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CSR

This category includes articles about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), typically including donations to or other support for nonprofit organizations.

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If Your Business Looked at Solar 2 Years Ago and Passed, Now May Be the Time

Clean Energy Advisors, one of our sponsors, has invested in Solar Site Design.

If your business evaluated solar power as a way to reduce costs more than a year ago and rejected it, it is time to look again, says Jason Loyet, CEO of Solar Site Design.

Solar Site Design has a national network of independent contractors who work as solar originators. The company also has a network of client contractors who pay for the opportunity to bid on the projects the originators find. This competitive marketplace is helping to accelerate projects and reduce the cost of solar installations.

Scott Hill, President of Clean Energy Advisors, explains the motivation for their investment. “We invested in Solar Site Design because we believe in Jason and in his business model. Commercial and Industrial companies need a place they can go to quickly understand if installing a solar array can be a smart business decision. He is also creating a platform where companies providing solar products and services compete for each project. These factors are bringing down costs and allowing Solar to complete against other forms of energy, which is something we’re very passionate about.”

The result of the acceleration in solar and the falling costs, Jason says, is installed costs of solar power that are years ahead of recent expectations at under $2.00 per watt. That means that in most parts of the country, a business can install solar and save enough to on utility bills to justify the expense.

While the industry has long relied on innovative financing to make projects pencil, with the current 30 percent tax credit, companies can now afford to buy the solar panels outright with traditional financing sources. Banks, Jason says, are now experienced in financing solar projects.

Typically, projects today are built “behind the meter” in that the plan is not to sell power back to the utility, but only to produce enough power at peak production to meet the business’s own need for that power at that time. The solar power becomes the primary power source and the utility is the secondary power source.

In most states, commercial businesses can’t sell power back to utilities at the same rate they buy power. By eliminating any low-priced sale of solar generated power to the utility and using 100 percent of the power produced to reduce high priced power purchased from the utility, the financial returns are improved.

Jason notes, too, that the next step the market is preparing for is the addition of storage so that companies can go ahead and produce extra power at peak production times and use it later, rather than relying on the utility. In such a scenario, the utility becomes a backup provider of power rather than a secondary power source. This near-future scenario is intriguing to environmentalists and CFOs alike.

Looking longer term, Jason sees a bright future for solar. The cost of extracting fossil fuels is unlikely to go down, meaning that the cost of generating power from fossil fuels will likely rise. He predicts an average rate of inflation of 3 percent for fossil fuel energy. Given that solar is already cheaper than fossil fuel generated power today, the spread is likely to grow dramatically in relatively few years.

The bottom line is that the economics of solar power make better sense than ever before today. The 30 percent Federal tax credit creates an incentive for companies to look at solar projects in 2017. Fossil fuel inflation combined with declining costs in solar will quickly reshape our global energy mix.

Jason Loyet, courtesy of Solar Site Design

Jason Loyet, courtesy of Solar Site Design

More about Solar Site Design:

Twitter: @solarsitedesign Since winning the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Catalyst Award in 2015, Solar Site Design has focused on solving the next chapter of driving down customer acquisition costs for Commercial and Industrial solar energy projects. After a year of software development, we are proud to announce the newest enhancement to our platform: Solar Site Design Commercial Marketplace. For three years, Solar Site Design has become a leading recruiter and trainer of Nationwide Commercial Originators. Our Originators have deep relationships in their local market and are able to open doors wide open on highly qualified C&I projects. In addition, our Originators are trained on collecting extensive data at the site through our innovative platform available on Android and IOS. SSD aggregates the project data entered by service professionals (referral agent), connects the projects to networks of contracted fulfillment partners, thereby reducing customer acquisition costs by up to 50%

Jason’s bio:

Twitter: @jasonloyet Jason Loyet is an accomplished solar industry entrepreneur, having founded and built three solar companies since 2005. His first company solved bottlenecks in importing solar equipment and streamlined mainline distribution to solar installers. In 2009, he founded and built a $3 million company that provided wholesale solar supply, sales and marketing services to electrical and roofing contractors throughout the United States. In 2013, Mr. Loyet leveraged the powerful capabilities of mobile phones to build an easy way for traditional contractors to add a revenue source to their bottom line by playing an active role in the solar industry. Hence, Solar Site Design was born. Solar Site Design is a collaborative, cloud-based platform that connects highly-qualified solar project referrals to leading solar companies to drive down customer acquisition costs. Our proprietary business process is designed to reduce the solar industry’s customer acquisition costs by up to 50%. Solar Site Design was chosen as a winner of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Catalyst Program in May of 2015. Prior to entering the solar industry, Mr. Loyet founded, developed and sold two software companies; a video-streaming service and a photo-sharing platform. Jason is a member of the Social Venture Network.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here! Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

How This Collaboration Raised Over $1M For Charity

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Collaboration is a word that gets thrown around a lot more than it actually happens. Pledgeling, a small social enterprise, proved the power of collaboration when it signed Evite as a customer and delivered over $1 million in donations in the first year.

Pledgeling is a mobile-centric donation processing company with fifteen employees. CEO James Citron says the company hopes to double the staff within 18 months.

