Nonprofits Must Leverage Corporate Need for Employee Engagement

Businesses are beating prior forecasts and over half in the Standard & Poor 500 have registered at least a 6.7% growth, says a recent article in USA Today. How does this impact nonprofits?

This fast pace of growth is creating greater nonprofit-business partnerships. In at least two nonprofit business forums I attended recently, community relations managers have courted nonprofits to offer greater engagement opportunities for their employees.

The days of checkbook philanthropy are over. Employees want to get plugged in with charities that matter, that really do good. Human resources divisions in companies are also seeking greater community engagement programs for employees.

According to Renee Levin, Community Engagement Manager at Intel Corporation, “a logo on the wall is not what’s needed. We like to have our employees present.” Levin urged nonprofits to help her figure out how she could effectively log the hours of Intel employees volunteering at different charities. This shows a tactical shift in corporations wanting to see greater community engagement among their employees. Intel gives $10 per hour to the charity where the employee volunteers but not many employees are logging their hours.

At Arizona Public Services (APS), employee volunteerism takes center stage in their relationship with non-profits. With 30% of their staff eligible for retirement, community relations is working with HR to align their priorities so that they can give new opportunities for non-profits for board placement. According to Julie Coleman, Corporate Giving & APS Foundation Leader, non-profits should look at “many touch points,” when they discuss funding opportunities with businesses.

At Petsmart Charities, Joy Chesbrough, Director of Philanthropy wants to work with nonprofits that “understand the business goals of an organization.” Their focus is now on sustainability, diversity and inclusion and pet-parent bonding.

What you see is NOT what you get in Kerala

I was on vacation in India recently and a huge windfall, $22 billion at face value came to my home-town, Trivandrum in Kerala State. Wealth in gold, silver and rare ornaments were unearthed from the ancient Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple. Most of the wealth was donated by the rulers of the erstwhile Travancore kingdom but nobody estimated that this will make us rich and  can in fact even wipe out the entire national debt of Greece.

More intriguing were the ideas being proposed about how to make use of the money- create a Museum, invest in infrastructure and finally, an American professor’s suggestion to build a world-class University, the Sree Padmanabha Swamy University. I admire Prof. Philip G. Altbach for his sincerity and his wish that Western philanthropic notions could work well in Kerala, the most literate of all places on earth. Here are a few reasons why Kerala does not need an additional University to spearhead information technology or biotech:

  • Kerala has a literate and educated population but does not have the skills to manage philanthropy well. The state has a culture of receiving donations from kindergarten to Ph.D and even for teaching positions but little is given. The state is so politically polarised that even the Lord will be startled to see this idea come to fruition.
  • None of the state-owned Universities are functioning well. The one I studied in had a Vice Chancellor from America who was literally kept under house arrest by agitating students. There are very few systems that can escape the greed of politicians in the state.
  • There are 125 engineering colleges in Kerala selling IT  degrees and besides the government-run colleges most are managed by shrewd entrepreneurs of all religions and backgrounds. There are engineering colleges run by religious minority institutions, bootleggers, Christian priests and even owners of Ayurvedic businesses. A good number of these colleges are driven by profit motive and God knows what talent is being produced from these institutions. Do we need a truly world-class University rubbing shoulders with these profit-driven institutions?
  • Education is a commodity in Kerala and is directly linked to the state’s eternal dowry market and gold sales. Marriage in Kerala is pegged to the value of gold and that’s truly unique to the state.
  • Kerala is a culture in chaos where highly skilled, erudite folks compete against each other for space. The traffic is testimony to this and people behave in a similar fashion. I don’t think there is any need for further education for Keralites. They are all over-achievers trying to find their space in chaos.