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Forbes.com Blog: Amway, GM and Dollar General Among Corporations Making 'Good' A Goal

If you look for examples of corporations doing good in the world—as I have—you won’t want for examples. Once you open your eyes to it you see it everywhere.

Amway, the world’s largest network marketing company, provides an example. Todd Woodward, Vice President of Corporate and Integrated Communications there, explained, “We encourage and help Amway people — distributors and employees — to get involved in their local communities and to mobilize others to do good. One of the examples of how we do it is the AMWAY ONE BY ONE® Campaign for Children. Launched as a corporate program in 2003, Amway One by One has evolved into a grassroots movement driven largely by distributors working in their local communities on programs they are passionate about. Currently, Amway not only partners with distributors on their local child focused programs but also fully supports them by offering assistance, providing funding and matching grants.”

Woodward continued, with obvious pride, “Disaster relief is another example of how Amway is able to mobilize its people and where Amway people are often the first to respond. Take for example the recent Sichuan earthquake in China: Amway and its people donated 5 million RMB ($800,000 USD) through the Amway Charity Foundation. Last year, Amway people made generous monetary and product donations to the American Red Cross in response to Hurricane Sandy that affected the east coast of the U.S. In 2010, we collected medical supplies and provided humanitarian aid to the victims of [the] Haiti earthquake. The examples of how Amway people get involved are countless.”

Woodward also noted the difference their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs make in recruiting talent, both among distributors and employees, “Many of our distributors have told us that our CSR efforts are the key motivator in building their Amway businesses. CSR also provides a meaningful differentiation for prospective employees and is a key factor in attracting talented employees. We have heard from a number of recent hires that they researched our giving efforts before deciding to join Amway.”

For some companies, there is nothing new about giving. Vivian Pickard, President, General Motors Foundation and Director of GM Corporate Relations, boasts, “Since its inception in 1976, the GM Foundation has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to American charities, educational organizations and to disaster relief efforts worldwide. The GM Foundation focuses on supporting Education, Health and Human Services, Environment and Community Development initiatives, mainly in the communities where GM operates”

By way of a specific example, Pickard offered, “In 2010, the GM Foundation pledged $27.1 million to United Way for Southeastern Michigan to establish a “Network of Excellence” in seven Detroit-area high schools. The grant is infusing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) into curricula, and aims to improve graduation rates from roughly 50 percent to 80 percent over five years. The grant is also being used to advance early childhood education in metro Detroit and will help ensure that 80 percent of children in the region start kindergarten ready to learn.”

Pickard notes that giving isn’t only the purview of the Foundation, but also comes from the employees. She said, “GM employees are extremely dedicated to giving back to their communities and support numerous community organizations. In 2011, the new teamGM Cares Volunteer program was formed to help bolster the United Way for Southeastern Michigan grant, as well as help those in need. The teamGM Volunteers have participated in numerous projects to help the youth attending the seven United Way Network of Excellence Schools, including mentoring, conducting food/personal care drives and participating in school clean ups, career days and more. In 2012, teamGM Cares employee volunteers who tracked their hours charted nearly 40,000 total hours. Of those hours, 153 volunteers charted nearly 1,200 hours in our Network of Excellence Schools.”

Large corporations aren’t the only ones giving back. Alexandra Wolf at Homescout Realty in Chicago reports that “By doing social good, we’re making Chicago a richer place to live in, for current residents, and newcomers alike.” Homescout employees in Chicago are involved in a variety of volunteer efforts, she says. The agency uses social media to not only report on its CSR initiatives, but also enlists the support of customers in further advancing the causes they support, including The Anti-Cruelty Society, Imerman Angels, and One Simple Wish.

Abbey Dieteman, the co-founder of Dieteman Technology Consulting notes that serving the community was critical to the successful launch of her business, “We started our company by providing free and low-cost services to community organizations that we felt passionate about including local churches and the Madison County Head Start. Although we provided these services for free, the result was exposure for our growing business in addition to well-respected references.” She adds, “We are dedicated to domestic disaster response. I have managed major projects in the wakes of Hurricanes Katrina, Irene, and Sandy.”

Randy Thompson, CEO of ThompsonGas, explains their strategy for giving back, “ThompsonGas has a total of six vehicles painted to represent American Breast Cancer Foundation or the USO. The company gives back a penny a gallon for each truck that delivers propane. This program is our most visible means of giving back to the community; however it is not the extent of our giving as we also sponsor various Little Leagues and youth soccer teams, as well as, provide educational scholarships throughout our territories.” The painted trucks build a connection with people, Thompson says, noting, “The drivers have expressed they feel a tremendous sense of pride when they deliver propane in these vehicles even though some of these trucks are painted pink. When company representatives take the trucks to events, people in the community ask if they can take their pictures with our employees and the vehicles.”

