By now you’re probably knee deep into planning or executing your annual employee holiday giving campaign. If not, you should think about one for next year. According to the Centre for Philanthropy, the average person makes 24% of their annual donations between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Giving Tuesday is just around the corner, and with more companies participating this year than ever, now is the time to capitalize on your employees’ desire to give back.
Like the holidays in general, one of the unfortunate downsides of a big holiday giving push is the inevitable hangover. This month your employees will be bombarded with pleas for generosity wherever they go: when they walk in the door, when they get in the elevator, when they sit at their desk, and even when they go to the restroom. Come January, how are you planning to maintain the pre-holiday level of excitement and engagement?
One way to prolong the enthusiasm is through partnerships with organizations like Kiva.
Kiva is a nonprofit organization with a mission to alleviate poverty by connecting people through lending. Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to support entrepreneurs all over the world. Innocent, in Uganda, for example, is seeking $750 to buy maize and beans which he will resell. People all over the world come together to make microloans on Kiva that are typically $25 in size, and these loans enable people like Innocent to launch his business and pay back the loan over time.
Since 2005, more than 1.2 million Kiva users have loaned more than $635 million to entrepreneurs in 83 countries. Incredibly, 98% of the loans have been repaid.
And now Kiva is setting its eyes on working with corporations to engage employees to get into the lending game. Take HP, who launched the Matter to a Million employee lending program in February 2014. The HP Company Foundation purchased enough gift cards for each of its 275,000 employees around the world, encouraging everyone to lend to the countries, causes, and people that matter to them the most.
The results have been unbelievable: more than 190,000 loans totaling almost $6 million have been processed this year alone. And with a 98% repayment expected, the foundation is able to engage the entire company for a few dollars per employee. Better yet, the program is aligned with its goal of supporting thousands of entrepreneurs around the world who need access to capital to start or grow their business. For five years these repayments will continue to go back to the HP Company Foundation’s Kiva account, which enables the company to keep providing employees with multiple opportunities to lend every year – all without depositing any new funds.
At Realized Worth, we are big believers in using volunteering and giving programs to create deep engagement. This means designing programs that include three interrelated components: an emotional connection, a positive action, and a mechanism to share. Let’s explore how your company can achieve all three of these through a partnership with Kiva.
The extent to which a volunteer or donor is engaged depends entirely on the proximity to the cause she is supporting. Our brains are wired to make connections to personal stories that matter to us. In fact, a recent study has shown that we can make more sense of helping one person, rather than millions. At the heart of Kiva is the opportunity to connect with one person, one business, one cause, one country. You can navigate to a story that connects with you and follow their story to its end. You can see a picture of the person you are helping and the story behind the business he or she is building.
The highest form of contribution comes not when you get involved in a cause, but when you encourage the people around you to join.
Many causes in the 21st century fall victim to shallow clicktivism, the notion that if you just like something on Facebook or Retweet a plea for help, you’ve done your part. The Kiva platform offers a refreshing antidote to digital engagement, because it requires research and choice. Your employees take an action not because someone asked them to, but because they want to. The positive action is simple, easy, meaningful, and personal.
The highest form of contribution comes not when you get involved in a cause, but when you encourage the people around you to join. Sharing is built into the Kiva platform, allowing people to easily share the projects they have supported with friends and family. At HP, some employees took it even further, banding together to support one cause; in one simple action, a group of like-minded employees were able to meet a particular project’s target. This type of sharing leads to deeper engagement every. single. time.
Amani is an independent female artist who got a loan through Kiva. Read her story here.
Whatever your employee giving program looks like, make sure that deep engagement is at its heart. Partnerships with organizations like Kiva have the capacity to provide that deeper engagement for your employees. It also provides a great example of the blending between for-profits, not-for-profits, lending, giving, etc. It’s refreshing to think that there are new opportunities for your employees to get involved in, with methods other than the typical paradigm of fundraising and volunteering. We can’t wait for the day when employees have such a strong emotional connection to the projects they support, they start lending their time and skills to the people behind them.Just the thought of it is enough to cure our holiday hangovers!
