Student Reflections: CSIC Social Impact Field Trip to WWF

On Thursday, January 21, students from Georgetown’s Division of Professional Communications visited the World Wildlife Fund for the latest in CSIC’s social impact field trip series. Students spent the afternoon learning from the marketing and communications team about the organization’s efforts to communicate on behalf of WWF, read their thoughts below:

Slacktivism, Supporters, Social Media
Miller Hollingsworth
Miller Hollingsworth, PRCC student, asks the WWF presenters a question.

Miller Hollingsworth, PRCC student, asks the WWF presenters a question.

I really loved visiting the World Wildlife Fund and getting to meet a few team members last week. I found it interesting that the organization plans to emphasize a focus on peer-to-peer marketing. I remember that one presenter said that communication has always been word of mouth; the channels have just changed over time. They made the point that social media is just another way to communicate in the same way people have for generations. I also took note of how the team said that celebrities have a large impact on whether or not people will donate to a cause, and that it is beneficial to use them to an organization’s advantage. World Wildlife Fund in particular has capitalized on the fact that Leonard DiCaprio and Jared Leto support the organization. The presenters also talked about levels of engagement with communications tools. They pointed out that a “like” or “retweet” is good, but does not actually mean much as far as commitment. People who simply like or share a post are less likely to donate to a cause than those who sign up for email marketing. I think that this was a good lesson for us as young professionals to hear because there is an obsession with social media currently and it is important for us to realize that other forms of communication are actually more effective. This is not to say that the World Wildlife Fund does not take social media seriously; in fact, the presenter in charge of social media emphasized how important it was for all Facebook posts to be brand relevant. Overall, I found this trip extremely informative, and I loved meeting all of the staff present. I would love to go to a similar conservation organization soon through CSIC.

Practitioner Profile: Maura McCarthy, Director of Digital Content, World Wildlife Fund

image2Maura McCarthy is the Director of Digital Content for the World Wildlife Fund. Since 2011, Maura has managed all aspects of, determining the voice, tone and breadth of content seen by the site’s more than one million monthly visitors. She also leads content development for WWF’s apps, including its award-wining app WWF Together, helping the organization expand its digital footprint across platforms for targeted audiences. Prior to WWF, Maura worked as Editor for and Arts and Living Editor at

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

Maura McCarthy: It wasn’t a career I planned from the start. I went to graduate school to study art history, which lead to work in museum and archive curation. From there, I went into journalism, first as museums editor at and later as an arts and features editor. As my areas of interest kept expanding, I moved to, overseeing digital content across a range of topics. After a while, I was interested in applying my skills toward a cause I believed in — and I had developed a passion for science and conservation while at Smithsonian. When the opportunity arose at WWF, I jumped.

CSIC: What is your best piece of career advice?

MM: Embrace change. Be open to seeing where opportunities lead and what interests might develop. It’s essential to be able to change course and move even in an unexpected direction. We don’t have the luxury of being complacent in anything we do- and who would want to be?

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

MM: Being a change agent within a mature organization can be challenging. But at WWF, I’m part of the team expanding our mobile storytelling and digital engagement efforts, which is opening up new audiences and new potential donors. Our first app, WWF Together, was an opportunity to take our brand onto a new platform — and seeing how audiences have embraced it has been tremendous.

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

Worry less about the position and organization and more about the skills you’re acquiring while there. It’s your core skills that will bring you along.

CSIC: What skills are necessary to working in digital content?

MM: An openness to experiment and test. Especially if resources are limited. It’s one of the great things about working in the digital space — there are terrific opportunities to try new things quickly and get immediate feedback. Some things will work and others won’t, but either way you’ve gained invaluable insight into your audience.

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

MM: Since I’m driven by content, I Iike and Digiday. Both sum up the smartest things brands are doing in the digital space. I’m also constantly inspired when I look around at what other NGOs are doing in this space.

CSIC: Is your organization hiring?

Absolutely! Check our listings at

Student Reflections: CSIC Social Impact Field Trip to The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company

On Wednesday, November 18, students from Georgetown’s Division of Professional Communications visited The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company for the latest in CSIC’s social impact field trip series. “Our field trip series brings purpose driven students directly to top organizations for a behind-the-scenes look at how social responsibility is created and communicated in the rapidly evolving social impact sector,” said John Trybus, CSIC’s deputy director. “By bringing both students and expert practitioners together, such as at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, CSIC is working to convene current and future communication and marketing leaders who are dedicated to advancing social good.” Students spent the afternoon learning from the Community Footprints team about the luxury brand’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts, read their thoughts below:


Matteo Bacchi takes notes on the presentation.