He rattles off early milestones:

  • Powered over 30,000 fundraising campaigns
  • Raised $3 million in donations for 4,000 nonprofits
  • Had 10,000 nonprofits join their network
  • Sold 40 customers who license their software
  • Process “hundreds of thousands” of dollars of donations monthly

Pledgeling is not yet profitable but has 90 percent gross margins, giving it the potential to reach profitability as it scales.

Evite, the collaboration partner, provides digital party invitations. Lots of them. CEO Victor Cho says the company has sent over 2 billion event invitations. The company now sends about 20,000 invitations every hour and has over 100 million annual users. It is a subsidiary of Liberty Ventures Group (NASDAQ: LVNTA, LVNTB). Evite, Cho says, generates most of its revenue from advertising.

Jennifer Young, Global Director of Social Impact Programs, at Pearson, led the implementation of Pledgeling tools at Pearson. She explains why Pearson moved forward with the Pledgeling implementation. “Now more than ever, people are looking online for opportunities to contribute to good causes. That’s a major reason why as part of our campaign at Pearson to raise awareness and inspire action around the global illiteracy crisis, we have elevated online fundraising as our major call to action.”

Shifting demographics as well as technology influence consumer demand, Young says. “We know that Millennials, in particular, are more likely to promote causes across social media and so by integrating Pledgeling’s digital platform into our campaign, we have made it easy for younger advocates – no matter how small their giving potential – to join our movement and contribute in a concrete way.”

Evite was eager to collaborate with Pledgeling, Cho says. “Our users were asking for this functionality.”

Victor Cho, courtesy of Evite

Citron agrees, noting that consumers are more aware of brands’ social impact. “Consumers today increasingly expect brands to align with their purpose and use their business to make a positive impact on the world. Customers will switch to a competitor based on brand values – just look at the #deleteuber movement, which catapulted Lyft into a top 5 app within 48 hours because consumers make choices by their values.”

“In fact, 90% of consumers will choose a brand that gives back over one that doesn’t,” Citron adds.

Cho describes the how the collaboration works for the customer. “With Evite Donations Powered by Pledgeling, we are first and foremost making the process of giving easier–just a couple clicks. Also, importantly, we are offering this service in a way that does not charge a transaction fee.”

The Evite Donations allow Evite users to add a donation option to invites, Cho says. “Whether it is a child who wants to raise money for a charity instead of getting another pile of birthday gifts or a couple who would rather have friends support a favorite cause than bringing hostess gifts or wine, it’s in people’s nature to give. We are just making it simpler for them to do so as seamless part of the event process, and in a way that maximizes their gift.”

Young, who has followed the Pledgeling-Evite collaboration says, “I was really excited when I first learned of the Pledgeling and Evite partnership because of the potential it has to advance the reach of charitable giving through the simple act of connecting people to good causes through the major milestones in our lives – whether it’s a birthday, a wedding or an anniversary.”

Cho says the response to the new feature has been overwhelmingly positive but it hasn’t been without challenges. “Some hosts don’t want their guests to feel pressured or somehow expected to donate,” he says. “Some guests are still compelled to give physical gifts instead of donations.”

“At this point in time, we aren’t yet at a place as a society where giving a donation is widely accepted etiquette in lieu of gifts,” Cho notes.

Citron says that the Evite collaboration is a great example of the success their having, but notes that no single solution will work for customers of all sizes. “we are developing a variety of turnkey tools to roll out soon for smaller, mid-market businesses to make it easier to achieve their goals in ways that are different from our larger, enterprise business customers.”

Pearson’s Young believes the key to the Pledgeling’s success will be to leverage the growth of purpose-driven companies, helping them to frictionlessly connect their customers with causes they care about.

Cho is excited about where the Pledgeling-Evite collaboration will go in time. “We are helping people do good when they get together and the response from our users has been incredible. We’ve had a great start to this partnership and we expect to grow the amount of charitable donations raised exponentially in the coming years. Even the smallest donations can add up to make a tremendous positive impact on the world. It’s very exciting!”

Citron also has grand expectations. “Our vision for the future is that every business will fulfill its purpose through an authentic giving strategy that helps them grow, builds loyalty from their customers and employees, and makes a positive impact on the world.”

On Thursday, February 9, 2017 at noon Eastern, Citron and Cho will join me here for a live discussion about the collaboration’s success and its implications for the future. Tune in here (at the top of this article) then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

How To Create A Successful Corporate Social Responsibility Program

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Why do some corporate social responsibility programs seem to backfire? There are lots of reasons, but University of Kansas Assistant Professor Jessica Li recently published a paper that explains why some do.

Her research shows that people in some countries have distinct reactions to two companies engaging in the same behavior when one of the companies is foreign and the other domestic.

Jessica has provided us with three tips for creating a corporate social responsibility program that works.

1. Consumer attributions are key.

It is important to understand that CSR is not always perceived positively by consumers. Consumers make attributions about why a company is engaging in CSR, ant these attributions influence their attitudes and behaviors.

