RecognizeGood held its inaugural Business in Community Forum on September 29th at the Phillips Event Center in east Austin, bringing business and nonprofit leaders together for a conversation centered around shared interest in a strong, sustainable community. Panelists for the forum included Russell Bridges (3M), Laurie Loew (Give Realty), Matt Kouri (Mission Capital) and Carolyn Schwarz (Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Texas). The moderator for the forum was Carrie Vanston (Corporate Cultures That Rock). The theme of the forum was the idea that an investment from both sectors in the formation of deeper, more meaningful connections through engaging experiences benefit both the company and the nonprofit in a huge way.

Russell Bridges was asked about the volunteer grant program at 3M, which provides funds to local nonprofits after 3M employees have donated a set amount of volunteer time. “It’s a way for us to connect on a more personal level with organizations beyond the writing of a check, and have people put our face in the community working with nonprofit organizations. It helps us, it helps the community, it helps the employees. They come back to the workplace energized and, we hope, more appreciative of the work that they’re doing at 3M.” His one piece of advice to both sectors was to ask questions and listen to the answers.

Carolyn Schwarz was then asked how she might explain the investment in building relationships with local companies. “What I tell board members is that building relationships with businesses, and with the community at large, is well worth the investment. We want people involved with us who care deeply about our mission, because what those volunteers are going to give is going to be so much stronger than the one-time situation. I feel like meaningful involvement leads to giving.”

Laurie Loew, whose real estate brokerage gives 25% of every commission to a nonprofit of the client’s choice, chimed in on how the personal community connection has helped her business attract agents. “I don’t actively recruit my agents. They’ve all come to me because of the business model and because they’ve wanted to be part of something bigger. We’re motivated not by our commission, but by our client and our community.”

Matt Kouri then made some predictions about the future of cross-sector relationships. “If you’re in business at a company who in the next ten years doesn’t find a way to completely integrate profit and purpose – completely integrate – then in 10 years you won’t be in business. When it becomes less something that’s over here in HR, or over here in community relations, and it becomes the CEO’s priority because he or she understands it’s the key to success and longevity, I think those are the businesses that will survive and thrive. If you’re a nonprofit and in 10 years you’re still running the same programs and the same business models – which in most cases is a 100% reliance on philanthropy or government grants – you will not be in business. You may make it, but it will be extremely hard. Nonprofits who can find other ways to realize that they have intellectual property, they have social capital, that are delivering value in our economy – and more than just feel-good value – and then go find the investors that are willing to pay for that value creation, those are the nonprofits I think will survive and thrive.”

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