Questions or comments for me or the team here at Realized Worth? Leave a comment below, email us, or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and/or LinkedIn. And be sure to visit Kiva.org to see how you can get involved.
As the RW Program Manager for Latin America, and being from Argentina myself, this, the first Iberoamerican Conference, was the moment I was waiting for. Here was an opportunity to collaborate with multi-stakeholders and discuss the state of corporate volunteering in Latin America. More importantly, we could begin to address the challenges faced in these regions and implement solutions to strategically advance the practice of corporate volunteering.
“The conferences will position Latin America as a driver for corporate volunteering in the world.” – Juan Angel Poyatos, Global Partner
The conferences were the first of their kind: 3 conferences in 3 different countries, 6 online working groups, and 7 countries including Argentina, Chile, Nicaragua, Panamá, Perú, Venezuela, and Uruguay hosting local seminars.
You may not have been able to attend each conference or online working group (especially if you don’t speak Spanish), but that’s OK, we’ve highlighted the themes and answered your questions here, including: What does corporate volunteering in Latin America look like? What are some of the challenges they face? Where is it all heading?
The bigger picture: what’s going on in Latin America?
Traditionally, the model for corporate volunteer programs in Latin America focused on helping the community. Causes usually aligned with children, poverty, and/or education. While these are still important areas of focus, many new companies are redefining this value proposition and developing programs with their employees as the focus. Impact and transformation are now at the core of strategic programs. Skills-based volunteer programs are more popular than ever as companies aim to develop the competencies of their employees. Corporations are now aligning their programs with a social cause that connects to their core business values. They are learning the benefits of collaborating with other companies in their industry, working alongside nonprofits (instead of silos) and supporting the current volunteer efforts of their employees.
“Empowering employees to take voluntary action requires significant commitment. The men and women I met at the conference convinced me that within the next decade we can expect to see communities across Latin America benefiting from a wave of corporate volunteers.” – Chris Jarvis, Realized Worth Co-Founder
But (there is always a “but”) there is still a lot of work to do. Let’s take a look at what needs to happen: What are some of the challenges they face? Yes, corporate volunteering is growing and it’s a hot topic with many corporations in Latin America, but it’s not without its challenges. Luckily, this year’s Iberoamerican initiative brought together hundreds of participants ready to discover these barriers and find sustainable solutions.
Here are a few key things we’re working on:
Communication This needs to be intentionally strategic and focused, both internally and externally. Many companies struggle with how to communicate with their employees and their customers. What’s the best way to reach to my employees? How can I tell a compelling story? Here are some tips.
Multi Sector Partnerships While companies may clearly understand their strategic focus and the impacts they want to achieve, community partners may not be on the same page. Many nonprofits in Latin America are not yet equipped to support a corporate volunteer program. Many are still focused on the financial benefits instead. Here are some thoughts on partnerships.
Total Engagement Model This was a hot topic throughout the year. Although many companies understood the value, the definition of this model varied quite a bit. Aligning the skills of your employees with your corporate volunteer program to achieve the greatest strategic impact is not an easy feat. And there is a lot more to it! Chris Jarvis shares some good ideas here.
So … where is it all heading? Onward and upward!
“The Iberoamerican conference was a clear demonstration to me that many of the private sector leaders of Latin America are ready to mobilize their workforce to achieve significant environmental and social change.” – Chris Jarvis, Realized Worth Co-Founder
A white paper, videos, and more are in the works for each conference, which we’ll share as they are made available. Working groups will also continue into next year, hopefully providing results at the second Iberoamerican conference.
