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I’ve long been a believer that the corporate sector has the potential to play a key—indeed, essential—role in addressing complex social problems. As creators of new products and markets, companies play a vital role in our nation’s success, creating jobs and ensuring our competitiveness. But the corporate role doesn’t stop there. Companies also play a critical role in the development of communities, and in tackling social challenges.
That’s why it is important for us to celebrate International Corporate Philanthropy Day today. We should reflect on the great contributions businesses have already made—and also acknowledge the potential that remains for the corporate sector to truly do well by doing good.
As the CEO of a family foundation, people are sometimes surprised to learn how much of my focus and energy is centered on working with the private sector. However, I have seen first-hand the benefits of meaningful cross-sector collaboration through initiatives we’ve been involved in, such as the U.S.-Palestinian Partnership, and believe that this type of engagement across sectors can produce powerful solutions for society’s most pressing social issues.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a shift in corporate philanthropy—companies are more willing to experiment with new types of philanthropic programs that democractize decision making and involve consumers, from the American Express Members Project to the Pepsi Refresh Project. That’s great to see—but what is even more encouraging is to see how more companies are weaving social impact into their actual businesses. Paul Newman, a founder of the Committee on Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP), was a real pioneer in the area of social enterprise. When CECP was founded a decade ago, leveraging products, services and people to make an impact on communities and social challenges was somewhat of a novelty. I applaud CECP for celebrating corporate philanthropy, and encouraging companies to think more broadly and strategically about ways they can have positive impact.
We too are thinking about the intersection of business and philanthropy in a new way with the Case Foundation’s support of the Startup America Partnership. Celebrating and advancing the entrepreneurial spirit that has made America great is critical as we look to develop stronger communities. The innovative, high-growth companies are the job creators—indeed, Kauffman Foundation research indicates that start-ups have created 40 million jobs over the past 25 years, and account for ALL of the net new jobs in our nation. The faster they grow, the more jobs they create, the more taxes they pay to support our communities—and the more impact they can have, through their businesses, and their philanthropic efforts. That’s why the Case Foundation has made celebrating and accelerating entrepreneurship more of a priority.
Corporations are doing a lot already, but there is one more way they can contribute. The entrepreneurs leading high-growth companies could benefit greatly from mentorship, and resources in specific areas such as sales, marketing and technology. Perhaps the pro bono efforts many companies now have to help non-profits can be expanded to also help these up-and-coming businesses. Their success will help create more jobs, and ensure that our nation remains the beacon for innovation in the world. And, as these companies break through, and these next-generation entrepreneurs rise to prominence, they can use their companies as platforms to help others.
So as we celebrate International Corporate Philanthropy Day, let’s broaden our view on how companies can help. While direct philanthropic support is of course important (indeed, now more than ever), companies can do far more than write checks. Let’s celebrate the innovative products and services they create—and in particular celebrate the work of entrepreneurs willing to take great risks. They will be the next generation of business leaders, and also the next generation of philanthropists. But perhaps their most lasting contribution will be teaching all of us how to bring a more integrated view to business and philanthropy, breaking down the walls between the business generating profit and the philanthropic arm making donations—and strengthening our communities and our nation along the way.