Corporate Philanthropy Summit: "Citizen Philanthropy" Wins Big With DonorsChoose.org

How do you turn $790,000 into $2,014,000 via citizen philanthropy in order to benefit students in need? Charles Best, the innovative Founder and CEO of DonorsChoose.org found a way. First, DonorsChoose qualified as the winner of Amazon.com's 2005 Nonprofit Innovation Award by generating $790,000 in online contributions via Amazon.com. Amazon then matched its customers' contributions for an additional award of $790,000 to the nonprofit. Next, in order to engage citizens in choosing where to contribute the Amazon dollars, DonorsChoose developed a partnership with Crate & Barrel that has yielded yet another $434,000 in customer contributions, while also generating over 36,500 new donors.

Yesterday evening, DonorsChoose.org in partnership with Crate & Barrel won the Directors' Award for Excellence in Corporate Philanthropy from the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) at their 11th Annual Summit. "This partnership is a perfect fit for our company," Victoria Lang, Director, Public Relations and Community Affairs, Crate & Barrel, commented to me. "As CEO, Gordon Segal began the partnership with DonorsChoose; his wife Carole, who co-founded the company with Gordon, is a former teacher. Barbara Turf, who followed Segal as CEO in 2008, continued the DonorsChoose partnership; she is also a former teacher." Carol Sapoznik, Regional Vice President, pointed out to me that "we see ourselves as educators in presenting products that we source globally, and many of our executives are former teachers. Additionally, providing DonorsChoose gift cards to customers helps us to connect with them more personally."

Best commented to the CECP audience that corporate gift cards provide "a different degree of customer delight by empowering customers to be philanthropists." He pointed out to me later that according to market research, Crate & Barrel saw an increase of 12% in customer loyalty in terms of purchase intent among customers who received DonorsChoose gift cards compared to those who did not.

Last night's two additional CECP award winners were Goldman Sachs for 10,000 Women, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company for the SECURE THE FUTURE Technical Assistance and Skills Transfer Program.

Catching up with colleagues at the evening reception, I asked for their thoughts on the day's events. Aaron Hurst, President and Founder of Taproot Foundation, one of the facilitators, noted that, "There's a fundamental shift in how companies are designing volunteer programs--from hours volunteered to putting impact at the forefront." As an example, Hurst pointed out the involvement of Bank of America's financial advisors in working on the frontlines at homeless shelters and foodbanks helping people to create financial plans...volunteers using their particular expertise to be useful.

Aman Singh, Senior Editor, Corporate Responsibility, Vault.com, who served on a panel noted to me that, "If there was one takeaway I hope the audience left with, that's that CSR is no longer a new acronym for corporate philanthropy and how much a company donates every year. The sooner we recognize that, the faster we can have HR, supply chain, marketing, EHS (environment, health, and safety), etc. on the same table." And Singh's "final thought" for the CECP audience: "If you believe your company authentically practices CSR, then this should mirror your employees' conversations on campuses, in job interviews and on social media. If you are cultivating a responsible and ethical work culture, it will eventually catch up with you."

This week marks an important leadership transition for CECP with Douglas R. Conant, President and CEO, Campbell Soup Company taking the position of Chairman of the Board of CECP, as Harold McGraw III, Chairman, President and CEO of The McGraw-Hill Companies steps down as Chairman of the Board of CECP.

My final thought: You can satisfy your curiosity about DonorsChoose.org and do something good by going here and making a contribution to a school project that you think is exciting.

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