Associate-Centered CSR: Teaming Up with the Turning Leaf Project

Blackbaud believes the world will be a better place when good takes over. You don’t have to look much farther than our 40,000+ customers to know that we live and breathe social good each and every day.  But it doesn’t stop with our customers. We don’t just power the ecosystem of good with our technology, we fully participate in it through our corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies and programs.

Each year, Blackbaud’s CSR team works with our in-house design team, Agency 545, to create our “Blackbaud Cares” t-shirts. These t-shirts are worn by our colleagues when they’re volunteering on behalf of the company, volunteering on their own, or just out and about. These shirts embody our value of We Give Back and are very popular with our employees.

So what makes this year’s shirt different? Our partner on the project.

The Turning Leaf Project, a nonprofit organization based in Charleston, SC, serves men recently released from prison through its classroom boot camp and screen printing business. The organization works closely with these men to help them complete probation and stay out of prison. Most men, after finishing the boot camp, are placed into temporary employment with one of Turning Leaf’s government work partners. They are eventually hired permanently by these government agencies.

However, sometimes participants need additional support and training before joining the workforce. These men are hired to work in Turning Leaf Project’s screen printing shop. Men who complete their temporary job in the screen printing shop are then transitioned into employment with the government jobs sites or within the private sector.

After seeing Turning Leaf Project’s executive director, Amy Barch, present at last year’s Fast Pitch competition hosted by Social Venture Partners (“SVP”) Charleston, our CSR team explored working with Turning Leaf Project on the 2018 annual Blackbaud Cares t-shirts. In early April, Turning Leaf Project began production on the shirts.

“Our screen printing shop gives a second chance to men returning home from prison. Blackbaud took a big chance allowing us to print such a large order because they understand what we’re doing has a huge impact on our community,” said Barch. “Because of Blackbaud’s order, we’ve been able to run our shop at full capacity and hire three additional men who otherwise would not have employment. We’re finally beginning to cover the shop’s monthly expenses, and that’s largely because of Blackbaud’s order.”

In the end, sourcing this year’s t-shirts through Turning Leaf Project shows how Blackbaud approaches our CSR initiatives. Evan Bullock, a Charleston-based Blackbaud employee colleague, said: “I had the pleasure of meeting one of the development folks from Turning Leaf Project at a weekly running club I participate in, and when she heard where I work she was so excited to tell me about this and so grateful for the business. I have a family member who benefitted so much from a similar organization in another state, so I love what these folks are doing.”

One hundred percent of the proceeds from Turning Leaf Project’s screen printing business funds job training. By partnering with Turning Leaf Project, Blackbaud is ethically sourcing these t-shirts and working with an organization that provides opportunities to members of our community.


Blackbaud Announces Membership in CECP: The CEO Force for Good

Blackbaud is pleased to announce it is now a member of CECP, a CEO-led coalition that believes a company’s social strategy — how it engages with key stakeholders including employees, communities, investors and customers —determines company success.

“As a company on the leading edge of developing innovative solutions for maximum impact in the social good space, Blackbaud is a powerful example of business levering its core strengths to be a ‘Force for Good,’” said Daryl Brewster, CEO, CECP. “CECP is proud to welcome Blackbaud to its coalition of CEOs committed to finding solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.”

Blackbaud’s core mission is to provide cutting-edge technology that enables social good organizations to have a greater impact and collaborates with leading companies like fellow CECP member Microsoft to accomplish this. In addition to now joining CECP, Blackbaud has demonstrated its commitment to building a better world through the company’s role as a Founding Partner of the #GivingTuesday movement and as a member of organizations such as the Giving Institute and Shared Value Initiative. At the World Economic Forum in 2017, Blackbaud collaborated with the Gates Foundation, Social Progress Imperative and UN Foundation to convene hundreds of leaders to accelerate cross-sector collaboration toward advancing social impact.

We also deeply believe in giving back through our own corporate social responsibility programs. In 2018, Blackbaud is once again participating in the Fortune/U.S. Department of State Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership, which matches emerging women leaders from all over the world with members of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Leaders for a four-week-long program. Blackbaud runs a robust employee volunteering program in which 86% of employees worldwide participate – far above the 31% corporate volunteer average. And we give back to our communities through programs such as Camp Blackbaud, which engages underserved youth in STEM education and our Community Matters grant program run by local employee committees, which engages our colleagues in each Blackbaud location to learn about the good work organizations in their communities are doing and teaches them what it means to be grantmakers.