Most importantly, what we witnessed this year was a positive, long-awaited shift in a region that was in its infancy with corporate volunteering. Hundreds of men and women passionately came together for the first time and formed new partnerships and initiatives. We’ll keep our finger on the pulse and update you as corporate volunteering continues to heat up in Latin America. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you, so drop me a line here, reach out to me on Twitter or connect with me on LinkedIn. You can also find Realized Worth on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and can email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you attend any of the discussions or seminars? What are your thoughts on corporate volunteering in Latin America? Remember: yo hablo Español!
Se calienta el Voluntariado Corporativo en América Latina
No es sólo el clima caluroso en América Latina. El voluntariado corporativo se está calentando y estamos ahí para observarlo! Como Gerente de los Programas de Realized Worth para América Latina, y siendo de Argentina yo mismo, el primer Congreso Iberoamericano de Voluntariado Corporativo era el momento que estaba esperando! Aquí estaba la oportunidad de colaborar con múltiples grupos de interés y discutir el estado del voluntariado corporativo en América Latina. Más importante aún, podríamos comenzar a abordar los desafíos que enfrentan estas regiones, y poner en práctica soluciones para avanzar estratégicamente la práctica del voluntariado corporativo.
“Este congreso pretende ser un nuevo revulsivo que sitúe a Iberoamérica como motor de voluntariado corporativo en el mundo.” – Socio Global, Juan Ángel Poyatos
Si no hayan podido asistir a cada conferencia o grupo de trabajo en, no hay problema, hemos destacado los temas y respondemos a sus preguntas aquí: ¿Cómo se parece el voluntariado corporativo en América Latina? ¿Cuáles son algunos de los retos con que se enfrentan? ¿ A dónde se dirige todo esto?? ¿Qué está pasando en América Latina con el voluntariado corporativo?
Tradicionalmente, el modelo de los programas de voluntariado corporativo en América Latina se centran en ayudar a la comunidad. Las causas generalmente están alineadas con los niños, la pobreza y la educación. Esto sigue siendo un foco importante, pero muchas empresas nuevas están redefiniendo esta propuesta de valor y desarrollando programas con sus empleados como el enfoque. Impacto y transformación son ahora el núcleo de programas estratégicos. Acá habla Chris un poco sobre eso.
Los programas de voluntariado basados en el desarrollo de nuevas habilidades, son mas populares que nunca con muchas empresas que buscan una mayor capacitación para sus empleados. Las corporaciones están alineando sus programas con una causa social que conecta con los valores centrales del negocio. Están aprendiendo los beneficios de la colaboración con otras empresas en su industria, como trabajar junto con organizaciones no lucrativas (en lugar de solos) y como apoyar los esfuerzos en voluntariado de sus empleados. Pero, todavía hay mucho trabajo que hacer. Vamos a ver… ¿Cuáles son algunos de los retos que se enfrentan? Sí, el voluntariado corporativo sigue creciendo y es un tema caliente para muchas empresas en América Latina, pero, por supuesto, viene con sus desafíos. Por suerte, el Congreso Iberoamericano de este año reunió a participantes, dispuestos a descubrir estas barreras y encontrar soluciones sostenibles. Aquí hay algunas barreras importantes que necesitan nuestra atención:
Comunicación Esto tiene que ser intencionalmente estratégico y centrado, tanto interna como externamente. Muchas empresas luchan con la forma de comunicarse con sus empleados y sus clientes. ¿Cuál es la mejor manera de conectar con mis empleados? ¿Cómo puedo contar una historia convincente? Acá hay algunos consejos.
Asociaciones de Múltiples Grupos de Interés (Multi stakeholders) Empresas pueden entender claramente su enfoque estratégico y los impactos que quieren lograr, pero socios de la comunidad pueden tener otra imagen. Muchas ONGs en América Latina todavía no están en posición para apoyar un programa de voluntariado corporativo. Muchas veces, el enfoque se centra en los beneficios financieros y quizás no en lo que quiere lograr la empresa. Le falta el diálogo para crear una asociación mutuamente beneficiosa. Aquí hay algunas ideas sobre alianzas.
