Financing Philanthropy: Time, Talent, Treasures

money jar

Philanthropy is more than writing a check.

 

Excitedly I registered for a seminar on Strategic Philanthropy this week. I’m marshaling my entrepreneurship efforts and, I thought, I’d learn best practices for allocating a portion of my profits to a cause near to my heart. When I left the 2-hour session lead by Rick Swanson of Learning Meets Quality, I was the one that left with more riches than I imagined. Through Rick’s leadership the participants in the room, schools, businesses, and non-profits, learned an important lesson. Philanthropy is about more than writing a check. In fact, Rick’s lesson extends a common theme from my place of worship.

During each new budget year we have a stewardship campaign that funds the operations and mission of my religious community. We’re asked to dedicate not only our treasures (money), but our time (volunteerism), and talent (expertise) as well. With Rick’s permission I’d like to share these lessons with you. (Psst…if you’re interested Rick runs the Strategic Philanthropy sessions for free.)

The session started with a look at the goals we have for philanthropy from BOTH the non-profit and the business’ perspective.

Public Relations

  • Business: You desire a partner with a positive presence to leverage through media and/or public relations events.
  • Non-Profit: To attract a partner document your positive presence in the community.

Relationships

  • Business: You seek a natural connection and comfortable working relationship with a partner who is well-connected in the community. In a tactful way you hope to leverage the partner’s connection with their community.
  • Non-Profit: Position yourself as well-connected in your community, show that you have positive working relationships with your donors/volunteers, and demonstrate your desire to connect the business to your community in a tactful manner.
  • For the relationship to work both business and non-profit need to be able to articulate their core values. If you are have not discovered your core values, drop me a line at SDJ Marketing Solutions for a consulting session.

Obligation

  • Business: You are looking for a non-profit who is able to use your financial contributions, expertise, or volunteer hours.
  • Non-profit: Show that you have a well thought out plan to use your partner’s resources and a strong volunteer management program.

Fun

  • Business: You want an outlet for your members, volunteers, sponsors, and clients to smile and have fun.
  • Non-profit: Document through pictures, videos, and testimonials the fun factor of your facility or events.

Independence

  • Business: As an owner you want to work with a business that you know can “stand on its own two feet.”
  • Non-profit: Demonstrate your organization is mature enough to operate independently and ensure all your communications reflect your independence.

Time

  • Business: You expect a reciprocal commitment of time between your organization and the non-profit organization for planning and relationship building. (Weekly/Monthly/Quarterly)
  • Non-profit: Fulfill your commitment to spend time with your partner and keep your partner accountable for his/her commitment as well.

You might notice the acronym in different ways an entrepreneur (even a solo-preneur like me) is able to contribute to philanthropic efforts. It’s more than PROFIT. In addition to financial support (treasures) I am working my time and talent (volunteerism, seminars, training, etc.) into my business plan.

How has this post changed the way you think about being involved in philanthropy? I’d love to hear from you.

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You’re a great friend, even though…

I was at a seminar where the speaker said something interesting.

He had a best friend in college who is black. He said to the friend that he didn’t even think of him as black, like that made their friendship better. The friend turned around and asked him how he would feel if he said the reverse. That he was a good friend, even though he was white? They discussed it; yes, they are still friends to this day.

That reminded me of the time I told a good friend (male) once that I didn’t even think of him as a guy, that he was like one of the girls. What do you think that did to his conception of his male identity?

When people say that “race shouldn’t matter” in hiring, what are you saying about what is acceptable in terms of identity? What affect do comments such as this do to an individual’s development of racial identity?

If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend the book, “Why do all the Black Kids Sit Together in the Cafeteria?” It’s great book that deals with, among other things, the development of racial identity.

My kids, both boys, are 1/2 East Indian, 1/4 German, and 1/4 Scandinavian. We get into interesting discussions about what it means to be “them” and how others perceive them. There are times when people ask me who’s kids they are. (They are lighter like their father, olive skinned I guess.) If you know my husband and I, you can tell they are our kids. Naturally my kids want to know why they are asking. I let them ask that person the question. They never do get a straight answer.

Once another child told them they couldn’t vote for our current president (in elections at school) because they are white. We talk about these instances. Why people say these things, how they feel about it, what they’ll do going forward. It’s a tightrope we walk, and although it’s kind of scary, it’s also exhilarating!

I invite your comments.