Lyndsey Kramer, Director of Business Development for Digital Third Coast, introduced me to Chicago Cause, a consortium of web marketing companies cooperating to provide free web marketing services to nonprofits in Chicago. She says, “Chicago Cause began in 2009 as a philanthropic partnership between Orbit Media, Lightspan Digital, and Flanigan Communications. Together, they donated $24,000 in marketing services, including web design, video production, digital marketing, and public relations. Chicago Cause has had such an overwhelming response, that we’ve been lucky enough to add three new partners to our roster; Digital Third Coast, Bottleneck Management, and ShiftFocus Productions.” She adds, “Last year we donated 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes totaling over $45,000 in web marketing services to deserving nonprofit organizations.”

Stefan Heeke, CEO, SumAll Foundation, describes their work, “SumAll.org is a non-profit organization dedicated to doing social good by analyzing data. One of the biggest challenges facing charities and non-profits is the lack of resources and data analytics at their disposal. By providing better analytics, we can gauge the success and impact of a social effort and how to improve. Our goal is for charitable organizations to reach more people and to be more effective in the way they do it.” He explains the origin of the Foundation, “The foundation is financed through equity in sumall.com. The founders and employees of Sumall decided to give 10% of their own start-up equity to the sumall.org foundation with the goal of using data and technology as a leverage for doing good. It is, in effect, the application of the core company mission to causes and non-profit work. Employees can contribute their time, e.g consult sumall.org with their engineering and design talent.”

David Hassell, CEO of 15Five, explains their commitment to give 1 percent of revenue to a cause. “We are members of the 1% for the Planet Foundation, where we donate 1% of our revenue to one of over 3,000 environmental organizations worldwide. We initially did this in honor of Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard and one of the founders of 1% for the planet, because he was responsible for the idea behind 15Five.” Participants in the 1 Percent for the Planet program do not give their money to the Foundation, rather they give to an approved charity. Hassell explains how they chose a cause, “When it came time to decide where we should donate our money, we engaged all of our employees in the decision process. This year we decided to support charity:water, because it’s an organization that we all admire and is one of the best-run charities we know of, so we knew our money would have direct impact.”

Lisa Bastian, Vice President of Human Resources for Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies, explains the impact of their “Your Community Partner” program, “The program’s decentralized approach – each of our facilities is annually responsible for identifying and helping local organizations that need assistance – has allowed Freudenberg-NOK to reach out to dozens of charitable groups and causes to offer both manpower and financial donations. Site projects have ranged from the straightforward but absolutely essential – blood drives, food drives, holiday gift baskets and Christmas toy collections – to wholly unique efforts such as rehabilitating a three-story daycare center for the children of homeless individuals who are trying to find work, volunteering at and rebuilding an animal shelter, and setting up a comprehensive manufacturing training program for at-risk youth who have few other educational avenues available. A corporate budget has helped assist the sites with these projects.”

Rick Dreiling, Chairman and CEO of Dollar General, explained the company’s commitment to literacy through the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. The company actively engages customers in the effort, he says, “At the cash register of every Dollar General store, customers learn about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation through brochures with a postage-paid reply card that can be mailed in for a referral to a local organization that offers free literacy services. Further, they have the opportunity to donate to this worthy cause. In 2012, Dollar General customers donated more than $10 million to directly benefit the Dollar General Literacy Foundation’s efforts in helping people learn how to read, speak English or get their General Education Diploma (GED).”

Paul A. Larkins, President and CEO of SquareTwo Financial, describes the company’s employee-driven CSR programs, “At SquareTwo Financial our social good efforts are driven entirely by our employees. We encourage employees at all levels to bring forward ideas for social initiatives, and then we provide the support and flexibility to make the initiative a success.

For example, when wildfires were burning out of control near Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, Colorado last summer, SquareTwo Financial employees spearheaded a fundraising effort to provide aid to local families impacted by the fires. But it was more than just a few employees throwing in a few bucks – we also teamed up with its insurance broker to match donations made by employees up to $10,000. This is a perfect example of an employee-driven program with serious corporate support.” After Colorado wildfires devastated the state in 2012, SquareTwo employees created a video to help lead a crusade to raise money to help the firefighters and those impacted by the fire, Larkins says.

