A New Narrative for Corporate Philanthropy

June 20, 2012

A well-respected colleague and I recently had a troubling conversation.   While we agreed that we are entering into a new era of corporate philanthropy, we found ourselves in a circular conversation with no shared platform to speak from about our differing strategies to achieve the triple bottom line impact.

Following a year-long strategic initiative, The Council on Foundations recently launched a new framework for corporate philanthropy called Increasing Impact, Enhancing Value: A Practitioner’s Guide to Leading Corporate Philanthropy.   Created for the field, from the field, the guide is both visionary and tangible by providing a five-point framework that allows practitioners to map a clear path to a more strategic and impactful program.

The framework establishes key initiatives to drive a transformation in the field:

  • Creating a new narrative for corporate philanthropy as social investment
  • Developing an investment portfolio tapping into various corporate resources to balance out philanthropic investment
  • Professionalizing the practice of corporate philanthropy
  • Improving collaboration, communication, and knowledge sharing
  • Mobilizing grassroots leadership

Over the last few years at Mattel we made strategic investments in play, a documented social issue that clearly supports our business, with resources from all aspects of our business.  Whether our employees are jumping rope with Playworks and the students of Grape Street Elementary in Los Angeles,  donating Barbie®, Hot Wheels® and American Girl® dolls to bring smiles to children confined to hospital beds across the country, or financially underwriting  the global expansion of the Young Athletes ProgramTM of Special Olympics, we are increasing access to play and making a difference in the lives of children in need.

It’s not unusual in corporate philanthropy to narrow focus on a strategic social issue and build out an investment portfolio for impact.  In fact, it is this approach which differentiates corporate philanthropy from all other sources and remains a huge opportunity to build upon to maximize our impact as a private sector.

Following that conversation with my colleague, I sent him a copy of the Report.  We’ll see if the next time we chat, he and I can use the same lexicon to talk about what we agree to be the case, corporate philanthropy is not what it used to be!

Thanks for reading,

Deidre Lind is the director of corporate affairs at Mattel and also the executive director of the Mattel Children’s Foundation.  Deidre also served on the Council on Foundations’ corporate committee.

The full text of the guide is available free to the field and will be supplemented on the Council on Foundations website with additional information and expanded case studies.

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