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Highlights from the 2024 Engage for Good Conference in Minneapolis

Steven Cook at the Engage for Good Conference 2024.

I just returned from this year’s Engage for Good Conference in Minneapolis, where I connected with other professionals committed to creating positive social change through corporate partnerships and innovative projects. The event was filled with inspiring presentations and insightful panel discussions, providing a vibrant forum for exchanging valuable knowledge, best practices, and new trends influencing the future of social impact efforts. I hope my recap of the key moments will make you feel as though you were right there with us and leave you with practical insights for your own projects!

Steven Cook, Cofounder of Force4Good

“Pushback means there has been progress. We must stay the course.” – Yusuf Zakir

The Engage for Good Conference 2024, held from May 14-16 in Minneapolis, was all about making a positive social impact through corporate partnerships and innovative initiatives. Over 600 attendees (including 200 new attendees) participated in insightful discussions, expert panels, and keynote addresses highlighting successful strategies for mobilizing corporate partners, building a culture of innovation, and enhancing fundraising efforts. 

A presentation at the Engage For Good conference

The Halo Award Winners

The first-ever EFG awards gala, The Halo Awards, included 33 winners across 18 categories as part of EFG2024! The award winners represent best-in-class and transformative corporate-nonprofit partnerships, including the below. You can see the full list of award winners here.

Pioneers of Partnerships: Insights from the Corporation and Nonprofit of the Year Halo Award Winners: This year’s Halo Award winners for Corporation, Google.org, and Nonprofit of the year, charity: water, have redefined the benchmarks for corporate social impact and found opportunities for broader engagement. 

For Profit of the Year: Google.org 

  •  Uses innovative technology to implement custom solutions that increase the reach and impact of its nonprofit partners
  • Set up a Google.org fellowship, where employees can do 6 months of full-time pro-bono work on projects such as:
    • Aerial photography analysis to identify areas most impacted by natural disasters and prioritize aid according to need in part in partnership with GiveDirectly 
    •  Collaboration with the nonprofit Wadhwani AI in using an AI tool to help farmers spot pesky crop-destroying bugs
    • Partnership with The Trevor Project to create AI-generated chat simulations to help train counselors to support at-risk youth and veterans

Nonprofit of the Year: charity: water

  • A nonprofit organization focused on bringing clean and safe water to people around the world
  • Focuses on the 703 million people without access to clean water (1 in 11 people)
  • Has a radically transparent model that sends 100% of public donations to the field
  • Since 2006, has funded more than 152,000 water projects in 29 developing countries
  • Created a new partnership with Kalahari Resorts and Conventions that has committed $50 million to provide clean water to one million people in Africa

Loretta J. Ross Explains Why ‘Calling In’ Is the Future of Corporate Social Impact

Professor Loretta J. Ross speaks at Engage For Good

EFG2024 keynote speaker Professor Loretta J. Ross, a renowned activist for human rights and social justice, provided us with profound insights and practical tools for guiding teams and driving change within organizations. Her discussion emphasized that navigating corporate social responsibility isn’t just about strategy – it’s a reminder of our shared humanity and the importance of fostering inclusive, empathetic environments.

Key Insights from Panels:

Despite the challenges we encounter in our quest for impact, our speakers repeatedly urged us to embrace our collective power and persist as changemakers, regardless of the obstacles. Speaker Yusuf Zakir poignantly remarked, “Pushback means there has been progress. We must stay the course.” Some panel highlights include:

The “Mobilizing Corporate Partners with Movement Milestones" panel at Engage For Good conference

1. Mobilizing Corporate Partners with Movement Milestones

One of the standout panels, “Mobilizing Corporate Partners with Movement Milestones,” featured Melanie Newell from Rocket Social Impact, Emily Crawford from Inspire Brands Foundation, and Sara Jamshidi from Share Our Strength | No Kid Hungry. The panel focused on strategies for effectively engaging stakeholders and supporters to drive meaningful change, particularly in the fight against child hunger in the United States.

