There’s a lot going on in the world of philanthropy this week. Here is a round-up of stories that caught our eye.
New domain for nonprofits
Mashable reports that the .org nonprofit domain may soon be joined by .ngo (non-governmental organizations). The Public Interest Registry (PIR), the non-profit that manages and operates the .org domain, submitted the.ngo application. The .ngo would be a closed domain which means nonprofits using it would have to be verified during the registration process. While .org is typically associated with nonprofits, it is an open domain meaning that individuals and for-profit corporations can register under it as well. We won’t see the .ngo for some time though – PIR won’t find out if the application was approved until January 2013.
Leadership and CSR
Our own Jon Carson (@JonCarsonB4G) shared his insights regarding the tight alignment of leadership and CSR in the Huffington Post this week. Jon argues that we desperately need corporate leaders to show the kind of leadership that CSR embodies – not only because it confers all sorts of practical benefits, but because it's the right thing to do. His article shares insights on infusing CSR into business by nourishing the long-term, treating all stakeholders well and creating an ethical culture.
Boston Foundation launches nonprofit information website
Boston.com reports on this week’s launch of the Giving Common by the Boston Foundation. The site is designed to “help potential donors navigate the world of charitable organizations in the Massachusetts, to inform decisions about where and how to make contributions.” Giving Common currently offers profiles of 300 charities in our home state of Massachusetts. Nonprofits can create a profile for free at Giving Common and should register by August 1st for a chance to receive grant money from the Boston Foundation.
Philanthropy in the kitchen
Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports on philanthropist and award-winning chef Charlie Trotter who received the James Beard Foundation’s Humanitarian of the Year award earlier this month. Trotter’s philanthropy in the kitchen has ranged from feeding the poor in his restaurant’s Chicago neighborhood to dishing out meals for a host of nonprofit fundraiser dinners. Trotter’s latest endeavor is a $400-a-person event for about 60 diners in New York and will aid New Alternatives for Children, a New York nonprofit that helps families care for their disabled or chronically ill children.
Each week, BiddingForGood likes to recap the philanthropy stories making headlines in our Goodness in Action blog. This week’s headlines represent all facets of the philanthropy world including Amazon’s corporate philanthropy efforts, Natalie Portman’s latest philanthropic role, Brooke Astor’s Estate bestowing millions to charity and the trend of kids as leaders of social good. Let’s dive in!
Amazon’s Philanthropic Efforts Criticized
PaidContent reports this week on retail giant Amazon whose hometown newspaper, The Seattle Times, criticized Amazon’s philanthropic efforts calling it a “giant, silent neighbor.” In contrast with other local companies such as Microsoft and Boeing, Amazon has maintained a surprisingly low profile in the surrounding community it has called home for nearly 18 years. In the past year it seems Amazon is getting more involved and has reached out to numerous local nonprofits, offering volunteers, in-kind donations and cash contributions. The Seattle Times wrote that this wave of charity may have taken place after a former City Council member questioned Amazon’s CEO at the annual shareholder meeting about the company’s philanthropic efforts. As our own Jon Carson (@JonCarsonB4G) wrote in this Huffington Post piece, the key to driving corporate social good is for citizens to engage and let the CEO know they are being watched.
Natalie Portman’s New Philanthropic Role
E! Online reports that Natalie Portman is taking on a new role as an ambassador for the charity Free the Children whose mission is to free children from poverty. Portman has also partnered with Dior who will donate all proceeds from the sale of the company’s newest Rouge Dior lipstick to Free the Children in support of its Scholarships for Girls’ Secondary Education in Kenya program. Donating 100 percent of the proceeds to charity is a new trend being embraced by retailers, fueled in part by an increasingly charity-savvy consumer.
Brooke Astor Estate Settlement Nets Millions for Charity
Reuters reports this week that the late fur heiress Brooke Astor’s estate has finally been resolved and will net millions of dollars for charity. Astor was well-known in New York’s philanthropic scene and has bestowed millions to support the arts and education in her beloved city. “The proceeds of the estate will result in $20 million being distributed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, $15 million to the New York Public Library, and will create a $30 million fund designated to improve education in New York.” What an amazing legacy to leave behind.
