“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
This profound quote is a wonderful philosophy. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I can rely on Einstein’s sage words when presenting to Alcoa Foundation’s Board of Directors on how our dollars and time are spent and what we accomplish for our efforts. In the boardroom, we focus on another saying: “What gets measured gets done.” Of course, in the Foundation world, there’s room for both ideas. We can’t entirely measure the impact we have when we inspire a young student to follow her dreams into a science career, but there are certainly outputs and outcomes we can evaluate so we can answer the multi-million dollar question: “How have we made a difference?”
Both funders and grantees are spending more time developing metrics and defining success. The key is doing this together - engaging in a dialogue about respective goals for the partnership, capabilities and vision. When we at Alcoa are asked for best practices in partnership development, the most successful partners:
- Understand what the company does, where it operates and what causes it supports. This helps identify ways to maximize the assets of the company and fuels creative discussion.
- Come with specific, relevant partnership ideas and measurable goals. For Alcoa, we measure environmental and education outcomes, stakeholder engagement and visibility.
- Consider the partnership from a shared value perspective with aspects that deliver value for society, the company and its stakeholders, including the nonprofit (see Tricia Napor’s post below).
- Know the difference between foundation dollars and corporate dollars, the former being subject to self-dealing rules.
- Identify ways to grow the program, such as bringing in other partners that might be customers or vendors of the company. This demonstrates a desire to leverage dollars.
Alcoa locations around the world are in full swing developing their community investment plans tailored to the needs of their local communities. Centrally, in Pittsburgh and New York, we are researching global programs to advance our goals around the environment and education. We are excited to see what initiatives emerge with our new and existing partners and eager to fully deploy our online Impact Measurement System that will track the progress of our grants. Because even though we can’t count everything that matters, we can count on a desire to know that we made a difference.
President, Alcoa Foundation
What's Happening Around Our Focus Areas and Alcoa
Alcoa and Alcoa Foundation 2012 Giving Totals More Than $40 Million and 800,000 Hours of Volunteerism
Alcoa and Alcoa Foundation announced combined community giving of more than $40 million in 2012, compared with $38 million in 2011, as well as 800,000 hours of employee volunteerism. In 2012, recognizing the changing demographics of the global workforce, Alcoa Foundation began to focus more on targeted programs that reach diverse populations, investing $3 million on diversity programs helping to prepare the next generation of leaders for successful careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and manufacturing. Learn more
Students Participate in Global Campus Challenge Promoting Sustainability
In January, the Small Steps, Big Wins Campus Challenge powered by Alcoa Foundation launched on college campuses around the world, inspiring students to take small actions that add up to big social and environmental impact. Organized by Net Impact, a nonprofit that empowers a new generation of leaders to work for a sustainable future, this intercollegiate competition has already reached 64 campuses and 2,000 students this semester. During the 14-week Challenge, thousands of students compete against their peers and other college campuses to take the most actions and win recognition and prizes. Learn more
Biodiversity Program Creates Clean Water Source, Protects Threatened Species and Creates Economic Opportunities in the Amazon
Alcoa Foundation and Conservation International recently announced the results of a five year biodiversity program in the Brazilian Amazon, one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. The goal of the program was to protect natural resources, create a conservation action plan and build the capacity of ten local communities to develop and enforce environmental legislation. All of these goals were achieved, as the Tapajós-Abacaxis Corridor Program helped secure safe water for more than 400,000 people, protect almost 40 species of wildlife, and create a source of economic development for seven communities without damaging the natural resources. The project focused its activities in four protected areas - the Amazon National Park, the Tapajós-Arapiuns Extractive Reserve, the Pau-Rosa National Forest, and Amana National Forest.
