By: Will Oberst
In the Goodwill training facility in south Seattle, on the same block as the largest Goodwill in the country, on a lunch break in mid-September of this year, Comcast NBCUniversal Director of Community Investment and External Affairs Diem Ly stood before one hundred representatives of local nonprofits. This elevational speaking event is called Learning@Lunch put on by the Corporate Giving Network, operated by Joy Stephens of o 2 joy. The Learning@Lunch intends to bring nonprofits together to best understand the landscape of how companies invest in their organizations with the aim to improve our communities.
Diem Ly, also responsible for the Comcast Foundation in her region, oversees more than $6.3 million a year in cash and in-kind giving. She is actively seeking out value-aligned nonprofits to work with Comcast that are producing new and innovative solutions. Unlike many larger companies, Comcast funding recipients are by invite only. As Goodwill is actively training and placing people into jobs, Ly’s speaking here at the training facility has a lot of crossover. Comcast has even partnered with Goodwill in the past to donate Microsoft Surfaces to graduates of Goodwill programs so that the recipients will be on equal playing field moving into college and their new careers.
Joining Diem on the panel was Shirley Eclipse of Comcast Spotlight – the advertising sales division which harnesses the power of premium video and advanced analytics to bring brands and audiences together.. Comcast Spotlight is dedicated to helping clients meet their business goals by connecting them with their customers through targeted multiscreen video advertising. Ms. Eclipse encouraged nonprofits to consider strategic media partnerships with Spotlight and local businesses to help them tell their story.
As Ly explains on Comcast’s values, “Nonprofit and corporate partnerships are a lot like dating. Everything can look great on the surface, but each partner has to determine if they are compatible. Stay to your values, have a professionally diverse board, and know exactly what you need.” Comcast is taking a very smart and directed approach to who they work with as Ly continues, “Don’t try speed dating with 1000 donors, rather try to find the partners that you know are right for you.”
Comcast is now working with and investing in digital inclusion, innovation and entrepreneurship, skills for the digital economy, and volunteerism and community service. Ranked number 14 by Puget Sound Business Journals’ charitable giving companies for 2017, Comcast has recently begun investing in Bunker Labs led by Jake Tozier. Tozier is the Experience Director for Bunker Labs a nonprofit dedicated towards helping veterans become entrepreneurs.
The alignment of Bunker Labs and Comcast comes from shared values of being data-driven and mission focused. As Jake Tozier describes it, “As a nonprofit, externally, you have to have your cause be at the forefront, but internally you have to be data-driven.” Comcast isn’t looking for nonprofits who are just seeking funding but are looking for dedicated communities that want a strong partnership based on value alignment. Those nonprofits need to do their research and do the groundwork to make sure that those partnerships are going to be strong and long-lasting. As some final advice from someone who did the work to gain that success, Tozier says simply, “a win is not a win until you follow through.”
For more information on the Corporate Giving Network, click here.
Will Oberst is a master’s candidate in Communications Leadership at the University of Washington. He consults in communication challenges for nonprofits, startups, and around collective impact. A native Northwesterner, he’s also an abstract thinker and painter on the autistic spectrum.