Helping Out: Technology is focus of IBM’s philanthropy

August 14, 2011

Who: Sally Scott Marietta, program manager for corporate citizenship and corporate affairs in Maryland, Virginia and Washington

Company: IBM

Program: Corporate Service Corps, a program in which employees do pro bono work in emerging markets; Smart Cities Challenge, a grant program that deploys IBM experts to 100 cities doing pro bono work to spur economic growth. Washington-area employees volunteered 50,400 hours last year.

Define IBM’s local corporate philanthropy.

Our emphasis is giving our services and our technology within the greater Washington region. I like to tailor our technology and talent to a specific partner or organization.

Which needs do you focus on more in the Washington region?

For the greater Washington area, I’ve found it’s been primarily economic, community development, education, literacy and capacity building. Some of our grants are related to leadership, collaboration and social media to strengthen their organization.

How would you say IBM’s philanthropy has changed over the years?

There was a targeted focus on real change within the early ’90s, taking a look at what we have in our expertise and skills to give back to the communities we’re located. I think it has expanded in terms of the scope of societal issues. Education had been a focus of IBM for many years. It still is. But more and more we’ve gained expertise and developed solutions in economic development or support the increasing diversity of our communities. So it hasn’t changed but enhanced.

You do more service than grant giving?

We don’t really make cash contributions to a nonprofit. It’s really focused more on in-kind services, from technology and volunteerism. Since I’ve been here, that’s been our focal point.

Any challenges with this corporate philanthropy model?

When other organizations are asked to write a check to support, that’s just weighing yes or no. In our case, we’re taking the time to understand what the specific need is and how we can align our resources to help them. It’s a challenge of time. But that’s what we’re here for.

What do you look for in a nonprofit partner?

One that is sustainable or a leader in their area. It has that regional reach, not just focused on one jurisdiction. They welcome the use of an IBM solution, like a Web-based tool. Do they have an existing program? Have they been successful in serving their constituents. We also evaluate the impact we had.

— Interview with Vanessa Small

Vanessa Small covers philanthropy and nonprofits for Capital Business. She also spotlights newly appointed executives in the New at the Top column, which chronicles their journeys to the top. Small was raised in Orange County, Ca. and graduated from Howard University.
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