“It’s incredibly important to me that Blackbaud’s business model includes both developing best-in-class technology solutions and services to advance the social economy and demonstrating its commitment to giving back as a company,” said Mike Gianoni, president & CEO of Blackbaud. “I am honored to join this coalition of fellow CEOs working to create a better world through business, and look forward to taking advantage of the strategic counsel and expertise that CECP can provide to push us even further.”

Associate-Centered CSR: Giving Back Takes the Form of Creativity Kits

Giving back can take so many forms. Whether it’s through hands-on, onsite, or skills-based volunteerism, individuals and teams can invest in their communities in many meaningful ways.

Last month, Blackbaud hosted an annual kick-off meeting in Charleston, SC. Approximately 600 of Blackbaud’s employees spent a few days planning, learning, and networking with colleagues. For the second year in a row, we integrated an onsite volunteer project into this event to strengthen the connection between the event’s attendees, comprised mostly from our sales and marketing teams, and the customers we serve every day.

This year’s project, the assembly of 800 activity kits, benefited children’s health organizations in cities where Blackbaud has offices – MUSC Children’s Hospital and the RMHC Charleston , Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin and Boston Children’s Hospital.  Activity kits, like the ones our colleagues assembled, help children who are waiting for medical treatment or siblings accompanying them to pass the time, making an otherwise stressful or scary experience a little less so.

The team at Boston Children’s Hospital “Throughout the year, our child life specialists create opportunities for families to look beyond the tubes, machines, and medicines to celebrate as they would at home. The kid crafts help children take their mind off the present issue they are being faced with and provides them with a therapeutic outlet.”

We focused on kits for origami, bracelet making, and coloring books, asking our people to compile the supplies in each kit for children to be able to work with. Child life departments for most children’s hospitals typically have a list of kits they prefer along with the supplies needed to assemble them, and our goal was to feed that supply.

Bert Harkins, VP of Sales Enablement, who leads the execution of the kick-off meeting, had this to say about the service project. “An amazing feature of Blackbaud’s kick-off each year is that we include a service project on our agenda. The near-100% participation that we get on these activities and the positive feedback we receive for including them demonstrates the dedication that our people have to the mission delivery of our customers.”

Allston Leland, a senior solutions consultant and kick-off attendee, was the first person to participate and his enthusiasm was contagious. Allston reflected on this project after completing dozens of kits and said, “I loved having volunteer service incorporated into kick-off. What we do at Blackbaud supports the work that amazing social good organizations do throughout the world, and having a service project with tangible deliverables really helps strengthen that bond between what we do day to day and the greater good we support.”

Associate-Centered CSR: Spreading Holiday Cheer throughout Blackbaud Communities

Giving back continues to spur on the Blackbaud team, and this past holiday season was no exception.

For the 15th year, our Charleston-based site participated in Trident United Way’s Day of Caring.  More than 500 employees volunteered for 35 projects at 22 nonprofits across the Lowcountry of South Carolina.  Annual participation continues to grow — through more volunteers, projects, and partner organizations — showing just how much service is central to our values.

Shannon Emery, community manager, spent the day at Lowcountry Orphan Relief, leaving her with a better understanding of how the organization turns mission into action.   “It’s not always glamorous, and sometimes it will break your heart, but each and everything that is done is done with reason – to make the world a better place.”  Service is a great way for our people to see, up close, what nonprofits face every day, bringing that knowledge back into the office and into their world.

Meanwhile, the Blackbaud team in Austin partnered with Austin Ridge Riders, Keep Walnut Creek Wild and Keep Austin Beautiful for its Fall Service Day.  “The team spent the entire day cleaning up trails, removing invasive species, planting native species, and improving conditions at Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park. It was a memorable event that allowed team members to connect with one another in ways that can’t be experienced in the office. We partnered with these organizations to educate our colleagues and expand their network of nonprofit organizations in the Austin area,” said Justin Womack, one of our internal volunteerism leads.

Volunteering isn’t just reserved for our employees at Blackbaud’s “bricks and mortar” locations.  Our CSR team actively works with our remote employees to connect them with colleagues in their communities through service.  Pallavi Paranjape, a remote employee from Raleigh, NC, hosted a volunteer day for fellow Blackbaud employees in that community. “Not only did we get to hang out and get to know each other better, we also got an opportunity to give back to an amazing organization, the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina. Together, our group sorted 8,250 lbs of donated food into 11 pallets that will provide 6,947 meals to food insecure households. Our little group of remote Blackbaud employees will be making this a recurring event!”

