What is the proper funding mix for a non–profit organization? Most rely on a combination of direct donations, grants, state and federal money. Depending on the goal or mission of the organization-this mix can vary greatly. Most directors of non-profit organizations will tell you that fundraising, in particularly direct appeal campaigns, merely maintain the status quo.
According to Giving USA’s report, Giving 2013, contributions by individuals make up the majority of giving received by nonprofit organizations. Individual gifts amounted to $228.93 billion in 2012, which accounts for 72% of all contributions made. Corporate giving only accounts for 6%.
While corporate giving trails all other contributions, it’s also an area where there are significant opportunities for non-profits to develop strategic partnerships. Forward-thinking for-profit companies, with an orientation on doing well by doing good, can have a significant impact on non-profits and their ability to make a difference.
At the same time, consumers have become increasingly sophisticated in what companies they prefer to do business with. Nielsen, the global information and measurement company with a presence in nearly 100 countries, recently released The Nielsen Global Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility, conducted in early 2014. The report, polled more than 30,000 consumers in 60 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America.
Some of the findings show that consumers prefer doing business with companies demonstrating both corporate responsibility—referred to by some as corporate citizenship or even, Conscious Capitalism—with its most basic elements being a dedication to making a positive social or environmental impact on society. Some tangible examples might be using recycled materials in one’s products, or letting customers know that as a company, there is a commitment to increasing access to clean water, or working to eradicate extreme poverty, hunger, and homelessness. For these companies, the focus isn’t merely on their bottom lines, or stockholder shared value.
The Provider Power family of companies, which includes Electricity Maine (along with ENH Power and Provider Power Mass) consider what they do through their Power to Help Fund, an example of this orientation.
“Provider Power sells electricity, which is something every business and home needs. Our model is to offer people the opportunity to purchase electricity at a competitive fixed rate and at the same time do some good with that purchase by supporting local non-profit organizations with their electricity bill.”
Other for-profit companies also take their corporate responsibilities seriously. Here are profiles of three of them, and their plan and strategies for giving to non-profits.
Oakhurst Dairy is one of Maine’s most iconic businesses. Founded in 1921 by Stanley T. Bennett when he bought a dairy on Woodford Street in Portland, the dairy was moved shortly after to its present location at 364 Forest Avenue in Portland. Oakhurst has been a fixture at the location for more than 90 years.
Throughout its history, Oakhurst Dairy has stood for “The Natural Goodness of Maine.” The business has remained in the Bennett family for three generations, and Oakhurst has always had as its promise a commitment to be responsible environmental stewards, as well as supporting the health of the communities that buy its milk and other products, through their charitable giving.
While Oakhurst was acquired by Dairy Farmers of America in early 2014, several family members remain in key positions with the company. And Oakhurst’s commitment to charitable giving continues as strong as ever before.
One of these is the company’s commitment of giving 10% of their pre-tax profits to organizations that promote healthy kids and a healthy environment—this remains the cornerstone of Oakhurst’s community involvement.
Jean Bennett Driscoll, granddaughter of Oakhurst’s founder, was emphatic that the company would be keeping that pledge.
“It really goes back to my grandfather, where it all began,” explained Driscoll. “He set the tone for giving and we’ve stayed true to it all these years.”
Driscoll talked about the very personal nature of giving for her grandfather.
“My grandfather knew everyone in the community and so the requests were all personal appeals. Over time, we’ve had to adopt a more formal process,” said Driscoll. “Back then, one thing he would do is have his secretary scan the newspaper for the birth announcements. They would then send out a coupon to these new mothers to buy Oakhurst Milk.”
Oakhurst’s focus for their giving has consistently been on kids and healthy communities.
“I think this goes back to what my brother Stan used to say about the environment—‘cows live, eat, breathe, and drink the Maine environment, just like we do,’ said Driscoll. “We tend to single out organizations that officers of Oakhurst serve on the boards of. So for instance, my brother Bill serves on the board of the Salvation Army. We always give 5 cents of every eggnog purchased to the Salvation Army, during Christmas.”
When asked if companies have a responsibility to “give back” to the community, Driscoll was emphatic in her response.
“Oh, absolutely—this is another thing that goes back to my grandfather. He thought companies should be supportive of the communities they were selling their products in,” said Driscoll.
“This is still part of our philosophy here at Oakhurst, and it’s always been part of who we are,” she added.
Craft brewing of beer has been experiencing exponential growth across the US. In Maine, craft brewers are one of the fastest growing business sectors, perfectly capturing the cross-section between local, Maine’s burgeoning food scene, and the state’s entrepreneurial spirit.
Luke Livingston, CEO, founder, and president of Baxter Brewing, has been ranked as one of the 30 innovative brewers and beer professionals, by AllAboutBeer.com. Baxter is one of craft brewing’s success stories since the company’s founding in 2011. Not only are they growing by leaps and bounds, but the company has a concern for the environment, as well as a focus on the community where it’s based, in Lewiston, as well as the region where it sells its beer.
Livingston spoke about Baxter’s philosophy concerning non-profit giving, especially in the context of their marketing focus, and their lifestyle-oriented product.
“I think for us, the focus of giving is two-or-three fold,” said Livingston. “First, I think what we do with beer—with Baxter, I think of us as a lifestyle brand, more than just a manufacturer—our cans are environmentally-friendly and portable. A lot of our giving plays into that,” he explained. “We do a lot with outdoors and conservation organizations, because it jives with what we create and our core values and what we want Baxter to represent,” added Livingston.