Pat Patregnani, CEO of Zimmerman Advertising and founder of zMotion, introduces the company’s efforts, “zMotion is the philanthropic arm of Zimmerman Advertising with nearly 1000 enthusiastic participants and a national presence. zMotion began as a simple training event for employees who planned to ride in the annual National Multiple Sclerosis Society charity bike ride and turned into a social movement for Zimmerman Advertising and the community. Team members are dedicated to healthy living, cycling and raising money for charity.” Patregnani adds, “In the last two years alone, we’ve had 90% employee participation in our major annual 3-prong walk/run/ride event: LIVELONG Benefiting LIVESTRONG, an event that secured $400,000 in 2012 with over 2,500 participants and 500 volunteers.”

Reid Carr, President and CEO of Red Door Interactive, describes their success with CSR, “At Red Door Interactive, we created our Philanthropy Committee, “Caring Hearts,” in an effort to foster a workplace that supports giving back to the community. Together, we’re committed to giving the gifts of time, talent and treasures for the betterment of health, education and the environment in the communities where we live, work and play. The committee is made up of employees from all departments, and across all three of our offices. Every employee is able to participate in the volunteer opportunities. In 2012, we participated in the 10th Annual San Diego Creek to Bay Cleanup, [raised] over $500 for two local teachers to purchase new books through First Book, supported several Furry Foster animal adoption events, and celebrated our one year anniversary by serving seniors at the Gary & Mary West Wellness Center. Also, in 2010 Red Door signed a multi-year commitment to New Leaders for New Schools enabling us to apply our Internet Presence Management model, which has proven successful for us and our clients, to help NLNS continue to achieve its goal of attracting outstanding educators to drive change in urban public schools. We pledged in-kind donations equal to two percent of our annual service revenue. Every employee touched this project in some way, which further helped drive the results that the organization has already seen.”

Paul Mareski, President of Team One, a division of advertising giant Saatchi and Saatchi, is enthusiastic about the company’s efforts, “Giving back to the local community is a huge part of Team One’s culture and this philanthropic commitment has turned into a multitude of grassroots efforts put forth by our employees. A few examples include:

  • “An annual agency tradition, “Day of Good,” in which Team One closes its doors for an entire day so that we can all volunteer our time to local charities.
  • “’Do Good Fridays,’ an initiative created by a group of Team Oners to extend the “Day of Good” all year long. The program features a different highlighted charity each month, where employees either have a “Do” volunteer opportunity or a chance to “Donate” goods and services.
  • “A 15-year partnership with a local elementary school, where we supply time and resources for multiple projects throughout the year.
  • “Cause marketing campaigns for multiple non-profit organizations including L.A. environmental non-profit Heal the Bay and FocusDriven, a national organization founded by families who have felt the devastating effects of distracted driving first-hand.
  • “Recent work for FocusDriven includes the launch of a national anti-distracted driving campaign, just in time for National Distracted Driving Awareness Month this past April. Team One created compelling visuals of roadside candlelight memorials spelling out popular shortened text phrases and emoticons, including “OMG,” “:-)” and “LOL” – all of which represent the types of texts sent that have caused fatal accidents.
  • “For Heal the Bay, Team One worked with artists and celebrities to manufacture a series of limited-edition products, all inspired by our favorite memories from L.A.-area beaches. To launch the product collection, we threw a VIP event in Santa Monica where pop sensation A Fine Frenzy dazzled our guests. We built an e-commerce website and then watched the orders flood in. All Buy the Bay sales proceeds directly benefit Heal the Bay. “

Steve Gabriel, Managing Partner of 36creative, is philosophical about giving, “The older I get, the more opportunity I have to see what really motivates people. If you asked me 10 years ago I would say…If you are right out of college, its money. 4 years out of college, its travel. 10 years out, the benefits. While those items certainly have importance, after the honeymoon phase of a new company wears off its much more than that motivates and inspires employees. I truly believe all people want to have an effect on human society and do their part.” He adds, “Because of this inner drive to give back, we started an annual “inspired” initiative, in which once a year we call for non-profit nominations within the community. We then select and work with a non-profit on creating a web presence that will ultimately aid in their initiative and in turn, help them grow as an organization.”

As you can see, companies that are making social good a key part of their business and not a peripheral aspect are increasing. Not only are companies giving time, but they are partnering with employees and even customers to volunteer to make the world a better place. Those that truly integrate giving into the culture all indicate that it pays returns in terms of happier and better employees.

Please help me continue this conversation by commenting below, on Twitter at @devindthorpe and on Facebook, Google+ and my personal website yourmarkontheworld.com.


This article is available online at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/devinthorpe/2013/08/29/amway-gm-and-dollar-general-among-corporations-making-good-a-goal/