Over just the past few months, we have been the beneficiaries of an absolute embarrassment of riches in terms of high-powered convenings and insight-filled reports related to corporate/social sector collaboration and investment. I dare say we are seeing an unprecedented level of research and conversation about the role of companies in driving social sector outcomes and vice versa. While digesting it all can feel like sipping from a firehose, I’m finding that so many of my partnership conversations right now are coming back to three themes, all of which are supported and driven by these great insights coming from all corners of the corporate social innovation and philanthropic worlds.
#1 Heightened consumer expectations, and how companies are responding
Sixty percent (60%) of Americans now expect companies to play a greater role in society, particularly given the new administration. Tina-Marie Adams, Midwest Managing Director of APCO Worldwide, shared this data point at last month’s Social Innovation Summit, drawn from research her firm had recently completed. This is further borne out by data from Cone Communications’ 2017 CSR Study, which found that “millennials are putting their faith in companies to ignite change,” with 71% of millennials hopeful that business will take the lead (compared to U.S. average of 63%). Continue reading →
Midway through last week’s Cause Marketing Forum (CMF), during Katrina McGhee’s great talk on personal branding, I noted that a significant number of the CMF presenters—representing both causes and companies—were explicitly emphasizing one key practice. These cause marketing leaders focus on their strengths. They understand their organizational strengths and partner with others to mitigate their organizational weaknesses. In contrast to the trends earlier this decade when it started to feel like major cause marketers were shifting to owning self-made cause platforms over building partnership portfolios, this strengths-based approach is facilitating significant creativity and impact.
Instead of adopting a certain trend in structure or activation, today’s cause marketing leaders are focusing on what will work for them. For some, that is creating an owned national platform with local and agency partners providing support. For others, it is forging one or more partnerships of complementary opposites who each bring what the other needs. Through collaboration, they are then able to achieve the business and social impact results that they could not have achieved on their own.
Four Examples from Cause Marketing Forum 2016:
A few examples (of many, many more) that I found particularly instructive from last week’s event: Continue reading →
Growing up in Kentucky during segregation, Jimmie Alford attended an all-white school, and didn’t experience racial diversity until the age of nine when his parents moved to Chicago. The move, due to the closing of coal mines, placed Jimmie’s family in a small apartment in the Englewood community. Jimmie was one of three white students in his third grade class of 40 students.
Along with his classmates, he understood economic diversity and its impact on themselves, their families and their community while living in extreme poverty within a predominantly affluent nation. He also directly and personally saw and felt the impact of discrimination. He decided at a young age that the injustice of discrimination was something he would never allow to penetrate his life and that he would work his entire life to eradicate discrimination in all forms. Like many who grow up marginalized in one way or another, Jimmie vowed to lift himself out of his circumstances, make a better life and never forget the important life lessons learned along the way. His commitment to this goal was unwavering and steadfast.
Diversity is one of seven core values of The Alford Group, and one of Jimmie’s enduring “fingerprints” on the consulting firm he founded in 1979. One manifestation of this commitment is our 20+-year sponsorship of the Diversity Workshop and Diversity Art Showcase at the annual AFP International Conference. While our dedication to diversity and inclusiveness has remained resolute over the decades, the demographics of America – and thus the universe of donors and prospective donors – have changed dramatically. Lessons learned from diverse communities, and the shared values of diversity, equity and inclusiveness (DEI), are more relevant and more essential today than ever before. Continue reading →
Two weeks ago everything seemed bright on the economic horizon with the stock market moving well and unemployment numbers from April looking better and better all the time. What a difference a fortnight makes.
The news this past week from Wednesday on was not cheerful, and was not bright. Only 58,000 jobs were created over the month of May, well short of the number required to have impact on the unemployment rate. It would take gains of 350,000 per month to truly impact the numbers and lower the unemployment rate, which rose to 9.1% nationally due to more people entering the work force and actively looking for work. There are 7 million fewer people working in our country now, than 2006. That is a sobering thought.
No wonder there is such a lull in economic activity and no wonder there is such caution in spending on the part of those who are working.
In 1992 I took a position with the Sisters of Providence Health System in Springfield, MA and the unemployment rate in Massachusetts at the time was 11%. As we planned our fund raising activities, board members (and others) questioned our strategies; I repeatedly mentioned that we were going to focus on the 89% of the people who were working. During my three years there we increased the number of donors from 600 annually to more than 3,500 annually.
Even now throughout our country, more than 90% of the people are working and being very productive. They are not spending and they are concerned that they may be laid-off or lose their jobs. Debt is being reduced (short term debt continues to shrink) and savings is increasing. Thus the savings rate in America is at an all time high having exceeded the 5% level for 10 consecutive quarters. Currently there is $2.7 trillion (yes…trillion) in money funds in America earning less than .3% annually. This does not count savings accounts, checking accounts or short term certificates of deposit (less than 6 months). There is a tremendous amount of money still sitting on the side lines as people are cautious with their spending. At the current savings rate, the economy will make a fundamental shift at some time – there will come a moment when we shift from being a nation of consumers to a nation of investors. But when is the question.
So in this lull, what should you do to support your organization?
Stay focused on the needs in the community that your organization is serving
Continue to ask for gifts that will change people’s lives
Be bold and confident
Have a vision for the next 3 to 5 years
Demonstrate results and success
Seek community endorsements for the good work you are doing
Stay close to your donors keeping them informed in a variety of ways
And continue to seek philanthropic support – last week 3 donors gave our clients significant 7 figure gifts!
These are difficult times still, but over time the difficulties will pass. They always have, and they always will.