Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Community giving: Motorola Solutions Foundation reveals all

Last week, it was my pleasure to facilitate a fascinating meeting at Motorola Solutions Israel in honor of the visit of Matthew (Matt) Blakely, the enthusiastic Director of the Motorola Solutions Foundation. Founded in 1953, the Motorola Solutions Foundation focuses its funding on public safety, disaster relief, employee programs and education, especially science, technology, engineering and math programming. In 2010, the Motorola Solutions Foundation invested $18.4 million in strategic community programs around the world, which was supplemented by an additional $7.1 million in employee giving and other cash and product donations. The largest chunk of this total amount - $13.9 million - went to support educational programs. The assets of the Foundation are over $70 million. You can check out the Foundation's activities on their Facebook page.
Matt getting ready to talk to a group of CSR Managers and NGO's
In his talk to a selection of CSR Managers from local industry and some NGO leaders, Matt emphasized:

The Focus on STEM Education: (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) This makes sense for Motorola, because, "as a company of scientists, we feel it's important to support the next generation".  This is particularly important for women, and other underrepresented groups in technology careers, so that they can gain exposure to the possibilities of developing a science-based career and gain tools to pursue such opportunities. 

The Focus on Public Safety: Motorola Solutions makes the radio technologies and communications equipment that government entities and fire departments use, as well as  logistics and large retail companies. These are communications devices, which are typically rugged and durable  for use in a range of challenging applications such as coastguard organizations, federal law enforcement and more. Because of this, the connection to support public safety and support for the families of fallen first responders is a natural link and focus of outreach for the Motorola Solutions Foundation. In addition, the Foundation often works together with customers and partners on volunteer activities. Supporting the work of the Red Cross, for example, is a key part of Motorola Solutions efforts.

Supporting Local Communities: "We want to make sure our impact is felt at local level". Local involvement in community causes is very important to Motorola Solutions employees and a range of activities are progressed around the world. Part of this is by way of cash donations from both the Motorola Solutions Foundation and employees, but many of these programs are about personal volunteering and engagement.

Long Term relationships: The Motorola Solutions Foundation likes to maintain long-term relationships with the causes it supports and 72 percent of the beneficiary organizations are ones which have been connected with Motorola in previous years. However, grants are made on an annual basis, to prevent complacency in the annual allocation process and to "refresh the partnership" - each year,  requesting organizations are asked to submit a new grant request  and reaffirm progress made so far and new objectives. This provides the opportunity to review, discuss and ensure that allocations are made for the right reasons.

The Stability of the Foundation: Because the Motorola Solutions Foundation funds its annual budget from assets, there is a high degree of stability from year to year. The total amount of funds allocated is not subject to short-term pressures, market downturns or changes in management.

The Measurement of impact: Prior to approving grants to any local cause, the Motorola Solutions Foundation examines the effectiveness of its social activity and the nature of the impact the organization has in society. For example, there are several programs in which improved school attendance and performance has been documented as a result of Motorola Solutions Foundation-supported programs and interventions.

It was very interesting to hear from someone whose job is to give away over $20 million per year. It was more interesting to hear the very careful, strategic, impact-focused approach. It may be easy to give away money, but it is far less easy to ensure that the money is used effectively to create positive social outcomes. Aimee Schutzman, the CSR Manager of  Motorola Solutions in Israel, and a highly-experienced local CSR leader, who hosted the meeting, was on hand to give local examples of how the Motorola Solutions Foundation supports programs in this country.