Children Are New Trend Setters in Social Good
In this opinion piece for the Huffington Post, Nancy Gofus, COO of the Public Interest Registry writes about the rise of social movements inspired by children. Nancy writes, “I am increasingly aware of the many causes on .ORG that have amazing stories to tell. Specifically, our team often notices a growing crop of organizations emerging from the selfless acts of young kids.” We highlighted a 9-year-old who started Kent’s Soda to benefit children with autism back in this blog post about social entrepreneurship through the ages. It’s an amazing thing to see children taking such an active role in social movements. We hope their work inspires you as much as it inspires us.
This week’s headlines in philanthropy span from the corporate sector to Hollywood and around the world. We have a piece from our very own CEO Jon Carson, a video highlighting the top social entrepreneurs worldwide, and a charitable celebrity shout out.
Corporate Social Responsibility – Bandwagon or Built-in?
Our own Jon Carson (@JonCarsonB4G) contributed a piece to Huffington Post this week regarding corporate social responsibility (CSR). He argues that brands with a strong CSR component either have it built into their company or built into the DNA of the brand. Others are jumping on the CSR bandwagon but fall short when their efforts merely serve as “window dressing,” showing some brands are in it more for the PR than the social good. What can you do? Jon encourages consumers to get involved in the discussion, use social networks to engage and report bad behavior so that CEOs know their brands are being watched.
Top Social Entrepreneurs Saving the World
Huffington Post Impact reports on a new documentary highlighting the work of top social entrepreneurs from around the world. These agents of social change are taking inventive approaches to solving some of the world’s toughest problems related to hunger, disease, clean water and security. The documentary highlights RED, TOMS and Kiva as some of the leaders in social innovation. The video features the winners of McKinsey & Company’s Social Innovation Video Contest.
Taylor Swift to Receive Big Help Award
Rolling Stone reports that First Lady Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) will make an appearance on the Nickelodeon’s Kids Choice Awards to present country pop singer Taylor Swift (@TaylorSwift13) with the Big Help Award. The award honors outstanding charity of individuals and was given to Michelle Obama herself in 2010. Swift is being honored for raising money to benefit those suffering from natural disasters and her work with Make-A-Wish Foundation, St. Jude Medical Center and Habitat for Humanity.
I believe in capitalism. Having started four companies and created hundreds of jobs, our economic system is at the heart of what I do for a living. But I don’t think you can look at the data and say that capitalism is working well today – especially for the middle class.
The fall presidential election could hinge on this issue and it is a debate well overdue and worth having. We simply cannot sustain a system where all the gains flow to a very few at the top and the majority of the population stagnates. And while there are companies that are doing good work and the non-profit sector is helping as best it can, the problem with the system dwarfs our respective contributions. Consider:
- Median income for middle-class families is down after a decade of trillion-dollar tax cuts
- Cumulative productivity gains by the U.S. labor force for the last 10 years have been north of 60 percent and virtually none of that gain has gone to the bottom 90 percent
- Business profits are now at a record level of 14 percent of GDP while wages are at a record low, at 45 percent. These trends have been underway for years
- U.S. social mobility is now one of the lowest in the developed world. It’s getting more difficult to move out of the lower class and, conversely, to fall from the top. We are, in effect, creating a permanent aristocracy
- The top 1 percent of wage earners own almost 40 percent of the country's assets and this has been growing over time
- Schools in low- to middle-income communities have lower tax bases and so are significantly under-financed relative to schools in affluent communities whose tax bases have not fallen much after the housing bubble burst
- The cost of higher education continues to grow well above inflation of median wage growth, which means more and more families are priced out of the only realistic means of advancement
- College graduates from even top colleges are having a difficult time finding employment
- Research and development investment as a percent of gross domestic product (aka the future) has been falling for decades
The list goes on and on. Something isn't right. We have now reached a point where the very vibrancy of the system is at risk. If middle-class citizens can't get decent paying jobs then they can't become decent paying customers. And unless the middle class gets a pay raise or their employment increases, the picture doesn’t look very promising.
Worse, the system has become increasingly short-term focused. Again and again we see the long term sacrificed for the short term. Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE talks eloquently about how we have had a 40 year decline in R&D as a percent of GDP. A few years ago Hewlett Packard had a CEO who got accolades for hitting the cover off the ball in quarterly earnings. One of the main ways he did this was he slashed the R&D budget over and over to goose short term results. And if it starved the product pipeline no worries, that CEO is now long gone after getting out-sized bonus rewards.