At another location, in Cambridge, MA, the team partnered with Victims’ Rights Law Center for the 11th year to make the holidays brighter for a family in need.  They assisted a family of asylees from Central America with donations of toys, a gaming system, and household essentials.   Our colleague, Kirk Tretheway, who managed the campaign, had this to say, “Every year, coordinating our Season of Giving project reminds me that there is a wonderful spirit of generosity, empathy, kindness, and support in our company and beyond, and I am glad to have the opportunity to be a part of it!”

Business and Social Good

By Rachel Hutchisson, Blackbaud’s Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Philanthropy 

My social media news feeds were atwitter last week on one key topic – the important role business must play in doing good, not just generating returns.

As a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) professional who has committed herself to building a thriving portfolio of give back programs at Blackbaud – a once-small-now-mid-sized company – over the past 26 years, this in itself isn’t unusual.  What made it different is that the news wasn’t limited to those already in the know, those like me who live and breathe this stuff every day.

Instead, it was in the mainstream press.  It was a conversation for the world of business overall.  And that made me very happy.

If you know me, you know that I’m passionate about the role business can, should and does play in driving cause action.  You also know that I believe there is a ridiculous amount of untapped potential for business to be an increased force for good.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in my career thinking, talking and writing about the power of what I call “Business Doing Good.”  Some businesses, like Blackbaud, are born with a desire to make the world better at the core of their strategies, their brands.  They exist to take on a cause-related problems that will leave the world in a better state for our children.  These shared value companies understand that driving positive change matters just as much as delivering consistent financial returns.  And when you add the employee engagement imperative to the mix – the commitment to live up to the societal expectations of those who choose to work for our companies – you end up with something powerful.

But guess what?  Embracing good as a strategy isn’t just for those who adopted the vision at the very beginning.  Organizations of all sizes can adapt, can change, can evolve over time.  In fact, they must.  As I said in my TEDx talk last year, “Good is for Everyone.”  The more organizations we have with an engaged seat at the give-back table, the more good we can accomplish in a world that certainly needs the help.

So what advice would I give to those seeking to seize the opportunity to become a force for good?  I’d begin with this… Building a focus on cause into a business begins with understanding what makes sense for your culture and your brand. 

It begins with an audit of what you already do, who you support, why you engage.  Simply reviewing past actions and intentions will reveal pieces of the puzzle you’re trying to build.

It grows into something larger, something much better, when you invest the time in hearing what your employees – at all levels – care about.  Although you may think the existing programs you support in the community and ways you give back will give you the same answer, you need to make sure you’re not off base.  If you have been top-down in your decision making, following the wishes of a dominant leader or assuming everyone agrees with your past choices for engagement, you may just find that what your people truly value is something altogether different.  It’s worth the time to check and, in the process, empower your people to help lead you in what’s next.

It’s also well worth your while to ensure you understand the values, wants and needs of the communities around you – the neighborhood you work in, those you serve as customers, those you might affect through how your organization operates.  Are there cause issues sitting on your door step that make sense for you to tackle?  Do they intersect with what your own people – who live, work and interact with these communities – are telling you?

Although the work that needs to be done to decide upon, develop and launch programs takes time and effort, it’s not actually that complicated.  It’s a process of truly taking in what you have learned, understanding what you know doesn’t fit with your brand, as much as what does.  It’s about taking steps forward and not being paralyzed by a fear that you might not know how to measure success.  It’s about progress…and, most of all, passion.




Associate-Centered CSR: Camp Blackbaud at Charleston HQ

Our fall Camp Blackbaud took place this past week and for this camp, we hosted middle school students through our partnership with Charleston County School district and Charleston Promise Neighborhood for two exciting days focused on STEM robotics. Twenty 7th and 8th grade students from Simmons Pinckney and James Simons spent time with Blackbaud associates learning about the product development process, coding and robotics.

“Our Camp Blackbaud program walks students through the product development process with group learning, small group activities and individual learning,” said Gabby Sanders, Blackbaud’s corporate citizenship coordinator. “This is a really awesome age group too because after kicking off middle school camp last fall, we discovered that this session has veteran campers from our 5th grade camp. It’s so special to see these kids come back two to three years later and learn even more from our incredible teams of volunteer counselors!”

The students also got to learn and hear personal tech stories from Blackbaud’s CPO Kevin McDearis, CTO Mary Beth Westmoreland, and SVP of HR John Mistretta during an “Executive Talk” session. We have had a great turnout from Blackbaud leadership with both the students and Charleston Promise Neighborhood staff loving how the demo audience engaged with the students after their presentations to learn more about their projects.






Blackbaud Europe Associates Give Back With Hands-On Volunteer Services and More!

