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Blackbaud: Community Engagement is 'Fundamental to Business Success'

By 3p Conferences

By Heidi Travis

Yearning to feel connected within your workplace? Wouldn't you love to work at a place where over 80 percent of employees volunteer for social good? At SXSW's Social Good Hub, one corporate sponsor plans to demonstrate that both employee and community engagement are fundamental to a successful business.

This week, I was able to grab a quick interview with upcoming SXSW conference speaker, Rachel Hutchisson, the VP for corporate citizenship and philanthropy for Charleston-based, socially progressive company Blackbaud. After 25 years of involvement in changes and growth with Blackbaud, Hutchisson is delighted to work in a role where she pursues social good. And she says the company -- which offers software and fundraising services to nonprofits -- often builds its programs by engaging employees, funding community projects, and creating a business that allows people to make a living by working to support nonprofits.

Below are three ways in which Blackbaud builds a triple bottom line:

Encouraging volunteerism: Numerous studies and focus groups prove that engaged employees stay longer and are more productive. Part of giving back empowers employees to feel equally involved with workplace and community. One of the ways Blackbaud encourages volunteerism is by offering the incentive of three paid days off after completion of volunteer service hours. Hutchisson said the company hosts over 150 team0building, volunteer-based events early.

She also described how many Charleston office employees are involved in the community. This interaction results in a culture where the majority of employees volunteer outside of work. This includes staff who serve on boards and work on grassroots projects, as well as more than 1,000 employees involved in community volunteering. During their last staff engagement survey, 86 percent of employees agreed that the company’s philanthropic work shapes stronger interactions among employees, attracts better candidates, and improves staff retention.

Community engagement through grantmaking: Hutchisson says Blackbaud began funding grant programs in the '90s, initially through the Coastal Community Foundation in Charleston. Its intent was “to create a vehicle to give back to the community” by awarding grants and scholarships for education.

In addition, Blackbaud developed its own grant program offerings. Hutchisson shared that the experience of awarding grants and getting to know each organization is meaningful for all involved. When asked how organizations find out about grant opportunities, she said employees are their greatest “community connectors” and it’s their relationships that help identify programs in need.

By offering grants to assist in community program development, which employees can also individually apply for, they’re connecting employees and the community in meaningful ways.

“We should all feel really empowered to create change,” Hutchisson of Blackbaud says.
Managing environmental impact: Similar to its own services for nonprofit fundraising, there are many certifications and tools to help companies on the path to environmental stewardship.

Blackbaud uses two tools to measure eco-consciousness. On the local level, the company participates in Charleston’s Green Business Challenge, while nationally, it makes use of Boston College’s Corporate Citizenship Tool.

Taking advantage of these types of programs isn’t always a deep dive into transparent environmental stewardship. But these programs provide a great way to introduce measures on how the company is doing, compare progress with its peers, and raise awareness about environmental goals. Blackbaud is also building a new environmentally--improved campus while keeping in mind energy and environmental features like:

  • Integrating solar and green roofs

  • Reusing site wood

  • Making use of xeroscaping and native landscaping

  • Saving energy with LED lighting, working to improve waste management and recycling

  • Providing convenient electric car plug-in stations


Blackbaud started as a small entrepreneurial organization with fewer than 100 staff and grew to over 3,000 employees to date. To measure industry success, the company also offers a yearly ‘charitable giving report’ discussing changes in fundraising trends.

The great thing about advances in technology-based software services is that metrics are built within the system. In this case, the technology offered to customers include fundraising scorecards which show how outcomes are measured and advice offered. Growth is proof of success in both the nonprofit sector and by the ability of Blackbaud to commit staff and resources to offer community funding as part of their business model.

When asked what she’d like you to envision after attending the Social Good Hub this weekend, Hutchisson says she hopes you’ll be inspired by her experiences and think about the idea that:

“Individual action does matter and every individual person can be a change agent.”
Image credit: Flickr/Christian Guthier

Heidi Travis is a full-time planner, designer, and lover of being active in the beautiful outdoors. Heidi recently made a move to discover everything Austin has to offer after growing up in Atlanta, enjoying life in the mountains of Asheville, and appreciating the convenience of living in a city like Philadelphia. While in Philadelphia, she earned her Masters in Environmental Studies at Penn and enjoyed biking to work, as well as being involved in many campus sustainability projects. You can follow her on twitter @heidi_travis15

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