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Speeches

 

Building partnerships and corporate responsibility: Unlimited possibilities

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Charlie Coffey
Executive Vice President
Government & Community Affairs
RBC Financial Group
Success By 6 - Report Back to the Community Event
Nepean Sportsplex
Ottawa, Ontario

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Thanks very much for the introduction Rob…I'm delighted to join you this afternoon - to share some perspectives about building partnerships and corporate responsibility - the unlimited possibilities.

Before we get started, I want to assure you that a banker and early years development, is not an oxymoron. As well, my collaboration with union boss Buzz Hargrove on an article having to do with funding child care (in the February 17th edition of The Globe and Mail), isn't as unusual as people may think. Rob Cushman and Shirley Westeinde likely know what I mean. When Rob spoke at a "call to action" breakfast meeting earlier this year, co-hosted by John Sheridan and Bell Canada, he started by saying "If you are half awake - you are probably wondering why you are listening to a public health physician, not a child psychologist, a child psychiatrist or even a pediatrician, talk to you about child development." And when Shirley speaks about child development, there may be some people who wonder, what's contracting and construction management got to do with it?

The answer is simple. Partners and partnerships come together for many reasons and in many different ways. The key is to imagine the possibilities… Congratulations to Rob, Shirley and the Success By 6 Council of Partners for imagining the possibilities. As a founding partner, Rob's story speaks for itself. As a business executive, Shirley's story speaks volumes. The time is now to convince corporate Canada to take a more active interest and leadership role in supporting early years development and care. The private sector needs to understand that investing in children is good business. Rob and Shirley's leadership - everyone's leadership in this room - goes a long way in helping to do just that.

In my case, I'm involved in supporting early years development and care because it's an economic investment that requires more federal, provincial and municipal government action. Through our work at RBC Financial Group, my colleagues and I can help influence public policy and public opinion. After all, the development of human capital at an early age is key to a successful economy.

I'm involved because it's an economic investment that needs corporate/business action. As a business leader, I have a responsibility to push the envelope on high priority issues - and what's more important than children? I'm also involved because it's an economic investment that requires more community action - kids are everybody's business. Integrated early years programming is one of the best investments communities can make. As a children's advocate (and parent), the only way to make a difference is to get involved and get others involved!

Let's begin by setting the partnership environment stage first…I see two ongoing trends affecting the relationship between the corporate and not-for-profit sector. The first trend is that corporations around the world are increasingly conscious of the benefit and the necessity of being, and being seen as, good corporate citizens. Secondly, corporations are becoming more strategically and actively engaged - contributing resources and knowledge, as well as dollars in order to help build a healthier society. The bottom line is that building partnerships and corporate responsibility are anything but mutually exclusive.

Corporate responsibility and good corporate citizenship is about the marketplace: are we conducting business responsibly; it's about community: are we assuming a leadership position with investments and issues pertinent to our business and customers; it's about the workplace; are we treating employees well and encouraging/supporting their participation; and it's about the environment: are we taking care of our surroundings - the air we breathe - the energy we use?

At RBC, when our focus is on building partnerships with the not-for-profit sector, our focus is also on corporate responsibility. However, whatever happens in the economy, or the external political/social environment, will obviously impact the private, not-for-profit and public sectors - it will also impact strategies, decisions, action plans and relationships.

For example, although Canadian fundraising remained relatively strong in 2002 (according to a survey released on March 24, 2003 by the Association of Fundraising Professionals), "fundraisers listed a myriad of reasons impacting their fundraising efforts including increased competition for charitable dollars, government budget cuts and drops in corporate support/sponsorship." Many smart-branded organizations (like United Ways) are operating with the right leadership/people, well planned/executed campaigns, new initiatives, sponsorships, foundation-driven donations etc., and are reaping rewards and rising contributions - attracting more corporate donors/support. Branding, borrowing best practices and board governance will go a long way in making a difference with corporate Canada - in pushing the right buttons, talking the language and ultimately securing support. That's because this is also about corporate responsibility.

"Canadians increased their charitable giving by six per cent in 2002 to $5.8 billion, Statistics Canada reported last week. There's a swelling volume of cash out there to be collected by charitable agencies, but the givers are better educated than ever before, more experienced in business methods and possibly choosier about the structure and methods of the charities they will support. The charities world may face increasing pressure to establish standards for reporting what they did with the money and what results they achieved. Pictures of wide-eyed children won't suffice anymore once donors start asking." A similar scenario applies to corporate supporters.

