Our Corporate Philanthropy Practices

Posted by in B Corporation, Business Strategy, Our Company

digital agency workshop
Workshops are just one way we give back to our stakeholder community.

In this post, we break down the corporate philanthropy practices Mightybytes employs to give back to our community, our clients, and other stakeholders.

As an Illinois Benefit Corporation and Certified B Corp, Mightybytes is legally required to provide a public benefit to society alongside pursuing profit through the products and services we provide. You can learn more about how, specifically, we do this in our annual company benefit reports

Our Impact Business Model

To support this legal commitment, we have redesigned most company practices in the name of an impact business model, where the products or services we provide create positive social or environmental impact while also benefiting the company’s bottom line. The work we do in digital accessibility and sustainable web design are great examples of this. 

These practices have also led to recognition as a Best for the World B Corp several years in a row. Best for the World B Corps score in the top 5% of all B Corps worldwide on the B Impact Assessment, the third-party verification system used to certify B Corps.

Additionally, we also incorporate several corporate philanthropy initiatives into our business operations each year. These “give back” practices are described below. 

Pedaling for the Planet: Team Alliance for the Great Lakes raised nearly $50,000.00 on Climate Ride.

Corporate Philanthropy Policies

We have learned much more from Mightybytes than we would expect from a conventional vendor. The company challenges us to think differently about what actions we want our supporters to take, how we raise money, and what our relationships with the for-profit sector could and should become.

— Joel Brammeier, President and CEO, Alliance for the Great Lakes

Mightybytes is a small business supported primarily by a community of like-minded organizations equally committed to creating positive social and environmental change in the world. It is important for us to give back to the people, communities, and organizations that help our business thrive. 

Our company’s philanthropic initiatives fall into two categories:

  1. Direct financial donations to nonprofit organizations
  2. Volunteer projects with a social or environmental benefit

While #1 above is pretty straightforward, we must consider a few important things when executing volunteer projects each year:

  • Forecasting: In a small service firm, it can be easy to overextend your resources. Hours spent working on volunteer projects are often hours not spent on paying client work. Understanding our team’s upcoming workload and company cash flow helps us schedule and manage philanthropic projects throughout the year. 
  • Budgets: All projects need to come in on time and under budget. Effectively managing project budgets is good for our clients, it’s good for Mightybytes, and it helps us manage realistic expectations with all project stakeholders. Plus, project margins can be slim, especially when your primary client base already consists of nonprofits, social enterprises, and other purpose-driven organizations. We must make the best use of resources at our disposal.
  • Prioritization: Philanthropic projects must be efficiently executed and given priority alongside client projects, internal team training, and so on. Good prioritization practices are ongoing and something we employ on all our projects

In other words, to maintain a financially solvent company, we must prioritize and efficiently execute paying work while simultaneously pursuing the impact we wish to create. This balancing act is core to the B Corp model.

How We Give Back

Understanding this, here’s how we manage corporate philanthropy each year:

  • We’re a 1% for the Planet member. More on that below.
  • We target 10-15% of our total annual hours for volunteer projects. 
  • We run weekly scheduling meetings to better understand everyone’s workload.
  • We schedule volunteer projects alongside client projects to ensure we can maintain work-life balance over time.
  • We revisit our capacity every quarter to ascertain whether a 10-15% range is realistic.

As an example, in 2020 this process enabled us to dedicate nearly 1000 team hours—about 15% of our total team time—to volunteer projects. More information on how we used this time is below.

Image of nonprofit beneficiary logos representing organizations that received corporate philanthropy donations from Mightybytes.
Here are some organizations we support via our 1% for the Planet membership.

Philanthropic Giving

Your support allowed us not only to continue our essential programming for our Greater Englewood community during the pandemic—but adapt and expand as well. 

— Growing Home

Since 2018, our annual philanthropic giving has been driven by our membership in the 1% for the Planet business community. This program has helped us streamline and rethink our corporate philanthropy efforts

Corporate Philanthropy via 1% for the Planet

Like all 1% for the Planet members, Mightybytes earmarks at least 1% of our topline sales (not profits) each year for nonprofit organizations devoted to conservation, environmental justice, and addressing climate change. We assess this commitment quarterly and make donations throughout the year to maintain parity between company sales and our ability to give. 

