Celebrating CSR Innovation for 20 Years

A letter from our CEO, Mark Layden

We are all so acclimated to the fantastical array of personal and business technology in our lives. It’s boggling to consider that just 20 years ago, we managed with no Uber, no streaming, no FaceTime, no backup cameras, no YouTube, no DropBox. Even the grande dame iPhone has only been around since 2007.  Personally, I’d sure have a tough time getting through my week with no Spotify.

A common theme among all these technologies and innovations is that they have a purpose. A clear mission. Whether to revolutionize personal communication, make driving safer, or to democratize access to entertainment. There’s a mission, a purpose, at their core.

Corporate philanthropy has also witnessed dramatic changes in the past 20 years of CyberGrants’ existence. These changes have certainly taken place within technology, but no less importantly in perception and attitude. Compared to today, giving was down, strategic corporate giving programs were almost non-existent, and the C-Suite was nowhere to be found.

These Harvard Business Review nuggets from the throwback machine reflect the ancient CSR world of 20+ years ago.

“When it came to selecting causes, corporate donors choose those least associated with their line of business.” – 1994 

“What accounts for the decline in corporate giving? CEOs are no longer willing to stand up for philanthropy.” – 1994

“Charitable contributions by U.S. companies fell 14.5% in real dollars last year, and over the last 15 years, corporate giving as a percentage of profits has dropped by 50%.” – 2002

What a stark contrast to the environment we’re in today! Not only a contrast, but a big change for the better over the long term. Organizations are not just fixated on the bottom line, but increasingly, proactively, and visibly committed to serving a greater range of constituents with greater resources in hand. 

With the recent Business Roundtable (BRT) statement on the ‘Purpose of the Corporation’ signed by 181 CEOs of major U.S. -based companies, 2019 is proving to be a year of acceleration in focus and action in corporate philanthropy programs. These CEOs have vowed to “commit to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders - customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.”   

Corporations are now creating philanthropic benefit for a community — an ecosystem — of stakeholders. And they are creating those benefits through a variety of channels. Faceless corporations have evolved into “citizens,” and their extended communities reap the benefits of their products, skills, resources, and innovations. A far stretch from the ‘philanthropy for public relations’ culture of 20 years ago. We’ve witnessed this with our own clients, and it’s an awesome and admirable transformation.  

At the same time, we are entering an era of increasingly complex and more rapid evolution of challenges within corporate operating environments. As ecosystems evolve and resources expand, it places a greater onus upon all of us that manage and support those ecosystems and resources.  Especially in regard to technology.

You recall, we referenced the concept of purpose above. Our purpose, our mission, our lifework is to accelerate positive impact for corporate citizens and their stakeholders. This is, and has been for 20 years, our imperative, our mandate.  

2019’s environment certainly necessitates more to accelerate impact. It requires us to use all our skills and innovations to create a robust execution platform. A platform that enables a company with the visibility, control and automation to identify and manage its resources. A platform that delivers the agility, scale and security necessary in a massively increased ecosystem. A platform that activates and aligns resources for a great many stakeholders through a range of programs. Ultimately, a platform not only to create successful outcomes, but to measure and optimize them via a consistent framework. One that delivers transparency and informs future activities.

You’ve told us many times that your purpose is to make incredible happen. We’re here to see that our platform does just that. We are extremely proud of our role in your positive impact these past 20 years. And we look forward to what’s next.



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