Key Points:

  • Ending Child Hunger: The panel emphasized the critical issue of child hunger, particularly during the summer months when many children lose access to school meals. With 1 in 5 children currently living with hunger in the United States, the summer months exacerbate this issue with many children losing access to the school meals that helped them meet their needs. New legislation aims to expand meal programs to serve up to 30 million children during the summer, a significant increase from the current 3 million.
  • Movement Milestones: Celebrating key moments of progress is essential to maintain momentum and motivation among partners and donors. These milestones should be clear, achievable within a short timeframe (less than five years), and easily communicated.
  • Collective Impact: Achieving large-scale change requires mobilizing collective efforts beyond individual organizations. The panel stressed the importance of collaboration and leveraging the strengths of various stakeholders.
  • Inspire Brands Foundation: Inspire, the second-largest restaurant company, has committed to supporting the “summer hunger” initiative through No Kid Hungry. Inspire’s CEO has pledged to raise $25 million over the next three years to combat summer hunger showcasing the power of high-level commitment and corporate leadership.

Tactics for Success:

  • Engage ambassadors to champion the cause.
  • Simplify the message for easy understanding and gradually reveal the complexity as partners become more involved.
  • Highlight supporting brands at key industry events to build credibility and visibility.
  • Foster internal and cross-departmental collaboration within organizations.
  • Include the brand in the work to ensure they feel integral to the mission.
  • Conduct quarterly town halls to update partners on progress and maintain engagement.

2. How to Build Innovation Into Your Culture

Anthony Marions from charity: water delivered a compelling presentation on embedding innovation into organizational culture. Charity: water is “on a mission to bring clean water to the 703 million people living without it”. He shared insights on how charity: water has successfully integrated innovation into its core values and operations, driving significant social impact.

Key Points:

  • Core Values: charity: water’s core values include respect, excellence, innovation, passion, and integrity. These values guide all aspects of their work and decision-making processes.
  • Innovative Funding Models: charity: water operates with a unique funding model in which 100% of public donations go directly to field projects, while private donors cover operational costs. This transparency builds trust with donors.
  • Monthly Donations: Their monthly subscription model exemplifies sustainable fundraising, where $40 a month can provide 12 people with clean water every year.
  • Startup Collaborations: charity: water works with startup founders to donate equity, creating a potential for significant future contributions if the startups succeed.
  • Storytelling: Leading with hope and positive narratives rather than guilt or shame has been crucial in engaging supporters and donors.

Tactics for Success:

  • Invest in innovative storytelling to make a lasting emotional impact on audiences.
  • Create sponsorship levels that consistently benefit donors, from project sponsors to flagship partners.
  • Maintain meticulous reporting to donors, providing verified updates with photos and GPS coordinates.
  • Embrace risk-taking as part of the innovation process and create a culture where trying new ideas is safe.

3. POS Fundraising

The panel on Point-of-sale (POS) Fundraising, featuring Dominique Olson from the American Red Cross and Brittany Hill, CEO and Founder of Accelerist, highlighted effective strategies for POS fundraising and discussed its significant potential to drive donations and increase consumer engagement. Accelerist is a software company that focuses on bridging charities and companies, helping them work together and measure program impacts.

Key Points:

  • POS Fundraising Statistics: In 2022, $759 million was donated through POS, with 78% of consumers feeling positive about giving at the register.
  • Multiple Touchpoints: Utilizing multiple touchpoints, such as emails, mobile, and QR codes, can increase POS giving by 160%.
  • Round-Up Campaigns: Combining brand matching with round-up campaigns can enhance the effectiveness of fundraising efforts.
  • Educational Approach: It is crucial to educate employees about where the donations go and why they matter. Avoid guilt-tripping customers; instead, focus on concise, informative messages.

Tactics for Success:

  • Offer round-ups that align with the demographics and interests of the brand’s customers.
  • Keep messaging about donations short and clear, ideally under 50 characters.
  • Engage local issues to resonate more with consumers and increase donation rates.