Through our membership, we have supported these great nonprofits that work on a wide range of social and environmental issues:

  • Alliance for the Great Lakes is a passionate group of people dedicated to protecting the world’s largest source of freshwater, the Great Lakes.
  • B Lab is the nonprofit that certifies B Corps and supports a global community of companies using business for good.
  • Climate Ride empowers people and supports conservation, climate, sustainability, and active transportation advocacy. Tim served on Climate Ride’s board for six years, including three years as its Board Chair.
  • Copper Harbor Trails Club: Advocates for, develops, and maintains trails and land for human-powered activities in and connecting to Copper Harbor, Michigan.
  • Delta Institute is a Chicago nonprofit that works with Midwestern communities to solve complex environmental challenges.
  • Environmental Working Group is a 30 million strong community working to protect environmental health by changing industry standards.
  • Fair Food Network is a Michigan-based nonprofit dedicated to growing community health and wealth through food. 
  • FLOW (For Love of Water) is a public trust ensuring the waters of the Great Lakes Basin are healthy, public, and protected for all. 
  • Friends of the Chicago River is dedicated to improving the health of the Chicago River system for the benefit of people and wildlife. 
  • Growing Home is an urban farm in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood that serves communities through paid holistic employment training and local, healthy, affordable food.
  • Mystic River Watershed Association was founded to protect and restore the Mystic River for the benefit of present and future generations. 
  • Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) works to safeguard the earth—its people, plants, and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.
  • National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation inspires people to create meaningful connections with the national parks of Lake Superior by providing funding for programming, educational initiatives, and outreach efforts.
  • Superior Watershed Partnership and Land Conservancy is dedicated to preventing pollution and protecting and restoring natural habitats around Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
  • Swedetown Trails Club develops and maintains year-round trails in the Swedetown Recreation Area in cooperation with Calumet Township, Michigan.
  • World Wildlife Fund is dedicated to conserving nature and reducing the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth.
  • Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve protects and advocates for wise use of natural resources, educates students and public, and permanently protects the integrity of the Yellow Dog Watershed wilderness for future generations.
Screen grabs of Charity Navigator scores for three Mightybytes beneficiaries
Charity Navigator scores for three of our beneficiaries.

Additionally, tools like Charity Navigator help us ensure that our donations go to organizations that effectively manage resources, sustain their programs over time, and are committed to good governance, transparency, and accountability.

The Outcomes We Seek: Charitable Giving

Because of your generosity, we can continue to bolster critical programs that protect our planet into 2022 and beyond…You have helped us bring people and nonprofits together to inspire action and make protecting the planet a philanthropic priority for everyone. These connections animate us all – helping us to be more engaged neighbors, volunteers, and community members.

— Caeli Quinn, Executive Director, Climate Ride

Our goal with each donation listed above is to help the organizations we support thrive. After all, a vibrant impact sector means more positive social and environmental impact is created every year. Each beneficiary is doing amazing work to protect our planet and the natural systems that nourish all life. Here are just a few examples:

  • Growing Home harvested 19,000 pounds of organic produce in 2020. This provided jobs for people with barriers to employment and affordable food to residents of Chicago’s Englewood community, a local food desert.
  • The Alliance for the Great Lakes organized beach cleanups on all five Great Lakes in 2020, despite logistical challenges presented by the pandemic. To date, their 30-year Adopt-a-Beach program has activated over 200,000 volunteers and collected 8,282,807 pieces of litter.
  • Climate Ride created an environmental justice grant program in 2020 that works at the intersections of racial injustice and environmental harm. So far, Climate Ride events have generated over $6 million in grants to 282 organizations/projects and engaged 155,000 donors.

While our donations may be meager compared to larger philanthropic foundations and trusts, we’re proud that we can support organizations doing such great work.

photos of volunteer events
Being part of the global B Corp community offers numerous volunteer service opportunities.

Volunteering

Mightybytes is a fixture in Illinois’ impact business community. As a founding B Corp in our state, Mightybytes provides an invaluable north star to other businesses trying to understand how to marry purpose with fundamental business viability. I am grateful for their leadership and community building.

— Adrian Gershom, Chair, B Local Illinois

As noted above, we also set aside time each year to collaborate on a variety of purpose-driven impact projects. This work takes many forms: design and development, strategy, educational resources, events, training, workshops, and so on. 

Occasionally, we also partner with mission-aligned nonprofits on charitable events, such as beach cleanups and other volunteer services. However, the pandemic makes this challenging. Since COVID-19, we produce virtual educational events and post them to our YouTube channel where anyone can derive value from them.

screen grab of a webinar on digital accessibility that's been posted to YouTube
A free community webinar about digital accessibility is now on our YouTube channel.

Volunteer vs. Pro Bono Projects

Many agencies take on a pro bono project for a small nonprofit each year to fulfill their corporate philanthropy endeavors. With a client base that is already composed of nonprofits and social enterprises, Mightybytes takes a different approach. 

Our goal is always to create shared value across the stakeholder landscape. This requires that we think differently about how volunteer projects benefit key groups: our employees, our community, our customers, the environment, and so on. 

