Practitioner Profile: Kyle LeBlanc, Director of Corporate Partnerships & Cause Marketing, National Parks Conservation Association

 

0a1249cKyle LeBlanc is a seasoned fundraising professional specializing in the strategy, design, and execution of high-impact and fully integrated corporate partnerships for diverse industries including: retail, consumer packaged goods, restaurants, foodservice, media, and consulting. She’s currently bringing her passion for corporate social responsibility to the National Parks Conservation Association as Director of Corporate Partnerships and Cause Marketing. By night, Kyle is Founder and Chief Moxie Officer at Resumoxie. Connect with Kyle on LinkedIn.

Center for Social Impact Communication: Describe your career path and your current position.

Kyle LeBlanc: I always wanted to be in nonprofit, and my first job out of college was in communications at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation in Chicago. I moved to DC a few years later for a fundraising role at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, where I worked in donor relations, major gifts, and planned giving. The family foundation component there led me to my next position at No Kid Hungry in corporate foundations, which is where I fell in love with corporate partnerships and cause marketing – eventually focusing 100% of my time in that capacity. After a few years, the opportunity arose to assume a more senior role at the National Parks Conservation Association as the Director of Corporate Partnerships and Cause Marketing. I’m about 90 days in, happily learning about a terrific cause and helping a talented staff launch a best-in-class program.

CSIC: What is your best piece of career advice?

KL: Get on LinkedIn and use it! Whether you’re looking for connections to corporate funders or searching for a new job, it’s your best friend. LinkedIn is the industry standard for making and growing business connections, and other fundraisers or job applicants are using it strategically. (I have a side business called Resumoxie that’s dedicated to resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles – the LinkedIn package is especially popular because people realize the value of a strong LinkedIn profile and presence.)

CSIC: What career accomplishment are you most proud of and why?

KL: I’m especially proud of a corporate collaboration I led in a past role, which produced research that revolutionized the way the organization spoke about a key program priority. It made a huge media splash upon release – a victory for the organization and the corporate partner… even the First Lady cited it! The partnership’s behind-the-scenes comradery was also fantastic. Lines blurred and (in the best way) we forgot who was working for who and really melded together as a team.

This partnership is my personal gold standard because it proves that corporate support can and should culminate in a true win-win.

CSIC: What can someone do early in his/her social impact career to secure a position similar to yours? 

KL: Corporate partnerships and cause marketing constitute a growing field in nonprofit, so positions are definitely out there. But if you’re early in your career and not in one of those jobs yet, be aware of how your current expertise pertains to the field so you can best position your qualifications when the time is right. For example, many fundraising positions involve special events, which are often anchored in corporate sponsorships with benefits delivery. Similarly, a major gifts fundraiser likely deals with donors who are business leaders and speaks their high-level, impact-driven language. Corporate foundations work is especially relevant because the most integrated partnerships have a mission component. Business and/or agency communications and marketing backgrounds are also great, simply because that’s who you’ll be working with when you’re on a corporate partnerships and cause marketing team!

CSIC: What skills are necessary to work in corporate partnerships and/or cause marketing? 

KL: People skills are an obvious must-have. More importantly, however, you need to understand corporate industry landscapes, target markets, consumer bases, and business objectives. Keep in mind that all those things are constantly evolving, as are the ways an organization’s assets can be authentically leveraged to create a win-win alliance.

Creativity is also a huge help, as is keeping pace with the changing legal practices that govern the way cause marketing promotions are communicated and reported.

CSIC: What is your go to source to learn about cause communication trends? 

KL: Lots of places – various LinkedIn influencers who share my love of CSR, the Cause Marketing Forum, marketing and advertising industry blogs, and my personal network.

CSIC: Is your organization hiring? 

KL: Yes! Check out the National Parks Conservation Association’s open positions!

Attracting (and Keeping) Sponsors: It’s All About Engagement

by Sara Dal Lago

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

streetsenseThis is what Street Sense does by providing economic opportunities to the homeless community in Washington, D.C.

As part of the Strategic Event Management class in Georgetown University’s master of professional studies in Public Relations and Corporate Communication, I was involved, along with six other students, in developing a sponsorship-building plan for Street Sense’s annual Gala. Street Sense is a nonprofit organization, initially born as a newspaper, that gives a voice to the homeless in Washington, D.C., and it is repositioning itself as full-channel media organization. The Street Sense 2015 Fall Gala, “Home Is Where the HeART Is,” represents for the organization an opportunity to showcase its new media initiatives, and prove to the public (and sponsors) how its artists can achieve economic stability while using their natural gifts and talents.

ss2As most of my team, I truly cared about the issue of homelessness, and I had a chance to give back to the community. Street Sense fights a problem that affects the entire D.C. community, where all of us live, and it was in need of help to reach sponsors for their annual Gala, so this was a win-win opportunity for all of us.