Modelo de Compromiso Total (Total Engagement Model) Este fue un tema caliente todo el año. A pesar de que muchas empresas entienden el valor, la definición de este modelo varió bastante. Alineación de las habilidades de los empleados con un programa de voluntariado corporativo, para lograr el mayor impacto estratégico no es una tarea fácil. Y hay mucho más para considerar! Chris comparte algunas buenas ideas aquí.
¿A dónde vamos desde aquí? Para adelante y para arriba!
“La conferencia Iberoamericana fue una demostración evidente para mí que muchos de los líderes del sector privado de América Latina están dispuestos a movilizar sus empleados para lograr un cambio ambiental y social significativo. Capacitar a los empleados a tomar acción, requiere un compromiso significativo. Los hombres y las mujeres que conocí en el congreso me convencieron de que en la próxima década, podemos esperar ver las comunidades de toda América Latina beneficiarse de una ola de voluntarios corporativos .” – Chris Jarvis
Un documento y vídeos de cada conferencia se producirán mas adelante. Lo compartimos con ustedes pronto! Los grupos de trabajo también continuarán hasta el próximo año y sus resultados se presentaran en la segunda conferencia Iberoamericana. Ya veremos!
Más importante aún, es que fuimos testigos este año a un cambio positivo. Un cambio que esperábamos y buscábamos en una región que estaba en su infancia con el voluntariado corporativo. Cientos de hombres y mujeres vinieron con pasión, y juntos por primera vez y\ formaron nuevas asociaciones e iniciativas. Vamos a mantener el dedo en el pulso y le actualizamos como el voluntariado corporativo continúa calentándose en América Latina. Mientras tanto, mándenme un mensaje aquí. Me encantaría hablar con ustedes. ¿Asistió a alguna de las discusiones o seminarios? ¿Cuáles son sus pensamientos sobre el voluntariado corporativo en América Latina?
When you get the best and the brightest of a field in the same room, common challenges come to light. These challenges shouldn’t discourage anyone from moving the industry forward, but should instead highlight the need for all sectors to work together to overcome them.
Please note that this blog post is “sector agnostic” and aims to be a resource for companies, nonprofit organizations, civil society participants, and governments alike.
In late October, I had the honour of speaking at IVCO 2014 in Lima, Peru with high-ranking multi-sector delegates from all over the world, all of them involved in the field of international volunteering and development. During the conference, I overheard many practitioners swapping stories of common challenges and some of their innovative solutions when it comes to this year’s theme of cross-sector collaboration for sustainable development.
The Solution Revolution
As was evident at IVCO, the current global trend is that more and more companies are stepping up to collaborate with the traditional players in the public sector and civil society to solve society’s problems. This is the practical realization of The Solution Revolution.
No revolution has ever gone off without a hitch, but if the catalysts driving the charge hadn’t pushed onward and addressed the challenges head-on, the world would be very different today, and not for the better. The Solution Revolution offers incredible potential to change the world. Let’s address these challenges together and keep this revolution alive and well.
The 3 Main Challenges
Before engaging with other sectors, it is important to understand the language and culture of the players you are sitting down to the table with.
Walk into a meeting with a proposal for “capacity building and empowerment programming” and you’ll be met with blank stares.
Walk into a meeting with a nonprofit organization asking for a demonstration of efficiency gains in all quarters and they’ll look at you like they did when you tried singing Taylor Swift’s latest hit at the office Christmas party. Walk into a meeting with a private sector company with a proposal for capacity building and empowerment programming and you will be met with blank stares and plenty of eye rolling.
Does this come from disdain for the other sector? Does it come from refusal to budge? From egos that refuse to listen?
No. More often than not, both parties have the same goal in mind.
Instead, these reactions come from the individuals quite simply having no clue what their counterparts are talking about. You could both be speaking English. You could both be speaking about the same project and have the same goals in mind. But as soon as you pull out the latest industry lingo, you’ve lost each other – and most likely the partnership.