China’s brand of capitalism thinks long term. Just look at the huge investment they are making in clean technology. We need to be that way too. Of course, there were howls of protest because the federal government made a number of clean tech bets and one called Solyndra went bust while many others are doing fine (note: professional venture capitalists have this kind of track record, too).
What’s the solution? Tax cuts are not the answer. I don’t need lower marginal tax rates. I need more customers. I don’t need estate taxes to go to zero so my kids can live off dividend checks. I need a better educated workforce. In fact, I'm more than glad to pay more if the money goes to making longer term investments in infrastructure so our wireless broadband is the best in the world (it is decidedly not). I need good k-12 schools so the next generation hits the labor force with the right skills. I need our local universities to continue to access government R&D dollars so they can fund innovative thinking. I need college kids to come out of college without back-breaking loans. None of this is happening.
What we—what I need as a job creator -- is a kind of progressive capitalism that implicitly says: we're all in this together even if the rewards are different based on our own abilities.
Headlines in philanthropy and charitable issues abound this week, and we are here to bring you up to speed with our weekly roundup. We are covering everything from a new study on corporate social responsibility, a massive charitable donation for anti-smoking efforts and a billionaire’s jewelry auction in Switzerland.
The Focus of Corporate Philanthropy
According to a new study published by Forbes Insights
, the major focus of corporate philanthropy is social services with 45 percent of companies addressing social services in their corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts. Rounding out the top 5 are environmental causes, community development, health services and economic development. As social entrepreneurs take CSR a step further
by developing new companies aimed at solving societal problems, it is not surprising the study found the promotion of entrepreneurship is likely to be supported more in the future. The report found that two in 10 companies are currently supporting entrepreneurship, but in 2014 that number increases to three in 10. Supporting entrepreneurship is akin to job creation, which is a win-win we can all feel good about.
Bloomberg charity adds $220 million to anti-smoking effort
Reuters reports that New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s charitable foundation is committing $220 million over the next four years aimed at global anti-smoking efforts. This donation takes the foundation’s total pledge to fighting tobaccos use to nearly $600 million. This is an enormous sum yet the number is dwarfed by the number of deaths – 1 billion – smoking could cause in this century. The mayor said that his foundation will focus on low and moderate-income countries where nearly 80 percent of smokers live including Russia, China, India, Indonesia and Bangladesh.
Charity Jewelry Sale by Billionaire Safra May Raise $20 Million
Let’s switch gears from Mayor Bloomberg to this Bloomberg News article which reports on a charity jewelry auction in Switzerland which may raise $20 million for charity. Brazilian-born billionaire Lily Safra is auctioning a collection of jewels at Christie’s International which may raise more than $20 million for charity. Twenty charitable institutions will be the beneficiaries of the auction proceeds including The Elton John AIDS Foundation (Worldwide), Henry Street Settlement (New York) and Le Ballet de l'Opera National de Paris.
As many of our readers know, BiddingForGood has been traveling the country to talk to nonprofits about mobile bidding. These seminars have been successful, as well as educational. Our recent Boston event was standing room only, with 200 nonprofit professionals engaged and armed with hours of questions how to incorporate mobile into their events.
It appears we are not alone. I recently came across a company called MobileCause and decided to reach out to them. I wanted to learn exactly what it is they do and how they view the world of nonprofits and mobile technology. They are a for-profit company with a mission to raise as much funds as possible for nonprofits. Sound familiar?
So what exactly does MobileCause do? The company empowers the nonprofit community with mobile giving, engagement, and CRM technology. The current MobileCause suite of services includes tools for Mobile Giving, Mobile Pledging, Mobile Polling, and Mobile Messaging.
During my call with Jeremy Koenig, Director of Marketing for MobileCause, I learned something interesting. I learned that their staff is similar to BiddingForGood’s staff; extremely dedicated and willing to go the extra mile for their mission.
I asked Jeremy why he thinks more nonprofit professionals are opening up to the world of mobile. His response is this: “The world has gone mobile and nonprofit leadership across the country is taking action to cultivate relationships with donors in new and effective ways.” He adds, “More nonprofits than ever before are using mobile tools to increase fundraising revenues and strengthen donor relationships.”