According to an article by NPR, the District of Columbia ranks second in the U.S. for biggest percentage of discretionary income given to charity by typical households. However, Street Sense is located in a crowded market, as Washington D.C. is the leading hub for nonprofits. However, this positive trend makes it even harder for nonprofits to stand out from the crowd and attract donors and sponsors. According to the Nonprofit Finance Fund, in fact, 56 percent of America’s nonprofits could not meet their demands in 2013.

Street Sense wanted also to reach millennials as target audience at its annual Gala. According to an article by Nonprofit Hub, millennials care about issues, not organizations, and they want to see the direct impact of their efforts.

Street Sense has what it takes to reach sponsors and engage millennials: an inspiring mission and powerful storytellers. Therefore, we came up with tailored strategies and a personalized messaging platform for corporate sponsors and millennials. The word “engagement” resonates throughout our plan.

We had to be creative using limited resources to minimize the budget and external costs, which was sometimes a serious challenge. We also had to work on a tight schedule, having only four weeks to develop the plan, but we discovered how passion can make up for shortcomings. Working an average of five to ten hours a week on the project, we were able to gather as many strategies, creative materials and templates as possible, in order to make these plans actionable and, more importantly, sustainable.

Overall, we learned a lot from this project. We learned that there are a lot of nonprofits in the D.C. area looking for sponsors. There are also a lot of sponsors willing to support those organizations, but they need to prove that they are worth their investment with cohesive strategies, creative materials, digital engagement and targeted messaging. To distinguish themselves from the crowd, they need to emphasize the unique experiences their organization has to offer. 

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

This is what we, Claire Bennet, Linda Barnhart, Derika Crowley, Karina Valverde, Candace Kent, LaWanda White and I aimed to do by developing this sponsorship-building plan for Street Sense.

Thank you to all my awesome teammates for insights and feedback!

ss3

 

9 Ways to Use Social Media for Social Good

by Rochelle Ceira

sm4sgIf you’re someone who’s looking forward to bringing a positive change in the community, you’ve probably tried tons of ways to spread the word about your efforts. This could have been done through brand ambassadors, print media, or other promotional content. It can’t be denied that the most powerful source used to “spread the word” is the one welfare organizations thrive on to do their charity work. Today, our task to find this influential source is cut down because we have exactly what is needed to connect to a large audience—the social media.

How can we effectively use the social media for good? That is a brilliant question we are about to answer. It’s not a cinch to create a post that goes viral and thereby creates a movement. Very often, the most informative and useful posts get buried in an avalanche of so many other “news” items on people’s feeds. Even if it does make an impact, you’ll have to keep preserving and upholding the message before it starts to slip out of the public’s awareness and get replaced with another hot new topic.

Here are nine effective ways you can use social media for social good:

