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Charities @Work Outside the Office: Collaboration Connecting a Community
Publish date: 7/10/2013 10:39:56 AM

Robin Perkins | Madeline Reamy

Workplace giving federations have long occupied a niche in the nonprofit sector — your at-the-office giving representative and liaison to numerous member charities, united under a common cause banner.

As the role of business in society changed, so have opportunities for purpose-driven collaboration between the nonprofit sector and the corporate community. Growing emphasis on corporate social responsibility and employee engagement drives business leaders to seek meaningful opportunities for their company’s brand and, increasingly importantly, their sustainability efforts to be promoted and visible to their peers and the general public. This is where environmental workplace giving federations are uniquely positioned, offering the ability to unite the private sector with the nonprofit organizations that act as stewards of our air, land, water and wildlife.

For many years, EarthShare Georgia (ESGA) has been building connections to the work of its environmental member organizations through its annual Earth Month (April) events, which have grown to attract hundreds of people. Participants and attendees include leadership and employees from local companies such as Kaiser Permanente, Accenture, Cox Enterprises, Coca-Cola, Turner Broadcasting System, and dozens of others. Event sponsorship opens a variety of opportunities for partners to engage their employees in community stewardship and network with colleagues in the private and public sector, while promoting their corporate social responsibility to their peers and the larger community.

Madeline Reamy has been the Executive Director of EarthShare Georgia for more than eight years. In our Q&A, she describes their long running Earth Month corporate and community engagement program and offers some insights into its success. 


Tell me about EarthShare Georgia’s Corporate Earth Month program.

Madeline:  We have an approach designed around three core events, each developed to appeal to our stakeholder groups and their unique sets of goals and interests. Our stakeholders are employees, corporate leadership, our local and regional member charities, and our amazing community here in Atlanta and other local areas.

Through our Corporate Green Day Challenge, now in its 10th year, we establish volunteer opportunities for employees of our Earth Day corporate sponsors at specially selected environmental improvement project sites across Metro Atlanta and beyond.  The projects are often organized by ESGA member groups and provide direct involvement in their work through hands-on conservation activities — river cleanups, garden planting, tree mulching, and park improvement projects are typical. The teams compete for the coveted “Corporate Green Day Challenge Award,” which recognizes employee participation, project accomplishment, team spirit and leadership. These volunteers are individuals who work for companies with roots in our own region. This is such a visible way for them to show their personal investment.

Through our partnership with EarthShare of Georgia, and as a 2012 winner of the Corporate Green Day Challenge, we illustrate our commitment to supporting the people and communities in which we live and work.”
Geri P. Thomas, Market President, Bank of America, Georgia

We present the Challenge Award during our Earth Day Leadership Breakfast. Emphasizing the benefits of volunteer opportunities and providing employee recognition for community engagement is very important.  The Breakfast is now in its 12th year and it’s really grown, thanks to our goal of bringing together more of our stakeholders. What used to be a private, CEO-only event is now open to all employees of company sponsors, individual donors and supporters, and ESGA member group representatives.

What’s the Earth Day Leadership Breakfast all about?

Education, acknowledgement and networking.  This event brings together business and environmental leaders to focus on ways to improve our environment, and highlights the work of our member groups in caring for our natural resources.  ESGA also uses this as a platform to honor and recognize outstanding community partners, campaign champions, member organizations, and the winning Corporate Green Day Challenge company green team. It’s a unique opportunity to be able to laud these achievements with peers from Global 500 companies and environmental leaders in attendance.

We bring noteworthy speakers to the table, too, to offer insight into relevant issues impacting the environment and business. This year’s breakfast will feature Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, a leading international expert in the area of weather, climate, and atmospheric related sciences, and President of American Meteorological Society.  His keynote address will focus on water issues and the correlations to climate change, and offer ideas about sustainable ways individuals and businesses can help conserve Georgia’s environment.

Environmental stewardship is vital for the well-being of Georgians, present and future. All of us at Kaiser Permanente look forward to supporting EarthShare Georgia’s ongoing work to help our state and communities thrive.”
-Kerry W. Kohnen, President, Kaiser Permanente of Georgia

You mentioned a third event that takes place in April?

Yes, our Earth Day Party is now in its 19th year.  Everybody gets to enjoy music, dancing and, of course, locally sourced organic food. Guests have an opportunity to bid on the Eco-silent auction stocked with deals on Eco-products, and trips.

Not only does this provide another, more informal, networking opportunity for business and environmental leaders, but also for a diverse group of attendees from all sectors of the community. It greatly extends our outreach and helps raise environmental awareness beyond the established group of stakeholders.

What are the benefits that the various stakeholders see from this collaboration?

ESGA’s Earth Day events raise critical operating funds for us, Georgia’s only dedicated environmental fund, and often the events provide a great introduction to potential workplace campaign and marketing partners. Many welcome and supportive business partnerships have grown from the events, including in-kind sponsorships to support our communications and outreach.

But most important is the opportunity it gives us to drive effective community involvement in partnership with our corporate supporters.  These events achieve so many purposes: promoting environmental awareness; connecting people with causes and opportunities for getting involved; demonstration of commitment to the communities where we all do business; and providing current and potential corporate partners with a chance to mingle with organizations we support year-round. They learn more about these nonprofits’ work, and more about the impact they’re helping to make possible.  And that ultimately builds more effective investment in the health of our communities and environment.

 

What are the benefits that the various stakeholders see from this collaboration?

ESGA’s Earth Day events raise critical operating funds for us, Georgia’s only dedicated environmental fund, and often the events provide a great introduction to potential workplace campaign and marketing partners. Many welcome and supportive business partnerships have grown from the events, including in-kind sponsorships to support our communications and outreach.

But most important is the opportunity it gives us to drive effective community involvement in partnership with our corporate supporters.  These events achieve so many purposes: promoting environmental awareness; connecting people with causes and opportunities for getting involved; demonstration of commitment to the communities where we all do business; and providing current and potential corporate partners with a chance to mingle with organizations we support year-round. They learn more about these nonprofits’ work, and more about the impact they’re helping to make possible.  And that ultimately builds more effective investment in the health of our communities and environment.

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