Overall, I'm confident that the resources and expertise of the private sector will continue to converge with the not-for-profit sector, including resurgence in government support (federal, provincial and municipal), which is already manifesting itself. For example, it's clear that the federal government (via the February Budget) made a solid financial commitment to early childhood education and care. It's also clear that children's issues are at the top of Paul Martin's list of social concerns - a proposed child care program will be on the discussion table. And I'm sure the November 2002 report, "A National Child Care Strategy - Getting the Architecture Right Now" (a report of the National Liberal Caucus Social Policy Committee, chaired by MP John Godfrey - Don Valley West in Toronto, in collaboration with the Caledon Institute of Social Policy) will serve as a solid framework for moving ahead. As your MP from Nepean-Carleton, David Pratt's commitment to the welfare of children is evident in the work he's done as Canada's special Envoy to Sierra Leone. (Great to see John and David here today.)

And the Liberal government in Ontario, with the leadership of Marie Bountrogianni and the creation of the new Ministry of Children's Services/Citizenship, promises changes in many areas including initiatives that benefit parents with young children (e.g. child care).

"Success By 6 is building partnerships among the public, private and voluntary sectors to raise awareness about the early years and to focus resources on early child development. Dr. Fraser Mustard believes this initiative has the potential to make a major shift in how resources are allocated in the Ottawa area as well as increase those resources. The result should be a significant increase in Ottawa's early child development capacity."

United Way/Centraide Ottawa-Carleton (the lead agency), school boards, the Regional Municipality, Public Health Unit, Social Services Department, the Senators Foundation and a host of community organizations have already made Success By 6 a unique partnership model.

As many of you are aware, the Success By 6 Community Action Plan identifies five main areas for attention and investment in Ottawa-Carleton. They are: supporting parents, promoting healthy births, promoting early learning programs/school readiness, promoting the protection of children from abuse and neglect, as well as supporting neighbourhoods and building safe/caring communities. The overall Report Card this year is C+. On the bright side, this grade is par with the June 2002 Report and shows modest gains on the supporting parents and neighbourhoods side. However, I can only echo the view that "C+ simply isn't good enough for our city's children." Too many children don't have a permanent home. Too many children must rely on food banks. Among other groups, it's time for business leadership to step up to the plate in greater numbers and with a stronger voice. There's no telling what future Success By 6 Report Cards will look like when that happens…

After all, the Success By 6 brand (a "community builder, convener of change and lead supporter of social impact") is at the forefront of innovation and opportunity. It offers high visibility and measurable outcomes, plus sets the stage for building and strengthening collaborative relationships with numerous partners in the community and throughout Ottawa/Carleton. Success By 6 is good for business…it's poised for ongoing success and partnership momentum.

Strong partnerships can have immense power. I don't pretend to have all the answers, but because RBC Financial Group is involved in partnerships that include representation from various sectors, I will say that we're well on the way to having a solid working knowledge of what makes a partnership work. If you're serious about creating/negotiating partnerships with business, here are some proven strategies and tips - what I often refer to as Advocacy 101 - to consider:

1. Get to know your partners/your audience. A partnership is a relationship where the players are stronger together than they are alone. It's a two-way street and an ongoing balance of power. Successful partnerships like successful relationships take time and care. Your team should have a base of knowledge about your potential corporate partners. Who is the CEO? Who's on the board of Directors? Who are the major influencers? What do they care about? What are their hot buttons/target markets? What is the corporation's community involvement? This means ongoing research, a robust database or someone to manage the information. It makes a difference to know what motivates people/organizations, otherwise you can't engage in relevant communication with them. When you're developing proposals, position papers or memos, remember to incorporate private sector language. Talk to their policies, their interests and their priorities. Read their literature/surf their web sites. Align your cause and timing with their agenda.

2. Know the issues and keep current. Are you familiar enough with your organization's facts/issues, not to mention Success By 6s and those of the broader not-for-profit sector? Are you familiar with a potential partner's donations/sponsorships focus? Do you know a key contact in target corporations? Do you know key contacts in the private sector that can refer you to other partners - help make the introductions? Do you know your federal, provincial and municipal government contacts? Should you know? I suggest you should. Know the pulse of the public, the media and your constituencies.

3. Ask partners for advice. If you want a corporation's money, get the right people ("influencers") interested. Asking for advice is an incredible compliment to people. It's amazing how quickly money will follow once a person and a corporation's passion is engaged in a cause or a project.

4. Don't just ask for money. Treat partners the way you want to be treated. Look beyond a partner's chequebook and think community investment. Engage people's minds and their expertise.