  1. To Network with Like organizations: One of the best ways to obtain useful information about a concern is by having a little chitchat with other contacts on the same page. Now, in a normal networking event, you are going to do the same by fishing through the crowd and finding like-minded people willing to give their two cents on a subject. On the social media, however, much of the effort to find and fish through the crowd is reduced. Regardless of which social channel you are using, you can join community groups/ like organizations, follow a relevant hashtag, or add to your list friends and followers that belong to similar organizations. Unlike traditional business, these organizations won’t be your competitors. They will be philanthropic organizations seeking to bring good to the community.
  2. To Connect With Donors: In a traditional non-profit business, where would you look for donors? Set up a stall with a jar of cash? Maybe go door to door and ring bells? Perhaps, ask UK dissertation online services to write about your cause? With the help of social media accounts, you won’t have to go through all that trouble and awkwardness. By creating a sound and solid social presence you will have access to a large community, possibly even an international one. Social media won’t require you to knock on anyone’s door. You will simply share what you have to say or show and the interested bunch of people will show up on their own. No awkwardness, no force needed, and no spammy emails.
  3. To Share the Facts and Figures: Nothing speaks credibility the way research and statistics do. People love getting to know facts and statistics, especially those they were previously unaware of. Social causes always have a range of statistics, research, and knowledge to share to enlighten an audience. The community is most often unacquainted with these facts and figures. Come up with infographs, charts, and creative images that will make effective posts to engage the community as well as enlighten them about bases of your cause.
  4. To Share Stories: A great welfare organization always has great stories to share. These could be narratives of people you’ve helped, videos of tours and experiences, heart-wrenching pictures of those who need help, and other content meant to inspire. Don’t let your success stories go wasted either. Let your audience know how you have been making a difference. If you’re following a cause that is meant to raise awareness, telling stories is one of the best ways to do this.
  5. To Promote and Event: Event promotions are best done on social media these days. Let your fans and followers, as well as the public, know what your organization is arranging for the social cause. With the help of social media, such as Facebook, you can also invite a large number of people and ask them whether they are “going” or “not going” to the event. This will also allow you to judge the number of guests you should be having.
  6. To Get Your Call to Action Out There: The more the displays of your call to action, the better. Social media gives you that advantage. You can put up your call to action anywhere and repeatedly free of cost. This also makes it easier for your potential donors to find a “link” to the right page where they can donate or find information on how to do so.
  7. To Gratify to Your Community: After a charitable donor has submitted his payment, what must you do? Thank him, of course! You can use social media to thank your donor personally with a customized message.
  8. To Celebrate the Voice of the Customer: You don’t always have to be the one to generate content. Sometimes, the voice of a customer speaks even louder than that of the seller. In your case, the customer could be a donor, an internee, or anyone who helped you further your cause. Let the contributors share their experiences with a great story to tell. You can even extend this strategy by sharing posts of other individuals and organizations that share your values and interests. Not all the content you create has to be your own. Why not promote something another crafted for the same purpose as yours?
  9. To Gather Feedback: Social media accounts have tons of raw data that can be effectively transformed into “feedback” and analytics. Apart from being able to generate useful figures, you can also use your social media accounts to conduct survey and polls. Social media provides us with a simple and speedy platform for our market research. This is essential to the success of any cause, business, or initiative where an audience or customer base plays a major role.

Business’ Corporate Social Responsibility in Seven Steps

by Wanda Barquin

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is still widely misunderstood. I will discuss what CSR is and, most importantly, what it is not. Then, I will elaborate on how to evaluate environmentally-sound behaviors. Lastly, I will suggest seven steps to develop a CSR strategy.

CSR is meant to benefit your business. It aims to improve your corporate image. It is a strategic way to communicate publicly what you do well in order to boost your brand reputation.

CSR is not:

1) Corporate philanthropy. It does fulfill YOUR altruistic needs.

2) Charity. It is not YOUR religious-type donation.

3) A tax-alleviating scheme. It does not help YOUR tax deductions.

4) An ethical dilemma. It is not about YOUR choosing to maximize profits ethically or YOUR shortcut to Heaven!

Before developing your CSR strategy, review all of your business processes. Are you listening to your internal and external clients? Are there any inherent potential negative social or environmental consequences to the way you are doing business now? How is your product being produced or business proposition being executed? What does it take to carry out your investment? Are your employees safe and are you preserving a safe environment? Have you reviewed your commodity supply chains?

Identify where your processes reflect your company’s values such as solidarity, environment consciousness, or contribution to humanity. Define your values. Spell out your company’s mission. Your vision will be reflected in your brand. Remember that we live in an interconnected society and that you want to let your customers know the good you are doing.

Promote your product or service while adapting to the needs of your audience, as needed. Take continued stock of practices that might affect your company’s operations adversely, maximize the efficiency and productivity of your resources, eliminate waste and emissions, mitigate damages and deficiencies, put in place SOPs to ensure clarity and compliance. It won’t matter how unique, flawless, different, incredible, better or state-of-the-art your offering might be if you mistreat your employees, harm the planet, or hire children to achieve your goals. Those wouldn’t be attractive selling attributes for any company!

Let your business partners, consumers, stakeholders (all your internal and external clients) know of your most admirable business practices. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has indicated that no international standard for corporate social reporting has been established. The OECD suggests to make consumers aware of your environmentally-conscious processes, eco-label programs (e.g., Blue Angel and Nordic Swan), corporate environmental reports (e.g., “social auditing”), general corporate mission or strategy to demonstrate your openness and environmental stewardship (e.g., Body Shop International, Ben & Jerry).**

Create positive brand awareness and drive revenue generation by aligning your CSR and marketing plans. If you are conscientious, or go the extra mile for your clients and our environment (it is also yours, by the way), exalt your good deeds. Remember, in the final analysis, CSR is a strategy to reinforce brand loyalty and evoke positive human values, underscore the benefit to the community we all live in. Multiply positive word-of-mouth by following these seven steps:

  1. Integrate your CSR and marketing strategy.
  2. Identify a LOCAL bona fide partner* to execute your strategy.
  3. Create awareness within your organization.
  4. Enthuse your external stakeholders, be transparent.
  5. Create public support for your organization.
  6. Work with the news media (public and private broadcasters) to support your efforts.
  7. Get public coverage from your partner(s) through traditional and non-traditional channels.

