Advancing Communities & Creating Transformational Change Through A Philanthropic Lens

Guest blog by: Chris Polk, Senior Program Manager, DTE Energy & Philanthropic Advisor

The number of multi-million dollar companies in America are increasing. The majority of them are narrowing their focus on philanthropy to further create effective change in the communities where they do business. This is nothing new, but the approach continues to evolve on a global scale. In Michigan for example, both large and small enterprises have revived their interest in corporate social responsibility (CSR) to meet regional needs. Successful companies are asking themselves, not just if their philanthropy and corporate partnerships will build their reputations, but also how they can make a lasting difference in measurable terms. That’s where collaborative philanthropy comes in. This approach helps nonprofits by giving them more than just funds or resources. It also drives a new sense of confidence and understanding for corporate and government partners. When community organizations, corporations and foundations collaborate, they learn and benefit from the partnership itself. Nonprofits involved in collaborative philanthropy tend to outperform other social innovation ventures by a wide margin and often have more data driven results.

 

Why Communities, Nonprofits and Corporations All Benefit from an Aligned Methodology?

 

From the beginning of this approach, vulnerable communities and critical projects can receive the funding or supplies they need for social innovation, as well as access to data, resources and manpower. If they partner with a for-profit business, it also gives them the opportunity to increase their awareness and perhaps strengthen their reputation in their respective marketplace. The greatest benefit for corporations is that they can fully immerse teams and project leaders in hands on work while driving change in a very intentional way. Secondly, employee engagement can significantly increase with nonprofit partnerships within the community. This shared work concept also supports brand loyalty as customers feel like they’re aligning with a noble cause and connecting more intimately with companies who are visible in spaces that they care about. Collaborative philanthropy has the potential for a huge social return when done in the right way. To do this we can take steps to model our partnerships in ways that promote a higher impact. Clarity about the creation and scope of aligned work, more than anything else, seems to propel collaborative performance; it also poses the most difficulty for most of us. I believe that in order to maximize this approach, successful communities, corporations and foundations should focus on five elements to drive meaningful outcomes and transformational change in the future:

 

  1. Corporate executives should engage more directly with community-driven strategies by putting grantees front and center, and by leveraging other stakeholders to ensure that high-performing community leaders and their organizations are successful.

 

  1. We should all develop and share our organizational plans as well as our specific expectations for how resources will be used and how we intend to drive success within our organization’s core competencies.

 

  1. Community organizers should develop resilient practices over time, ultimately enabling community members, corporations and foundation partners to more effectively align with emerging community led strategies.

 

  1. Funders should work towards reasonable milestones and metrics that prioritize annual outcomes through a coordinated approach to drive the work at hand.

 

  1. We should all try to think “long-term” with our commitments, investments and collaborative goals. That way, we can select an approach and the resources necessary to drive transformational change

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