Business and Social Good
By Rachel Hutchisson, Blackbaud’s Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and PhilanthropyMy social media news feeds were atwitter last week on one key topic – the important role business must play in doing good, not just generating returns.
As a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) professional who has committed herself to building a thriving portfolio of give back programs at Blackbaud – a once-small-now-mid-sized company – over the past 26 years, this in itself isn’t unusual. What made it different is that the news wasn’t limited to those already in the know, those like me who live and breathe this stuff every day.
Instead, it was in the mainstream press. It was a conversation for the world of business overall. And that made me very happy.
If you know me, you know that I’m passionate about the role business can, should and does play in driving cause action. You also know that I believe there is a ridiculous amount of untapped potential for business to be an increased force for good.
I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in my career thinking, talking and writing about the power of what I call “Business Doing Good.” Some businesses, like Blackbaud, are born with a desire to make the world better at the core of their strategies, their brands. They exist to take on a cause-related problems that will leave the world in a better state for our children. These shared value companies understand that driving positive change matters just as much as delivering consistent financial returns. And when you add the employee engagement imperative to the mix – the commitment to live up to the societal expectations of those who choose to work for our companies – you end up with something powerful.
But guess what? Embracing good as a strategy isn’t just for those who adopted the vision at the very beginning. Organizations of all sizes can adapt, can change, can evolve over time. In fact, they must. As I said in my TEDx talk last year, “Good is for Everyone.” The more organizations we have with an engaged seat at the give-back table, the more good we can accomplish in a world that certainly needs the help.
So what advice would I give to those seeking to seize the opportunity to become a force for good? I’d begin with this… Building a focus on cause into a business begins with understanding what makes sense for your culture and your brand.
It begins with an audit of what you already do, who you support, why you engage. Simply reviewing past actions and intentions will reveal pieces of the puzzle you’re trying to build.
It grows into something larger, something much better, when you invest the time in hearing what your employees – at all levels – care about. Although you may think the existing programs you support in the community and ways you give back will give you the same answer, you need to make sure you’re not off base. If you have been top-down in your decision making, following the wishes of a dominant leader or assuming everyone agrees with your past choices for engagement, you may just find that what your people truly value is something altogether different. It’s worth the time to check and, in the process, empower your people to help lead you in what’s next.
It’s also well worth your while to ensure you understand the values, wants and needs of the communities around you – the neighborhood you work in, those you serve as customers, those you might affect through how your organization operates. Are there cause issues sitting on your door step that make sense for you to tackle? Do they intersect with what your own people – who live, work and interact with these communities – are telling you?
Although the work that needs to be done to decide upon, develop and launch programs takes time and effort, it’s not actually that complicated. It’s a process of truly taking in what you have learned, understanding what you know doesn’t fit with your brand, as much as what does. It’s about taking steps forward and not being paralyzed by a fear that you might not know how to measure success. It’s about progress…and, most of all, passion.