2. Know your audience.

Consumers with collectivistic orientation make more altruistic CSR attributions for a domestic versus a foreign firm. Thus, the same CSR behavior performed by a foreign company will be perceived less positively than if it were performed by a domestic company in countries like South Korea or India.

3. Be authentic.

It’s important to show collectivistic consumers that you genuinely care about the cause. Biases against foreign companies can be minimized if the foreign company shows that it authentically cares about the cause, such as by engaging in CSR for a long time.

Jessica Li, courtesy of the University of Kansas

Jessica Li, courtesy of the University of Kansas

There is nothing worse for a CSR professional than to invest in a program that causes a negative consumer response. The money and effort feel wasted. Despite the responsibility of the company to do good, making that good profitable makes it infinite. These tips can help companies avoid CSR disasters.

On Thursday, February 2, 2017 at 2:00 Eastern, Jessica will join me here for a live discussion about making corporate social responsibility program work around the world. Tune in here (at the top of this article) then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about the University of Kansas:

Twitter: @KUnews

Since its founding, the University of Kansas has embodied the aspirations and determination of the abolitionists who settled on the curve of the Kaw River in August 1854. Their first goal was to ensure that the new Kansas Territory entered the union as a free state. Another was to establish a university.

Map showing the location of KU campuses

Today, KU has become a major public research and teaching institution of 28,401 students and 2,600 faculty on five campuses (Lawrence, Kansas City, Overland Park, Wichita, and Salina). Its diverse elements are united by their mission to educate leaders, build healthy communities, and make discoveries that change the world.

Jessica’s bio:

Jessica Li received a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Arizona State University and a B.S. in Biology and Society from Cornell University. Broadly, Jessica’s research focuses on the role of emotions and motivations on consumer behavior. Due to her interdisciplinary background and desire to understand decision making from multiple perspectives, she often integrates theoretical principles from psychology, economics, and biology in her work. For example, one line of research investigates how fundamental motives, such as protecting oneself from physical threat or caring for one’s kin, affects financial decisions including risk-taking, present bias, and diversification. Another line of research takes an interpersonal approach to understanding displayed emotions on consumer judgment and decision-making. As social beings, humans make quick and spontaneous judgments from fleeting cues like an employee’s emotional expression. Jessica’s work has been published in journals such as the Journal of Consumer Research, the Academy of Management Journal, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychological Science, and the Journal of Consumer Psychology. Jessica teaches Integrated Marketing Communications at the undergraduate and MBA levels. In addition, she has taught a Ph.D. seminar in Consumer Behavior and a practicum in Promotional Plan Development. She is currently developing an online MBA course in IMC.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

Multi-Generational Giving from a Silicon-Valley Tech Company with a Big Heart

This is a guest post from Kurt Klein, the CEO of DataEndure

DataEndure (formerly Computer Media Technologies) opened its doors in the heart of the Silicon Valley in 1983, just as the first rudimentary notebook computers were trickling into the marketplace and the 3.5-inch floppy disk was a novel idea, still a year away from introduction.

Kurt Klein, the CEO of DataEndure has kept the legacy of philanthropy within his company. For over 10 years he has made a yearly commitment to Second Harvest Food Bank and Pursuit of Excellence.

Along with volunteering his time, Kurt has inspired the entire team of 50+ employees at DataEndure with the passion to collect food donations for this fine organization. Every year the entire staff travel to the local grocery store just before Thanksgiving and each employee fills an entire cart of meats, dried and canned goods and everyone checks out and DataEndure picks up the entire tab. The whole team then loads up a truck with all of the groceries and deliver them to the food bank.

DataEndure and its employees provide food to Second Harvest Food Bank with an annual employee Thanksgiving food donation drive. Over the years, the event becomes an internal competition of sorts whereby the company tries to outdo its donations of the previous years. Just last year, the company sent over more than 4,000 pounds in total food weight in just one day. Imagine that happening each year for the past ten years the company has been doing this and it’s clear to see the commitment .CEO Kurt Klein sponsors the charity event and closes the office for two hours. In addition to the food donation, DataEndure matches cash contributions to provide to Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.

As one of the largest food banks in the nation, Second Harvest provides food to an average of nearly one quarter of a million people each month. DataEndure’s efforts will support Second Harvest’s goals to mobilize individuals and companies, enabling community partners to connect people to the nutritious food they need.

“It’s firmly engrained in our culture to support community charitable efforts, and the Second Harvest Food Bank performs incredibly important work to combat hunger in our area,” Klein said. “We are honored to help Second Harvest assist those who are struggling to put food on their tables.”

Community outreach and giving back has been at the forefront of DataEndure’s culture for the last 30 plus years. Kurt is a mentor for an organization that is very near and dear to his heart, Pursuit Of Excellence.

Every new school year, Pursuit of Excellence brings in 30 plus teenagers and provides these motivated young people with tuition, room and board, even spending money for the time it takes them to take it to graduation. Klein, a CEO with a mission to motivate, takes on four mentees.

