Community Voice: A Vital Spark for Corporate Social Impact

Authenticity. It is a trait that businesses of all types and industries want their brands to reflect. And when it comes to corporate social impact, being authentic is vital. From grantmaking to employee engagement to advocacy, companies increasingly are finding that accelerating the pace of social change requires them to move beyond discrete projects and charitable transactions to deep, genuine, and long-term engagement on urgent issues confronting communities and society.

As senior advisor with the Tides Corporate Social Impact team, I have the honor of working with many of our corporate partners to achieve their impact goals. Given the crises of 2020, we’re increasingly hearing from companies that they want to be more thoughtful and proactive in supporting and lifting up solutions. Equally important, they want to build trust with impacted communities.   

Tides has long held the value that philanthropic strategies must be connected to the lived experience of the communities at the heart of our work. As Roxana Shirkhoda, previous director of Special Initiatives at Tides, puts it, “The idea that problems and solutions can be found in the same places is core to our work and mission.”

Trust-based philanthropy is an idea that has gained traction among many private foundations in recent years. For corporate donors, however, it’s still a new frontier. Working with communities to shape a company’s social impact strategies and investments can take time. It also means ceding control and sharing power, which can be a major shift for businesses used to driving their own strategies and plans.

GitHub champions engaging immigrant and migrant voices as they work to clarify strategies and goals for a new grant program that focuses on supporting local communities. © Javad Esmaeili

But time and again, I have seen how the trust-based approach works wonders. I saw it in my pre-Tides work with women’s foundations, which have a powerful record of lifting up the voice and the power of women and girls with varied life experiences. And I am seeing it now at Tides in my work with pioneering corporate partners like GitHub.

Late in 2019, GitHub asked Tides for help designing a process that would engage immigrant and migrant voices in clarifying strategies and goals for a new grant program focused on supporting their communities. 

“As an immigrant myself, I know the intense needs of immigrant- and migrant- communities firsthand, but that wasn’t enough. We wanted to be guided by the wider community themselves to make sure our grantmaking had a powerful impact,” said Head of Social Impact Admas Kanyagia, noting that GitHub wanted to bring the same “open source” approach to its philanthropy that it does to its software products. 

In partnership with GitHub, Tides recruited and convened a five-member advisory committee of immigrant rights organizers and activists to help guide the grantmaking initiative. The committee—representing groups from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) to the Transgender Law Center’s Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project—subsequently played the lead role in setting strategy and identifying and screening prospective grassroots organizations to receive grants.

For each of the five immigrant-led groups selected, support from GitHub was the largest unrestricted grant it had ever received, as well as the first grant from a corporate funder. Determined to build a lasting partnership with the groups, GitHub already is providing follow-on support to the cohort, including expert technology assistance. 

The trust-based approach to philanthropy is based on the idea that those directly affected know the best ways to employ funds to make a real difference in people’s lives—restrictive, top down giving often misses the mark. Tides Corporate Social Impact team also supports companies by helping them develop effective strategies related to employee engagement and impact investing. © Dan Burton

GitHub’s partnership with Tides shows what happens when we change the “how” of our philanthropy by pushing boundaries and experimenting with innovative ways to broaden our social impact. The trust-based approach is just one of the leading-edge tools Tides is bringing to our work with corporate partners. We also are helping companies develop effective strategies in areas from employee engagement to impact investing.

In addition to the unique skills and experience we bring to designing and implementing strategies for corporate partners like GitHub, the Tides Corporate Social Impact team connects companies to movements and initiatives on the front lines in advancing shared prosperity and social justice. As an example, Tides is the sponsor for the Black Lives Matter Support Fund. We also have launched groundbreaking grantmaking initiatives on issues from climate change and democracy to pandemic response.

No matter the issue, Tides can help your company shift its approach, build community trust, and select the partners and the strategies you need to make a lasting—and authentic—difference. We’ll listen to your goals for your corporate philanthropy, and we will work with you and your team to maximize your impact on the issues you care most about.

Please contact Edward Wang, Director of Corporate Philanthropy at Tides [email protected] to find out more about how we can work together to propel your vision of positive, community-driven social change. 

News & Press