Aimee Schutzman - the Motorola Solutions Israel CSR Champion

Following Matt's talk and discussion with other local companies, three NGO's presented their activity:

Time to Know: This is a fabulous initiative that provides a breakthrough solution for one-to-one computing classrooms. Teachers use Time to Know's interactive comprehensive curriculum and digital teaching platform to manage all classroom activities and deliver a personalized curriculum to every student with significantly enhanced learning outcomes. This is a tremendous futuristic, almost surreal, type of classroom environment which is incredible to observe. Apparently the future is already here. Check this out:

Lior Boker Foundation (Hebrew website only) :  Lior Boker was a firefighter who heroically lost his life during a beyond-the-call-of-duty attempt to rescue victims of the Carmel Fire which raged in Israel's Carmel Mountains, killing many and displacing hundreds of families. Lior's widow, Nava Boker, established a Foundation in her late husband's name to help support firefighting activities - train firefighters, support firefighting rescue services and encourage and train volunteers. An inspiring example of bravely turning adversity into the opportunity to help others in the name of one who gave his life to do so.
Project Wadi Attir seeks to develop and demonstrate a model for sustainable, community-based organic farming, adapted to a desert environment. It is designed to combine Bedouin aspirations, values and experience in desert agriculture, with sustainability principles and cutting edge green technologies, including renewable energy production, resource recycling and arid land stewardship. It is intended to showcase a breakthrough approach to environmentally sound sustainable development, which could impact the Middle East region as well as other parts of the world. Check it out - and be inspired - here:

Anyway back to strategic philanthropy. In my opening remarks at the meeting, I mentioned four purposes of corporate community investment:

Uno: To meet a community need by leveraging the resources and capabilities of business in a way which complements and augments work done in other sectors.
Due: To demonstrate good corporate citizenship – which gives reputational value.
Tre: To provide a benefit for the organization - in terms of supporting a team-culture, service-orientation and exposing employees to new challenges which build their skills.
Quattro: To provide a personal benefit for employees – the feeling of giving to the community is genuinely appreciated at a personal level.

Unfortunately, though, in Israel, the concern with the first purpose tends to be subordinate to the other three. That means, companies are more concerned with seen to be being good and making their employees happy than they are with using their precious resources to contribute to truly long term systemic change that enriches communities and the quality of life for all.  The short-termism of community involvement and the lack of any real measurement of the effectiveness – the outcomes - of community involvement are two things that characterize the way things work in here. In fact, that's the big difference between involvement and investment.

Investment is about strategic philanthropy – creating collaborative partnerships and working to bring about deeply-felt impact over time to meet defined needs in society. It's about creating – and calculating – a social return on this investment, not only an economic return for the business. Internal organizational benefits are also important but they need to be combined carefully with social needs in order to find the optimum mix.

In Israel, community involvement is generally short-term, employee-focused and outcomes are not measured. Companies record total giving and volunteer hours, but rarely much more, with a few exceptions. 

The Maala Ranking for 2011, which included 85 (mainly publicly traded) companies, reported a total community contribution of  $144 million – with around $1.5 million being the average per company – less than 1% of pre-tax profit (compared to 1 – 3% average in more CSR-developed countries). 10% of these companies gave over $ 2.5 million per year – in fact, two organizations alone contributed over $18 million in total . Around 50 companies contribute less than half a million dollars. 87% of these companies encourage employee volunteering with an average 20% of employee participation.

This compares with median total giving in a survey in the US of 184 leading companies where the median total giving was $22.10 million  in 2010. 81% of companies reported have a corporate foundation.

Corporate foundations in Israel are not popular. There are very few. One of the main reasons is the amount of money that corporations are investing in communities is relatively low, partly due to the size of the local market and partly due to other corporate and cultural considerations. Perhaps one of these considerations is the long-term commitment that is required before you establish a foundation. In the 2011 ranking (covering 2010 data), for example, when the economy declined, Israeli companies contributed over 40% less than in 2010, and the lowest they have contributed for four years on average (according to the Maala Ranking) . In the U.S, in 2010, where economic conditions were no better, corporate charitable giving rose by 10.6%.

All in all, a very worthwhile opportunity to listen, share, think and discuss matters related to corporate community involvement, investment, giving and volunteering. Kudos to Matt Blakely, Aimee Schutzman and the Motorola Solutions Foundation.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices  Contact me via   on Twitter or via my business website  (Beyond Business, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)

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