Words of Wisdom from 2023 Purpose Award Recipients

ACCP Staff

ACCP announced the 2023 Purpose Awards recipients during the State of the Association virtual meeting in September.
ACCP’s Purpose Awards celebrate corporate social impact professionals serving as beacons of excellence in their field. This year’s recipients were Beth Satterfield of William Blair (Champion for Change), Lynette Bell of Truist Foundation (Trailblazer), Alicea Starr of Veradigm (Rising Star), and the Novartis Giving & Volunteering Team.
During a brief discussion following the awards presentation, this year’s honorees shared advice and inspiration with their peers.

Carolyn: Based on your experience, could you each share one piece of advice for your corporate social impact peers?

Beth: My advice is to lead by example as you encourage and recognize employees to engage in their communities. Leaders who invest their own time and talents serve as an important signal to all employees that community service is a company priority.

Encouraging employees to engage in their communities also helps them feel more connected to the company’s purpose and impacts, connecting them to a vision that goes beyond themselves and their day-to-day work.

Lynette: Beth said it so well that as leaders of this work, it is critical that we bring our unique perspective and create the right prioritization as we support our communities. I encourage all corporate philanthropy leaders to take an active role in their grantmaking.

Organizations’ sizes and budgets differ, and that can impact how they can drive real change. I encourage you to use an evidence-based approach to invest in organizations that meet the needs within your communities. It’s through critical conversations with those organizations that you can co-create solutions to help build and inspire better lives in communities.

Estelle (Novartis): As the leader of Novartis’ Giving & Volunteering team, and having kickstarted this program back in 2014, I like to use a well-known quote in regards to our team: “Everyone said it was impossible, and then came someone who didn’t know that and just did it.”

Here’s what worked for us, and it is our advice to our peers:

  • Identify your North Star and be bold and unique in your work.
  • Partner and listen actively. Better to walk AND talk – and walk the extra mile.
  • It’s never too late to change the world and never too early to start.
  • Move from the “I” to the “we” and to the “us” and bring in as many passionate people as you can.

Alicea: As someone who worked in nonprofit fundraising before moving to corporate CSR, I would say to my colleagues to treat every non-profit relationship like you would any other business partnership.

Spend time talking to them about their needs and how you can support them in a way that aligns with your company priorities – but always be honest and straightforward. Sometimes people think nonprofits are so under-resourced they’ll be happy to take what they can get, and that’s typically not the case. So you want your partnerships to be mutually beneficial.

My second piece of advice is to take advantage of opportunities to meet with your company leadership. Early- to mid-career professionals can be intimidated by executives, but you represent a portion of the company that’s consistently the good news that they get to write about, so they should know who you are and what you’re trying to achieve. Be sure you know your clear vision for your CSR program and be able to articulate it quickly and easily – and speak up when you have the opportunity.

Finally, stay focused on the big picture. We’re in such a unique position in our roles as CSR managers. In the four years I’ve been in this role, we’ve been through a global pandemic, natural disasters, mass shootings, racial equity movements, and a war in Ukraine. While so many people feel helpless and frustrated, being in this position allows me to act and pull resources to unite those in need and help our communities.

As CSR professionals, we are so fortunate to have the funding and manpower to create real impacts, and not many people can say that. It’s a huge honor that I personally don’t take for granted. So I just wanted to remind everyone not to lose sight of the fact that you get to do more for the world on a Wednesday than most people get to do in a lifetime.

Carolyn: One thing that each of you brings to the table is this incredible optimism, and I know that must be a key part of your success. How are you able to bring that to your work?

Alicea: At my company just yesterday, we were at a day of service. And even though everybody is so busy right now, I still got 50 people to take half a day off and roll up their sleeves and paint an elementary school. A lot of people tell me that one of the reasons they come to our company is because they read all about our culture and our programs. So when I know that we’re inspiring, motivating, and galvanizing our employees to want to be better in their communities, it makes me hopeful and want to keep working. We have enthusiastic and active ERG leaders and leadership who are committed to DEI and corporate partnerships, and who want to be included in our events and employee engagement opportunities. Without that, it would be easy to get discouraged. But our strong culture of giving back is always motivating.

Lynette: One of the things that motivates me – like Alicea – is the team. I also was in Birmingham several months ago and saw a program activation in place. The people there were getting a second chance to earn a living wage, to upskill and reskill, and were so grateful for not only the knowledge but the mentorship, the cohort building, and peer-to-peer learning they had. I don’t get to see every grantee, but I get to see some, and when I do, I’m reminded this is what purpose-driven work is about.

Carolyn: One of the things you all talked about is the value of team and having people bring unique talents, skills, and creativity to the table. So how do you help people bring their best selves to the table?

Estelle: We connect our people’s purpose to the company’s purpose, and that’s at the center of everything we do. The refugee crisis is an example of something where we listened to our people. We get hundreds of emails every day from people reaching out because they care and because they expect it of us as a citizen of the world. It’s about making it meaningful for the 140 nationalities across 100,000 employees and making it meaningful and purposeful for them to engage.

Beth: I’ll follow up similarly, as we are very employee-inspired at William Blair, so whatever our employees are passionate about, our amazing team is able to figure out how to engage them at their level and meet them where they are.

Carolyn: I want to congratulate and thank all of our Purpose Award recipients, as you have certainly shown today why the judges made their selection. I also want to thank our judges – some of whom are on the call today – who poured through each one of the nominations in their category. They had the very difficult task of choosing the best, and I can see they did – so congratulations!

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