Ideally, our volunteer efforts provide some sort of value to each stakeholder group:

  • The Mightybytes team creates “stretch goals” to build skills, improve our processes, and expand company services, something that is often tough to explore in client work, even pro bono projects.
  • We track and share what we learn throughout each project, so our community, clients, and other stakeholders get access to free educational resources that can help them build skills and create greater impact.
  • Much of this work is focused on climate justice and environmental conservation, which benefits communities and the natural systems upon which all life depends.
Image of a Zoom call with Illinois Secretary of State candidate Alexi Giannoulias.
We discussed the future of B Corps in Illinois during a virtual community event with Illinois Secretary of State candidate Alexi Giannoulias.

Volunteer Partner Organizations

While philanthropic donations are important and a core component of our organizational strategy, as noted above, our ultimate goal is to partner with organizations that want to create strategically viable collective impact.

Often, these are Mightybytes clients. However, they tend to think bigger, beyond a traditional client-vendor relationship. Instead, they’re looking for innovative ways to create shared value beyond the simple exchange of goods or services for dollars. We appreciate this creative approach to problem-solving and want to support organizations that think like this whenever possible.

In these cases, both organizations are intrinsically motivated to ensure the other’s success. The relationships are grounded in mutual trust. Each brings their own unique expertise to the table. Collectively, we create positive social and/or environmental impact that is greater than either of us could accomplish on our own. 

Our relationships with organizations like B Local Illinois, where Tim served as Board Chair for many years, as well as Climate Ride, and the Alliance for the Great Lakes exemplify this. A gold standard. 

Sustainable Web Design homepage
Mightybytes collaborated with B Corp agency Wholegrain Digital on an educational resource about sustainable web design.

Educational Tools & Resources

Finally, as a consultancy, the biggest volunteer benefit we can provide stakeholders is through educational content, workshops, and events focused on creating positive social or environmental impact. To accomplish this, we research emerging practices, then share those with our community as free educational resources. 

For example:

The Outcomes We Seek: Volunteer Projects

Digital activity is emerging as the next frontier in the sustainability movement...Expect data sustainability to be a major keystone in companies’ climate-change goals over the next decade.

— Wunderman Thompson Intelligence, Digital Sustainability

We strive every day to use business for good and make the web more accessible, sustainable, and a better place for everyone. We have focused on digital sustainability for nearly a decade now and digital accessibility for even longer.

Through webinars, books, and tools like Ecograder, education is the cornerstone of our work in these areas. Current trends show progress:

  • Digital Sustainability: Awareness of digital sustainability and the web’s environmental impact is at its highest yet. Major news outlets are covering the topic with increasing frequency. This will lead to reduced emissions from digital products and services. However, we need new and better tools to measure and manage these efforts.
  • Digital Accessibility: The number of both governments and companies that prioritize digital accessibility are also on the rise. This should provide better access to information for people with disabilities. However, the internet is a big place. There is still much work to be done.
  • Business for Good: We continue to be advocates for B Corp certification in Illinois, supporting existing B Corp businesses and encouraging new companies to join our community. The state has its highest number of B Corps yet and interest is spreading to businesses across industries and size. For our community to create an impact-focused economy, however, we need the global community to grow and stay engaged in this work by re-certifying and creating collective impact.

We are proud to play our part in improving education and spreading awareness of these issues as well as incorporating good sustainability and accessibility practices into our own business model.

Photo of an educational event held at Mightybytes
During this (pre-pandemic) B Local Illinois event at Mightybytes, we trained community members how to use B Lab’s SDG Action Manager.

Designed to Give Back: Improving Corporate Philanthropy

You are directly supporting our efforts to solve complex environmental challenges throughout the Midwest. Delta Institute’s work is wide-ranging, and impacts communities of all sizes…Thank you for helping us make our home healthier and more sustainable.

— Bill Schleizer, CEO, Delta Institute

We continue to evolve our impact business model—and, subsequently, our corporate philanthropy practices—as we learn new things. It’s an iterative process. We’re always:

  • Trying to identify mutually beneficial strategic partnerships with organizations we believe in
  • Looking for better ways to create shared value and collective impact among Mightybytes’ stakeholders
  • Redesigning the products and services we offer to better fit within these parameters

Inevitably, this will mean rethinking our approach to corporate philanthropy yet again. If you have ideas on how we might improve the processes outlined above, we would love to hear from you. Drop us a line via our contact form or reach out via Twitter or LinkedIn. Thanks.

Check out our Annual Benefit Report

Learn how Mightybytes creates shared value for people and planet.

Read the Report
Tim Frick founded Mightybytes in 1998 to help mission-driven organizations solve problems, amplify their impact, and meet business and marketing goals. He is the author of four books, including Designing for Sustainability: A Guide to Building Greener Digital Products and Services from O'Reilly Media. Follow Tim on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.