It behooves you to incorporate CSR to your marketing plan from the onset. It makes you look better. Marketing plays a crucial role to communicate your stewardship and achievements. Align both strategies. Make sure that you launch your product, investment or service along with your CSR project. CSR is a function of marketing!

In short, do good whenever possible. Tell me, what would you like your tombstone to say? If you tell me your epithet, I will tell you mine…write back to me and let me know! Bye for now. Wanda

* I would like to recommend two sound, potential bona fide associates overseas, depending on your needs. The Catholic Church runs the oldest, largest and most efficient non-governmental organization in the world called “Caritas.” The local American Chambers of Commerce are excellent points of contact for U.S. firms too. I will delve into what they do in more detail in future articles.

** OECD Experts Workshop on Information and Consumer-Decision Making for Environmental Consumption http://www.oecd.org/greengrowth/consumption-innovation/1895757.pdf

Suggested reading: Corporate Social Responsibility Assessments by Southern Pulse.

Images courtesy of corporatesocialmarketing.wordpress.com, Boing Boing, and iPerceptive.com.

 

Why Companies Need CSR as Much as Causes Need Companies

by Kim Thomson

It’s no secret why a non-profit or cause based organization might want to partner with a major company or corporation. Many caused based organizations (for the sake of this article let’s refer to them as non-profits) receive help in the form of monetary donation or enlist the help of corporate employees for an event or day to “give back”. The upside for the non-profit is clear. But why should a for-profit corporation engage in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs?

Data has shown that participating in CSR and community based giving programs is actually a profitable strategy. About 53% of consumers report that they would pay a 10% price increase on the same product if it came from a socially responsible company rather than one with no known affiliation to a cause.[1] It’s no wonder advertisers have turned toward emotionally evocative ads this year (think Super Bowl), and I don’t just mean tear jerkers. I think we’d all (the creators included) rather forget the Nationwide Insurance commercial with the dead child discussing what he won’t do. But think about the ones that made you laugh, or what always gets me- the commercials with a soldier returning home and seeing his family. It makes you feel good, so you’re likely to remember it right?

CSR isn’t that different, it conveys your company’s compassionate side because of its participation. Such participation also makes your employees feel good, both about where they work (because they’re part of one of the ‘good companies’) and about their personal participation. So if CSR makes you look good to the consumer, they’re more likely to buy from you and even willing to pay more for your goods and services. On top of that you’ll be doing good in your community and engaging your employees. So what’s the downside?

It’s hard to see the downside given the facts. If your company is not already profitable maybe it’s not time to pay your employees for volunteer efforts or invest in a partnership with a non-profit. You still have to pay your employees and make your investors and stakeholders happy. But CSR can also increase brand awareness, by providing you with more visibility within your community.

Having a tough time finding new employees? CSR could have a positive impact on your employer brand. With 70% of millennials identifying themselves as a social activist[2] making time for activities that give back could be hugely attractive to a population growing in importance in today’s workforce.

While profitability and positioning are great reasons to engage in cause based partnerships and CSR, at the heart of every company’s strategy there should be a genuine desire to contribute to society. These relationships should never be entered into for the sake of elevating your own profits. It should, instead be a real part of your corporate identity. It’s not about positioning yourself as a good company but actually being a company with a true desire to bring positive change into the world. If that’s a part of your company’s mission and they aren’t already engaging in CSR, maybe now is the time to start.

[1] Clendaniel, Morgan. “The Brands That Survive Will Be The Brands That Make Life Better.” Co.Exist. November 07, 2011. Accessed June 03, 2015. http://www.fastcoexist.com/1678768/the-brands-that-survive-will-be-the-brands-that-make-life-better.

[2] Swinand, Andrew. “Corporate Social Responsibility Is Millennials’ New Religion.” Crain’s Chicago Business. March 25, 2014. Accessed May 02, 2015. http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20140325/OPINION/140329895/corporate-social-responsibility-is-millennials-new-religion.