Fast Company

Strategic Philanthropy: How and why to go about it

Since I started Red Door Interactive, I’ve made it a policy to devote a certain amount of company resources each quarter to pro bono work for worthy nonprofits. I had discovered this trait long ago within our educational system, as well as through other companies and leaders who’ve been an example to me.

Until this year, such efforts usually took the form of having the team create a new Web site or develop a very basic and brief email or Internet campaign. While we were happy to do it, we discovered that any benefit we provided was short lived and soon forgotten, by both our team and the charity organization, because most of the efforts we undertook weren’t within our normal, results-oriented, long-term construct.
 
We changed that this year when we announced our strategic and exclusive partnership with New Leaders for New Schools, a nationwide organization that recruits and trains aspiring urban public school principals. Under the agreement, we’re committing the in-kind equivalent of two percent of our annual service revenue to the nonprofit group in order to apply our Internet Presence Management model to solve big, social, long-term marketing challenges. This marks a strategic shift in the way we view and execute our pro bono efforts. Our goal now is to dedicate the entire company more deeply to a cause that makes a bigger difference by leveraging our core strengths to help organizations to profit from their online initiatives for someone who we feel is solving something that solves other problems.

This kind of philanthropic approach didn’t come to me overnight, but is one I now fully believe can provide any company greater and longer-lasting benefits than wouldn’t otherwise be seen by spreading in-kind support thinly over many organizations. Here are just some of them:

  • Enhancing the team’s expertise. Pro bono projects can provide the opportunity to experiment new strategies and test new ideas that may not be possible to do with paying customers that want more predictable returns on their investment. 

 

  • Develop esprit de corps. These types of programs offer the chance to build team cohesion and chemistry with various staff members who get to do something fun, outside of their normal course of duties and for a good cause.

 

  • Support branding and business development efforts. Picking a true nonprofit partner and doing good work for them may open doors to markets and regions that are otherwise too costly to enter. Though not the primary reason for providing pro bono services, the benefits can help justify doing more of this kind of work in the future.


The one main tradeoff in executing this type of strategic philanthropic program is needing to treat the nonprofit partner just like a client and giving them the same due care and consideration as a paying customer. Trust me - while the benefits may not be in the form of revenue, they will be significant!

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