Not all ethics are created equal

When deciding to do business in other countries to perform well, and ethically, business people must understand that they are doing business with people in a country and not an impersonal entity.

There are some basics of humanity that don’t change. You are going to read a lot, and have probably read, about the differences inherent in doing business abroad. In fact, differences dominate most discussions about diversity. (Sorry for the alliteration, I couldn’t help myself.) I agree understanding and respecting differences between people here and China, for example, is a crucial part of working with other cultures. I’ll argue, however, we must simultaneously focus on similarities.

People in India also want to provide for their families and themselves. They want their children to be better off than they are, and they want to pass on the values that made them successful to future generations. All human beings deserve and crave dignity and the feeling of being valued. One way to ensure doing this when you are working with other cultures is to learn more about them before you begin business. Did I just shift to differences? Yes, but hear me out. In appealing to differences aren’t we also addressing the need to be heard and understood at the same time?

Assumptions and stereotypes can get in the way of dealing with people. What do you think about when you consider doing business in Mexico, France, or Vietnam? How did you form these assumptions? How do you check them? In a study called, “Ethics Perceptions of the U.S. and Its Large Developing-Country Trading Partners” the author, Inder Khera (2010) reported in the Global Management Journal that when a sample of Mid-Western business students were asked about a variety of scenarios, the assumption was that Americans will act more ethically than their counterparts in Mexico, China, or India.

If you are a manager of a division in another country, maybe Mexico where study participants assumed ethics would be at its lowest (Khera, 2010), you might make different decisions. Would you be as quick to promote Mexican employees? How much money would you spend on their training? Would you invest the same time in coaching them for management? There is a bright spot that Khera’s (2010) survey showed that Americans are starting to attribute higher percentages, and therefore, more propensities, to be ethical to these trading partners. More important is that people in Mexico, India, and China are not necessarily less ethical than Americans. How does perception become reality?

 

Khera, I. (2010). Ethics Perceptions of the U.S. and Its Large Developing-Country Trading Partners. Global Management Journal, 2(1), 33-41. Retrieved from Business Source Complete database.

 

It’s just a piece of paper–right?

What are we training for anyway? Is a Bachelor’s degree or leadership training part of a checklist – yup, done. What alarms me about the story I read in the Star Tribune today titled “Fines follow 15 hours of work in 59 minutes” (http://www.startribune.com/investigators/102918284.html?elr=KArksUUUoDEy3LGDiO7aiU), are the self-proclaimed professionals who still consider the piece of paper more valuable than the education. Leadership and training is my “thing.” I’m passionate about it and love to pursue knowledge for the sake of learning and getting better at what I do. That’s what I believe separates quality leaders from the wannabes.

Even in the new age of consumerism a mind that craves learning for its own sake will be in demand. A mind that explores solutions to problems that have not yet affected the bottom-line will drive business forward. To my students I reinforce over and over again the value of education over the attainment of “the grade” or “the degree.” It looks like someone forgot to reinforce the concept with the insurance agents who earned credit without the work.

Is this how training is viewed in your company? Are your employees after the piece of paper that says they’ve met their burden? If so, what are you going to do about it? They are your employees after all. Let’s take a look at a little checklist of our own shall we?

  1. Have you communicated the value of the training within the scope of their jobs and the strategy of the company?
  2. Are you truly committed to the training or are you expecting your employees to stay connected during the critical instruction time?
  3. Will you discuss key learnings after the training and see if any skills can be integrated into individual development plans?
  4. Have you assigned a coach or mentor if the training involved a change in behavior? Is there someone to hold them accountable for the changes in behavior?
  5. Is there an opportunity to incorporate enhanced goals or objectives in performance evaluations?

I could go on for quite a few more bullet points on ways to bring action and accountability to training. What have you tried and what has worked for you?

Transformation and Change at NBC’s “The Office”

There have been mixed reviews from CEOs on the value of learning about leadership from NBC’s “The Office” (Jones, 2007) its popularity can be attributed to poking fun at corporate culture in America. If CEOs like Noah Rowles of Los Angeles software company Iolo Technologies can admire Michael Scott, the inept leader at the fictional paper, and his ability to take charge even when feeling vulnerable and care for his employees in all circumstances (Jones, 2007), then we might be able to learn something about managing change from the comic episodes.

