Social business, Part 8: Company teams with nonprofit to solve social problems

By Todd Cohen

As part of a partnership it formed in 2006 with Mercy Corps, a global aid agency based in Portland, Ore., Western Union has worked on a range of projects, including market-driven relief efforts to spur recovery in Haiti in the wake of the January 2010 earthquake there.

Rather than give away water in tent cities, for example, Mercy Corps helped people establish water businesses and also gave people cash or vouchers for work so they could buy water or other services, explained, Talya Bosch, Boston-based vice president for social ventures for Western Union, which is based in Englewood, Colo.

Those new businesses “were designed to be sustainable so people could continue to provide those services,” she said.

The company also uses its global network of agents to engaged migrant communities throughout the world to contribute to development efforts. In Haiti, for example, the company matched consumer donations to Mercy Corps one-for-one and enabled migrants to serve as mentors to fledgling entrepreneurs there, providing expertise on topics such as human resources, marketing and accounting.

“We were able to engage our business partners, agents, employees and customers,” Bosch said. “That makes a difference. People have a choice about which company to do business with and spend money with, and they tend to prefer a company that made a difference in their community.”

Next: Nonprofits work with companies to help find business solutions

The series:

Part 1: Companies team with causes to add value

Part 2: Companies build giving into business strategy

Part 3: Philanthropy adds value for companies

Part 4: Nonprofit builds corporate partnerships from ground up

Part 5: Company works with nonprofits to build markets

Part 6: Companies turn to nonprofits to help develop leaders

Part 7: Nonprofits tap corporate expertise

Part 8: Company teams with nonprofit to solve social problems

Part 9: Nonprofits work with companies to help find business solutions

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Urban League focuses on social and human capital

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Individuals enrolled with the Urban League of Central Carolinas in Charlotte to get national certification training on heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems also work as apprentice assistants to certified technicians who contract with the Urban League to provide HVAC maintenance for churches, nonprofits and residences.

That maintenance program generates revenue the Urban League uses to provide scholarships for others who enroll in certification training.

The program is one of a handful of social ventures the Urban League has developed and now aims to grow with $200,000 from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation through its Neighborhood Builder program that also will provide leadership training for an emerging leader at the Urban League.

The social venture initiatives “are about building capacity for the agency,” says Patrick Graham, president and CEO of the Urban League of Central Carolinas.

Operating with an annual budget of nearly $2 million and a staff of 10 people working full-time, plus 12 part-time teachers for its after-school programs and 10 contractors for its national certification programs, the Urban League serves roughly 5,000 clients a year through its workforce, education and outreach programs.

The workforce programs include job-readiness, life-skills and financial-literacy training; national certification training in HVAC, broadband and fiber optics, Microsoft specialist and customer services.

Education programs include after-school programs at 12 schools in Mecklenburg and Union counties, with technology training at elementary and middle schools to enhance the core curriculum, and broad band and fiber optic certification, Cisco certification, and leadership development and mentoring at high schools.

In addition to a voter campaign in 2012, outreach programs include a bank the Urban League launched in November 2012 in partnership with Carolina Premier Bank that is geared to “underbanked and unbanked” customers and provides lending to minorities.

The Bank of the Urban League of Central Carolinas already has made loans totaling over $1.7 million and is negotiating another loan for $1 million, Graham says.

The Urban League, which receives two-thirds of its funding from private foundations and individuals, and one-third from government, plans to use the funds it will receive from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation to add a development position to increase giving from individual donors.

It also plans to add a job developer who will work with companies to advocate and find jobs for its clients.

And Shannon McKnight, the Urban League’s director of development and communications, will receive training as an emerging leader through the Neighborhood Builder grant.

Graham received similar training in 2006 as director of emergency and financial assistance at Crisis Assistance Ministry, which that year and again this year received a Neighborhood Builder grant.

Graham says his social venture work at the Urban League reflects lessons he learned from that training, and from his doctoral work in history at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

His dissertation focused on the migration of blacks to the North from the South during the Civil Rights movement and the institutions they created to address racism in the North.

