Michael BzdakExploring a Platform for Collaboration

By: Michael Bzdak In: Corporate Philanthropy| Partnerships and Collaborations| Philanthropy

4 Sep 2012

As I continue to reflect on the Council’s recent publication, Increasing Impact, Enhancing Value: A Practitioner’s Guide to Corporate Philanthropy, I am reminded of author Chris Pinney’s suggestion that this is a leadership moment for corporate philanthropy. There are at least three reasons for this:

  • First, society is increasingly looking to business to help solve our world’s most profound social and environmental issues. As we know, companies have an array of resources at hand to help tackle the many issues confronting our communities.
  • Second, we now have a better sense of what competencies a corporate philanthropy professional must demonstrate to thrive in this new era. All of us know that we need to become more visible and more skilled at communicating the value of our function in the context of the entire corporation.
  • Finally, the time is right for more collaborative funding models. Many funders are working in silos on the same issues in the same communities. This particular facet of Pinney’s report presents corporate philanthropy professionals with a rich context for potential collaboration and many reasons to work together.

Pinney suggests that we have not fully realized the power of exchanging knowledge and mutual learning. On the other hand, it is encouraging that many of the corporate philanthropy programs cited in Increasing Impact, Enhancing Value have become quite adept at forging powerful collaborations with NGOs and CBOs. In most cases, these partnerships are based on shared values and common aspirations and recognize the need for patience, mutual trust, and humility. In the best cases, the relationships move away from the granter/grantee paradigm to a model of joint problem solving and true thought partnership.

The choice for us, as philanthropy professionals in this leadership moment, is to stand by and wait or to dive in and demonstrate leadership in the shifting landscape. In essence, that is the implicit message of Increasing Impact, Enhancing Value. The challenging landscape that we wake up to each day presents us with a multitude of opportunities to deepen our positive impact on society. Since we have proven that we can achieve measurable results with our NGO/CBO partners, let’s begin to unlock the potential power of working and learning together. I suggest that, as funders, we explore our shared values and common aspirations to accomplish more—together.

Michael Bzdak is director of corporate contributions for Johnson & Johnson and a member of the Council on Foundations Corporate Committee.

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