He contributes his time to helping these teenagers with whatever they may need to reach their goal of becoming a college graduate. And it’s more than money. The organization provides them with a support system that teaches them financial oversight and money management. Kurt even took his group on a tour of Facebook’s campus and comes to their holidays and graduations.

“I treat them just like they are my own children,” says Klein, a father of two. “ A few years ago I had one mentee named Jaime, and it was great to see him put on that cap and gown. Now, I’m mentoring his little sister at UC Santa Cruz, and it’s a wonderful feeling to be part of this family’s progress.” The secret? The perfect combination of a little nurture, and of course a lot of support. Sometimes he’ll nudge them to a field, such as business, but for the most part, he’s happy to see them graduate and go off on a path knowing he helped guide them to that shining moment of graduation day.

He wants all of his employees to follow in his and his father’s footsteps, creating a company culture of being a part of the community they work in. But it’s not just these two organizations Klein feels strongly about. DataEndure also offers gift cards to other organizations in a matching offers contest. If any employee is nominated by a peer for demonstrating one of the company’s culture pillars, DataEndure will make a donation to a charity of the employee’s choice.

Social Entrepreneur Creates ‘Nobel Prize For Business’ Focused On Social Responsibility

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Per L. Saxegaard of Norway recognized years ago that there was no Nobel Prize for Business. The closest that one comes is the prize for Economics. Saxegaard decided not only to create a prize modeled on the Nobel Prizes, but to focus it on social responsibility, what he calls being “businessworthy.” (Disclosure: I recently wrote an unrelated piece for the Rotarian Magazine, affiliated with Rotary International, which is mentioned in this article.)

A former investment banker, Saxegaard founded the Business for Peace Foundation and assembled a team of past Nobel Laureates in Peace and Economics to serve as a the panel of judges. Ten years and dozens of winners later, the Business for Peace Awards are internationally recognized.

Past winners include Jeffrey R. Immelt, CEO of GE and Sir Richard Branson of Virgin. The 2016 winners included Tore Lærdal, founder of Lærdal Medical and and Dr Jennifer Nkuene Riria who launched a successful microfinance institution in Kenya.

Given his experience in assessing and recognizing socially responsible businessses, Saxegaard was invited to be a keynote speaker on Saturday, November 12, 2016 at the Rotary International at the United Nations Day event where eight businesses will receive the Rotary Responsible Business Award. I’ve also been invited to participate in the program that day.

The award recipients will include Coca Cola Beverages Pakistan and Mercantil Banco Universal. Six individuals will also be recognized. These include Juan Silva Beauperthuy, Queremos Graduarnos Program (We Want to Graduate), of Venezuela; Jean-Paul Faure, Le Trophée du Rotary, new business development program, of France; Suresh Goklaney, Jal Jeevan Centers, community water purification plants, of India; Annemarie Mostert, Sesego Cares, entrepreneurial, leadership and job training, of South Africa; Stephanie Woollard, Seven Women, Nepalese crafts, of Australia; and, Lawrence Wright, Launch Detroit, women-led small business support, of Michigan.

John Germ, President of Rotary International, explains the reason for recognizing these business leaders, “We want to lift up those entrepreneurs who leverage their skills to develop their local economies, serve their communities, and promote socially responsible business practices.”

He went on to explain his hope that these businesses will play a role in solving some of the world’s big problems. “Getting businesses of all kinds to invest, not only in profits, but in ethical and responsible practices is key to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Rotary stands with the United Nations in achieving the Global Goals and is committed to bringing together entrepreneurs, like this year’s outstanding Responsible Business honorees, to make an outsized impact on their communities.”

Saxegaard explains that the Business for Peace Foundation is a nonprofit that is funded by donations and sponsorships. For the awards program, he uses the same venue that the Nobel Prize uses, the City Hall of Oslo.

Saxegaard encourages business leaders to make the “businessworthy pledge”:

I am a business leader who knows that business cannot succeed in societies that fail. I will do my utmost to be businessworthy in all my efforts, and to tune my business to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. I call on my peers to do the same.

He says, “This year the businessworthy pledge was personally signed committing business leaders representing some USD $700 BN in sales to tune their business to the SDGs and be businessworthy. This is due to spark a global campaign rallying other business leaders to join and commit.”

He wants, he says, to “inspire business leaders to be businessworthy; ie., create value by improving society, acting responsibly.” He adds, “Not all profits are created equal.”

Per L. Saxegaard, Executive Chairman, courtesy of the Business for Peace Foundation

Per L. Saxegaard, Executive Chairman, courtesy of the Business for Peace Foundation

Saxesgaard offers three tips to help businesses become more businessworthy.

Business must contribute to accomplishing the SDGs.

Saxedgaard says, “The forces of technology, globalization and climate change are simultaneously accelerating in a non-linear way, posing demanding implications to society as well as changing the landscapes of business. Volatility and complexity are increasing. There is a need for business to adjust its maps.”

He notes that global political leaders signed on last year to support the accomplishment of the SDGs by 2030. He notes, “These goals are unrealistic if business does not engage and contribute actively. A businessworthy mindset and practice puts a name on the map adjustment needed for business to contribute to the SDGs.”

Business needs to focus on improving society.