30 Solar-Powered Recycling Stations Positioned in Times Square to Encourage Recycling and Serve as Blueprint for Other Cities
Alcoa Foundation is partnering with New York City and the Times Square Alliance to debut BigBelly Solar waste and recycling stations, the largest recycling program in Times Square. BigBelly stations channel solar energy to compact garbage on-site and hold five times the capacity of traditional sidewalk receptacles. Not only will this partnership promote recycling and sanitation in one of the busiest neighborhoods in the world, it will also reduce transportation and labor costs for New York City, as the bins do not need to be emptied as frequently, curbing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent. The hope is that cities around the world copy this initiative, leading to an increased rate of recycled aluminum cans. Learn more
Celebrate Earth Day by Taking Action with Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES)
April 21 marks the start of the third annual Green Works, where Alcoa employees and communities around the world volunteer their time to reduce, recycle, replenish. C2ES, an Alcoa partner, has identified a few ways to celebrate Earth Day, April 22 and Arbor Day, April 27! Learn more
Students Across Europe Partner with Sustainability Experts on Public Awareness Campaign
The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Commission on Education and Communication and Alcoa Foundation recently launched the Powered by Nature competition in which European communications students from 11 countries are challenged to co-create a social media campaign. The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness of “natural solutions” for energy conservation and encourage the younger generation to develop new ways to reach a broad audience. Students work together with experts from environmental organizations and communications agencies on their final submissions. Learn more
Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Receives Grant to Inspire Girls to Pursue Engineering Careers
SWE and Alcoa Foundation started a partnership to educate middle and high school girls about the possibilities of a rewarding career in engineering. Outreach efforts are led by members of SWE student chapters at the University of Michigan, North Carolina A&T State University, The Ohio State University, Purdue University and the University of Tennessee. At campus events throughout the year, more than 750 K-12 girls will enhance their understanding and awareness of STEM-related careers, and learn how to turn their interests and skills into careers. Learn more
Shared Value Discussion at Yale’s Annual Philanthropy Conference
By Tricia Napor, Principal Manager, Alcoa Foundation
On February 1, 2013, more than 300 professionals gathered in New Haven, CT for the 8th Annual Yale Philanthropy Conference. As a recent alumna who now works in philanthropy, I was honored to speak on a panel moderated by my former professor Barry Nalebuff, co-founder of Honest Tea. Together with Cynthia Round of United Way, Lisa Walker of Newman’s Own Foundation and Craig Bida of Cone Communications, I offered my view of who the “customer” is when it comes to philanthropy.
Alcoa Foundation has many “customers”: the direct beneficiaries of our programs, the communities where Alcoa operates, our nonprofit partners, Alcoa employees and their families, many of whom volunteer regularly, and Alcoa’s suppliers, customers and partners. It is exciting to have such a broad definition of customer because it allows us to be creative and diversify our various initiatives to meet the needs of these various stakeholders.
To create collective impact for our many customers, we set forth specific deliverables for each grant we make, including:
- Expected social and environmental outcomes for the community;
- Tactics for engaging employees and others through direct service and skills-based volunteering;
- Opportunities for visibility of the initiative that will educate and, perhaps, inspire others; and
- Ways to strengthen the nonprofit’s work for future efforts.
One of the recurring questions that arose during the discussion was how much advertising is appropriate in philanthropy: How do you let your customers know about all the great work you are doing? That is not always easy, but to engage stakeholders, raise awareness about your cause and share best practices, ongoing and effective communication is key, and we build that function into all of our grant concepts and our measurement.
Alcoa Foundation Launches New Website
Visit our newly redesigned website at www.alcoafoundation.com.
Alcoa Receives 2013 Catalyst Award for Global Diversity Initiative
Alcoa was recognized for its global initiative, “Building Opportunities for Women in a ‘Hard Hat’ Company,” which showcases how the Company broke down barriers in a male-dominated industry and achieved greater gender representation and inclusivity through an aggressive diversity agenda. The award honors innovative organizational approaches that address the recruitment, development, and advancement of women in the workplace.
Alcoa Receives Fred Rogers Good Neighbor Award for Workplace Volunteerism
Alcoa was recognized as a good neighbor by the United Way of Allegheny County for its commitment to workplace volunteerism with a Fred Rogers Good Neighbor Award.
Alcoa Shanghai Recognized with “2012 OASIS Top Ten Star Enterprise” Award
The award is recognition for Alcoa Shanghai employees’ commitment to social responsibility and volunteerism. For two years, Alcoa Shanghai has partnered with OASIS Shanghai, an environmental NGO, on Green Works and Month of Service projects.
Would you like an Alcoa or Alcoa Foundation thought leader to speak at your next conference? We would like to learn more about opportunities to share what we’re doing around global philanthropy, environmental sustainability, education and measurement.
Send us information to consider.
Areas of expertise include:
- Employee Engagement
- Shared Value Creation
- Metrics and Evaluation
- Creating a stakeholder framework for a global enterprise