As a global company that believes in giving back, the good our associates do is spread far and wide. Through their volunteer activities, our colleagues from Blackbaud Europe are just one example.  Team members working out of Blackbaud’s United Kingdom (UK) offices spent a day volunteering in their local parks, with our London team volunteering at Southwark Park and our Glasgow team at Linn Park.  Having the opportunity to make an already fantastic community landscape even more beautiful is always a rewarding give back opportunity.

Through Volunteering Matters, a nonprofit in the UK that engages volunteers with local organizations, 14 Blackbaud Glasgow associates spent the day planting seedlings throughout Simshill Meadow at Linn Park, creating a new nature landscape for the park.  Gary Linstead, Countryside Range at Linn Park, told the team, “It was a very productive and enjoyable day on a number of different levels.  Truly, your input to the Simshill Meadow at Linn Park LNR is very much appreciated.  Hopefully next season we’ll see a good increase in bees, butterflies and hoverflies, not to mention other wildlife and a wonderful meadow for park users to enjoy.  I would be delighted to assist again sometime!”

In London, Casper Harratt, a Blackbaud marketing manager described the team’s rewarding volunteer day perfectly: “50 Blackbaudians descended on Southwark Park for a day last month to clear an educational area for the local school kiddies to learn about nature.  We cleared unwanted weeds and underbrush from the area with reckless abandon!  Someone should have warned the brambles and knotweed that we were on the way – they simply weren’t prepared for the onslaught.  We had a glorious time hacking, slashing and obliterating weeds and shrubs and left the area neat, tidy and ready for learning.”

While our teams enjoy hands-on volunteer service, they also engage in skills-based service, where they use their professional or personal skills to positively impact an organization.  In 2017, three of our London colleagues began volunteering with The Sophie Hayes Foundation, which empowers survivors of human trafficking to build futures filled with hope and promise through programs that enable these individuals to create independent, purposeful lives.  The organization’s Day 46 Programme creates confidence-building and employability through sessions delivered in safe houses and communities across London and Birmingham.  Alice Weaver and Miriam Nackasha volunteered with a Day 46 program where they went into a safe house in London to meet with six women over nine weeks.  Each week, different topics were covered that build confidence and aid the women in creating brighter futures.  Alice and Miriam found this work to be eye-opening, challenging and amazing.  Tom Hedges, another London colleague, is lending his skills to developing an employability program for male survivors.

Naomi Telfer, Charity Lead of The Sophie Hayes Foundation spoke to Blackbaud’s involvement with the organization saying, “Blackbaud’s support has been invaluable with enabling us to reach 30 more survivors of trafficking across London with our confidence and employability workshops, training and placements as well as helping us secure vital Big Lottery funding to expand our work across the UK.  Not only this, but the volunteering of Tom, Mema and Alice has brought fresh life, creativity, excellence and fun into our Sophie Hayes Team!  Thank you for partnering with and believing in us, and through that, helping us empower more survivors of trafficking to build hope filled futures.”

Volunteer service is not only good for your community, it is also good for your soul.  Our colleagues in our London and Glasgow offices know this first-hand and will continue to put a face to our value of We Give Back in the months to come.


Associate-Centered CSR: Communities in Schools Charleston

At Blackbaud, we believe in the power of individuals to be agents of social good. When people participate in their communities through volunteering, philanthropy, and civic engagement, good things happen. One of the most impactful ways of serving one’s community is through nonprofit board or committee work. Volunteering at this level provides an opportunity for individuals to lend their experience, expertise, and other personal or professional skills to an organization looking to make this world a better place. To help encourage this type of service volunteerism, we actively match colleagues’ skills, interests, and passions with organizations that could greatly benefit from their service.

Amy Chase, one of Blackbaud’s VPs of professional services, recently joined the board of Communities in Schools Charleston (CIS) and is serving in the role of chair for its Development Committee. Amy’s work at Blackbaud taps into her various career experiences—working at nonprofit organizations, consulting, volunteering and project managing—as she manages multiple teams of business analysts, project managers, developers, architects and consultants who help create solutions that fuel nonprofit missions.

Amy wanted to give back to an organization where she could fuse her professional experiences and skills together with her service to an organization assisting children and education. “Serving on the board of CIS has given me an opportunity to make an immediate impact by supporting its development efforts in private-, corporate-, foundation- and event-based giving while allowing me to also build relationships with other board members and staff that are equally committed and passionate about programs for improving school dropout rates in Charleston,” said Amy.