Dunder Mifflin is a fictional paper company selling products to corporate clients. Like many companies in today’s economy, Dunder Mifflin is facing fierce competition. The U.S. News and World Report describe the challenge as, “facing an increasingly competitive marketplace. Like many smaller player, it just can’t compete with the low prices charged by big-box rivals like Staples and Office Depot, and it seems to be constantly bleeding corporate customers that are focused on cutting costs themselves”  (Palmer, 2008, para. 2). From what we’ve learned this quarter, the struggling Dunder Mifflin is in dire need for transformational change.

If you have never watched episodes of “The Office” you can get a glimpse into its dysfunctional inner workings by watching full episodes at www.nbc.com. The show is filmed as if it were a reality show based on office life, right down to the solo on-camera interviews where Michael (the boss) and employees can share their deepest thoughts. There is office romance, periodic training from corporate, and team building activities that can be found in any real-life office setting. What sets this office apart is the exaggerated weak culture. It seems there is little concern for people (from corporate headquarters) and performance (from Michael).

Let’s look at an example from a season 5 episode titled “Ethics.” Training begins with a literal song and dance based on an Olivia Newton John hit retitled “Let’s get ethical,” sweat bands and all. If that weren’t terrifying enough for the staff, the plan was to read from the corporate binder on stealing time and supplies with the goals of securing signatures that ethics training had taken place. Holly, the HR representative responsible for the training finds her meeting hijacked by Michael Scott who grants immunity to employees to reveal their most unethical moments. There is one incident so actionable that Holly cannot ignore it and pursues a report.

Holly is horrified at the lack of ethics at “The Office” and Michael wants to sweep it under the rug citing support for a family atmosphere. Corporate chastizes Holly for bringing up the issue that could loose the company a supplier discount even though it’s secured by unethical means. Corporate is more concerned about cost control in the competitive environment. You can almost feel the collective sigh as the work culture settles back into a familiar rhythm. A perfect opportunity for change is lost. What happened?

Robert Miles (2009) in his article “Accelerating Corporate Transformations (Don’t Lose Your Nerve!)” identifies six mistakes that can take your company off the tracks to change. Let’s use these mistakes to map the numerous failed opportunities for change at Dunder Mifflin.

Cautious Management Culture

Michael Scott describes employees at “The Office” as a family, each member to be forgiven for his or her indiscretions. The corporate HR representative shows no concern for the long term consequences of sweeping unethical actions under the table, and even discourages the whistleblower from pursing the matter by threatening sanctions. These decisions by Michael and the corporate HR rep. result in support of the status quo. Each has his own reason to be cautious and resist change. Neither has a common vision of quality and success for the company.

Business-as-usual management Process

Ethics training is scheduled during the course of the regular work week. If there were true impetus for change, an advanced plan could have taken employees out of the pressures of the office environment for honest dialog of the needed changes. Instead, employees wondered when they could get back to the “real” work at hand.

Initiative Gridlock

Ethics, safety training, workplace stress, a merger, and an acquisition present great opportunities for change. However, the playing field is cluttered with initiatives. Which is most important to the company?

Recalcitrant Executives

Dunder Mifflin seems to be full of wayward executives. A need for a top down, leadership driven initiative that builds consensus for change is clear. With the majority of the organization on board then recalcitrant managers who are not willing to get on board can be swayed, or given “other opportunities” outside the company.

Disengaged Employees

There is no shortage of disengaged employees at Dunder Mifflin. Employees at the Scranton, PA office experienced hunkered down through initiatives that dissipated as quickly as they were proposed. Any initiative backed with true commitment for change would have to be quickly passed down to employees through the leaders they trusted. If Michael Scott ever truly commits to a change effort, there is evidence that his employees would follow in the end.

Loss of Focus during Execution

No change effort at “The Office” has made it to extended execution. If the ethics effort sticks, I wonder, can Michael Scott focus on anything outside his office?

Jones, D. (2007, September 26). Taking ‘Office’ lessons from the world’s greatest (inept) boss. Retrieved from usatoday.com: http://www.usatoday.com/money/companies/management/2007-09-26-the-office_N.htm

Miles, R. (2009). Accelerating corporate transformations (Don’t lose your nerve!). Harvard Business Review , 1-8.

Palmer, K. (2008, March 13). Career lessons from NBC’s The Office. Retrieved from http://www.money.usnews.com: http://money.usnews.com/money/careers/articles/2008/03/13/career-lessons-from-nbcs-the-office.html