Jeremy is onto something here. In the history of BiddingForGood helping nonprofits raise funds with technology, never have we seen the level of engagement or the excitement that surrounds mobile. In a time where charitable giving is still at one of the lowest points in history and the need is greater than ever, nonprofits are warming up to the idea of change. Implementing new technology is becoming a part of their survival. Literally.
The stats surrounding mobile are astounding. Jeremy stated, “There are now more cell phones than personal computers and with email rates in sharp decline. “He adds, “Think about how many more cell phone calls and voicemails you received 5 years ago compared to today—and then compare that amount to the number of messages, images, links and videos you receive via your mobile phone."
For all the nonprofits out there that are thinking that they just aren’t ready for mobile yet (we hear this a lot), let me tell you: the time is now. The ratio of smart phones to standard cell phones is on the rise—which provides ever-increasing opportunity for mobile communication, mobile donation fulfillment, and yes, mobile bidding!
I chose to highlight MobileCause as a representative of "Goodness In Action” for two reasons. One, they are relevant in our space and prove how important mobile technology has become. Two, their staff is 100% dedicated to the nonprofit community and each MobileCause employee has experience with nonprofit causes in various sectors. (Again, sound familiar?)
At the end of the day, it is the power of great companies who use technology for social good that really makes a difference. There are strong technological trend lines for nonprofits these days. One day it is software, the next day it is mobile. I don’t know what is next, but I am happy to know that there are social entrepreneurs and tech geeks that do!
Want to learn more about MobileCause fundraising and engagement tools for nonprofits? Go to www.mobilecause.com/mobile-giving.html to learn more. You can also check out their portfolio of nonprofit causes from all sectors at www.mobilecause.com/blog.
Occupy Wall Street (or Boston, Portland, etc.) matters. A lot. Corporate leaders need to take note as this is not a passing fancy. Popular sentiment is turning against the corporate community and there is (hard) work to be done.
There has been a consistent refrain that the movement has no coherent message. I strongly disagree. There are two core underlying themes to virtually every complaint that the movement is making;
- Fairness is lacking on many dimensions
- The current system of capitalism and democracy isn't working for the vast majority of stakeholders
The reason that this matters hugely is that the complaints are legitimate and backed up by data and thus they aren't going away any time soon (unless we have a jobs recovery that nobody is forecasting). If we are not careful, Occupy may well end up in a different place than where it started.
Fairness: The fundamental constant at any of the protests is around fairness. Fairness is the constant underlying theme whether the issue is income inequality, bankers getting bailed out, corporate bosses being piggy, students getting stuck with the equivalent of home mortgages in student debt but no jobs, and so on.
The System Isn't Working: The system is driven by two primary models- the capitalism model and democratic government model. Capitalism isn't distributing the gains fairly. We've had over 65% compounded productivity growth from our labor force in the last 10 years and ALL of it went to the top 10% (the vast majority going to the top 1%). Doesn’t feel fair and it isn't.
The second place the system is breaking down is in democratic government. Here there seem to be two core issues. First, the influence of $$ from capital owners has become immense and as a result government policy tends to be beholden to moneyed interests with impact on regulation (or lack thereof). The second issue is that democracy is good at doling out ever bigger slices of a growing pie but does not dole out shrinking slices of a pie that isn't growing very well. In essence democracy is not good at making hard choices.
Peaceful...For Now: For now Occupy is a peaceful protest but where it ends up is anyone’s guess. To the degree that unemployment does not get better, or actually gets worse, expect frustration to build. That frustration will be more and more targeted and I'm betting it will be on the 1% and on corporations.
What To Do: Leaders need to listen and learn. The corporate sector takes much from our society in the form of profits (which have been increasing as a share of GDP for several decades) and there will be growing pressure to give back. This should be thought of in practical terms. Giving back creates a better culture which helps retain folks. It is also a part of what your brand stands for. It impacts the soul of the organization (if corporations are like people then they assuredly must have a soul).
The other thing that corporations need to be mindful of is government relations (read lobbying). This is having a hugely negative effect on the system. There needs to be discussion led by the major business groups about modifying lobbying (and saving everyone some $$ from an arms race that isn’t helpful).
Occupy is a new turning point for our society. The stakes are deadly high. If corporate and political leaders do not take the movement and its grievances seriously it will be a grave misunderstanding of the current state of play.