Community Footprints, An Introduction
Matteo Bacchi

“The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company’s social and environmental responsibility program is called Community Footprints. This program fits in the culture of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, as it involves its employees with volunteer efforts to support the community.  Community Footprints focuses on three types of initiatives: child well-being, hunger and poverty relief, and environmental responsibility.  There are Community Footprints’ teams in all The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company hotels in the world, and employees of each hotel focus on contributing to the local community.  Again, the main idea behind the program is “succeeding through service”, which remarks the importance of the culture of the organization. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company’s CSR program is effective and successful because it is a natural part of the organization’s DNA.”


Ruosi Wu, center, asks a question during the field trip.

First Class Service, Through and Through
Ruosi Wu

“As a hotel brand, providing first-class service is certainly the core value of Ritz-Carlton. An interesting concept I learned at the lecture was that “Happy employees = happy customers = lots of money.” By keeping this in mind, Ritz-Carltoners keep create wonderful living experience for its customers. Another perspective I found very insightful was that the culture of a brand is not something you can talk about, but something happening. I understand this opinion as value drives action, action forms culture. For example, all Ritz-Carlton employees carry a card that printed with service principles, service promise, motto, etc. It is a card that every employee can refer to whenever they get lost with their purpose. With this card, everyone working at the hotel are bond together with certain agreement, which leads them to offer standard service.”

Joie Tolosa listens attentively as The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company team presents on Community Footprints.

Joie Tolosa, right, listens attentively as The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company team presents on Community Footprints.

Local Impact
Joie Tolosa

“Ritz Carlton incorporated their CSR efforts to the brand and how they believed in giving back to the community. It was very insightful to hear their story of the wall of applause where they treat 8th graders as VIP and show them how the hotel operates. It was encouraging to see how the Ritz Carlton advocated serving with a purpose and creating a local impact as an essential part of their hotel business rather than a separate part of it.”

Adi Veera listens to a thoughtful reply by Sue Stephenson, VP of Community Footprints for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.

Aditya Veera, right, listens to a thoughtful reply by Sue Stephenson, VP of Community Footprints for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.

Credo Driven
Aditya Veera

“The daily line-up, which Sue Stephenson [VP of Community Footprints] called the ‘silver bullet of the brand’, is an incredibly powerful tool for mobilizing employees and achieving alignment with the corporate identity, character, mission and purpose. Hearing the components of the daily line-up, including the WOW stories, inspired me – I can only imagine how powerful it must be for an employee to hear WOW stories on a daily basis. It is an outstanding example of storytelling to ignite drive actual service goals vital to business outcomes.”


Sabrina Song, center, networks with members of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company’s mobile experience team.

Applying Daily Line Up Lessons in the Classroom
Sabrina Qingfei Song

“As a PRCC student who currently enrolled in cause consulting class, my team is expected to conduct weekly reflection journal. Seeming to be unnecessary at the beginning, however, now I really appreciate the opportunity to take a moment and reflect from what our team has done.  Reflection is the key for success, for it provides an opportunity to learn and grow.”

Three Keys to Successful Cause Marketing

by Ryan Charnov

According to a 2014 IEG Sponsorship Report, $1.92 Billion will be spent on cause marketing in 2015. As consumers become increasingly socially conscious, the opportunities for partnerships between corporations and charitable causes will continue to grow exponentially. Given increased competition, leaders can make their cause stand out by focusing on three key areas:

Cause Marketing by the NumbersTransparency:

Consumers demand complete transparency from cause marketing efforts. In the past, campaigns have moved away from using vague language in messaging, such as saying “up to 15% will be donated to charity”. Oftentimes, that 15% represents a maximum percentage that is only reached at exorbitant levels of sales. More often than not, the actual donation is less than half of the stated maximum percentage. This sleight of hand damages the credibility of all cause marketing efforts and will not be tolerated by consumers in the future.

cm2Transparency, however, is more than just stating what percent of sales go to charity. AmazonSmile, for example, states that they give .5% of their sales to charity, but consumers tend to not realize that they have to spend $200 to raise just one dollar. Furthermore, consumers want to know how that dollar will be used by the charitable organization. Even the most fiscally responsible charities struggle to get the most out of your donation dollar. Four star charities, representing the top 1% of charities reviewed by Charity Navigator, use at least 75% of donated funds on programs. Would consumers feel differently about AmazonSmile if they knew that spending $200 would only lead to an extra 75 cents being spent on programs?

If charities want their cause marketing campaign to stand out, they need to convince consumers that every dollar of donations will have more than a dollar of impact on the community. A great example of this is The Houston Food Bank. In addition to educating consumers through a marketing video, The Houston Food Bank uses specific language such as “$20 provides 60 nutritious meals” and “$120 feeds a family of 4 for 1 month”.  As cause marketing continues to grow, consumers are going to demand a level of transparency that transcends current practices and educates consumers on how their actions will make a significant impact on the community.

