By Kristy Dixon

Community Investment is closely linked with communications and there’s often an overlap between the two functions. In many cases one professional or team will wear both hats. But what does this mean day to day and how can Calgary professionals share knowledge across these two functions?

What is Community Investment?

Community Investment refers to a company’s long-term strategic involvement in community partnerships to address social issues chosen by the company to protect corporate interests and enhance reputation. Depending on the language used in an organization, it is also sometimes referred to as community relations, sponsorships and donations, or corporate giving.

Christi Cruz, Senior Manager of Community Investment and Engagement at TELUS reveals that customers are becoming more sophisticated in purchasing behavior and a specific segment choose products based on community investment and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

“Customers want to know what causes your organization supports and what impact you’re having. They also want companies to talk about the influence they’re having on important social issues.”

“Once the realm of a CEO’s pet projects, today corporate Community Investment is growing strategic roots in driving shareholder value while building strong, viable, communities and bringing internal benefits like employee engagement,” Cruz says.

What are the biggest challenges in Alberta’s Community Investment?

“Since the economic downturn, TD recognized there’s a large gap to fill in cases where charities are struggling and maybe not getting support they previously received. As a result TD has offered support to help alleviate this, particularly in the Calgary Arts Community,” says Nicole Davis, Manager, Community Banking – Prairies for TD Bank Group.

“The greatest challenge of corporate Community Investment is seeing an organization we’ve supported for years coming to TD, only to say they may have to close their doors. All charitable organizations rely on the collaboration of many funding partners to be sustainable in years to come.”

“Patterson and Downtown” by Michael Gil is licenced under CC BY 2.0

How does Community Investment support a corporate brand?

With so many opportunities for Community Investment initiatives and charitable support, we asked Jennifer Lewis, Director, Communications – Canada for Lafarge Canada Inc. to share an example of how community investment supports the brand:

“One example is our sponsorship of Habitat for Humanity’s Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project. We’re thrilled to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary by helping build 150 more affordable homes. The Habitat for Humanity model of putting families first by providing home ownership education and environmentally friendly homes is a great match for us. Sustainable construction must meet the triple bottom line. In this case, affordable homes with solid concrete foundations—built with a community’s volunteer hands—create an engaging story for all of our stakeholders.”

How a coffee klatch started 13 years prior helped people in the Fort McMurray fires

Cruz reminisces, “In 2003, Joanne McDonald (EPCOR), Lyall Samaroden (TransAlta) and I were leaving a community meeting and we realized how little time we had to actually talk about Community Investment. We decided we should create a coffee klatch of sorts; informal in nature but formal in its approach to sharing knowledge for what, at that time, was a new field called corporate Community Investment.”

Today that klatch is known as the Calgary Community Investment Council (CCIC), an informal, free to join council of corporate Community Investment professionals representing organizations actively involved in community investment activities related to the city of Calgary. The group meets monthly and provides a network and forum for individuals to discuss current issues and highlight successes with peers from other organizations.

“Fort McMurray Wildfire 1194″ by Premier of Alberta is licenced under CC BY 2.0

During the 2016 Fort McMurray fires, Cruz called fellow CCIC member Cathy Glover at Suncor to see if she had better insight about the fires via their local operations. To help solve the growing jigsaw puzzle, Cruz and Glover decided they needed to add other corporations with assets in the affected area on a daily call.

“We started with other CCIC members, asking them to share what they knew about the situation. Those calls grew into daily teleconference calls with more than 50 partners on the line including emergency management organizations,” Cruz says.

“We believe through these calls, the corporate community response was more efficient, decreased duplication of effort and created new partnerships amongst unconventional partners. We had a stronger collective response that, in the end, helped those affected by the fire.”

With that inspiring example of Community Investment and communications in mind, if you work in Community Investment in Calgary and your company in interested in joining the CCIC feel free to reach out to the following company representatives:

Jerilyn Daniels
Sr. Manager, Community Investments & Marketing, Public Affairs
Royal Bank of Canada

Lorna Carlson
Vice President, Imperial Oil Foundation & Community Investment Advisor

Pamela Hollinger
External Relations Advisor

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