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by Cheeni Rao, 2014 MBA Candidate
Mentioning “social responsibility” in a boardroom meeting used to guarantee that at least one person, eyes wide in panic, would bolt out the door, screaming gibberish as they raced down the streets. Practicing social responsibility, after all, carries an immediate cost. Without all the facts, it becomes easy to view it as a heavy stone tied tight to our ankles, threatening to trip us into the cold waters of insolvency, drowning commerce in its depths. Others, fingers flying over calculators, might have stayed in their seats, computing the long term value created by communal involvement, potential savings from avoiding or lessening litigation, and the brand equity benefits of doing right by our neighbors. Businesses, after all, don’t last just because they’re nice to people. If they’re nice, they stick around because they found a way to make being nice profitable.
There’s a new generation in business these days, though, and it views social responsibility as inextricably aligned with integrity. With ethical principles considered the essential new framework for the long-term foundation for any viable business, social responsibility has become a basic element of the modern business plan. Not surprisingly, this new way of thinking has done far more to strengthen business than anyone might have imagined, and it has added streams of profitability that would have otherwise have been left undiscovered. Those who live with these principles are revolutionizing business, and nowhere is that spirit more apparent than in the latest crop of leaders coming out of the Tippie MBA program.
The variety of ways in which Tippie MBA students have been integrating social responsibility are too numerous to detail in this short article, but here are a few examples of the things we have been doing:
This Chicago non-profit organized an annual bike ride as a fundraiser to install solar panels on Chicago schools and also helped students learn how to reduce carbon emissions. Tippie students used AdWords to help drive traffic to the Climate Cycle website, using a Google Grant to fund ad creation, tracking clicks for ads, and making adjustments to drive clicks over to the website to encourage viewers to learn more and participate with the organization.
Girls on the Run
This national non-profit uses running programs to encourage pre-teen girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyle choices. The local chapter had grown dramatically within the last year, making it difficult to manage, especially as it had been entirely run by volunteers. The board of directors asked Tippie students to help them map out how they could become a more professional board, safeguard the organization and mission, and give staff the tools they need to manage the day-to-day operations of the organization.
Through a Business Solutions Center project, Tippie students have worked closely with this famous non-profit in the mission to assist those with barriers to employment. Students have assisted in creating a strategic development plan, as well as an aggressive marketing plan, to help Goodwill better achieve its goals in the Eastern Iowa area.
Iowa Children’s Museum
This local non-profit encourages the power of play, emphasizing development of imagination, creativity, and problem-solving in our next generation through the use of fun exhibits that both engage and educate. Tippie students have worked closely with the ICM to further hone its marketing efforts and strategic development plans for the coming year.
This local non-profit assists area residents with skills training and support, as well as short-term living accommodations, as they rebound from challenging times in their lives. Tippie students recently assisted in coordinating a book sale to raise funds for Shelter House and are continuing to find ways to increase the impact and acceptance of this organization within the community.
Table to Table
Table to Table is a local non-profit that adds value to the community on two fronts. They take food that is near expiration and that would otherwise be disposed of by local restaurants and grocery stores and provide it free of charge to food banks, and other non-profits, like the Ronald McDonald House and the Salvation Army. Our students are working closely with Table to Table to better quantify the effect of the charity’s efforts on the local community as well as how to use these metrics to increase grant eligibility while also increasing the overall efficiency of the charity. The proceeds from this fall's Beard Off were also donated to Table to Table.
We participate in these organizations because we believe we are responsible for helping to develop our communities. By volunteering, we help the organizations become more sustainable, enriching our community and creating a place where anyone would want to live. By using the skills we are taught at Tippie, we not only better develop our own talents, but help the MBA program give back to the vibrant community that has given us so much. Social responsibility isn’t anything to be ashamed of, after all. It’s essential to our futures, and, as always, Tippie strives to lead the way.