CEOs Face the Challenges of Corporate Philanthropy

If you can get past the first five pages of the recently released report by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy that mercilessly remind us all that the faces of corporate America are still overwhelmingly white and male, there are some great insights into the challenges facing these leaders who wish to help shape society while earning profits for their shareholders. The report, "Board of Boards: The CEO's Challenge: Leading the Company, Shaping Society," lists four key takeaways from the CEO conference, held on the morning of National Corporate Philanthropy Day 2008, and attended by 40 CEOs and chairpersons:

1. Seize the Opportunity.Companies that view business’s contract with society not as an obligation but rather as a source for competitive advantage unlock a powerful opportunity to attract and retain talent and ensure the health
of their markets over the long term.
2. Be Authentic. Cynicism toward corporate America is rife. Philanthropic efforts perceived as recognition-seeking can backfire, but engaging critics in dialogue and creating programs that are consonant with a company’s culture creates an unshakeable platform for transparent communications.
3. Go International. If a company’s business is successful overseas and its philanthropy has yet to follow realignment is in order. Not all community initiatives that work at home will translate abroad, and domestic nonprofit relationships need to be sustained. Learn from international NGO leaders and empower local employees to provide input.
4. Incorporate a Business Mindset. Adapting management techniquesto the practice of corporate philanthropy helps giving programs withstand scrutiny and generate maximum community impact. There should and will always be an artful side to corporate grant-making, but CEOs who set high performance standards are doing themselves and their nonprofit partners a service.

Other key findings in the report include:
--100% of CEOs believe that corporate philanthropy is important to creating long-term shareholder value and 94% say their board of directors would agree;
--While 55% of executives believe their company receives appropriate credit for their philanthropic work, 20% do
not and 25% are unsure;
--67% of CEOs at companies with revenues over $1 billion say their corporate philanthropy will become more global over the next five years.

Do you agree that these are the key issues in corporate philanthropy? How, or better yet, do you think that corporations should help shape society? Tell us what you think.

Caroline Heine

Posted at 1:00 AM, Apr 04, 2008 in Cross-Sectoral Strategies | Global Philanthropy | Philanthropic Strategy | Permalink | Comment