As a child growing up on Long Island in New York, Graham attended the Martin Luther King Center, which had been founded by migrants from the South, and which he later served as executive director.

Recognizing that minority communities traditionally have lacked access to capital, Graham says, he has worked at the Urban League to find ways to “generate income and provide a means to build financial literacy and capital that would make the community more independent.”

Social business, Part 7: Nonprofits tap corporate expertise

By Todd Cohen

Eighteen years ago, looking for advice on how to most effectively station supplies and equipment so it could move them quickly and efficiently to locales hit by disasters, the American Red Cross turned to FedEx, the Memphis-based global delivery company.

“We provided in-kind shipping, quality management, logistics, supply chain help, and helped come up with a plan of action to keep inventory in our warehouses and get it shipped out,” explained Rose Flenorl, manager, social responsibility, for FedEx.

FedEx now has provided over $10 million in cash and in-kind support for the Red Cross, shipping thousands of tons of relief supplies a year for the charity, including 650,000 pounds of supplies in 2011, she said.

The company also has partnered with the Washington, D.C.-based agency on a variety of other efforts, including an online survey that let small businesses find out how prepared they were for disasters, as well as an online seminar that any small business could take to get training for emergency preparedness, including how to back up their records and keep their personnel safe.

The partnership with the Red Cross “strengthens the attributes and the brand of our corporation,” Flenorl explained. “When we have a good reputation and brand, that increases our revenue. Employees want to work for a company that’s concerned about its community. Our team members live in these communities. We can recruit and retain them.”

Next: Companies team with nonprofit to solving social problems

The series:

Part 1: Companies team with causes to add value

Part 2: Companies build giving into business strategy

Part 3: Philanthropy adds value for companies

Part 4: Nonprofit builds corporate partnerships from ground up

Part 5: Company works with nonprofits to build markets

Part 6: Companies turn to nonprofits to help develop leaders

Part 7: Nonprofits tap corporate expertise

Part 8: Company teams with nonprofit to solve social problems

Part 9: Nonprofits work with companies to help find business solutions

Social business, Part 6: Companies turn to nonprofits to help develop leaders

By Todd Cohen

To advance its mission of developing the next generation of global health leaders, Global Health Corps looks for partners that recognize the importance of investing in young leaders, said Heather Anderson, vice president of programs for the New York City-based organization.

That approach led to a partnership with technology company HP, or Hewlett-Packard, which provides financial support and donations of technology for Global Health staff and its annual class of fellows.

HP, based in Palo Alto, Calif., also provides employees the opportunity through a competitive process to serve as volunteer advisers to the fellows.

This year, 20 HP advisers are paired with 20 Global Health fellows in Africa and the U.S., speaking or communicating with one another at least once a month, talking about the fellows’ work challenges and career aspirations, and providing support on issues such as supply-chain management, monitoring the evaluation of programs, and playing a technology-related role.

The advisers, in turn get a “first-hand look at what it’s like to be working in a developing country, to be dealing with issues similar or different to what they are dealing with,” Anderson explained.

The partnership benefits both the nonprofit and the company, she said.

“Fellows are able to tap into the mentorship network and learn from the experience of those more senior,” she explained. “And vice versa, senior-level advisers can see what’s happening on the ground in global health in these countries.”

Next: Nonprofits tap corporate expertise

The series:

Part 1: Companies team with causes to add value

Part 2: Companies build giving into business strategy

Part 3: Philanthropy adds value for companies

Part 4: Nonprofit builds corporate partnerships from ground up

Part 5: Company works with nonprofits to build markets

Part 6: Companies turn to nonprofits to help develop leaders

Part 7: Nonprofits tap corporate expertise

Part 8: Company teams with nonprofit to solve social problems

Part 9: Nonprofits work with companies to help find business solutions

Social business, Part 5: Company works with nonprofit to build markets

By Todd Cohen

A key philanthropic goal at Verizon Communications is to work with nonprofits in the areas of health care, education and sustainability in ways that address their immediate needs and help the telecom company understand the effectiveness of its products, said Kathy Brown, senior vice president for corporate responsibility.

