In Episode 74 of the Charity Charge Show, Stephen talks about corporate social responsibility and thinking like a VC with Kenzie Ferguson, Vice President, Foundation and Corporate Social Responsibility for Delta Dental of California and the Vice President of the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation. Delta Dental Community Care Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Delta Dental of California and its affiliated companies. Its mission is to increase access to oral health care, fund oral health education and support organizations that serve vital needs in our communities. Since 2011, the Foundation has awarded more than $60 million across 15 states and the District of Columbia.
Prior to joining Delta Dental, Kenzie was consulting with nonprofits and women-owned small businesses in Morocco and France and was TE Connectivity’s first Director of Corporate Social Responsibility. Kenzie holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz, a Master of Business Administration degree from Nyenrode University, and is a PhD student at the International School of Business in Paris.
On narrowing the Foundation’s focus to insure measurable impact:
When we looked at where a lot of foundations in the oral health industry were trying to improve access to oral health care, what we were finding was a lot of effort put on children and a lot of effort put on education. But what we found is a big gap in oral health for seniors. That’s an area that when you see the disparities, it starts to widen and widen and widen. And then when you look at the seniors, it even widens more when you’re talking about diversity. And you’re talking about equity. The numbers get to be very alarming when you look at the Black and Latino populations, especially for older adults. So that’s an area where we thought, “Let’s put a stake in the ground.” We’re still on that journey. We’re looking for experts in the field and to build a coalition around making a difference in addressing the problems for seniors and their oral health issues. We’re working in a very small way and focusing to come up with a model that we can hopefully replicate in other neighborhoods and communities.
Kenzie’s advice to getting into corporate foundations and corporate social responsibility:
I know there are a lot of people that are interested in getting into a career like this. My advice is twofold: One is having the background working for nonprofits is really good. Actually fundraising and getting grants is a really powerful background to have. So you have to suck it up and do that fundraising. Not everyone loves it, but it’s really powerful because then you start to get to know what funders are looking for. The second piece is to think like a business yourself. Learn the language of talking to business people. If you want to go into corporate philanthropy, learning finance and starting to understand how the business will talk is really important. You have to sort of straddle the two. But I think that this is really a growing area for all companies driving with purpose and understanding where they can make a difference while building pride within our employee base, alleviating burnout and also making a positive impact on the community and the world around them. Not just with the products they make or in the people they employ, but going above and beyond and pledging, you know, 1%, or a certain percent of the earnings before tax to give back to the community.
Interested in listening to the full episode and hearing more from other nonprofits? Check out more episodes here Charity Charge Show