Question: In these challenging economic times, how can companies and non-profits best leverage their restricted resources to support and empower local communities?
Points of Light Institute
We have the opportunity to use this moment of challenge to generate creative, new approaches that empower citizens to actively participate in community problem solving. Let’s try new things, experiment, and push our boundaries. We need change-makers and leaders, institutions and individuals, to create a transformational threshold of possibility. Here are some ideas:
• Corporations should think holistically about their unique assets, including human capital, and ensure they are effectively deploying their financial assets and the unique skills and talents of their employees.
• Let’s build tracking of business-related results into our philanthropic and service investments. What if we measured the degree to which service leadership by employees correlated to performance and retention and measured whether recruitment could be enhanced by using volunteer transcripts as one way of screening potential employees? Can we set new standards of philanthropy based on the success of peer corporations and create a universally recognized Philanthropic Index?
• Nonprofits, in turn, must better determine how to utilize the skills of their volunteers and build in human capital as key to mission fulfillment. They should determine how to best apply business skills and assets to their work - exploring strategies of consolidation for scale and impact and squeezing out cost efficiencies through more sophisticated business practices around procurement, technology and finance.
Human talent is, uniquely, a renewable resource, and in these times of challenge, both nonprofits and corporations must learn to better deploy this reservoir in order to meet the enormous challenges and opportunities before us.
Majora Carter Group LLC
Often, the best art, innovation, and entrepreneurs evolve from scarcity - people have to be creative with their resources. Invariably the best resources are the people.
As I've moved from non-profit to consulting and investment strategies, we seek companies as clients because we know the shortcomings of conventional giving. Think about it - philanthropic spending is at unprecedented levels in history, and yet income disparities, educational outcomes, public health, environmental justice, and poverty are getting worse despite hitherto 'unrestricted' resources.
Charity supports disparity. Do we want more dependent or independent people? Investment and economic engagement strategies can distribute the range of experiences people need to succeed in times of plenty or scarcity.
For instance, a company needing to advertise its product, and a community that needs tree guards and benches, can result in a billboard service on the one hand, and some street 'amenities' on the other. Or, they could engage a local for or not-for-profit corporation to build these things with sponsoring advertising built into the infrastructure. This will satisfy needs on multiple levels, and open people up to new business opportunities on the ground. They'll see value in the same streets they have dreamed of escaping.
The goal is to help people know they don't have to move out of their neighborhood to live in a better one, and a neighborhood dependent on charity will always be a place to leave, whereas a place that is attracting positive investment and business activity will be something to be proud of.
Michael R. Bloomberg
Mayor of New York
In New York City, our answer is as simple as it is powerful: Service. We recently introduced NYC Service, a broad-based initiative that we hope will make our city the easiest place in the world to volunteer, while also helping residents direct their efforts to areas where they can make the greatest impact. We’ve focused NYC Service on six of our high-need areas: strengthening our communities, helping our neighbors, protecting the environment, supporting education, promoting public health, and bolstering emergency preparedness.
Companies also have a real opportunity to make a difference by tapping into the goodwill and talent of their own workforce, and that starts by asking many of the same questions that city governments and non-profits are asking: What are the most pressing needs in our community? How can we help alleviate them with the particular human resources at our disposal? And how can we effectively measure our impact?
NYC Service reflects our Administration’s determination to forge innovative solutions to complex problems. But, of course, a solution is a solution only if it works. That’s why we’re committed to measuring results and making adjustments on the basis of the evidence we gather—just as any good business would do. Any company that asks its employees to donate their time has to ensure that the effort is repaid with success, and New York City residents who give their time deserve no less.