Charity: the best business decision a company will make

Renee Anschau explains how Project Futures has formed a string of long-term partnerships with high-profile brands that understand and support its nonprofit model.

 

corporate social responsibilityIt is not uncommon for organisations working in the same sector to collaborate to deliver programs, but it is incredibly rare to find organisations willing to apply those same principles when it comes to fundraising. But that is exactly what Project Futures has been doing for the past seven and a half years.

We create meaningful experiences that raise funds, and educate and empower our generation to end human trafficking, but we do not run services.

Project Futures forms long-term partnerships with established projects in the Asia-Pacific region, and through the funds we generate we allow these services to concentrate more time and resources on delivering quality client outcomes in the countries in which they operate.

Alternative approaches to charity and partnerships

As Partnership Manager, I know there is much to be gained by collaborating with other nonprofits, not just companies. My experience has shown me there is more than one way to approach charity and partnerships.

With ongoing concerns about duplication, increased competition and the threat of conflicting messages still plaguing the sector, a model that aggregates organisations working to solve a specific social problem can offer some relief.

Project Futures proves this model works on a number of levels. Not only have we built a network of socially-minded professionals, students and community groups willing to use their time, skills and expertise to affect change on this issue, we have also been supported by a string of high-profile brands that understand and support the model.

In my role, I look for brands that provide a mutual audience benefit and companies seeking direction in shaping their corporate social responsibility approach. We realise many organisations are still at the start of this journey and need support to direct their passion and purpose.

Our partnerships have been developed to cater to the unique needs of each business, and in almost every instance the reason these partnerships succeeded was a result of having developed or initiated relationships with key decision-makers within the first or second stage of discussions.

Collaborating with Synergy Fitness

Synergy Fitness CEO Leo Young approached Project Futures in 2014 on the recommendation of his daughter, who had witnessed slavery while travelling throughout Asia. 

Both father and daughter saw the value of investing in an organisation that tackled the problem by supporting multiple services that work towards the same goal.

“As a father and grandfather of girls, this issue struck a real chord and made me realise how truly privileged we are in Australia, but also that there were girls around the world living without hope of ever being able to change their fate. That did not sit well with me,” Young says.

After an initial one-off donation, Synergy Fitness supported the salaries of two full-time employees for an entire year, becoming a valued friend and angel investor.

Young adds, “I admired the fire and passion of the team and recognised the benefit of approaching the issue from a different angle. It is not unusual for companies to invest in the best people, so why not charities? Administration is a cost most people or companies do not want to invest in or donate to, but how can programs, amazing fundraising events or innovation happen without it?”

In just over two years, Synergy Fitness has contributed close to $300,000.

Project Futures becomes key charity partner to Konica Minolta

We believe good corporate partnerships are the result of a clear understanding of your own worth, tenacity and a lot of luck. A good example of this is our relationship with Konica Minolta Australia.

With a Doctorate in Corporate Social Responsibility and a commitment to developing a strong internal culture of giving and diversity, Managing Director of Konica Minolta, Dr David Cooke, recommended Project Futures as a key charity partner after hearing our Founder, Steph Lorenzo, address a large corporate audience on good social responsibility in 2012.

Having been in partnership since 2013, contributions are now over $200,000, but it is the ongoing evaluation of the relationship, its ability to drive employee involvement, including immersion trips to Cambodia and development of shared value initiatives, that give the partnership strength. 

Amongst many others from within the organisation to have participated in this trip, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager Anastasia Konstantelos travelled with Project Futures to Cambodia in 2015 to see first-hand the projects supported and to share her experiences.

“There is something very special about travelling by bike across a country like Cambodia, but the most memorable moments were spent in the company of those who have dedicated their lives to supporting the victims and survivors of this crime. That is the true value of experiencing something like this. We can connect with the cause in a really unique way and that is what we love about working with Project Futures,” she says.

We have worked closely with Konica Minolta to understand how we can continue to add value to the business beyond traditional engagement strategies and are actively seeking to explore shared value opportunities.

In 2016, Konica Minolta released its Ethical Sourcing Roadmap; an 18-month plan to guide the company on a journey to ensure the rights of workers and other relevant stakeholders in its business operations and supply chains are respected.

Led by Ethical Supply Chain Management Consultant Laura McManus, the framework seeks to create a foundation of good policies and procedures from which to build ethical sourcing practices.

The Roadmap sends a statement to Konica’s suppliers, customers and employees. It carries weight in the market and there is real value for both the company and us in ensuring every part of the business understands how this roadmap and everything it implies can support them in their own individual roles.

As one of Konica Minolta’s key charity partners, coupling a conversation about how the business is working to ensure a slavery free supply chain with knowledge about how that relates to the charities the company supports will demonstrate a 360-degree view of its role within the community.

Supporting the amplification of these messages across the business and out to market will be a key focus for Project Futures in 2017. We do this because we see Konica Minolta as a prime example of how a clear corporate social responsibility strategy with long-term partners can positively influence its bottom line.

In the most recent industry reporting, Konica Minolta has maintained a number-two position for five consecutive months in the business printer market, up two spots on previous years. It goes without saying that without great product and excellent service a business will not thrive, but if you combine that with a culture of caring and a focus on innovation, you can create a unique selling point that customers and employees will respond to.

Success and growth

Since 2009, Project Futures has raised over $4.2 million, supported five projects across three countries and accepted more than $1.2 million from the corporate community alone – and we’re growing.

By hosting events, organising international adventures, driving media outreach, facilitating corporate partnerships and creating social enterprises, we believe we have a solid foundation from which to build. We believe that giving to charity does not need to feel like a burden and, in fact, we make sure nonprofits get something back in return.

It is empowering, sustainable and it makes good business sense. Whether you believe it or not, the time is fast approaching when businesses that fail to give back will feel the impact on their bottom line.

An Australian Business Purpose Study[1] released in 2013 suggested that 95% of Australians believe that companies have a responsibility far beyond profit delivery and in a separate study done by Havas PR[2] in 2014, 59% of Australians bought one brand over another in the past year because it was more socially or environmentally responsible.

In only a few short years, we have worked with brands from a diverse range of industries, including organisations like Massland Property Group, Liverpool Partners, AirRoad, Dockside Group and Showpo just to name a few, and we are incredibly proud of what we have been able to achieve together.

Our approach is open and informed, with a legacy of great partnerships to draw inspiration and knowledge from.

Renee Anschau

Renee worked in media for nine years before shifting focus three years ago to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector. She worked with under-privileged youth at a Sydney-based homelessness service for 18 months before taking on the role of Partnership Manager for Project Futures in November 2015.

 

[1] It’s not business, It’s Personal – The Australian Business Purpose Study 2013

[2] Havas PR – Meaningful Brands Study 2014