Saxegaard says, “The increasing interdependence and complexity confronting business, forces a broadening of the business mindset that have dominated the last few decenniums. Transparency has become the new standard. Incumbent structures are increasingly being challenged. Consumers and society increase their influence as we become more and more interconnected. More than before there is a need for business to broaden its thinking and include stakeholder and society in its reflections when seeking to create value.”

He redefines the marketplace to shift the lens through which business leaders see the world. “Societal needs define markets and create opportunities for growth. Business thinking needs to focus on products and business models that help improve society. Being businessworthy coins this kind of mindset.”

Purpose is the language of the millennial generation.

“Purpose nourishes meaning. To attract the talents of tomorrow, business needs to have a purpose bigger than profit, to make money with a higher meaning. Money might motivate, but no amount can inspire. Being businessworthy coins business seeking to improve society while acting responsibly, helping solve problems that create value for both business and society,” Saxegaard concludes.

On Saturday, November 12, 2016 at 11:30 AM, live from the United Nations, Saxegaard will join me for a discussion about becoming more businessworthy. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

Join Cotopaxi’s Lindsey Kneuven Live on Cause Marketing

We are so fortunate. Lindsey Kneuven, Cotopaxi’s Chief Impact Officer, has agreed to a live, interactive discussion with platinum members of the Your Mark on the World “Doers Circle” on November 21 at noon Eastern, 10 AM Mountain.

To join the Doers Circle, click here to make a monthly pledge on Patreon to support the work of the Your Mark on the World Center. Platinum members pay just $18 for a host of benefits, including access to monthly video calls with special guests like Lindsey. Platinum members get to ask the questions and interact directly with Lindsey.

lindsey-kneuven-doers-circle

Lindsey will bring her considerable expertise in cause marketing. This discussion will be invaluable for nonprofits looking to partner with business and will be equally valuable for anyone in business looking to grow sales and profitability by supporting a worthy cause.

Cotopaxi is a venture-backed company that sells high quality outdoor sporting goods designed and sourced from the ground up to have impact. Cotopaxi has pledged 2 percent of revenue to support social justice causes around the world. Lindsey is responsible for that impact.

Previously, Lindsey worked in Silicon Valley directing global grant making and employee engagement programs for tech companies while working at Silicon Valley Community Foundation. You don’t want to miss this opportunity to pick her brain.

The Your Mark on the World Center uses the monthly subscription revenue from its supporters to fund its efforts to highlight the work of great people like Lindsey. Over the years, I’ve done almost 800 interviews with guest from around the world working to have impact. You can watch me interact with these guests absolutely for free right here at YourMarkOnTheWorld.com. This event is special, because you will get to join the conversation if you join the Doers Circle as a Platinum Member via Patreon.

Our Gold Members will be invited to watch the discussion live, but won’t have the opportunity to participate in the discussion. Our Silver Members will receive access to a recording of the discussion.

All members receive other perks and benefits as well. Most importantly, however, you know you are helping us to make the world a little better by bringing solutions journalism to the world, helping to make the world a better place for everyone.

Click here to join now.

Lindsey’s full bio:

Lindsey Kneuven is the Chief Impact Officer for Cotopaxi, a Utah-based outdoor gear company with a social mission at its core. She leads the organization’s global philanthropic strategy which includes all giving, supply chain initiatives, and employee engagement. Recently recognized by Utah Business as one of 30 Women to Watch for her leadership in business and the community, Lindsey serves on the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Commission on Community Engagement and is active on several nonprofit boards. Lindsey formerly directed global grant making, strategic planning, and large-scale employee engagement programs for a portfolio of seven corporations, including: Oracle, Juniper Networks and Singularity University at Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF). She also led the organization’s work on human trafficking and wrote a grant-funded white paper on human trafficking in Silicon Valley that earned her the Leigh Stillwell Award for Excellence. SVCF is a comprehensive center for philanthropy, serving both individual and corporate donors. With over $7.3 billion in assets under management and over $823 million granted in 2015 alone, SVCF is the largest community foundation in the world. Lindsey also has extensive experience in international development and nonprofit management, having spent a number of years working in East Africa to develop and implement a primary school literacy model with Nuru International as their Senior Education Program Director. Before Nuru, Lindsey served as the Global Grants Manager for the Salesforce Foundation where she oversaw the strategy, programming and success of multi-million dollar granting initiatives for four years. She has been active in international and domestic poverty alleviation initiatives for 15 years.

The Power of Kindness Creates Success

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Kindness. You’ve probably thought of kindness as a key to good personal relationships. You may have even applied kindness to your daily interactions with coworkers. Have you ever thought kindness was the key to success in business?

Westminster College professor Dr. Vicki Whiting says it is. In a powerful TEDx talk at her college, she makes the case that WalMart may one day cease to exist because it lacks the kindness its founder once imbued into the organization.