“We want to be in new markets with new communities, and we want to be close to the community and have an opportunity to understand customers’ needs and wants,” she explained.

“We can understand much better how we can serve the community through partnerships, we can get metrics that are good for nonprofits on how they’re delivering services,” she said, “and that also are good for us, to see the effectiveness of the products we put into the market.”

In a partnership with the New York City-based Children’s Health Fund, a national nonprofit that provides free primary care through mobile medical units in urban and rural areas, New York City-based Verizon provides tools to protect the security and privacy of health information, as well as wireless technologies for telemedicine and remote diagnostics.

“Our profit isn’t made on these partnerships,” Brown said. “Our profit is made in selling commercial products we understand better” through the partnerships.

The company also benefits because “our customers care that they’re doing business with companies that are responsible,” she explained. “We believe that if we don’t create value for the community, we are not creating long-term value for our shareowners.”

Next: Companies turn to nonprofits to help develop leaders

The series:

Part 1: Companies team with causes to add value

Part 2: Companies build giving into business strategy

Part 3: Philanthropy adds value for companies

Part 4: Nonprofit builds corporate partnerships from ground up

Part 5: Company works with nonprofit to build markets

Part 6: Companies turn to nonprofits to help develop leaders

Part 7: Nonprofits tap corporate expertise

Part 8: Company teams with nonprofit to solve social problems

Part 9: Nonprofits work with companies to help find business solutions

Social business, Part 4: Nonprofit builds corporate partnerships from ground up

By Todd Cohen

In 2008, The Home Depot approached Good360, formerly Gifts In Kind, about working together to provide the Atlanta-based retailer with a way to put to productive use inventory it was not able to sell.

Good360, based on Alexandria, Va., worked with the information technology department at The Home Depot to help identify the products the company would be donating.

“We listened,” explained Cindy Hallberlin, president and CEO of Good360. “We didn’t come in with a cookie cutter plan. We said, ‘What’s your plan and vision?’ We got aligned, not just with management but also with technology. We made sure there’s a marriage between their system and ours so we could be as efficient as possible.”

The effort began modestly, with The Home Depot distributing that inventory to 25 Good360 stores where 25 local nonprofits could pick up that donated inventory.

By 2009, finding that some stores had more donated inventory than the local nonprofits could handle, Good360 worked with The Home Depot on a strategy to develop warehouses so that instead of donating goods to individual nonprofits, many local nonprofits could visit the warehouses to pick up donated goods .

Now, the partnership has grown to nearly 1,300 stores and five warehouses, developed by local nonprofit partners with seed grants from The Home Depot.

“You need to listen and understand the needs of your corporate partner, as well as the needs of those you serve,” Hallberlin said. “If you’re meeting only the needs of the corporation and not meeting the needs of the end users, it’s not a good program.”

Overall, the partnership has helped distribute donated products to over 600,000 low-income families, diverting that inventory from landfills and in some cases saving money by not sending it back to a distribution center.

It also has connected thousands of charities with The Home Depot, helping to create good will and customer loyalty among the supporters and clients of those charities, Hallberlin said.

A single nonprofit served by the partnership, for example, purchased $500,000 worth of products at The Home Depot in a single day for a building project, she said.

“Nonprofits have collective buying power,” she explained. “If you get donations from The Home Depot, you’re going to go there for discretionary purchases.”

Next: Companies work with nonprofits to build markets

The series:

Part 1: Companies team with causes to add value

Part 2: Companies build giving into business strategy

Part 3: Philanthropy adds value for companies

Part 4: Nonprofit builds corporate partnerships from ground up

Part 5: Company works with nonprofit to build markets

Part 6: Companies turn to nonprofits to help develop leaders

Part 7: Nonprofits tap corporate expertise

Part 8: Company teams with nonprofit to solve social problems

Part 9: Nonprofits work with companies to help find business solutions