Don’t support your local non-profit …

… simply because they are local.

We support many non-profits in our region (and benefit corporations – but that discussion is for another time) and the fact that they are local is a significant factor but not the only consideration. We want to feel good about not only our giving but more importantly what outcomes are being realized by the organizations we support. We want to know that our money is being well spent and not lost in a “black hole” but, as businesspersons, we also have to look at other factors to be considered.

One of the top factors for us is that who we support is a component of our brand and our brand is much more valuable than the amount on a check we might write. We feel an obligation to our clients, staff, stakeholders and community to make good decisions on our giving and take this obligation seriously. As a result we spend considerable time and effort in researching, vetting and monitoring the prospects as we would any partner, investor or associate. How?

There are a number of rating organizations out there and while we do utilize their ratings in our research we do not depend on them. As we say at ARC Impact, “Every organization has it’s own fingerprint, it’s own personality, and it’s own purpose” so how we assess an organization is by asking a simple question – WHY?

WHY are YOU the best organization for us to partner with or recommend? We don’t want to hear only about the social purpose but WHY YOU? Feeding the hungry? A wonderful purpose but many organizations engage in that cause, so WHY YOU?

What are the answers that resonate best with us? Less about the organization, the infrastructure or prominence in their field and more about the measurable outcomes. Supporting this approach we often ask “How is the world a better place after you have delivered your product or service? What are the metrics you use to determine this and how have you performed against them?” This discussion cannot be limited to the social component of the organization and we will likely also ask the question from the business side, “How are you managing the business side to assure maximum performance and sustainability? Yes, we will then be looking for the business metrics and performance. No, we do not rely solely on statistics such as an efficiency rating but yes, this is a consideration.

Essential to us is that the organization has their own brand and that the social and business standards, objectives, metrics and performance support their brand. For us, when we feel comfortable that an organization has established their own fingerprint, personality and purpose and can back up their performance with facts and data, they are much more likely to get our support and maybe even more importantly, becoming ambassadors for their organization.

Yes, we place most of our investments into organizations within the communities in which we live and serve but we do support others as well.  This is our approach and we do not promote this as the template for all to follow. However, we strongly encourage all businesses to develop their own Corporate Citizenship model and take your social investing as serious as you would any other investment in your business.

Corporate Citizenship – worth the cost!

As we have said before the value of practicing Corporate Citizenship comes in many ways but let’s not assume there is no cost, after all we are talking about a return on investment.

Take the example of Walgreen. Yes, you can look at their “Social Responsibility” page and get a sense of their Main Street activity but a better indication of their actions may better seen on Wall Street. Today I read the announcement that they will not be moving their headquarters out of the U.S. as a part of a recent acquisition. A pure patriotic or even Corporate Citizenship motivated decision? Not exactly. A smart business decision? Probably. A costly decision? Absolutely!

As a result of their decision, in no small way influenced by CUSTOMER outcry, they will not be able to take advantage of the potential tax advantages that an “Inversion” event presents and this will undoubtedly have an impact to their shareholders, although I believe this will be temporary. Evidence that their decision was a tough one? A snapshot of stock market activity indicated that their share price had dropped by over 10%!

Walking away from potential tax relief (that money would fall directly to the bottom line) and taking a share price hit might send shock waves through their shareholder community but I hope it sends an even greater message to the marketplace and the consumer base.

I am wondering if the consumers will reward Walgreen with their business – I know I will now (I never really did before).

You have more influence than you might think!

Why do I choose to listen to public radio? Because I am not in the market for a new car and happily am not in need of a personal injury attorney!

Yes I am being somewhat facetious but there is a point to be made here – the choices and purchasing decisions you make are important.

Today I was listening to KCPW in Salt Lake City on one of their fund-drive days.  I am fortunate enough to live in an area where I have three different public radio stations to listen to and I distribute my financial support among them.  In doing so I am not only sending a message to the stations about my listening preferences but also a message to those who I engage with about my own personal brand.  I choose to not pay the (constant advertisement bombarding) price of regular broadcast stations, instead choosing to “pay” for the services I receive in the form of a donation.  If you listen to public radio but do not provide financial support I will challenge your brand and standards of behavior!  If you don’t listen to public radio but like what they stand for send a few bucks to KCPW J.

Let’s look at a bigger picture here and think about your decisions.  WE are all impacted by actions of publically-owned corporations in the outsourcing of jobs overseas (to reduce cost) and a diminishing business tax income base (to improve profits).  Regardless of what their marketing spin doctors might promote, these actions are focusing on their NUMBER ONE PRIORITY – their shareholders.  Shameful you think?  Well in reality, if those who are responsible and accountable do not make every effort to maximize the return on investment for their shareholders they run the risk of being taken to court by their shareholders!  So is there anything you and I do about it?  Of course there is – but it might come at a price!

WE can CHOOSE to buy products and services from companies that practice higher “Corporate Citizenship” principles, rewarding companies that keep jobs in America and paying their “fair” share of taxes.  WE can look more towards Benefit Corporations and “Cause Brand” businesses that are not only good businesses but have “giving back” as a part of their corporate culture.

Yes, this might result in slightly higher prices and yes, if our retirement fund is invested in certain public companies we may see reduced dividends but is this not offset by the price WE pay with high unemployment and less funding of public initiatives?

 

 

Think about this the next time you go shopping or receive a statement on your financial investments.  Think about how you can take a stand and make a difference simply by leveraging your buying and investment decisions.  In the meantime, support KCPW or your local public radio station!

Spoonfeeding “Green” – Reducing Carbon Emissions is not the Goal!

Of course reduction of carbon emissions  is essential and I read the Wall Street Journal article Supreme Court Ruling Backs Most EPA Emission Controls but are we really serious about addressing the core issue?  Even if we reduces emissions to ZERO we have a situation that will take generations to correct!  CO2 levels are now above 400 ppm, the highest in the past 800,000 years!  Of course we must reduce emissions but we also need technologies that can reduce current ppm levels.  We are seeking out existing, emerging and potential technologies with applications in this area and would love to hear from you!