Dr. Vicki Whiting at TEDx Westminster, courtesy of Westminster College

Dr. Vicki Whiting at TEDx Westminster, courtesy of Westminster College

She offers three key observations about kindness:

1. Kindness is powerful.

Kindness is the most powerful tool leaders have at their disposal if they desire to create the connection and commitment necessary to afford long term success. Leaders as far back as Aristotle teach us that kindness sits at the heart of meaningful relationships. It is through meaningful relationship that customers are loyal to an organization, that employees are committed to an organization’s vision, that co-workers trust one another to work productively to achieve an organization’s goals. Success is predicated on meaningful relationships, and meaningful relationships are based on the principles of kindness.

2. Kindness is more than “being nice.”

Kindness involves tough aspects including honesty and accountability, as well as softer aspects such as empathy and compassion. When we make decisions based on kind principles, when we communicate with kindness, then we connect with others such that they feel valued and respected, resulting in relationships of commitment, support, and satisfaction, all of which lead to individual and organizational success.

3. Listening is kind.

The best way to act with kindness is to be a great listener. Peter Drucker offered eight principles for successful leadership, yet he only had one specific “rule” necessary to effectively influencing the behavior of others. Drucker, along with other highly regarded thought leaders agree that listening is the key behavior that demonstrates kindness and lays the framework upon which individual success is based.

On Thursday, September 29, 2016 at noon Eastern, Vicki will join me here for a live discussion about her remarkable insights about the power of kindness in business. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Vicki Whiting, courtesy of Westminster College

Vicki Whiting, courtesy of Westminster College

More about Westminster College:

Twitter: @westminsterSLC

Westminster is a private, independent, and comprehensive college in Salt Lake City, Utah. Students experience the liberal arts blended with professional programs in an atmosphere dedicated to civic engagement. With the goal of enabling its graduates to live vibrant, just, and successful lives, Westminster provides transformational learning experiences for both undergraduate and graduate students in a truly student-centered environment. Faculty focus on teaching, learning, and developing distinctive, innovative programs, while students thrive on Westminster’s urban Sugar House campus within minutes of the Rocky Mountains.

Vicki’s bio:

Twitter: @docwhiting

Dr. Vicki R. Whiting, professor and award winning author, brings over twenty-five years of business and leadership experience to classrooms and executives throughout the United States. Vicki has focused her teaching, research, and consulting experience in the area of organizational leadership, most specifically on personal and organizational leadership development through mentor relationships, leveraging strengths, and developing effective organizational interactions. Publications in numerous academic journals compliment her recent award winning health care advocacy book, “In Pain We Trust.” Her writing and research integrate across leadership, mentorship and service learning.

During the past several years, Vicki has consulted in both public and private organizations such as United Therapeutics, OC Tanner, L-3 Communications, Chevron Corporation, Swift Transportation, Right Consulting, CEObuilders, MyFamily.com Corporation. Consulting engagements have ranged in scope from large scale organizational development opportunities, identifying cost savings initiatives of more than $18 million in a six-month period for Swift Transportation; to individualized executive success coaching.

Prior to moving into the classroom and consulting arena, Vicki had a twelve-year career in the technology industry culminating in an appointment as Director of Technical Services at Digital Systems International. Vicki was a member of the upper management team responsible for corporate growth of over 700%, including participating in the company’s IPO. Vicki contributed to the operational excellence which ultimately led to the organization’s acquisition by Lucent Technologies.

Vicki’s work experience also includes technical sales for NCR Corporation and internal software support for Safeco Insurance. Vicki is currently a senior faculty member at Westminster College and has taught at the University of Utah and at the University of Southern California. Vicki received her doctoral degree from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. As a doctoral candidate, Vicki was chosen to represent the college at the request of the University’s President when she received the prestigious Sample Fellowship award. She received her M.B.A. from Seattle University and her B.S. Degree in Business Administration from Colorado State University.

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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

Corporations Evil? Not This One!

Corporations are evil, the contemporary narrative says.

dōTERRA, a billion-dollar direct marketer of essential oils, sought to violate that narrative by actually being good for the world. It established its “co-impact sourcing” program in developing countries around the world to improve the livelihoods of small-holder farmers and their communities.

The 2015 earthquakes in Nepal devastated communities where the company was working to establish wintergreen production. This proved to be a moment of truth for the company.

Would it cut and run or double down?

The company doubled down, bringing substantial aid to the affected communities. In the spring of 2016, the company’s Healing Hands Foundation constructed 500 desks and two schools, including the first new school built after the earthquakes.

dōTERRA  also put people to work, helping 20 communities rattled by the earthquake to put wintergreen distillation units into production.

dōTERRA  is proving that corporations don’t have to be evil.

Learn more on Forbes.

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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

Microsoft: No Single Organization Can Close Skills Gap

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Microsoft reported doing over $1 billion of corporate giving, mostly in-kind, for fiscal year 2015. The software giant is making giving a more integral part of its strategy, as I explored here. One current initiative is a drive to encourage more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, a three-year, $75 million program called YouthSpark. [Full disclosure: I own an embarrassingly small number of shares in Microsoft.]

Here’s the thing, Microsoft Philanthropies President, Mary Snapp (the first female lawyer at the company back in 1988), says, “No single organization or company can close the global computer science education gap. ” This may be the best lesson social entrepreneurs can take from Microsoft’s massive giving budget. When entrepreneurs set out to solve big problems, they need to partner with organizations who can help.

