This is a guest post from Simon Taylor, senior vice president and general manager of Comtrade
Giving back to those less fortunate is an important mandate for for-profit organizations. In 2014, corporations donated nearly $18 billion to nonprofit organizations in the U.S., an infusion of money that helped support important initiatives. Not only do corporate donations and volunteerism result in a more vibrant nonprofit sector, but companies with well-aligned charitable partnerships often see a stronger workplace culture characterized by engaged employees and stakeholders.
Choosing a nonprofit partner that is a good fit for an organization can be challenging, especially with more than 1.5 million choices in the U.S. alone. Comtrade, a global software engineering company based in Central Europe and specializing in monitoring, backup and software integration, approached the idea of a nonprofit partnership in a deliberate and methodical fashion. Although Comtrade has partnered with many charities in Europe, the organization wanted to find an American organization that aligned with Comtrade’s values, ideals and goals when it decided to make a bolder move into the U.S. market.
(L – R) Simon Taylor, senior vice president and general manager, Comtrade System Software & Tools, Mark Culliton, CEO, College Bound Dorchester, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Sean Curran, board chairman, College Bound Dorchester
The nonprofit College Bound Dorchester – a scrappy, innovative organization that counteracts gang violence to improve some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Boston – seemed like the right fit, but the management team at Comtrade wanted to be sure. Before partnering, management asked three key questions:
- Would the partnership benefit both parties?
In addition to its U.S. focus, Comtrade wanted a partner that would give its employees a mission to get excited about and rally behind. The workforce is the best advocate, and it was hugely important to the management team that the staff could see the link between the two organizations, get involved and see the impact the company was making. Many companies write checks, but fail to educate the team about the philanthropic mission, making it difficult to generate enthusiasm and garner internal goodwill. Comtrade’s partnership with College Bound sends a message to its employees, and therefore builds a stronger company.
- How does the charitable partner’s mission and goals align with our own?
College Bound’s mission is to engage gang members and encourage them to attend community college, and in so doing, move active gang influencers off the streets and into positive roles. Ultimately, by breaking apart gangs and reducing their effectiveness, the neighborhood improves. During the vetting process, Mark Culliton, CEO of College Bound, visited the Comtrade offices in Croatia to educate the company stakeholders about his organization. He spoke about adapting to change and dealing with challenges in extreme environments, a message that resonated with the leadership team. Similarly, Comtrade solves some of the most challenging situations in enterprise IT, and it does so by proactively addressing major potential problems within a complex IT environment.
- Can we make a real difference with this organization?
Many companies select big name, recognizable charities because it builds instant credibility, but they miss out on the opportunity to work with a smaller organization where they can make a definitive impact as the partner scales. College Bound regularly provides its partner with impact metrics on a hyper-local level that are an accurate representation of Comtrade’s investment at work. Seeing exactly where corporate dollars are going and how they are making a difference empowers both organizations and employees alike.
About Simon Taylor:
Simon Taylor is senior vice president and general manager of System Software & Tools at Comtrade, where he is responsible for the overall vision, strategy and execution of products, the product development services business and the technology roadmap.