The Entrepreneur Foundation hosted the 2010 Corporate Citizenship Conference earlier this month in the U.S. Daniel Lee of Levi Strauss Foundation, Peter Tavernise of Cisco Corporate Philanthropy and Cisco Systems Foundation, Jennifer Lofing of Give2Asia, and Ethan Veneklasen of American India Foundation served on the panel of International Philanthropy 101: A Framework for Going Global. The session was crafted for corporate practitioners who are considering the establishment of an international corporate giving program as well as those already active in international giving.
Daniel is the Executive Director of the Levi Strauss Foundation. He has extensive experience with international non-governmental organizations in the fields of human rights, HIV/AIDS and social justice. Daniel spoke about Levi Strauss’ international grantmaking model, the different ways corporate foundations are set up, and what a corporate foundation can and cannot do. In his presentation, Daniel pointed out the need to speak in multiple languages of success and finding bridges for stakeholders. He sees NGOs as thought leaders and thinks it is “golden” when an NGO partner becomes a champion of their foundation work.
I am intrigued by the different ways corporations are engaging in international philanthropy. Corporate foundations operating in the U.S. are seeing a reduction in staff due to the economic reality. They must work within the confines of smaller grantmaking dollars while at the same time, fulfill global citizenship values and goals, including measurable outcomes. Most corporate foundations in the U.S. are set up as private foundations and have to abide by legal and tax requirements, in addition to best practices in the field.
Corporate community involvement programs usually takes three forms: (1) employee engagement in the form of giving and the corporation may decide to match the gifts; (2) employee volunteerism; and (3) corporate philanthropy. Corporate social responsibility programs may include these forms but covers a much broader list of engagements.
In the U.S., there are many organizations that are set up to support the work of corporate giving. United Way allows employees to support nonprofit organizations through payroll deductions. Groups like the JK Group help corporations with back-office disbursements. However, when a company has offices in multiple countries and each country has their own legal requirements, including tax-deductibility and fundraising issues, the small corporate foundation office in the U.S. may not be able to handle the extra administrative burden. The added layer of communication between the goals of the home-office and how it is translated to the employees and partners on the ground also require more efforts. Some employees are very engaged and help identify and work with corporate headquarters to understand the local nuances. However, the communication channels must be open and the values aligned.
There are many opportunities for creativity and partnerships with corporations working overseas. Intermediaries, technology platforms, and advisors can play a relevant role in supporting the work of local giving by multi-national corporations. The partnerships created between corporations, employees, and the community can foster positive and lasting social change in Asia.