PARTNERSHIPS + PHILANTHROPY CAN CREATE MEANINGFUL & LASTING CHANGE

*NOTE: This is a post from Alexis Raymond on the RE: Philanthropy blog. She is a writer/editor at Cisco Corporate Affairs; hence the frequent Cisco promoting throughout the post. It’s a great read.

Every year, International Corporate Philanthropy Day is observed on the last Monday in February to “raise awareness of corporate-community partnerships and inspire businesses around the world to engage further.” But did you know that the three most important words in the previous sentence are corporate-community partnerships?

Cisco has a nearly 30-year history of making philanthropic contributions. But what has made these contributions effective is not donations of cash and products alone but the partnerships we formed with nonprofits, government agencies, and other organizations in the process.

Strong partnerships make corporate philanthropic dollars go farther.

Take our investment in China’s Sichuan Province. After an 8.0-magnitude earthquake left at least 4.8 million people homeless in 2008, Cisco, the Cisco Foundation, and individual Cisco employees donated more than $2.6 million for immediate humanitarian relief.

But this was the 20th most deadly earthquake in human history, and more long-term help was needed. Rural residents in the Sichuan region had insufficient access to health care before the earthquake; after the disaster they were even more cut off. Cisco collaborated with the Chinese government and 11 other health care partners to not just rebuild health care in Sichuan Province, but to make it better than it was before.

Yes, we contributed technology solutions like Cisco TelePresence, which allowed physicians at urban hospitals to examine and interact with rural patients remotely. But more important, we worked closely with Chinese health officials to align our support with their Health 2020 reform plan to use technology to increase access and improve the quality of health care in rural communities.

By working directly with local organizations to find out exactly what their communities needed, we were able to make a contribution that not only filled a gap, but could be sustained long after our involvement was complete. That’s why health care facilities in Sichuan equipped with Cisco technologies are used by more than 7,000 practitioners supporting nearly 300,000 patients each month.

Even when we award a product or cash grant a nonprofit or charitable organization, we don’t just cut a check and walk away. Since we support organizations that use technology in innovative ways to improve and expand their services, and since Cisco is a technology company, we have something else to add to the equation: our expertise.

Inveneo is a nonprofit organization connecting people in the developing world to computers and the Internet; Cisco has awarded more than $3 million in cash and product grants to the organization since 2007. But Inveneo is not just a grantee. It is a key partner in many of our social investments.

For example, we worked with Inveneo in the Palestinian Territories to connect more than 50 schools and youth centers to a wireless network. Inveneo is also one of Cisco’s partners in a four-year Clinton Global Initiative commitment to establish Community Knowledge Centers in Sub-Saharan Africa to foster economic development through technology access. Cisco brings the technology to the partnership, and Inveneo brings knowledge of the unique conditions in the developing countries we are trying to serve. It’s philanthropy, but it’s also a partnership.

So in addition to wishing you a happy International Corporate Philanthropy Day, we encourage you to observe “International Corporate-Community Partnership Day,” too. Look at your corporation not as a philanthropist, but as a partner. Ask how you can help, and be creative in applying your business expertise to solve a problem.

At Cisco, we follow a simple formula. Combining technology networks (our products and expertise) with human networks (our employees and the organizations we partner with) multiplies our impact on people, communities, and the planet.

What do you add to the equation?

For more on grants and grant writing, visit Grant Pros.

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