Helping Out: Firm and charity support each other
By Vanessa Small,
Who: Donna Morea, president, U.S., Europe and Asia, CGI Group
Program: Provides volunteer and financial contributions to nonprofits in the areas of youth and health.
How do you define CGI’s corporate philanthropy?
Our focus is on health and well-being, with a particular emphasis on children. I also encourage our employees to run in a race, clean up the street, bake cookies and raise money for a great cause.
What partnerships are you proud of?
In the District, there are four organizations that we engage in a high-impact way: American Heart Association, Catalogue for Philanthropy, Share Our Strength and American Cancer Society. An example of how we engage our partners — one of our executives serves on AHA’s regional board. We also launched a campaign with them to honor several military physicians at the forefront of research and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. We implemented their health program for our employees, developing a walking route around the building and increasing health menu options in our cafeteria.
How long have you structured partnerships this way?
In 2007, we launched this idea of philanthropy in a serious way. In 2008, we tiptoed in this arena. In 2009, we launched a formal program.
What was the impetus behind formalizing it in 2009?
I went to a seminar on pro bono activities. All of a sudden, a few things clicked in my head about how the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts. We had not really thought about the linkage between pro bono activities, volunteerism, board service and financial giving to make a broader impact.
What were your first steps in formalizing it?
We communicated our commitment to corporate social responsibility and put together a team of executives who as a gesture signed up for nonprofit board membership.
How did you determine the areas of focus?
We created a committee, sent out a call to all of our executives to find out what they were interested in and asked them to conduct town halls with their teams and return with feedback. We had never really had a database of all of our community work. We received a lot of feedback but the two strongest interests were kids and health.
What do you look for in a nonprofit partner?
Our time and resources are precious so we engage with charities where the leadership is focused on making an impact and a mission that is tangible and measurable. What struck me about Share Our Strength was the passion and capability of the leadership.
What did that passion look like?
We interview a lot of people but they hit me in the gut. To hear Bill Shore [executive director of Share Our Strength] speak and see how far he’s taken the organization, I knew I was in the presence of a leader. It’s passion but practical idealism supported by a plan to achieve the goal. That’s a differentiator. Share Our Strength is the only organization I know that has a specific, tangible, measurable, national goal, which is ending childhood hunger by 2015 — not improving it, not increasing resources for it, but ending it.
— Interview with Vanessa Small