Nov 6 2012
By Joanna Fay Leis (@JoannaFayL)
Starting a corporate foundation is a huge undertaking. It’s a responsibility that requires people, money, and a number of other resources. But most importantly it requires a purpose. Any company can start a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative but creating a foundation takes CSR to another level. It is when the need to do social good goes beyond what can be done within the organization. It turns the CSR commitment into a permanent one that has to sustain itself.
The most successful corporate foundations are ones that are authentic and integrate with their core business, showcasing the organization’s true passion and commitment.
Here are the basic steps companies need to take in order to start a successful corporate foundation:
1. Do the research
This is the first and most important step when creating a foundation. Our client BISSELL Homecare decided to start a foundation after a great deal of research. The company knew that over the past years they made donations to more than 100 U.S. pet charities totaling over $200,000 annually. They also conducted proprietary research that pointed to pet clean-up as a significant barrier to adoption – 38 percent of Americans said they would adopt a pet if clean-up were easier.
Starting the BISSELL Pet Foundation, which seeks to find every pet a home, made sense for the company as it was a natural extension to a space they were already in. BISSELL had an already established commitment to providing pet owners with effective, easy-to-use pet clean-up products developed with pet owners’ needs in mind, ultimately seeking to increase adoption rates.
Research has also helped guide funding strategies for this undertaking. Beginning this year, when a BISSELL pet clean-up product is purchased and registered, the company will donate up to $10 to the BISSELL Pet Foundation. Furthermore, the mission tied into their corporate culture — 72 percent of BISSELL employees are pet owners.
Photo Credit: BISSELL Homecare
2. Find your purpose
The most successful foundations have a stated purpose. This statement outlines what the foundation seeks to accomplish and how to go about doing it. The Starbucks Foundation used the company’s niche in the market of caffeinated beverages to find its purpose. The foundation works to support social development projects (access to education and agricultural training, microfinance and microcredit services, and improving biodiversity conservation) in communities that produce its coffee, tea and cocoa.
The foundation also supports projects such as water sanitation. Water is a main ingredient in Starbucks products and they’ve been able to successfully tie this staple ingredient into their foundation efforts by donating money to sustainable water programs around the world. For every Ethos® Water bottle sold in the United States a donation is made to Ethos© Water Fund to help finance sustainable water programs around the world. To date, Starbucks, with the help of its customers, has raised more than $6 million for the fund.
Photo credit: StarbucksMelody.com
3. Connect with your core business
Salesforce Foundation is a perfect example of successfully integrating the core business into foundation efforts. The foundation started by Salesforce founder, Marc Benioff, intertwines with the core business by donating one percent of salesforce.com equity, one percent of employees’ time, and one percent of its product in order to improve the communities it serves.
The foundation has donated and given salesforce.com product discounts to nonprofit organizations around the world. So far, the foundation has used the company’s expertise in cloud computing and customer relationship management (CRM) to help more than 15,000 nonprofits focus on their mission rather than on spending time managing technology. Through its products, time, and equity, the Salesforce Foundation has successfully deepened its connection to its business within its communities.
Photo Credit: Salesforce Foundation
4. Create partnerships and implement supporting tactics
Once you’ve done the research, found your purpose and connected with your core business, it’s time to create partnerships and implement supporting tactics. A successful example of aligning a campaign with a partner comes from Charles Schwab Foundation’s and Boys & Girls Club of America’s (BGCA) Money Matters: Make It CountSM initiative. This personal finance education program is available at Boys & Girls Clubs across the country, and to date more than 400,000 teens have successfully completed the program since its launch in 2004.
To increase participation among BGCA members, last year the campaign launched the Money Matters Music Mogul contest. BGCA teens were challenged to write original song lyrics about tackling personal money issues for the opportunity of a lifetime: to have award-winning hip-hop producer Kevin “Khao” Kates professionally produce the winning song as a music video. Additionally, the five finalists for the grand prize each received a $500 college scholarship grant from the foundation. The contest created huge internal excitement at BGCA and made an even bigger difference throughout America when it was written about in The New York Times and other national media outlets.
Photo Credit: Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation
5. Help the community
The one thing all corporate foundations have in common is that they seek to help the community. Like the examples shown above, there are many ways to give back by tying into your current business. You just need to have the passion as well as the ability to allocate the proper resources for a successful foundation.
Not every company will want or be able to start a foundation. In these cases, companies should look at expanding their current CSR platforms. Just because you don’t have a corporate foundation doesn’t mean you can’t do more to help.
While every company will have a different CSR journey, the starting question of “how can we help?” for all organizations remains the same.