Avoid exclusionary, sector-oriented jargon when getting your point across. During your first few meetings with the organizations or companies you hope to collaborate with, discuss some of the common terms and language you use and develop a glossary together. This can be treated as a living document, informing all of your conversations going forward. As soon as you’re speaking the same language, your common goals will become clear.
In this context culture does not necessarily refer to food, geography, and/or local traditions. Each organization and company has its own organizational culture that consists of customs, norms, and non-negotiables. A common barrier to successful cross-sector collaboration is the lack of cultural adaptation on both sides of the partnership. This limits the potential of buy-in and intrinsic motivation of the key agents and decision makers within the partnership.
“They want it done yesterday” was a common complaint.
These days, culture normally comes second to strategies, such as Shared Value. However, if you happen to violate a custom or present a non-negotiable as the golden ticket for the partnership, your counterpart may have already checked out of the conversation. This is not to say that strategy is not important, but rather that it needs to be put into context with the boundaries that already exist in the room. As the Co-Founder of Realized Worth, Angela Parker has recently asserted that it is only when the focus remains on a combination of strategy and culture, never sacrificing one for the other, where programs have the potential to achieve higher than ever impacts in the community.
What is an example of cultural differences between sectors?
In Lima, the most consistent feedback I received from nonprofits and civil society participants was that working with the private sector was challenging due to the pace they seemed to expect a project to go. They want it done yesterday was a common complaint. In offices where resources are often stretched thin, this get-it-done attitude from the private sector is not appreciated. When organizations refuse to alter their common practices and compromise with their partners, they will not be in the collaborating space for long.
It is important to acknowledge these types of cultural differences, of course, but it is equally important to synch up cultures, in this case the pace of work. This ensures efforts continue to be collaborative rather than dominated by one party or the other.
However, there are some instances in which the corporate culture and organizational culture of the respective organizations are incompatible. That’s OK. In fact, it is extremely important this be acknowledged, especially when looking to create relationships for longterm and sustainable collaboration. Companies regularly preform risk assessments on potential partner organizations, and decision makers in all sectors should be doing the same.
3) Power Dynamics
A common challenge discussed was the power dynamics potentially at play between the sectors. The private sector has the resources and the cheque book; the nonprofit sector has local knowledge and the trust of the community; the public sector has legislation and political clout. When one or all are held as bargaining chips, it can sour the conversation before it even begins. Instead of a collaboration, you’ve entered into a transaction with little hope for sustainability.
Dialogue, and ultimately the partnership, must be approached as a two-way street rather than a one-way transaction.
This is especially true at the individual level when placing corporate volunteers in nonprofit organizations. If the employees of the nonprofit do not accept the corporate volunteer because they are not “one of them,” or the corporate volunteer approaches the volunteer opportunity only acknowledging their value, these attitudes will endanger the success of the activity in question and potentially the partnership as a whole.
During engagement with other sectors, it is best to start out by putting yourself in their shoes. How would I feel if they presented their proposal to me in this way? Would I feel valued for what I bring to the table or would I feel like a recipient of an opportunistic transaction?
Dialogue, and ultimately the partnership, must be approached as a two-way street rather than a one-way transaction. This equal footing is essential for the sustainability of the relationship. To do this you will need to build respect and trust with your counterpart to ensure the partnership will continue to be a collaborative and not transactional. Without these investments at the start, you will continue to see piecemeal cross-sector ventures you currently see in this space.
Ready, set, go!
Despite these challenges, the common sentiment I overheard at IVCO 2014 was that we are better together. This seemed to ring true for the conference goers, no matter what sector they represented. To continue the Solution Revolution and ultimately change the world, all sectors will have to work together. So how do you get started?
Realized Worth is in a unique position to offer advice on cross-sector collaboration as all our consultants have experience in more than one sector. Amongst us, we represent a wealth of experience in the government, nonprofit and private sectors. With this diversity of experience, our consulting services bring a unique and inclusive perspective to the work you are doing and collaborations you are pursuing. Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, or send us an email at email@example.com.
