John Hailer Explains Why A Corporate Approach Has a Place in Philanthropy

John Hailer, Chairman of Diffractive Managers Group, led philanthropy initiatives at Natixis Investment Managers for over a decade. He, more than others, recognizes the importance of a business-minded approach to charitable giving. As firms concentrate more on ESG indicators, their social effect has grown in importance. ESG indicators refer to environmental, social, and governance indicators. The question that the former exec at Natixis, John Hailer addresses is: Where should a company start when there are conflicting agendas, a crowded non-profit industry, and hard-to-control global challenges?

Fine-Tune Focus

First, says Hailer, there’s a need to fine-tune the focus. The final objective has always got to be within sight. After consulting with workers and corporate management during his tenure at Natixis, Hailer identified organizations delivering important human services to disadvantaged people in cities and areas where Natixis did business. Focused efforts offer greater outcomes, says Hailer. Emphasize your strengths and avoid the temptation to cast too wide. In the case of charity at Natixis, Hailer recalls, it became a matter of staying local. Whatever you want to achieve, choose one place where you would really like to make an impact, and then approach it as if it were part of your own internal business processes.

Work With Existing Resources

Too often, newer charities ignore the progress that other charities are already making in the same field. Instead of trying to act in a “silo,” find out how your charitable goals can aid the shared goals of other organizations that already have a foothold in space. You wouldn’t want your corporate departments to act independently, not knowing what another department is doing. You know that would create redundancies and doubled efforts. Consider how your charitable work can help the existing services instead of duplicating services or competing with others. Hailer says, “Work together to build something that would have taken much longer if you had each been working without the other’s help.”

Form Skilled Teams

“At Natixis, we were able to provide existing organizations with new skill sets, something that we were proud to be able to do. We found that the second biggest pain point for charities—after funding—was finding experts with applicable skill sets. So, when you’re building your charity teams, use the same approach you would do if you were hiring within your organization. You wouldn’t just take any candidate off the street. You’d carefully vet candidates and assemble an employee pool where all the department tasks could be accomplished by the various skill sets represented. And, while you should never turn away volunteer help, you still need to save room for more valuable players who bring needed skills to the table.”

This corporate approach to charity is one that John Hailer formed during his time at Natixis and one that he believes other charities can benefit from. “During my time,” Hailer beamed, “we witnessed workers moving away from their comfort zones and achieving connections that were never there before.”

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