The “No Man’s Land” Between CSR and Non-profits (Part 3 of 3)

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In the second of the three-part series about the no man’s land, reasons resulting in the widening of this gap were identified. The divide between the non-profit industry, and for-profit corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs exists, and it’s due in part by the lack of inclusiveness of acquired diversity in both industries. Non-profit hiring managers hire incestuously, from a pool of talent that’s similar to their own, and for-profit hiring managers continue to hire or promote CSR professionals with academic and professional backgrounds from traditional marketing and public relations roles. Compounding on these practices, non-profit’s are oftentimes unable to provide the necessary salary and benefits for the correct staff, being forced to get by with what little they have. So how do we fix this? What measures can be taken on both sides of a widening disconnect?

While this has a lot to do with several issues (including leadership challenges, valuation of human capital, and inclusivity) the lack of acquired diversity in both industries is one of the biggest influencing factors. However, it all boils down to having too few CSR professionals who understand the true requirements of non-profit organizations, and too few non-profit professional with proven competency in business administration.

Here are some ways that you can begin to change this status quo If working at a non-profit.

  • Increase acquired diversity: Work with your human resources manager, a talent agency or recruiter to find the most qualified candidates for specific positions. Make an honest effort to seek those who are not just entrepreneurial in thought, but also have skills in business development, business administration, marketing and organizational management. Acquiring persons with the correct academic and professional backgrounds will provide your organization with the skills necessary to implement the best processes and business strategies for growth and sustainability. Doing so will increase the likelihood that the programs and departments are functioning efficiently and effectively against their requirements.

If working for a for-profit, or hiring within a CSR program, there are different but equal measures to take that include the following;

  • Seeking non-profit talent: By acquiring non-profit talent, you open your door to a vast network of professionals with an array of tools from working with volunteers and donors. When designing your CSR program, think about engaging professionals who may have a wealth of knowledge in what non-profit’s are challenged with. Hire an “insider” who can dialogue with the non-profit organizations you’re seeking to support, on a peer level and through a lens that meets eye-to-eye with that non-profit professional. Doing so will better align your CSR program with the organization you’re supporting, increasing impact and your return on investment (ROI). Whether human capital through volunteering or financial capital through monetary and in-kind donations, you’ll be better equipped to ensuring that both are stewarded appropriately.

While these are just some ways that you can bridge the divide, know that this is just scratching the surface. There are many well intentioned people on this planet, but it takes effort to harness that energy into the correct outlets. However, you need to have the correct people to help do that. It takes work getting there, and you’ll need to be willing to do that work. If you’re at a non-profit organization, don’t overlook the business practices that all successful businesses (and organizations) need, in order to thrive in an ever changing environment. If you work at a for-profit that has a CSR program, reach across the aisle and engage (and really think about hiring) professionals who’ve worked in the industry you want to support. An MBA has a lot to offer non-profit organizations in way of skills, and non-profit professionals also have a ton offer in way of institutional knowledge through experience. That’s not to say non-profit professionals aren’t as educated, it just means that they have knowledge about challenges faced at non-profit’s that MBA’s working at a Fortune company may never come across academically or professionally. The insight you can obtain by hiring out of industry can be transformative to your operations.

Think about how much more impact your CSR program can have, if the CSR program manager had staffing talent from the non-profit industry. You could have a CSR professional, who has a background in major donation stewardship, or volunteer management, to help your company navigate grant proposals and service projects in a way that a marketing professional just can’t. If you’re working at a non-profit organization, think about the type of processes or mechanisms that can exist to benefit your operations and ability to execute on programming goals by having MBA talent on board. This is the type of transformation that’s needed to bridge this gap. So where do you go from here? I challenge you to have this conversation with your hiring manager, your supervisor or even your executive leadership. Be that change agent, get that conversation started and see where it leads. I have, and in my experience you can change things in a positive way.

Note: The thoughts and views expressed in this post reflect my personal views alone and are not those of Marriott International or any of its brands.

About the author: Jerome Tennille is the Manager of Volunteerism for Marriott International. Prior to that Jerome held the position of Senior Manager of Impact Analysis and Assessment for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a national organization that offers help, hope, and healing to all those grieving the death of a loved one serving in America’s armed forces. Jerome is a board of directors member of Peace Through Action USA and also serves on the PsychArmor Institute Advisory Committee for the School of Volunteers & Nonprofits. Jerome holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in operations management and a Master of Sustainability Leadership (MSL) from Arizona State University. Jerome is designated as Certified in Volunteer Administration (CVA) and is also a veteran of the US Navy.

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Social Good advocate for CSR, Volunteer Engagement, and Sustainability. Veteran. Manager of Volunteerism at Marriott International. Visit

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