Share your experience
Have you had a particularly successful or challenging partnership with another sector? Send your thoughts to the RW team or comment below. We would love to hear from you!
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a guest blog from our friend Joshua Schukman at Social Change Nation. It has been gently edited and formatted for the purposes of the RW blog. If you find yourself left with any thoughts you’d like to share or questions that need an answer, feel free to leave a comment below, email us, or reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter. Enjoy!
“Giving back is about leveraging your businesses expertise and talents in a way that fits both your company and the nonprofit you are serving.”
So you’re a business and you want to give back. This is terrific! But all kinds of businesses try to do this, and for the most part, their efforts range from mediocre to downright terrible.
But why does this happen? Because businesses tend to miss several key steps when they seek to build charitable partnerships. For example, they fail to ask employees what they want to do, or they fail to ask their community how they can best serve. But the most common given reason of them all is that a business doesn’t take the time to find a nonprofit that has some level of mission alignment with the mission of a for-profit. You heard me correctly: as a business, it is absolutely critical that the nonprofits you partner with line up with your business mission in some way. If not, you will get bogged down in a partnership that lacks clarity and fails to engage your employees or the community.
If you fail to build a meaningful partnership at the onset, the results will be devastating. Your consumers will have no idea why you partner with the nonprofits you do. Your employees won’t really care to volunteer with the nonprofit because they don’t understand its cause. The end result? You’ll end up donating a bunch of money while lending nothing of your talent, expertise, and network. The above is no way to run a corporate social responsibility program, but by and large it’s the norm for businesses. The good news is that you can avoid this in your business.
Here are five steps you must follow if you truly want to build strong philanthropic relationships in ways that help you and your community:
1. Line up the partnership with your mission.
What about your business mission lines up with another organization’s social mission? For example, financial institutions often partner with Habitat for Humanity or offer financial literacy programming to families. What are some causes you could get involved with where you’d have a natural contribution to make?
What are the core tenets of your mission? Do these match with the tenets of a nonprofit’s mission?
Look at your values statement – does a nonprofit in your area have a values statement that would compliment yours?
2. Donate expertise.
What are some uncommon ways you may be able to contribute skills to a nonprofit?Toyota, for example, in addition to being automobile experts, is well versed in logistics and assembly lines. So they had their employees lend this expertise to a massive food bank in NYC, thereby quadrupling the output of that nonprofit. How might you replicate this in your area or expertise?
Could individual departments donate their special expertise? What about your accountants? IT team? Web designers? These are all services in high demand by nonprofits, so why not let those teams choose a cause to which they’d like to donate their time and skills?
3. If you have a product they should be using, get them using it.
What do you offer your customers that your nonprofit partners would find useful? In the financial literacy example above, I know of some credit unions who created special accounts with special privileges for families in Habitat for Humanity. What part of your business offerings could you leverage to help strengthen a nonprofit/for-profit partnership?
In addition to products that may help a nonprofit’s clients, ask yourself what kind of products and services you offer that may help the administrative operations of the nonprofit.
4. Ask your team members where and how they want to contribute.
Could you start a fun interdepartmental competition where each department picks its own cause (see #2)?
Could you offer your team members paid volunteer time as a way of encouraging them to choose a cause that matters to them?
Could you send out an online survey asking employees where they’d most like to volunteer? How might this lead to increased engagement with your nonprofit partner?
5. Engage your charitable partners as ambassadors.
Why not ask your nonprofit partners to promote your work with them?
What kind of marketing strategies could you engage to share the story of this cause with your community? How would this grow both your brand and that of your nonprofit partner?
Can you create marketing materials for your nonprofit partner that also highlight your work?
Ultimately, giving back is about creating a synergy between you and a nonprofit in a way that increases the impact of both entities. If you follow the steps above, you will put yourself in the elite category of businesses who build a beautiful story of service for their customers and their community.
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