“The hardest positions to fill on a nonprofit board are the development committee positions, says Jane Riley-Gambrell, former executive director, Communities in Schools Charleston. “Executive and development directors often have to get creative to attract talent to this portion of the team so  when someone like Amy comes along, it is a nonprofit’s dream. In her short time on our board, she has hit the ground running, accepting the development chair role, providing our development director with much needed support and knowledge as well as helped the board learn more about necessary steps for long-term success within the organizations development department. We are beyond thrilled to have her talent and skills on our team.”

Established in 1989 to implement dropout prevention programs, the mission of Communities in Schools is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. Now celebrating its 28th year, Communities in Schools Charleston has grown to serve nearly 10,000 students in 19 Charleston and Berkeley County Schools, using an evidenced-based comprehensive approach to bring community services to students, their families, and schools.


Associate-Centered CSR: Lowcountry Orphan Relief

Last week, the Blackbaud Investor Relations Team—Mark Furlong, Steve Hufford, and Zach Hoogerland—spent the day volunteering at Lowcountry Orphan Relief (LOR), whose mission is to provide basic necessities for children in the Lowcountry who have been abandoned, abused, neglected, or are currently at-risk.

The team helped LOR clean off the truck full of donations, sort children’s clothing, fill orders, and organize the distribution center. “In 2016, we filled over 2,600 orders for children with items such as clothing, school supplies, toiletries, books, socks, and shoes,” said Marissa Nash, director of development & community outreach at Lowcountry Orphan Relief. “With a small staff of only three full-time team members, we rely heavily on our volunteers. They are the lifeline to our success as an organization and help us provide comfort and support for more children than we ever could on our own.”

Blackbaud’s fundamental belief that the world will be a better place when good takes over is integral to its corporate culture. Working at Blackbaud means working with people who share a passion for doing good. We encourage our employees to get to know our customers, whether that be through hands-on or skills-based volunteerism, to allow them to personally understand the unique challenges they face.

To join Lowcountry Orphan Relief’s team of volunteers and experience the joy of making a difference in the life of a child who needs you, visit


Associate-Centered CSR: Dreamwell Theatre Company

This post is a part an ongoing series highlighting the give-back work of our associates.

At Blackbaud, we practice what we call “associate-centered Corporate Social Responsibility.” This philosophy puts our employees at the center of our giving by empowering them to choose causes and organizations that are meaningful to them.

Our Reward Your Passion grants program puts this philosophy into practice. Started in 2007, this program gives employees the opportunity to apply for a grant on behalf of an organization where they volunteer, either as a hands-on on skills-based volunteer, even serving as a member of the organization’s board of directors. A committee of associates from all across Blackbaud (geography and function) review the applications and score them based on the associate’s commitment to the organization. While we love to see people giving hours of their time to a particular cause, the passion behind that commitment is what is most important. Why is an organization important to someone? What is it about their mission that makes our colleague so committed to help? The answers to these questions and the committee’s reviews result in the top 20 applications receiving a grant each quarter.

Ali Zimmerman, a colleague from Blackbaud’s Indianapolis office, is a founder and current volunteer for the Dreamwell Theatre Company and board chair at Hear Indiana. She is very familiar with our Reward Your Passion program and has received grants on behalf of both organizations.

“Blackbaud’s Reward Your Passion grant is a great way to help an organization and make you feel good about the company you work for,” said Zimmerman. “Fundraising can be a huge challenge for many organizations, especially unrestricted funds. Blackbaud is very aware of those challenges and makes the process easy for employees to apply. I’ve received two grants in the past and hope to do more in the future for other organizations. With the opportunities being quarterly, it’s easy to apply on my schedule or when I know an organization needs a little extra. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to easily help further the social good in our communities. I’m proud to work for a company that gives back.”

“Maintaining a small community theatre group is no easy feat, let alone keeping it going for twenty years,” said Stephen Polchert, executive director of the Dreamwell Theatre Company. “With the generosity of companies like Blackbaud, we are not only celebrating twenty years of cutting edge theatre, we’re also given the hope that we can continue our mission for yet another twenty years. Thank you so much!”

Through our grants program, we see colleagues apply annually for the same organizations, demonstrating their everyday commitment to these organizations and their missions. We see colleagues who may be new to volunteering or new to an organization embrace the mission and work of an organization and take it on as their own. Volunteers, whether hands-on or skills-based, are critical to the success of any organization and we’re proud of our colleagues and their commitment both personally and professionally to the social good sector. They are making a difference in their communities through their volunteer efforts. Thanks to their efforts, we have the privilege and the honor to fund organizations across the world through the Reward Your Passion program. Going forward, we will use this blog to announce and highlight organizations who receive these grants. We hope you enjoy learning about the organizations our colleagues serve.