Creating a Learning Community for New Jersey Corporate Funders

Posted on by Marion O’Neill, PSEG Manager of Corporate Contributions

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More than 50 corporate contributions professionals last month attended the inaugural meeting of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers’ Corporate Philanthropy Network affinity group.

Marion O'Neill

Marion O’Neill

For a first meeting, the gathering exceeded our expectations and reminded me how great it is to see familiar faces and meet new professionals. The volume in the room “echoed” that sentiment.

At the heart of CNJG’s work is convening grantmakers,  including corporate funders who need a space to discuss their unique work, too. Unlike private and family foundations, corporate funders live in two worlds — we are externally focused on our communities, but each of us is also part of a corporation whose business is not philanthropy.

For this first meeting, CECP (formerly Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy) served as our guest presenter, focusing the conversation on their engagement model, corporate philanthropy trends, and the 2015 Giving in Numbers findings, including types of giving, focus areas, measurement, employee focus, purpose, and performance.

CECP collects giving and employee engagement data for more than 270 companies nationally (they also conduct the Giving Around the Globe survey with more than 300 companies). CECP was founded in 1999 by Paul Newman, John Whitehead and other business leaders. It has published the Giving in Numbers report since 2005, and in association with the Conference Board since 2012.

The CECP talk highlighted data from Northeast and New Jersey companies on matching gift and volunteerism, as well as survey results on policies for these programs. There was a terrific discussion, especially surrounding New Jersey results with updates and comments from attendees including some companies starting down the analytics path

The findings — and anecdotal evidence reported by attendees — show most companies are measuring outcomes and/or impacts. This data provides us an opportunity to compare and understand which issues or fields corporate funders are investing in most. However, as the corporate giving sector further explores measurement and evaluation, and as management continues to steer us in that direction, it will not be enough to compare.

Increasingly, corporate funders will need to identify grantmaking outcomes. Although many are already at various stages of defining metrics, some are just beginning to do so. Even where there is some progress, we are not yet at the stage where we can compare similar programs statewide, let alone nationwide. The Conference Board’s “Measuring the Impact of Corporate Social Investments” research report examines some of the challenges and successes companies have had with measurement. It’s a free download after a free registration.

Though funders are getting better at collecting data, we should look to resources like the Foundation Center, which our grantees use to find possible funders. Technology and the Foundation Center’s years of data collection provide some meaningful mapping and analysis, and organizations like Data Analysts for Social Good also are helping us understand what kind of data we can collect as well as providing technical training on how to do so. The Impact LabGuidestar and the Foundation Center are beginning to work in cohorts. Here at PSEG, we use measurement tools like the Dow Jones Sustainability IndexJ. D. Power and  GRI. As corporate funders, we can also ask ourselves if we have the courage to allow our departments to be surveyed and measured by the Center for Effective Philanthropy.

It seems there is much work to be done. For the first official meeting of CNJG’s new Corporate Philanthropy Network, CECP was a great place to start and I thank them for making the trip from NYC.

The presentation confirmed data that affirmed  two successful employee engagement strategies:a paid release time policy, which spurs volunteerism, and company-sponsored year-round matching gift programs, which boosts matching gift allocations. At PSEG, we can breathe a sigh of relief for having both.

The topic of measurement is both challenging and fascinating. A sentiment we all recognize is that we all work in a field where there is more need than we could ever collectively meet.

The Corporate Philanthropy Network affinity group allows us the rare opportunity to share ideas and experiences with the goal of making our communities better for our work and providing us a sense of accomplishment and good will. So much so that our colleagues at Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, our meeting host, had to very politely ask us to leave an hour after the official meeting was over.

We are very happy that CNJG is planning to hold five Corporate Philanthropy affinity group meetings annually throughout the state.

 

Marion O’Neill is Manager of Corporate Contributions for PSEG.  She serves as cochair of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers’ new Corporate Philanthropy Network affinity group.  The Council is the center for philanthropy in New Jersey, with over 130 member organizations serving the leading independent, corporate, family and community foundations as well as public grantmakers of our state.  It supports its members by strengthening their capacity to address New Jersey and society’s most difficult problems.    

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