May 13, 2008

Many corporations, if not all, have some sort of institutionalized corporate philanthropy or giving program. They have instituted these programs to address social issues of interest to them, and they run the gamut from improving health to ending hunger, from ending domestic violence and child abuse to improving reading skills. The areas of interest are as varied as are the companies that support them. While many in the corporate sector have done incredible work in the area of corporate responsibility our sector (Hispanic advertising and public relations agencies) need to do better as corporate givers and role models for social responsibility.

Don’t get me wrong — some of us do participate by providing in-kind services, helping with advertising campaigns either independently or through the Ad Council, volunteerism, and/or assisting non-profit organizations with marketing and communications. That is all worthwhile. However, the disconnect comes when we look at support from a purely financial perspective. Rarely do agencies contribute actual dollars and cents to organizations that support our community.

As contributions budgets get smaller and fund-raising becomes more difficult our perspective on giving needs to change. If we want to be blunt about it: there are many organizations providing needed services to our community, the very same community that we help sell goods and services to. So, the question is: why shouldn’t we help out? The answer is simple: there is no reason not to help and many reasons why we should.

The former chairman of a large corporation was widely quoted as saying, “Our business activities must make social sense, and our social activities must make business sense.” So, how do we get to that point?

The bottom line is that many of these non-profit organizations provide services that help strengthen our community one person at a time. A strong community equals a stronger Hispanic market. And a stronger Hispanic market…well, you get the picture. And, if you don’t like that reason, then do it because it’s the right thing to do; that you get a feeling of accomplishment that is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. Because you’re helping people who otherwise would have to do without.

I’m not suggesting that you go out and try to build up a foundation with millions of dollars in assets. I’m being realistic. But, if you’re able (depending on your size and profit margins, of course) set aside some dollars to go to support an area that is important to you and/or your clients. It could go to support an immunization program in the barrio, provide supplies to a soup kitchen in Old Town, or it could go to an immigration or a literacy center to help those most in need. Whatever group or organization you decide to support, whatever level of support you can give it will make a difference.

We all use the demographics to lay the groundwork for why corporations should advertise to the Hispanic consumer; we all conduct segmentation studies to show exactly who and why they are the target; we delve deep into the psychographics to give a full picture. Well, let’s help change the picture a little. Let’s really make a difference in our community. After all, as the saying goes, it’s only money.

Carmen A. Sepúlveda is president and CEO of Act-é Marketing Solutions, Inc., a full-service, Hispanic- and women-owned marketing communications agency based in New York.


Finally a discussion on CSR and the Hispanic market! This area is of great interest to me. I've done a lot of volunteer work in New York and Boston and find that our community really needs leaders. When they run into one it's like a message from heaven. They crave it, admire it and are inspired to expand their lives. A great place to start is with our youth. I've worked with Hispanic families and the foundation they provide their children is amazing just think what large corporations can do in addition to making a difference in their lives and in creating a future generation of Hispanic leaders. We are a strong community, one to be reckoned with in years to come...I can't wait for tomorrow's leaders but they cannot do it alone. Corporations can do a myriad of activities centered around CSR and it's not just about donating. We need to think outside the box and not just cut a check! Finding those to bridge the gap is also something companies should recognize within their hiring practices.

BRAVO, Carmen! As usual, you touch upon the unusual. Never mind that, from the financial standpoint, most Hispanic agencies do not invest in our own communities as a matter of corporate commitment - as I see it, many do not even make the effort to, at the very least, embrace one charitable endeavor with consistency of purpose... that is egregious. By far and large, Hispanic agencies do not have "community giving" at the top of their corporate "to do" list; when they do, it's usually a "one time deal" and seldom weaved into the organization's corporate culture. How do the Hispanic agencies marshall company team spirit on a consistent basis? And, no, it is not enough to have the agency's baseball team beat the other agency's team. No, it is not the summer or Christmas party either. In this respect, General Market agencies tend to be far more aware of their societal responsibility and incorporate this mindset in their corporate culture. These agencies encourage employees to partake of the company's community support commitment and rewards them with company-wide recognition for doing so. As an agency professional who has worked on both sides of the fence - General market (18 years) and Hispanic market (10 years) - I must say that my experience on the General Market side was quite rewarding and a source of pride when it came to the agency being a "good corporate citizen." Maybe the contribution wasn't outright financial every single time, but the agency's commitment iyear after year in terms of unbillable manpower hours was quite significant. As you have articulated so eloquently, Hispanic agencies' management needs to make a more significant effort to give back to the same communities they reach out to for the selling of their Clients' products and services - whether that means offering financial support on a consistent basis or, their employees' time as a commited contribution.

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