by: Jennifer Rice
I was recently interviewed for Gennefer Snowfield’s Philanthropy In 5 series at TriplePundit.com on the subject of values-based business and aligning philanthropy with strategy. The article just ran today, and I’ll republish my responses here.
1. How do you define for-profit philanthropy?
To me, for-profit philanthropy simply means values-based business. I subscribe to Peter Drucker’s observation that “every single pressing social and global issue of our time is a business opportunity.” Profit is still important, but equally so is the awareness of where and how that business fits within the overall ecosystem, and what unique contribution that business can make in the world. It’s about humanizing brands and leveraging their power to make a real difference, not just to make more stuff.
2. Please describe your philanthropic business plan and your current charitable activities.
I created Fruitful Strategy to help businesses live and breathe their values in a way that can be experienced by all stakeholders. Values shouldn’t be relegated to signs on a wall; they should build and strengthen brands by guiding every aspect of the business including operations, customer experience and even product innovation. So my service itself is my “charitable activity,” as I feel that this is the best way for me to leverage my skills to help transform the world through business.
3. How do you communicate the impact of these efforts to your customers?
I enjoy writing, so my primary method of communication is through my blog, articles, white papers, and interviews like this one. I’m also on Twitter, which I’m finding to be a tremendous tool for connecting with like-minded people and spreading the word.
4. Why do you think it’s important for companies to adopt philanthropy as part of their revenue model?
I’m hard on companies who think of philanthropy (charitable giving) as a way to show that they’re a good corporate citizen. Corporate philanthropy is the moral equivalent of going to church on Sundays. If you’re expecting to earn your gold star and absolution so that you can act however you want the rest of the week, you need to think again. But if it’s part of who you are, then the rest of your actions speak for themselves. Within the context of a values-based business, philanthropy is transformed from a box to check to the natural outflow of a conscious mindset. And done in the right way, by strategically selecting non-profits or causes that are aligned with your brand and value proposition, everybody wins.
5. What would you say is the most critical element in successfully implementing philanthropic endeavors?
Align your cause with what makes your company unique. It should be an investment in brand-building, which then can attract employees and customers who share those values. And I’m not talking cause marketing; this is about baking that cause into your DNA and customer experience, which then gives your marketing department something more substantial to talk about. Don’t fall into commodity “me-too” status with your sustainability and CSR efforts; make it an extension of who you are. For a more thorough answer on this, you can refer to one of my recent posts on how to align CSR and philanthropy to drive your brand.