world.

That was then. Christine knew giving away money wouldn’t be easy, but she grossly underestimated just how hard it would be to please everyone.

Her new boss, the Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs, wants to know the business value of all the money going out the door.

Her CEO wants to keep contributing grants to the local symphony and art museum.

The Chief Marketing Officer wants to connect the foundation’s themes to the new corporate branding campaign.

The global head of recruiting sees societal engagement as the key to attracting and retaining millennials.

Her foundation board wants to see measureable social impact from their giving.

Her team is asking her how their work fits with prevalent approaches such as inclusive business, triple bottom line, and shared value.

And with 100 locations in 60 countries, employees desire more philanthropic resources to support the communities in which they live and work.

 What seemed like an exciting opportunity now seems like an unmanageable mess. How can she create coherence, let alone impact, out of this chaos?

Sadly, Christine’s fictitious story is a stark reality for many of executives I’ve met who are in charge of their companies’ corporate societal engagement. These professionals are brimming with high aspirations and expectations, but they need a more practical set of tools to define and achieve success in a constant tug-of-war between competing and often unrealistic demands.

Based on our work with corporations such as Intuit, Symantec, Intel, Eli Lilly, Mars and many others, we have developed three strategy tools that serve as critical guides for corporate executives like Christine.

  • The Intent Matrix: Helps you visually map why and how your corporation is engaging with society.
  • The Issue Monitor: Provides a multi-dimensional process for selecting the issue(s) on which your company should focus, based on company dynamics and external factors
  • Impact Models: codifies 4 distinct options for how you can engage on societal issues.

I’ll be sharing the models and the insights that drive them on December 10th, at 8.30am at Northern California Grantmakers for Strategy Made Simple: A Straightforward Approach to Corporate Philanthropy with corporate executives like yourself—I hope you’ll join us!

Learn more and register now!