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Posted: August 12, 2013

Right project, right partner

Tips for doing good -- better

T.J. Cook

If your company has been looking at new, more impactful ways to give back, you’re in good company. From nonprofits and foundations to Fortune 500 companies and investment firms, we are seeing a greater intersection between business and philanthropy than possibly ever before.

In fact, according to the Sustainable and Responsible Investing Trends report published recently by The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, U.S. investors currently have $3.74 trillion invested in social and responsible investment strategies – a 22 percent increase since year-end 2009.

In May, I wrote an article that addressed how technology is serving as one catalyst in the world of social enterprise. The right technology application can increase the effectiveness of your social programs many times over.

Of course, most businesses aren’t in the business of social philanthropy, and leadership teams need to be smart about implementing new technology solutions that don’t really add to the company’s efficiency or bottom line. Like any technology investment, finding the right project – and the right partner to help you implement it – is key.

To find the right project, consider these simple tips:

  • Look for a project that is measurably catalytic. Do you want to increase user reach by 100 percent in less than 10 percent of the time? Or deliver a 4:1 return on your technology investment? Be sure to set some measurement goals from the get-go.
  • Stay true to the heart of your company. Real social enterprise comes from the heart and soul of the organization. Don’t just go through the motions so you can call yourself philanthropic; look for a way you can really make a difference that comes from the core.
  • Think outside the “consultant box.” Consultants can be valuable, external resources, but don’t settle for anything less than an actual deliverable. If you want to achieve real social good, you need more than a game plan. You need actual technology, built around a sound strategy, that will deliver tangible results.

Finding the right partner is just as important as selecting the right project. Here are five questions to ask when interviewing potential technology innovation partners:

  •  Will they give you a clear list of deliverables? An agency partner should be able to commit to the project scope, budget and deadline. Be clear that you’re not just looking for a consultant to give you ideas; you’re looking for a specific deliverable that will provide a specific result. If you’re struggling to get the conversation to move beyond generalities, keep looking.
  • Do they consider you a partner, or a customer? Look for an agency that considers you a partner. This includes gathering input, direction and feedback from your internal team throughout the process, and working together to understand the nuances of your project.
  • Are they outsourcing to developers overseas? This may or may note be ok with you, but either way, it’s good information for you to know.
  • Are they picky about their projects? If you’re really looking for a firm that is adept at developing technology applications for maximum social impact, choose a partner that deals exclusively in this space. They should be just as picky about your social program as you are about their technology expertise.
  • What kind of value should you expect from working with them? Be sure to use the word “value.” Price is what you pay, value is what you get.

With these tips in mind, you’re well on your way to using technology as a catalyst for social enterprise. Which means you’re well on your way to doing good, better.

T.J. Cook is CEO of HiDef, Inc., a Denver-based digital agency committed to delivering great results for great causes through customer technology solutions. He can be reached at tj@hidef.co or 720-443-3348.

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