While Baxter’s growth has been considerable since opening in 2011, they remain a small business. That definitely informs their giving, as Livingston elaborated.
“I think when you’re a small business—but probably a business of any size—philanthropy, in addition to making us feel good about ourselves, is an extension of marketing,” said Livingston.
“In a lot of ways it helps justify the expense. We’re lucky because we make beer and we make a consumable product, and we make a product that people love,” he said. “A lot of our giving comes in the form of product donation. This is obviously much easier to do, especially for a start-up. We try to align ourselves with non-profits, either from the perspective of product donation or cash that we think will help us from a marketing standpoint.”
Livingston added, “I don’t think there’s any shame in that. We give beer to events and we’re part of the Nature Conservancy of Maine’s Corporate Conservation Council—for instance, we donate beer to Nature Conservency events. People that go to these events are the kinds of people we want drinking our beer. That really works for us,” said Livingston.
Livingston believes that companies do have a responsibility to give back to the communities they’re in and serve.
“Having grown up in Lewiston-Auburn, and for many of our employees that are from here or who have located here, it’s important for us to be stewards of the community,” said Livingston. “As a company, we talk a lot about core values, and we try to find a way to match those up by giving back.”
Touching on the company’s philosophy about being good stewards of the environment, Livingston explained their focus, as well as packaging beer in cans.
“The process of making beer is an environmentally-taxing process, so in order to try to diminish that we look at our packaging and efforts in doing it sustainably. Aluminum is the most recycled, most abundant metal in the world. Americans are most likely to recycle aluminum. Because you can fit three times more of them on a truck, fuel-consumption per unit is so much less, also,” said Livingston.
Livingston reiterated that it’s important for companies—whatever they are and wherever they are—to have a presence in the communities where they reside.
“I think it’s a fundamental component of business ownership, and we’re very conscious of that at Baxter,” he said.
When Alan Spear and Mary Allen Lindemann moved back to the east coast from Seattle in the early 1990s, they were looking for the right location to launch a coffee cart, or kiosk. After spending time in Providence, Rhode Island, and Burlington, Vermont, they were attracted to Portland, after visiting family members in the area. Little did they know that 19 years later, they’d have multiple locations and be the employer of 55 people. They’ve also remained steadfast in supporting the arts and their home community.
Lindemann spoke about that initial core focus that she and Coffee By Design partner, Alan Spear, initiated and have remained true to for nearly two decades.
“Our core focus in our giving has always been on the arts and organizations that do social change,” explained Lindemann. “We both believe so strongly in the arts—we’ve often said that ‘a world without art is a world we don’t want to live in.’”
Portland in the early 1990s was a much different place than the cultural hub it has become. That was noted by Lindemann in discussing the launch of Coffee By Design.
“When Alan and I left Portland in 1989 because the economy was just so bad, many of the arts organizations—particularly the galleries—were closing. When we came back in 1994 and started our business, we wanted to show a commitment to artists,” said Lindemann.
According to Lindemann, Coffee By Design started out by allowing artists to display their artwork on the walls of their first coffee shop on Congress Street.
“This was a very exciting time on Congress Street. The State Theater, in what had been the ‘porn district,’ had recently been renovated,” recalled Lindemann. “There were a number of new businesses that had opened or were opening in the neighborhood at that time. Artists were really excited about this arrangement with us and we sold a significant amount of art out of that first space.”
Explaining their mix of giving between cash and product donation, Lindemann recognizes the importance of cash contributions in supporting causes.
“We donate a certain amount of product, like most businesses do for marketing purposes—but we realized that cash mattered and that even small awards really helped bring validation and recognition to small organizations just getting off the ground,” noted Lindemann.
“Over the years, our giving has grown. We are constantly reviewing who we give to and we’re very aware and make sure that our awards are making a difference.”
Lindemann ticked off the types of organizations that Coffee By Design are committed to, and why.
“Areas that we’ve given to involving social change are in the area of mental health and substance abuse. This came from seeing customers coming into our coffee shops that were struggling in these areas,” she said.
“Because we’ve always wanted to be open to all customers in a city as diverse as Portland, we didn’t want to have two sets of rules. We started having conversations with social workers and other mental health professionals on what to do if someone came into our shop and became inappropriate. We had trainings for our employees, and it was an ongoing awareness issue for all of us. We’ve always wanted to honor all of our customers.”
While many businesses shy away from causes that might get them mixed up in politics, Lindemann added that they’ve put signs in their windows, and been open about the causes they espouse.
“At first, we worried about this, and being public about our philanthropy” said Lindemann. “But our customers respect that we are open and transparent about what we’re passionate about. In fact, one of our customers told me that ‘as a consumer, I want to know where my money goes for my coffee,’ which made us more comfortable with making our giving public,” she offered.
In addition to Coffee By Designs’ commitment and awareness about their home city of Portland, the company also works directly with farmers and funds projects in the countries where their coffee originates from.
Provider Power, Oakhurst Dairy, Baxter Brewing, and Coffee By Design all care about the communities where they reside and do business in. They’ve put down deep roots in those places. All are businesses that recognize their responsibilities as corporate citizens, and are practicing Conscious Capitalism, making a difference through their giving to non-profit organizations.