Philanthropist, Social Entrepreneur, Founder, Improv Star
Rating agencies usually just look at the books. Quality is not something you can determine on paper.
CSR creates beneficial global relationships and helps corporate brand image.
There is a lot more risk and nuance associated with international giving.
Lesson: Double Bottom Line with Pamela Hawley
Step #9 Quality Model: Determining quality
Universal Giving's quality model is unique in the industry. In the past we've seen a lot rating agencies strictly look at the books. They might look at your 990, your IRS tax form, and find out how much overhead you have or how much is going to fundraising and your employees, or how much is going to programming, or how many awards you received. All of that is good.
That's great, but what Universal Giving does with our quality model is take it to another level. Just by the sheer fact that when I was abroad and I was working with a sustainable farm in Guatemala, or the earthquake crisis in El Salvador, or in microfinance in India, I saw incredible leaders on the ground, amazing, and then I saw fraud. I saw heartfelt people who were incompetent. I saw other leaders who banded together and just did amazing revolutionary work.
It is absolutely imperative on our quality model that we are looking at leaders. We are looking at terrorist lists. We are looking at the relationships of the community. It can't just be something you study on paper. Nothing in life really can be when you're vetting something.
When I came back from my international travels over many years and to many different countries serving, I started out with a 6-stage model and trademarked it, made it proprietary. It's now at 24 stages. The reason why is because as the world has gotten more complex, we've had to adjust to that and create better ways for people to know that this project is trusted and verified.
We now have that. We actually have a Universal Giving logo that says, "Vetted by Universal Giving", has three different stages of how it's vetted, and we continue to customize the vetting stages because it's what we're seeing on the innovation front, but also from people like you. They tell us, "Have you done this?" Or our clients say, "Could you do this?" And we say, "Yes", and thus far we've always found a way to do it, and that's why our quality model has grown from stage 6 to 24.
Universal Giving Corporate is very special in the sense that we're working with companies and really helping them scale all across the world. It's incredibly important in global CSR today to help companies get involved with the right NGO's non-profits, make sure they have the right CSR programs, and there's a balance. For example, part of that balance is that you've got headquarter objectives. Let's say, for example, Cisco, one of our premier partners. They've got a very strong call from headquarters to focus on education and technology. That's not the only areas they do but that's a big focus for them, and it's wonderful and we fully support that.
At the same time, Cisco is also very good about honoring what employees are doing locally on the ground. When you have employees who are doing this for free, they're not getting paid, sometimes they're organizing CSR programs, they're organizing global events or ways to give, or ways to volunteer, you have to be responsive as well to what these employees nominate or which non-profit they want to get involved in. What's really great about it is that Cisco is a prime client that shows how you can marry what the headquarters wants to achieve by honoring their product, technology, education is important to Cisco's product and for-profit side, as well as honoring local employees on the ground, too, who have their own ideas of how they want to give back as well.
It's our job to help with some of that planning, that execution. With many of our clients we help launch different cities across the world. We might launch one city with five non-profit partners and help set up a whole peer structure that if one employee's got some major business deal and they can't help run the project, we have backups. We have communication people. We help them with their communications in CSR. We help them culturally. For example, if you are going into another country, and let's say you're a mining company, you better have good relationships with those non-profits on the ground.
That is absolutely a part of CSR. It's not just about giving from the heart, it also is about what helps your company do the right thing. And that can feed back into your business model, and it should. For example, you've got the one side of the heart, but then the second side is it should absolutely help your global brand. It should definitely help keep employees there. If they see how special your company is, is investing, and giving, and volunteering, and in the product donations you do, they're going to stay with you longer. It also attracts new clients, same value proposition. "We see this is a good steward in the community, and they're investing in that. We want to be allied with that brand."
Then finally, local license to operate. Quick side note here which is funny. One of our companies once said, "When do we get the piece of paper?" There's no piece of paper in a local license to operate. What we're doing is helping you set up local relationships that are culturally appropriate, language appropriate, everything that helps your company succeed on that level.
We have a team of worldwide experts on the ground that helps you determine who are the right people to be associating with, and they can help your brand and help employees feel good about it, and get you that currency on the ground that you're working with the right people, and they respect and they like you. It's not just come in as a company and drop off a donation. You have to be active. You have to create those relationships of trust. There's no two ways around that.
Universal Giving's work is both domestically and internationally. Both are very important, and certainly there are ways that domestic and international are the same. In fact, one of our clients, Cisco, and now it's scaling to other clients, were so impressed with our NGO vetting model and our NGO vetting services on the international front, they now apply those same standards on the domestic front.
For example, our quality model started off as 6 stages. It's now 24. The reason why it's 24 stages is a lot of what we've seen on the international front. That is where many differences occur. I'll give you an example of that, of how we view it on the domestic and international front.
On the domestic front it's important to check 501(c)(3) status and to check a lot of the different things here that would be important. For example, terrorist lists and OFAC and things of that nature. You want to do that either domestic or globally. When you look at global as well, there are many other ways that we need to vet these leaders, because we don't always get to go do a site visit with them. Sometimes, internationally we need to vet these leaders through our team of worldwide network of experts. That means we don't always meet them, but we might Skype with them, or our worldwide experts might meet with them. That international creates a distance.
With that distance in giving and volunteering, it's our job to up the number of standards in vetting, because we can't just say to a donor, "Sure, we'll set up a meeting with you, and you can come around the block to meet with them. We can set up a trip. It's going to cost you $3,000." That's why our vetting, usually on the international front will be anywhere from 12 to 24 stages, where in the U.S. it can be as little as three. That doesn't mean that fraud doesn't occur in the U.S., but we have one of the most developed philanthropic systems, and globally we have so much more that we need to watch out for. There is fraud. There are leaders who are kind but don't know what they're doing, they're maybe more incompetent. There's a lot more negligence, even if it's benevolent negligence.
Also, our vetting model looks at leadership very much as venture capitalists do. For example, if a VC looked at a deal they'd say, "Is there a good marketplace for this, and is there a good product?" The next thing they say is, "I want to meet the management team. Who are these people?" A lot of our rating systems and things like that in the U.S. don't include that. That's what's so special about Universal Giving. When we look at domestic and international, we know those leaders, who are those leaders, who are the people, who is running this organization, because you could have a great mission, but if you don't have a great leader it's not going to work. International has so many other nuances that we need to watch out for.