5. Share what you know and keep in touch. One of the most precious assets we all have is our intellectual capital-the value of what we carry between our ears. Share your expertise with corporate partners. Think long-term. Let partners know how you're doing - this is another way to say thank you. Show partners that you're making a difference in your community and that they've made the right choice by investing time and resources in Success By 6 and in your organization.

What's the best way to get in the door at executive levels? If you have a connection, this usually helps. Develop a strategy: What are your objectives? What are the principles/priorities for funding? What is your project description, goals/activities and budget? What is your strategic and communications plan? What are your expected results and outcomes? What about national partnerships/collaboration? Do you have letters of support? Have you considered joining forces with similar interest groups? In a nutshell, be prepared, know your "sound bites", network, write articles and get your name on invitation lists, i.e., corporate annual meetings etc. If I can be a sounding board of support, please let me know…

Working together, getting connected and staying focused all comes down to leadership and communication. We can't achieve great things alone. In 2003, building partnerships and corporate responsibility is more encompassing; it includes good governance, operating with ethical business practices, creating and maintaining employment etc. Nurturing knowledgeable employees, clients, business/government/not-for-profit sector partners, as well as community infrastructures that consist of bright and innovative people, is in our interest - the national interest. Our thinking and doing continues to evolve.

When we invest in the training and development of our own employees - we're building knowledge. When our people serve on not-for-profit sector boards, we're building knowledge. When corporations support the not-for-profit sector, that's also building knowledge. By contributing both financial and human capital to community institutions, corporations can help embrace a true knowledge society. RBC's Employee Volunteer Grants Program is one way we support and encourage vital community connections. Employees that devote a minimum of 40 hours a year to a registered charity are eligible for a $500 RBC grant donated to the organization in their honour.

The underlying goal of our corporate citizenship programs is prosperity for Canada/Canadians. To achieve this, we support education and learning, as prosperity depends on well-developed minds - intelligence, imagination, ingenuity and innovation. We continue to foster relationships with business, government, communities and our own employees to help meet our goals. Making a community difference is a shared responsibility. Partnerships encourage business to be catalysts for change - to show their heart. What a great way to build a civic/civil society and promote social development. More times than not, best practices are almost always about partnerships.

For example, the RBC Foundation announced $1.3 million in funding for our 2003/2004 after-school grants program. This community investment is part of our ongoing commitment to children and education. To be chosen for a grant, recipients must offer structured, supervised activities in what we refer to as the "3 Ss" environment: safety, social skills and self-esteem. Activities include: computer instruction, sports, literacy tutoring, music and art lessons, nutrition guidance, and homework-help.

There's always a place for business in the community as corporations (large, small and in between) are part of the community. Just ask Kim Haliburton and Cheryl Burwash from Bell…just ask Peggy Morgan who works with me in government and community affairs in our Ottawa office or John Emerson, who leads sales and marketing in Ottawa - Kim, Cheryl, Peggy and John are with us today.

Success By 6 has a unique contribution to make to this community. All of you have a unique contribution to make as well: from Jan Harder, Jim Orban, Anne Wright, Arlene Ross, Lise Skinner, Alison Tranter, Mary Wiggin and Bev Wilcox, to Eleonore Benesch, Cheryl Heywood, Mary-Anne Kirvan, Cynthia Asp, Carol Burke, Aaron Burry and Julie McCurdie, not to mention Suzanne O'Byrne and the Success By 6 team (if only there was time to name each and every one of you), this room is filled with champions and partnerships in action. Thank you to Michael Allen of United Way for inviting me to participate in this event…and last but certainly not least, a special thank you to Success By 6's Linda Steele for coordinating this luncheon and my involvement.

As you know, just last month, the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, recognized our good friend at CTV Ottawa affiliate CJOH-TV, Max Keeping, with the Gemini Humanitarian Award for his contribution and commitment to community and public service. Max makes a difference in everything he does which is why it's more than fitting for him to present the second annual "Making a Difference" Awards today. Congratulations Max!

In closing, I understand that several members in the audience spent the morning in the "Building Corporate Partners" workshop. We could probably learn a great deal from the group about the subject…hopefully, this presentation will provide food for thought during the Q/A at this afternoon's partnerships in action session. I'm counting on you to engage David Vickers (Ontario's Promise), Pat Finucan (St. Lawrence College) Ruth Foster (Bell Canada), Murray Gordon (Success By 6) and each other in questions and debate that will eventually lead you along the path of unlimited possibilities. As for the rest of us, let's consider unlimited possibilities now!

Thank you.

 

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