CEO of Nonprofit Believes in Supporting CSR Because “Institutions Don’t Have Needs; People Have Needs”


Doug Tieman, a founding board member of the Satell Institute, is the President & CEO of the Caron Foundation, a nonprofit organization that operates drug and alcohol residential treatment centers. He’s also a bestselling author whose book “Flying Over The Pigpen: Leadership Lessons From Growing Up On The Farm” won praise from business leaders across the world and landed him on major news programs and talk shows.

The organization he’s headed since 1995 raises more money for substance abuse research, training and innovation to help those with addiction issues than any other similar nonprofit in the country – $15 million last year alone. How do they do it? We spoke with Doug to find out.

Given the full-time responsibilities of your employees, do you find it difficult to engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts? Does the ‘day-to-day’ job take precedence over fundraising?

We are a philanthropic-oriented organization and CSR is part of our corporate culture. It all starts with the staff. There are 750 employees at the Caron Foundation, and each year 99% voluntarily donate a portion of their own money back into the organization to help those we serve. So when you have that kind of positive engine powering our CSR efforts, it makes the difference between ‘okay’ care and ‘world-class’ care.

Historically, issues like addiction, treatment and recovery have been taboo for most people. As the nation continues to deal with the current opioid epidemic, have you noticed the conversation changing at all? Have donations increased?

I’ve been with the Caron Foundation since 1995, and during that time I’ve seen addiction itself evolve quite a bit. For us, five years ago was a different world. Our society didn’t really care about addiction issues as much because they could claim it was happening to someone else. But now the opioid epidemic has gripped the nation and it’s impacted every family, which has made it easier to talk to certain organizations. Corporate partnerships are becoming more accessible and even traditional institutions like banks and insurance companies are reaching out to ask how they can get involved. It’s an unfortunate blessing from a tragic situation, but it will ultimately allow us to increase our level of care.

As that stigma has been reduced, has the level of investment from the organizations evolved from just writing a check? How involved are for-profits in the cause?

We’re seeing a number of multi-year commitments, which is more attractive for the businesses because they want a level of sustainability. Longer term investments make it easier for both the for-profit and the nonprofit because it’s easier to manage, easier to evaluate and easier to develop a real relationship. The Satell Institute made a four-year financial commitment to a nonprofit mandatory for businesses to become members.  They recognize this stable funding allows nonprofits to fulfill their missions. That makes all the difference.

That focus on multi-year funding is one of the big reasons we were attracted to the Satell Institute. I’ve known Ed [Satell] for years, and I’ve been so impressed by how much the Satell Institute has accomplished in such a short period of time. He’s assembled a blue-chip group of brands in a neutral setting where you can come share ideas. As the CEO of a nonprofit, the opportunity to be in those conversations in a collegial environment is incredibly beneficial, for me as a leader and for the Caron Foundation itself.

As a nonprofit CEO, what advice would you give other nonprofit leaders? How can they better interact with their for-profit benefactors?  How do you communicate a key tenet of the Satell institute — to share CSR strategies for effective partnerships?

Nonprofit leaders need to focus on the “win-win” of the scenario more and empathize with the needs of the for-profit. Too often, nonprofits focus on their own needs from a funding perspective. Institutions don’t have needs; people have needs. So it becomes an issue of perspective. As a nonprofit, I always consider how I can help my for-profit partner, not just take from them. How can we help their constituents and employees? Because a lot of the time, they are members of our community as well.

How important is community when it comes to philanthropy? Are you seeing any trends or challenges impacting CSR efforts?

One of the biggest threats to CSR right now is companies relocating to major metro areas. While it’s great for cities like Philadelphia, places like Reading (where the Caron Foundation is located) lose a significant amount of corporate leaders. Remember, when companies leave smaller towns you not only lose that money, you lose the employees who might have donated locally and the executives who might have served on their boards. It’s a real brain drain, and something that every community needs to be aware of when it comes to nonprofit donations.

Overall though, what are your feelings on the future of the CSR industry? You said five years ago was a different world for the Caron Foundation, do you see this increase in activity continuing?

I do. People need something to do when they aren’t working. They want to go to the theater, go to a museum, they want good schools – the groups that provide those services are mostly nonprofits, so people are starting to see the value in supporting them. And when that happens, fundraising becomes less antagonistic and more synergistic. That’s what the Satell Institute facilitates; they make it exciting, easy and mutually advantageous for nonprofits and for-profits alike.

More than one-hundred of the tri-state region’s CEOs and top business leaders are registered for the Satell Institute’s second Invitation-only CEO Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility—Communities Are Every Leader’s Business, discussing the business case for CSR.  This private peer conference features David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Comcast Corporation, and Chairman of Trustees, UPenn as keynote speaker.  Jim Dever, President of Bank of America, and Kevin Duffy, President of Tozour Energy Systems, will speak on their organizations’ CSR.  The Conference also includes its hallmark — candid CEO-to-CEO peer exchange on CSR goals and initiatives.

The October 23rd Conference follows the highly successful April 18th Event, with keynote speaker William (Bill) McNabb, Chairman of Vanguard.

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