Part 1: Bridging the disconnect between business and nonprofits.
By Kal Stein, President & CEO, EarthShare
Ask any leader of a nonprofit or charity what they need most to help them solve the social and environmental problems they're tackling, and you'll likely get one answer: funding.
While the corporate world has done a great job in connecting and partnering with the nonprofit sector over the years there tends to be one glaring disconnect when considering relationships between the two sectors—and for once, it's got nothing to do with corporations not doing enough.
The Disconnect Between Business & Nonprofits
The disconnect is a simple one. Typically, when corporations get on board with helping nonprofits and charities, they do one of two things (often both): donate corporate dollars (or goods and services in kind), and encourage employees to volunteer, often on company time.
But what if companies went beyond simply offering their people volunteer opportunities, or making them aware that the company was using a portion of its profits to do some good? What if they were to connect their people directly with the organizations, encourage them to become part of the funding cycle, and truly engage them in a program of learning and contributing?
That question is what drives the team – and products -- at EarthShare, a national nonprofit that's been working for more than 20 years to connect people and workplaces with effective ways to support critical environmental causes. By connecting hundreds of thousands of individuals with environmental and conservation charities through employee engagement and giving campaigns at public and private sector workplaces across the country, EarthShare is making true engagement easy.
EarthShare: Not Just Workplace Giving
Clearly, coordinated workplace philanthropy and engagement programs have positive effects for everyone involved in them. Recipient organizations benefit from increased funding and resources to tackle the problems they're trying to solve. Employees can strengthen their connection to the organizations of their choice. Employers can leverage these programs to plug their workforce into overarching philanthropy and CSR goals.
And, of course, there are the added benefits of increased workforce morale and renewed rigor among the CSR teams to explore new opportunities for making a difference.
All parties benefit from EarthShare's expertise in vetting participating organizations, accepting only those that meet specific criteria. As for fiscal transparency, EarthShare is a BBB Wise Giving Alliance Seal Holder and distributes 100 percent of donations designated to its member charities.
This places EarthShare in a uniquely central position to support companies' social and environmental missions: By coordinating the crucial tasks of fundraising, volunteerism, education and strategy, corporate entities and nonprofits become partners in a finessed process that prioritizes impact and ease.
The end result should be increased awareness and support for the critical work of protecting our environment and natural resources. As demands grow, it is more urgent than ever to make sure we preserve and protect our food, air, water, wildlife, parks and open spaces, and that we leave those intact for the future.
Give @ the Office: Making Workplace Giving Simple
While helping to tackle key environmental challenges is our primary motivator, we can't do that without ensuring that our clients and member charities are benefitting and, in fact, moving the needle with their giving campaigns. Call it creating shared value or simple business sense.
One of the key ways we help our member charities to raise funds is through Give @ the Office (G@TO), an online pledging system that makes it easy for employees of any organization to donate a portion of their paycheck to a charity of their choice. By automating the process, G@TO removes most of the burden from program administrators within participating workplaces.
Entercom's Director of Sustainability Jamie Field puts it well:
“We introduced G@TO this past year because it’s the smarter choice for the environment, and we loved it. It was quickly customized for our company, easy for our employees to use, and any questions that arose were handled efficiently and effectively. We received positive feedback from our employees, and were very pleased with the increased giving results."
EarthShare also wants its workplace partners to be able to make an impact in an environmentally-conscious, streamlined fashion. As recently expressed by Sheila O'Connor, a manager with NYC SEFA: "With 32,000 employees at more than 250 worksites, EarthShare's Give @ the Office enabled us to reduce the cost of printing and shipping materials, while still maintaining a high level of engagement with campaign volunteers and donors."
Addressing Environmental Impact
In a decade when CSR continues to be redefined depending on which industry, profession, and/or region you operate in, the challenges are multifold. Whether your values align with social, economic or environmental responsibility, we can all agree that work needs to be done. It is our responsibility at EarthShare to connect the practitioners in the field with the strategic minds in the corporate offices.
In coming weeks, this series will try to answer some of the issues surrounding the strategic deployment of corporate social responsibility across the private and public sectors, including workplace philanthropy, creating a culture of sustainability, nuances of employee engagement, the role of technology – the future of gamification – and how corporate workplace giving and employee engagement around sustainability should be part and parcel of every effective corporate social responsibility plan.
About Kal Stein
Kalman Stein has been President and CEO of EarthShare since its inception in 1989. During that time EarthShare and its affiliates have raised more than $275 million in donations; the number of benefiting national member charities has risen from 18 to 71; and the EarthShare network has grown to include 15 Affiliates and Chapters representing more than 500 local charities in 23 states.
Under Mr. Stein's watch, EarthShare has successfully partnered with dozens of corporate and public sector employers, giving more than eight million employees nationwide a way to connect with and support the environmental and conservation causes they care about. Mr. Stein is also a founder of the Charities @ Work coalition, and the 2010-2012 Chairman of the National Combined Federal Campaign Committee.