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Philanthropy & Nonprofits

A New Era of Corporate Citizenship

Writing a check is no longer enough when it comes to the role North Texas businesses play in supporting nonprofits. (Plus, winners revealed.)
Jill Broussard

A longtime strength of Dallas-Fort Worth has been the deep involvement of area businesses in community and nonprofit initiatives. Companies and organizations have come together to support our region’s growth and improve residents’ quality of life. A few years back, we interviewed 32 CEOs who were new to North Texas. In talking with them about their initial impressions, many mentioned the can-do attitude and philanthropic mindset of business leaders here. Supporting nonprofits, they told us, wasn’t viewed as an obligation but a privilege.

That spirit has certainly come through in the past year-and-a-half. Companies across the region changed course to help provide PPE gear to those on the front lines of the pandemic. And in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, businesses began having much-needed conversations about diversity, inclusion, and social justice, and established initiatives and benchmarks to make sure their efforts went beyond talks. But doing good isn’t only for times of crisis. Employees, investors, and customers are paying very close attention to a company’s corporate values and the way they’re lived out.

Before making decisions about where to work, where to invest, and even what products to buy, people are digging into a company’s ESG (environmental, social, and governance) performance ratings. Gone are the days when writing a check is sufficient to be considered a good corporate citizen. Businesses are setting the tone when it comes to addressing myriad issues, such as poverty and wealth gaps, education, social unrest, and the climate crisis. And they’re expected to walk the talk when it comes to equity.

“I think business leaders who are more interested in inclusion and diversity in their businesses need to ensure that they have inclusion and diversity in their life,” says Fred Perpall, who leads Dallas architecture firm The Beck Group. “You know people are watching what you do, not what you say.”

Perpall and former Dallas Fed chief Richard Fisher were tapped last year by Mayor Eric Johnson to co-lead Dallas Forward, a coalition of private and public partners to support small businesses. It was formed to fuel short-term economic recovery and long-term inclusive growth. Through his involvement in Dallas Forward and other initiatives, Perpall says he’s learned about the pivotal role businesses can play in effecting real change. But it requires hands-on involvement.

“We should not just be writing checks to help people who are in a vulnerable situation; we should be trying to change the structure that causes vulnerable situations,” he says.

That means getting involved in areas such as workforce development, internships, preventing recidivism and drug abuse, and investing deeply in pre-K through 12th-grade education—all of which will help provide talent for the region’s employers.

“When you care about this stuff, it becomes deeply personal—and people know authentic versus not authentic,” Perpall says. Collaboration is critical, he adds. “Fragmentation is our enemy in Dallas—everyone wants to do it on their own. But the issues we’re facing are so complex and so broad-reaching that it will take deep collaboration and partnership. We need to stop fragmenting ourselves and diluting results because we’re not collaborating enough.”

Beyond Lip Service

This year’s Nonprofit & Corporate Citizenship Awards program revealed how impact can be amplified through collaboration and targeting specific areas for support. PNC Bank, for example, focuses on early education through its “Grow Up Great” program. Its efforts extend beyond financial donations to include advocacy, curriculum and classroom materials, and thousands of hours of volunteer work by employees. PepsiCo’s Dallas-based “Food for Good” platform aims to help build food security through nutrition programs and initiatives that support women. It also uses its distribution, delivery, and storage expertise to get food to those in need, delivering 4.9 million meals across Texas last year. And, among other initiatives, Comerica partners with Mommies in Need, which provides childcare for mothers battling a health crisis. Ryan Anderson, vice president and national contributions manager for the bank, says beyond being the right thing to do, corporate citizenship has bottom-line impact.

“If society improves and your community improves, your market improves,” he says. Comerica targets areas where it can have “a disproportionate impact,” Anderson says, including early childhood education and economic inequality. “We want to use capitalism to help people rise up,” he says. “We want to invest in [disadvantaged] communities and businesses to really address the wealth gap, which is generational.”

Corporate citizenship plays a big role in corporate culture. Employees expect transparency surrounding involvement and results. And whatever area businesses target, their efforts must be authentic.

“You can’t fake it,” Anderson says. “You can’t jump on a fad or a trend. It has to be there or it’s not, and it takes years and years and decades to build.”

As connections deepen between businesses and the nonprofits with which they’re involved, companies gain insight as to the true needs of the organizations. After the pandemic hit, businesses were more willing to do give without restrictions, so nonprofits could allocate funds where they were needed most.