4. Benefit Matrix for Corporate Partnerships

The session on the importance of developing a benefit matrix for corporate partnerships provided valuable insights into structuring partnerships to maximize mutual benefits. This approach ensures that partnerships are strategic, impactful, and tailored to different levels of commitment.

Key Points:

  • Multiple Stakeholders: Engage various stakeholders and lead to drive year-round impact rather than focusing solely on one-time events.
  • Local Impact: Companies are increasingly interested in showing their impact on local communities. Highlighting local initiatives can strengthen partnerships.
  • Customized Benefits: Customize partnership offerings based on the level of donation or commitment. This can include public relations support, cause marketing benefits, cross-promotion, content co-creation, and more.

Tactics for Success:

  • Provide turnkey solutions for smaller clients and customized programs for larger clients.
  • Automate fundraising platforms and add newsletters to raise awareness and engagement.
  • Focus on simple, consistent initiatives that demonstrate clear value and impact.

    A speaker at Engage For Good

5. Underestimated Audiences

Sessions on engaging underestimated audiences highlighted the importance of inclusivity and recognizing the value of diverse communities.

Key Points:

  • Minorities and Disability Community: Brands should engage with minorities and the disability community, recognizing their significant buying power and potential for growth.
  • Gender Inequality: Investing in gender equity can drive substantial social and economic benefits. Supporting women-led organizations, especially in fields like climate change, is crucial.
  • Native American Community: Building relationships with Native American communities requires a focus on genuine engagement and understanding their unique challenges and strengths.

6. Women Leadership

The discussions on women’s leadership underscored the need for consistent, authentic support for women in leadership roles, particularly in addressing critical issues like climate change.

Key Points:

  • Support for Women-Led Organizations: Only a small fraction of donations to climate change efforts go to women-led organizations. Increasing this support can have significant positive impacts.
  • Authenticity: Authentic and consistent support over time is more impactful than isolated events.

    A speaker at Engage For Good

7. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

Sessions on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion stressed the importance of embedding DEI strategies into organizational DNA and reclaiming the definition of DEI amidst macroeconomic challenges.

Key Points:

  • DEI Strategies: Organizations must integrate DEI strategies into their core operations and culture to drive genuine change.
  • Challenges and Opportunities: Addressing challenges with DEI requires a proactive and inclusive approach, recognizing the significant contributions of diverse communities.

8. Substance Use Disorders

The keynote by Gary Mendell, founder and CEO of Shatterproof, highlighted the importance of addressing substance use disorders with science-based approaches and compassionate support. Shatterproof is “dedicated to reversing the addiction crisis in the United States”.

Key Points:

  • Scientific Approaches: Implementing science-based treatment and support systems can effectively address substance use disorders.
  • Stigma and Shame: Combating the stigma and shame associated with substance use disorders is essential for creating supportive communities.

9. Gen Z and Social Impact

DoSomething.org shared insights on engaging Gen Z in social impact work, emphasizing the need to address issues that matter most to them. DoSomething.org exists as “The Digital Hub for Youth-Centered Activism”, focusing on helping young people make social change.

Key Points:

  • Gen Z Priorities: Understanding and addressing the priorities of Gen Z can drive meaningful engagement and support for social impact initiatives.
  • Positive Messaging: Focusing on hope and positive outcomes, rather than guilt or fear, resonates more with younger audiences.

In Closing:

The Engage for Good Conference 2024 was a powerful reminder of the potential for corporate partnerships to drive significant social impact. Organizations can create lasting positive change by mobilizing partners with clear milestones, fostering a culture of innovation, leveraging POS fundraising, and engaging diverse communities. The conference’s insights and strategies provide a roadmap for companies and nonprofits alike to work together towards a better future. I certainly left the conference feeling inspired to deliver on our own mission at Force4Good of supporting our communities by providing fundraising opportunities to non-profit organizations that need funds.

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