Microsoft has partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America to expose a broader range of kids to computer science careers. The program provides a “Computer Science Pathway” with four modules, each one building on skills taught in the prior module. This builds upon Microsoft’s longstanding support of BCGA which includes more than $100 Million in cash and software donations.

Collectively, the BGCA Clubs operate with a budget of about $1.4 billion annually, according to Julie Teer, BGCA’s Chief Development and Public Affairs Officer. She explains, “BGCA has been around for more than 150 years with the same goal: to enable all young people the opportunity to achieve a great future. Over the years, and in particular in the last decade, BGCA has taken a focused approach concentrating on making sure kids and teens have the tools they need to achieve academic success, mental and health wellness and good character and citizenship.”

Julie Tier, courtesy of Boys and Girls Clubs of America

Julie Tier, courtesy of Boys and Girls Clubs of America

She notes that over 11 million kids have no where to go after school and over the summer some 43 million are at risk of being unsupervised. Crime rates spike during these periods.

Some kids don’t have enough to eat. Teri Jensen, a BCGA volunteer in Salt Lake City, says her Salt Lake Rotary Club provides volunteers and a $1,000 grant to help provide food for the kids at the Lied Boys and Girls Club. She says, “The Lied Club is located in one of the most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in the city. Many BGCA Club members to not have enough to eat at home and rely on food provided at the Kid’s Café. For the past several years the SL Rotary Foundation has contribution $1000 each year towards offering hot meals and healthy snacks. “

Salt Lake Rotary Club prepared a holiday feast for 250 people at the Lied Boys and Girls Club, courtesy of Teri Jensen

Salt Lake Rotary Club prepared a holiday feast for 250 people at the Lied Boys and Girls Club, courtesy of Teri Jensen

The Microsoft effort has the potential to provide life-changing impact for millions of kids. The partnership between Microsoft and BGCA can be instructional for social entrepreneurs.

While Microsoft’s Snapp acknowledges that Microsoft Philanthropies is not a social enterprise, she says, “we share core values that social enterprises possess, as well as support many organizations and initiatives aimed at making the world a better place. Our organization was created to harness the culture and dedication that comes from Microsoft’s 30-year legacy of giving, and creating social impact in a sustainable and scalable way. Microsoft’s mission – to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more – cannot be accomplished as long as individuals and communities are excluded from access to technology and the knowledge needed to use and create with it.”

Social entrepreneurs often begin by developing an understanding a problem they wish to address. For the Microsoft-BGCA partnership, the problems revolve around the lack of computer literacy and the central nature of that skill set to our current and future economy. Snapp says, “We use technology in almost every aspect of our lives, but far too few people understand how technology works or have the knowledge to create with it. As a result, many people won’t be able to qualify for jobs in the not-so-distant future.”

Snapp adds that America’s educational system is partly to blame. “Lack of access to computer science education is a significant contributor to this problem. In the U.S., less than 25 percent of high schools offer computer science classes.”

As a result, she says, “Only 2.5 percent of U.S. high school graduates go on to study computer science in college, and of this small percentage, only 1 in 5 computer science graduates is female.”

Teer agrees. “Today’s kids and teens are chief consumers of technology and many – especially those in underserved communities – do not get the opportunity to learn computer science either in or out of school. BGCA wants to grow our young people from mere consumers of technology to creators of it.”

Snapp shares Teer’s goal of making computer science more appealing to more kids. She says she’s hoping “to break down barriers and stereotypes that are keeping large populations of youth out of computer science education — even when the opportunities are available.”

Certainly, part of Microsoft’s motivation is to provide a quality workforce. While BGCA doesn’t face the same issue, many social entrepreneurs reading this will.

Teer describes the progress of the partnership to date. “Through our partnership with Microsoft, we’re creating a computer science pathway made up of four levels that are designed to build upon one another so that kids and teens can attain coding skills. The program encourages youth to develop proficiencies in coding over time and at many levels. We’re recently finished a pilot in 25 Clubs across the country where more than 1,000 Club members learned about Hour of Code and CS Unplugged, the first two levels in the pathway.”

Mary Snapp, courtesy of Microsoft

Mary Snapp, courtesy of Microsoft

Snapp identified one of the key challenges the program faces: expert staff shortages. “One significant challenge is the fact that today, there just aren’t enough adults who are educated in computer science and trained to teach the next generation. In our partnership with BGCA, we are working closely with them to design their computer science program, as well as provide staff training.”

While this isn’t a problem social entrepreneurs are likely to face initially, it is the sort of challenge they will face as they scale their efforts.

Teer sees challenges in bringing the program to scale from her side as well. “A challenge that we face with this program (and others) is making it marketable and exciting, so that Clubs will want to utilize it and kids will see the value in the program. When creating a program we understand this challenge and we work tirelessly to demonstrate in the curriculum and through trainings how it activates that value. We’ll continue to face these challenges as we expand the program model beyond the pilot to different communities across our footprint.”