The need for flexibility is one of the main themes mentioned by nonprofits interviewed for this feature. And it’s this kind of support provided to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, which lost about a fourth of its budget (about $10 million) when it had to cancel normal programming in 2020 due to the pandemic. Kim Noltemy, the Ross Perot president and CEO of the Dallas Symphony Association, credits corporate sponsors for helping it secure robotic cameras to stream performances or provide transportation for performers.

In-kind giving is one of the best ways companies can support nonprofits. Entries in this year’s awards program showcased the many ways North Texas businesses are getting involved, from GFF’s work to convert parking lots to parklets and build a new animal shelter for Cane Rosso Rescue to American Airlines offering its legal team to do pro-bono work for New Friends New Life, which supports girls and women who have been trafficked or sexually exploited.

Moving The Needle

Larry James, who has worked with CitySquare for nearly three decades and now serves as chairman emeritus, says its corporate partners have also lent their law firms to represent low-income people in family courts. Other leaders have gotten involved to help the organization shore up its data collection and reporting.

“The expertise of business and corporations, being brought to bear and leverage, if you will, on the management practices of nonprofit organizations has improved everyone,” James says. “And certainly, it’s been an improvement for organizations such as CitySquare. “We feel more like partners than just the recipients of charity.”

Big problems won’t go away without hands-on involvement, he adds. “We will not solve the housing crisis, the healthcare crisis, or the education crisis of low-income people and families through charity. We’re going to have to have systemic investment and policy change and accountability on all sides of the equation—corporate, nonprofit, and public.”

The emphasis on ESG doesn’t just benefit nonprofits; deeper engagement also enhances companies and their employees.

“We’re at a place now, culturally, where corporations are really wanting to give back, and it’s not just the lip service that we heard even 10 years ago,” says Brad Pritchett, co-chair of Black Tie Dinner, which benefits a wide variety of LGBTQ-supportive organizations.

“There seems to be more of a lens on that; this sense of corporate citizenship is finally ‘woke’ to a point where these companies realize they have a social, cultural, and environmental responsibility to give back to the community they serve. You can’t just be headquartered in Dallas anymore without doing something to move the needle for Dallas.” 

Leaders Giving Back in North Texas

Ashley Sharp

Ashley Sharp

Executive Director, Dwell with Dignity

With a focus on supporting single mothers escaping homelessness and poverty, Dwell with Dignity collaborates with other nonprofits to provide clients with stability and a sense of confidence. Led by Ashley Sharp and supported by more than 30 corporate sponsors, including Benjamin Moore and Avondale Group, the organization designs and installs home interiors, inspiring parents to maintain a standard of living in which they can thrive. The group’s unique fundraiser, Thrift Studio, is a pop-up shop that sells donated furniture, housewares, accessories, and other finds to the public. Dwell with Dignity’s results are clear; not a single person it has helped has returned to a life of homelessness or a transitional shelter. The families’ newfound stability sparks ripple effects, including higher employment and graduation rates, throughout the community.

Shawn Williams

Shawn Williams

VP and Social Justice Practice Leader, Allyn Media

Although momentum in the social justice movement had been steadily building, the murder of George Floyd was a tipping point that pushed corporate leaders everywhere to get serious about their diversity and inclusion efforts and confronting racism and bias in the workplace. At Allyn Media, Shawn Williams took the lead, assembling an advisory council of community leaders and pulling together research and insights to help clients understand how various groups (generational, political identity, gender, etc.) perceive race and racism—and how it plays out in business. A seasoned media exec, he also developed a podcast and helped plan and lead a webinar series to provide historical context and help leaders make thoughtful, intentional change within their organizations—and create benchmarks for accountability.

Brad Pritchett and Terry Loftis

Brad Pritchett and Terry Loftis

Co-Chairs, Black Tie Dinner

What began as a small fundraising gathering among friends 40 years ago has grown into the largest fundraising dinner in the nation for the LGBTQ community, led by co-chairs Brad Pritchett and Terry Loftis. Along with providing support to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, Black Tie Dinner chooses up to 20 North Texas nonprofits as beneficiaries each year, from AIDS Services of Dallas and Coalition for Aging LGBT to Resource Center and Turtle Creek Chorale. In 2020, with the pandemic putting the kibosh on in-person events, Black Tie Dinner organizers decided the show must go on. They transformed it from an in-person gala with 3,000 guests to an hour-long telethon called Black Tie LIVE on WFAA-TV and various digital platforms. Despite the change of format, the initiative raised nearly $1 million for area LGBTQ-supportive organizations.