Millennial Engagement:

Recently, a study by the MSLGROUP Future of Business Citizenship found that 69% of global millennials want businesses to make it easier for consumers to get involved in societal issues. Because millennials do not typically have the disposable income of older generations, they are generally an afterthought when it comes to serious fundraising campaigns. As innovators, it is our duty to create innovative methods for individuals of every generation to give back to the community. Future campaigns will take a multi-faceted approach to engagement, making it easier to give back through actions. My startup, Giftfluence, allows millennials to give back by through their everyday habits, such as shopping at Groupon.

cm3In addition to Giftfluence, there are many organizations that are actively working to make it easier to give back to charity. Some of my personal favorites are Charity Miles and Givesurance, which transform simple actions such as running or renewing your insurance into meaningful contributions to charity. Just one person can raise hundreds of dollars for charity by training through Charity Miles. While millennials may not have the means to donate hundreds of dollars directly, creative organizations will continue to find innovative methods for millennials to give back.

Centralized Platform:

Charities often run multiple cause marketing campaigns per year. Whether it’s asking supporters to eat at certain restaurants or directing them to shop at a specific retailer, charities are constantly tapping their network for support. As there become more methods of giving back, charities must determine which opportunities provide the greatest positive return on their effort. Can charities really justify using their limited resources promoting campaigns that only raise a few dollars?

To solve this problem, look for innovators to create a centralized platform that combines multiple methods of engagement to raise significant amounts money. A centralized platform will allow charities to simplify their marketing message and promote a singular campaign. This not only makes it easier for individuals to support charities, but also allows leaders of charities to concentrate on running their programs rather than on marketing campaigns. My goal in founding Giftfluence is to work with leaders in the space to fill this void and to help redefine the future of cause marketing.

Concerts, Millennial Activism and Beyoncé-sized Results

by Randi Berkovsky

According to research from Do, more than 1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty — less than $1.25 a day. This is more than the maximum capacity of 19,452 New England Patriots football stadiums.

GlobalCitizen_StageOn September 26, Global Citizen hosted its 2015 festival in New York City. The purpose: to end this global poverty and incite change around the world while celebrating the United Nations’ new 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. There were more than 60,000 people in attendance to see a variety of artists and celebrities including Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, Pearl Jam, Malala Yousafzai, Bill and Melinda Gates and Stephen Colbert.

But, what does this mean for poverty?

On Sept. 24, The Nation published an article titled, ‘You Can’t Fight Poverty With a Concert,’ which was directly scrutinizing this movement with a claim that it had no lasting effects for the cause.

I completely disagree.

This festival brings two key takeaways to the forefront about trends in the social impact space and highlights just how critical an event like this can be for social activism and giving.

You can fight poverty with a concert. Maybe not today, but we can change the world in the span of the 15-year goal.

  • Millennials are not the biggest donor pool, but they will be.

Millennials are often criticized for being the largest generation in history but not the biggest generation of social donors. The truth is – it doesn’t matter. Millennials are now finding ways to be the strongest voices for social change. And these voices will soon turn into dollars as millennials move out of high school and post-graduate times where spending budgets are few and far between.

Concerts like the Global Citizen Festival encourage millennials to use their voices, the only thing they really have to give at this point in their life. This voice leads to awareness in others and creates a stir in leaders. A great example is Malala Yousafzai. She is only 18 years old and the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Her voice has activated millions for the global right to education and has raised funds for a number of programs all by first using her voice and her amazing story of survival.

Social good concerts trigger deep emotions and create communities of people who can break through the most concrete political agendas. I guarantee that in a couple years, young people will still remember how the concert made them feel and what the organization and celebrities represented. Those feelings will convert to dollars, and the dollars fight poverty.


  • People love big events and celebrities, and that is OK.

Just because someone went to the Global Citizen Festival to see Beyoncé, does not make them any less of a global citizen. This is because the message and getting 60,000 attendees to convert on the message is what is most important. I know several people who entered the Global Citizen drawing to win free tickets to the concert. This did not come without something in return. Hopeful attendees signed petitions, tweeted at global officials and donated to the cause. Why would people put in all this effort if they didn’t really care about the cause at all? No one is going to put their name on something they could care less about. In 2014, Global Citizen followers, in support of organization partners, achieved commitments to affect 341.5 million of the world’s poor by 2020. When looking at a number like that, it doesn’t matter why someone went to the concert, it matters what they left with.


The article’s author poses with the Global Citizen stage in the background.

People love celebrities, and they love flashy events. As the market becomes more and more crowded with organizations vying for advocates and dollars, it is important to remember that if you have a strong organization and a strong message, then the only hurdle is getting people to show up. Concerts do more than just fulfill a personal dream of seeing Beyoncé shake it live – they get people in the door and expose them to the message they needed to hear. This message sparks emotion, leading to curiosity and ultimately, igniting activism, advocacy or giving.

These all help fight poverty