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More From Mad Men on CSR

Two years ago, Burt Cooper advised Don Draper that “philanthropy is the gateway to power.” Last night, Mad Men struck again! Ad man Ken Cosgrove made the case for pro bono service.

Mad Men

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Two years ago, Burt Cooper advised Don Draper that “philanthropy is the gateway to power.” Last night, Mad Men struck again! Ad man Ken Cosgrove made the case for pro bono service.

In the episode called “Blowing Smoke,” the firm of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, and Price had just lost it’s largest client–Lucky Strike. The firm was completely jeopardized by this loss of business. Clients were bailing, the firm was laying off staff, and no company wanted to sign onto this sinking business.

Yet, the American Cancer Society contacted the firm to request pro bono work. While a couple of partners scoffed at the idea of “doing work for free,” partner Don Draper recognized the opportunity to put the firm’s work out there, build morale, and keep things moving forward. And ad man Ken Cosgrove chimed in that “there’s a lot of big wigs on that board!”

During good times as well as bad, here are reasons for companies to engage in and ramp up pro bono service:

For the firm

  • Brand your company through associations with important causes
  • Build relationships between your company and civic, nonprofit, and business leaders
  • Impress members of nonprofit boards with your firm’s talents and expertise

For employees

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  • Build morale by involving people in productive projects for meaningful causes
  • Provide opportunities for personal and professional development for your employees

For nonprofits

  • Help advance organizations by providing specialized expertise, such as strategic planning, branding, public relations, law, accounting, finance and investments, human resources, and so on

For the community

  • Strengthen communities where your company’s employees and customers live and work by advancing nonprofits that do valuable work

Now, fifty years after Mad Men is to have taken place, we are seeing that companies that engage in meaningful and productive service are benefitting by strengthening their brands, building consumer confidence, developing their personnel, and attracting and retaining the best employees. Today, we’re developing philanthropy and service into full-fledged business strategies to leverage good will. We call it CSR.

About the author

Korngold provides strategy consulting to global corporations on sustainability, facilitating corporate-nonprofit partnerships, and training and placing hundreds of business executives on NGO/nonprofit boards for 20+ years. She provides strategy and board governance consulting to NGO/nonprofit boards, foundations, and educational and healthcare institutions.

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