Snapp recognizes that the partnership with BGCA will not itself be sufficient to solve the problem. Other efforts will be required as well. Because most schools don’t teach computer science, most students don’t get the opportunity to gain programming skills. She says, “ To truly make computer science education universal, there needs to be policy change. We continue to work with policymakers around the world to support the policy and funding necessary to bring computer science into the public education system. In the U.S., we’re proud to support Computer Science for All, a national effort created by President Barack Obama to give all American students the opportunity to learn computer science in school.”

This is another key consideration for social entrepreneurs, Snapp says. “I think one of the biggest questions for social entrepreneurs is understanding how to make big systemic change when the tools in their toolbox might seem limited to business-based solutions. Understanding the levers that need to be pulled to make change, and then figuring out the partnerships that are necessary to pull them is really key.”

Similarly, Teer sees limitations in the program’s potential reach. “Our programs do not reach all kids and teens. We currently serve around 4 million each year. It’s important that other organizations and schools also offer these types of opportunities to fill the impending gaps in knowledge and preparedness for 21st century jobs.”

She sees potential for mission-driven innovators to play a role here. “Especially in computer science, there could be many ways that social entrepreneurs innovate this type of programming to more audiences.”

Snapp’s vision for the future includes training a generation of social entrepreneurs. “Ultimately, we want every student to have the opportunity to study computer science, which includes computational thinking, problem solving and programming skills. This will empower students to achieve more – whether their goal is to become a computer scientist or not. All fields are becoming increasingly tech-infused, and having computer science knowledge is now as fundamental as learning reading, writing and arithmetic. Tech has the potential to help solve so many of the world’s problems, and it’s important that people from all backgrounds bring their point of view to tomorrow’s innovations.”

On Thursday, August 25, 2016 at 4:00 Eastern, Snapp and Teer will join me here for a live discussion about the partnership and the lessons social entrepreneurs can take from their experiences. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Loftii Enables You To Give Without Giving

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

What if there were a way that you could give without giving? That is, what if you could make a donation to charity without actually giving any of your own money? Many people have tried to create meaningful ways to accomplish this, especially since the internet became a ubiquitous part of our lives. Loftii is one of the latest entrants into this field.

Most people give to charity. In fact, most people give a lot. On average, about $3,000 per year per household. Many people would like to give even more. Loftii has created a way for you to give without giving by taking a slice of your online purchases from the merchants and giving that to charity. You pay nothing and your charity gets real cash. It’s almost like magic.

Amy Larson, Chief Marketing Officer, explains, “Loftii is helping people who want to do more. Today’s consumer is more active in their desire to make a positive impact on the world, however, they often lack the means. Loftii enables them to support their favorite cause regardless of their current financial situation.”

Having tried it, I can attest that the process is really as easy as it sounds.

Amy says, “We enable people to select their cause, then have up to 10% of their online purchases through over 700 retailers donated to that cause. We make it simple through the use of our browser extension – just a click of a button to tell the retailer what charity to support.”

Download the browser extension from Loftii’s website here.

Amy admits that there are challenges to getting adoption. “We are a vitamin, not a Band-aid. People and charities are incredibly excited about what we are doing, but because it isn’t an immediate need, it can be a challenge to get people to take immediate action.”

Adoption, however, is key. The donations are relatively small, typically a few percentage points of a purchase. Because every shopper/donor gets to choose their own charity, the only way to amass significant donations will be to get enormous adoption–and it is the only way the company can survive in the long term.

The effort faces a key limitation. The system only works for online purchases. Amy notes, “Only about 8% of consumer spend is online and our current solution is limited to online only. This represents a significant opportunity to expand into retail stores so every dollar a consumer spends will help support their cause and make the world a better place.”

Notwithstanding the challenges and limitations, Amy is enthusiastic about the future and Loftii’s ability to help people make a difference. “We are on a mission of empowerment. Regardless of what cause people are passionate about – saving animals, cancer research, eradicating extreme poverty – we want to empower them to do more. We don’t want to tell people what to believe in, rather, we want to empower them to support the causes they care most about,” she concludes.

On Thursday, August 25, 2016 at 3:00 Eastern, Amy will join me here for a live discussion about Loftii’s efforts to make giving automatic. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Amy Larson, courtesy of Loftii

Amy Larson, courtesy of Loftii

More about Loftii:

Twitter: @beloftii

Loftii helps consumers donate to charity through their everyday online shopping without spending an extra dime. Consumers select their charity, install our browser extension, then shop with over 700 top retailers such as Target, Nordstrom, Groupon, and Marriott.

Amy’s bio:

Amy has worked in marketing and ecommerce for over 15 years. She’s been honored to receive the Internet Retailer Hot 100 four times and was named one of Utah Business Magazine’s Women to Watch in 2013. This past year, she was also given the Most Influential Women in Optical award by Vision Monday. Amy has held management positions in several industries and across several brands. Most recently, Amy was the Vice President of Marketing & Ecommerce at Luxottica Retail North America. She graduated cum laude from Utah State University. When she’s not working, she enjoys riding her baby-blue Harley and traveling with her family.

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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

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