Thear Suzuki

Thear Suzuki

Global Client Service Partner, EY

Thear Suzuki and her family came to America as war refugees from Cambodia, surviving by hiding in jungle huts and working in labor camps. Today, she holds a global role at EY and serves on the firm’s Americas Inclusiveness Advisory Council. Suzuki champions development programs that build inclusive, innovative leaders for the 21st century; her mission, she says, is to inspire courageous actions in others so they can lead more impactful lives. She is especially interested in diversity and gender equality issues and combating anti-Asian racism; among countless nonprofit activities, Suzuki serves as co-chair of 50/50 Women on Boards Dallas and is a founding member of the Texas Women’s Foundation’s Orchid Giving Circle. 

Click here to view the galley from the awards ceremony.

Nonprofit & Corporate Citizenship Awards 2021 Winners and Finalists

Corporate Citizenship

Winner: Dallas Forward
Finalists: Camp Fire First Texas’ Early Education Apprenticeship Program; Catalyst Health Network and Project Unity; Santander Consumer USA and Dallas Innovation Alliance

Winner: Thear Suzuki, EY.
Finalists: Tanya Ragan, Wildcat Management; G. Brint Ryan, Ryan; Jacob Sims, HMS; Darren Woodson, ESRP

Winner: Comerica.
Finalists: Ericsson North America, GridLiance, G6 Hospitality

Winner: PNC Bank
Finalists: Credit Union of Texas, Dallas Stars, Granite Properties, Match Group

Winner: PepsiCo
Finalists: RED Development Group, The Rosewood Corp., Wingstop Restaurants

Winner: Allyn Media
Finalists: Boston Consulting Group, Cardinal Health Sonexus, Dallas Mavericks, Texas Instruments

Winner: GFF
Finalists: American Airlines, Reed Smith, Three Box Strategic Communications

Nonprofit Organizations

Winner: Café Momentum
Finalists: SouthFair Community Development Corp., WiNGS

Winner: IT Disaster Resource Center
Finalists: Dallas Bar Association, United to Learn, Wilkinson Center

Winner: Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation
Finalists: SafeHaven of Tarrant County, The Warren Center, Vogel Alcove

Winner: Sharing Life Community Outreach
Finalists: Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Juliette Fowler Communities, SPCA of Texas

Winner: Mita Havlick, Dallas Education Foundation
Finalists: David Higbee, Bridge Lacrosse; DeDe McGuire, DeDe McGuire Foundation; Bryan Townsend, Trigger’s Toys

Winner: Carter Morris, Grace Bridge Food Bank
Finalists: Peter Beasley, Blacks United in Leading Technology International (BUiLT); Janie Bordner, New Horizons of North Texas; Chris Howell Sr., Chris Howell Foundation.

Winner: Rand Huguely, Best Buddies International
Finalists: Beth Myers, Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas; Marty Turco, Dallas Stars Foundation; Florencia Velasco Fortner, The Concilio

Winner: A. Shonn Brown, Texas Women’s Foundation
Finalists: Keith Cerny, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra; Andy Keller, Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute; Ellen Magnis, Family Gateway

Winners: Larry James and John Siburt, CitySquare
Finalists: Jennifer Bartkowski, Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas; Nico Leone, KERA; David Woodyard, Catholic Charities of Dallas

Winner: Black Tie Dinner
Finalists: EMBRACE Action, Presbyterian Night Shelter, Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program

Winner: Visiting Nurse Association of Texas
Finalists: Methodist Health System, Prism Health North Texas, Texas Health Resources

Winner: DFW Angels
Finalists: CityLab High School Foundation, Dallas Japanese Career Women, Refresh Frisco

Winner: The DEC Network
Finalists: T.R. Hoover Community Development Corp., Thanks-Giving Foundation, World Relief North Texas

Winner: Fair Park First
Finalists: Big Brothers Big Sisters Greater Dallas, Brother Bill’s Helping Hand, Social Venture Partners Dallas

Winner: Metrocrest Services
Finalists: AIDS Services of Dallas, Carry the Load, Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support

Winner: Salesmanship Club of Dallas
Finalists: Buckner International, North Texas Food Bank, YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas

Winner: Dwell with Dignity
Finalists: iStart Valley, OurCalling, Per Scholas Dallas, Trusted World

Winner: VolunteerNow
Finalists: Common Cents Dallas, The Dallas Renaissance, UpSpire, Vickery Trading Co.

Winner: Lyda Hill Philanthropies (Operations Team)
Finalists: Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden (Horticulture Team), SafeHaven of Tarrant County (Partner Abuse Intervention and Prevention Team), Traffick911 (Voice and Choice Program Team)

Winner: Mike McCoy, Dallas 24 Hour Club
Finalists: Priscilla Anthony, Dallas CASA; Mike Geisler, The Real Estate Council; Margaret Hirsch, United to Learn

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