With the launch of this Goodness In Action TM blog, it is my personal goal to scope out companies, consumers, and organizations who have earned the right to be recognized for their “Goodness In Action.”
Fortunately for us, social responsibility is becoming a broader topic and allows us all to think about new ways to transact between businesses, consumers and organizations alike.
A few days ago, I came across a deserving company named MyMela. MyMela is helping to open up a global marketplace for Indian artisans, selling their exclusive handicrafts to worldwide customers through the web. In India there are very few master craftsmen who are able to earn a daily living. This is because of declining local demand for their work; therefore, many are forced to give up their craft in exchange for a life as an unskilled worker in India's urban cities.
MyMela showcases exquisite handcrafted artwork for sale online and partners with such organizations as Asha Handicrafts to promote fair trade practices. Consumers can also facilitate micro loans, known as “micro advances” to featured artisan producer groups. MyMela spokesperson, Leah Herman says, “Purchases and loans made on the website allow artisans to preserve their art and livelihood.” MyMela guarantees all loan payments that are made on the site and collections from the artisans. The company buys all of the items up front, so there is no need for revenue sharing.
This is what we at BiddingForGood like to call a virtuous circle. MyMela connects artisans with lenders and socially responsible consumers at the same time. The artisans keep their livelihood and passion for the arts and while consumers get beautiful pieces of art and a slice of that “good feeling” we are all in search of.
When MyMela begins generating profits, 20% of the profits will be channeled back into initiatives for health, environment, and education in artisan communities.
Two upcoming projects the company will be working on are a low-cost solar lanterns to provide light in villages and low-cost water purifying units to provide villages with clean water.
Yes. I can certainly tip my hat off to MyMela and look forward to what they do next. They certainly have my stamp of “Goodness In Action.” -Kaijsa
As the CEO of BiddingForGood, I often get challenged on the topic of corporate social responsibility. The question is why do companies have any responsibility to anything other than making profits? Is social responsibility just a distraction? My answer has four parts;
First, it is good business. It helps attract and retain employees. It positions the company’s brand in a way most customers will value (isn’t the customer always right?). It gives the brand some substance and soul.
Second, having a higher purpose helps get you through the tough times which are inevitable, especially in a more volatile world.
Third, our company is a part of the community and we do have a responsibility to do everything reasonable to be good stewards of the planet, our people, and our local community. If the Supreme Court can rule that companies and their decision making leadership are like people and thus can make unlimited political donations then surely they also have some responsibility to make the world better.
Lastly, at the end of the day, it’s about doing the right thing. There is no rule that says any company has to be responsible. But we live in truly chaotic times and it is just the right thing.
In a recent post on the goodpurpose® blog, authors Rodolfo Araújo and Leticia Born start to dissect The Evolution of Corporate Social Responsibility. After reading their well-thought out piece, I started asking myself “Is Corporate Social Responsibility really enough? Are we, as companies, just becoming a part of CSR efforts because it makes us look good or because we know it is becoming more important to our consumers? CSR efforts could be perceived as somewhat topical without true value to both sides.
The goodpurpose® blog explains how Harvard Professor Michael Porter has argued that the concept of CSR could be better practiced through a change of wording: CSV (Creating Shared Value), which reflects a deep connection between causes and companies, generating value for each side. According to him, the current way in which the majority of companies approach CSR is insufficient.
I think I would have to agree with Professor Porter that on some level, companies are using CSR efforts to only promote their brand and public image. The benefit to the cause is just a ‘secondary’ result. I also believe that we as consumers realize this and thought at one time that this was sufficient enough. Like Jon mentioned last week in his Do the Right Thing post, there is no rule that says any company has to be responsible, so any value that private companies can give to a cause would be considered ‘exceptional’.
At BiddingForGood, we have truly taken CSR efforts to CSV efforts…not because it makes us look good, but as Jon also mentioned, it is good business and at the end of the day, it is the right thing to do.
To round out Jon’s point, the goodpurpose® blog states that “A brand’s value is not only bound to the quality of its products and services, but to relationships built with a long-term perspective that engages individuals and creates a community of shared beliefs – in addition to profits.”
So as companies adopt CSR efforts, hopefully we will see more early adopters of CSV efforts -companies who decide that there should be more behind their efforts than just their public image. Companies who decide to have more soul and to dig deeper into what CSR should really mean.
Looking forward to what comes next,