Re-launching Our Social Impact Grant Program

By Russ Stoddard / Oct 01, 2014

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Editors note: This is an old post. Please see Call to Action for updated information. (December, 2015)

Since our founding in 1991, Oliver Russell has contributed more than $1.7 million in cash and services to nonprofits through our popular “o-pen purse” grant program. Over 23 years, these grants have helped more than 100 nonprofits acquire much-needed cash or marketing service grants, ranging from branding to web design.

It’s one of the ways we demonstrate our commitment to social corporate responsibility and a key component of maintaining and improving our standing as a certified B Corporation.

Idaho Anne Frank Memorial; funding the Gold-medal winning U.S. Women’s Olympic Fencing Team (yes, fencing!); preserving the Hull’s Gulch Nature Reserve; providing significant marketing support to the Special Olympics World Winter Games; and purchasing air-conditioners for a senior citizen home. (In the spirit of an Oscar winner’s speech, we’ve probably left out about 96 other favorites!)

But times change. While the program was extremely successful, we invested the past year and a half to re-examine the idea of creating social impact and how best to use our resources.

The result? We’ve re-branded and re-launched the initiative. We now call our grants “SIGs,” as in social impact grants. Perhaps the largest change? You don’t have to be a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit to qualify for our social impact grants.

We love nonprofits, but we also recognize the world is evolving and that positive social impact today happens in ways it hasn’t in the past. Purpose-driven companies are working directly to solve social and environmental problems via their products, services and business models. Social ventures, sometimes a hybrid of for-profit and nonprofit, have hit the scene. New nonprofits that mimic a market-based revenue model have entered the mix. Innovative legal structures for Benefit Corporations have been created, and a 1,000+ member community of B Corps is rapidly growing in this country and around the world. Of course, traditional nonprofits are still doing the mighty yeoman work of providing human services, animal protection, and wild lands conservation that they always have.

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  • We think that business grant money might be able to foster significant change. In recognition of this, our SIGs will be made available to any individual or entity working to demonstrably create positive social impact. This could be an organic food co-op, an investor-funded renewable energy startup, an entrepreneurial student group in a university incubator, a food bank working to alleviate hunger, or a YMCA with a diabetes prevention program. There’s no boundary on creating good in the world, and our new program intends to recognize this.

    As a further commitment to our community, we’ve also undertaken the management and operation of two Oliver Russell social ventures, Think Boise First and Social Good Network as part of our SIGs program.

    Think Boise First is a network of several hundred independent small businesses working in concert to promote the value of “buying local” to benefit the character and sustainability of a community. (Learn more about our work with Think Boise First)

    Social Good Network is a digital cause-marketing technology that enables brands to leverage their social networks and supporters to raise funds for nonprofit causes. It also hosts a web and social community of individuals who advocate for social impact. (Learn more about our work with Social Good Network)

    These programs augment our mainline branding business, enable us to double-down on social impact, and provide a test tube to learn more about how to better match the needs and objectives of companies, cause organizations, communities and purpose-driven consumers.

    If you are interested in applying for a SIG, you can learn more about the process here Social Impact Grants.

    In addition to making direct grants via SIGs, we will also be allocating a portion of our resources to employing interns at Think Boise First and Social Good Network ventures. Likely candidates will want to learn from, work at, and contribute to a certified B Corp social venture in the areas of brand building, digital marketing, public relations, fundraising and social media. If you know of someone who might be interested in applying, they can send an inquiry to info@oliverrussell.com to receive notice when we formally launch the intern segment later this year.

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    Russ Stoddard

    Russ started Oliver Russell in 1991. He’s committed his career (nearly 30 years) to social responsibility, first inside the corporate world and then as an entrepreneur who’s started four companies and five nonprofit causes. Russ is the author of "Rise Up - How to Build a Socially Conscious Business," and his creative work has been honored with local, regional, and national creative awards. These days, Russ focuses on brand strategy for clients, spreading the Certified B Corp love, and connecting kindred spirits to multiply social impact.

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