AOL is a household name but that doesn’t mean Blair Cobb, senior director of cause marketing and community relations for the company, has millions of dollars to give to nonprofits. Her group needs to find unique ways AOL can give back other than writing a check.
Aria Finger, Blair Cobb, Nitzan Pelman, Susan McPherson
AOL’s partnership with Citizen Schools, a nonprofit that provides expanded school programs for kids in low-income communities, does just that. AOL’s employees volunteer to teach students (apprenticeship is the core of Citizen Schools’ model), produce videos that provide exposure for the nonprofit, and the company publishes blog posts from Citizen Schools staff and student, Cobb said during a panel discussion at the Business4Better conference. Having AOL’s executive leaders, including its CEO and Arianna Huffington, participate in the teaching program, helped encourage other AOL employees to engage, she said. Continue reading
Getting individuals involved in helping to tackle the world’s immense problems — poverty, hunger, unemployment, environmental issues — is a tough task. People don’t feel they can make a difference.
“The problems we know are so big that compassion collapse gets in the way of taking action,” Premal Shah, president of Kiva, a nonprofit microfinancing site, said in a keynote at Business4Better.
Kiva tries to overcome this problem with a website that makes social issues personal and “human scales” the world’s problems, Shah said. The site provides information on entrepreneurs, such as a 25-year-old woman in Kenya needing a loan to help with her business, and enables individuals to make loans. Continue reading
When Sonic Drive In wanted to give back to the community, it didn’t rush into things. The company, which has 3,500 drive-in restaurants across the country, wanted to make sure any initiative had the support of its franchise partners. And it wanted to focus on education, unlike the health focus of one of its top competitors, McDonald’s.
Sonic ultimately decided it wanted to support teachers at the local level. To do that, it teamed with DonorsChoose.org, a Web-based nonprofit that enables teachers to submit requests for classroom supplies. Five years later, the partnership is still going strong.
“We took the right amount of time to research on the front end” to make sure it would be the right program with the right partner, Christi Woodworth, Sonic’s director of social media, said during a session on corporate-nonprofit partnerships at the Business4Better conference.
Corporate social responsibility has come a long way from the days of handing out checks and doing good. It’s even gone beyond strategic CSR, in which businesses try to do more than donate money. Today, many companies are shifting to the concept of “shared value.”
This new phase was the focus of a panel discussion here at B4B led by Lalitha Vaidyanathan, managing director of FSG. “Corporate responsibility of the future needs to come from the core business,” she told the audience. “You’re creating social good while creating economic value for the business.”
Adam Lowry, Lalitha Vaidyanathan, Christopher Lloyd
Shared value requires approaching business in a much different way, she said. Corporate philanthropy still has a role, but companies need to think if there are bigger, more scalable ways for them to create social change. Both large and midsize companies can participate, she said. Continue reading