Four Important Takeaways from SI’s 2024 Nonprofit Leadership Summit


A record crowd of CEOs and nonprofit executives gathered in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh for an inspiring morning of conversation about Corporate Social Responsibility.

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Taking place on Valentine’s Day in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the Satell Institute’s 2024 Nonprofit Leadership Summit focused on a fitting and important theme: the unique relationship that exists between nonprofit organizations and their corporate and foundation partners, and what it takes to make those relationships thrive.

The event — hosted by The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park in Pittsburgh — brought together hundreds of corporate and nonprofit leaders in two vital regions for an inspirational morning of presentations and in-person conversations about Corporate Social Responsibility. The summit also demonstrated the powerful and unmatched role the Satell Institute plays in linking together the corporate and nonprofit worlds, as well as the impressive energy and enthusiasm of SI’s fast-growing Pittsburgh chapter.

“The Satell Institute was founded to encourage free enterprise companies – who supply 80 percent of all jobs – that it was in their self-interest to make our communities better by helping fund nonprofits who solve many of the toughest community problems,” SI’s founder and chairman, Ed Satell, said in his opening remarks at the summit. “These are issues that neither government nor business are equipped to solve. I think most CEOs recognize you can’t have a great community without great diverse nonprofits.”

The morning that followed was proof of that statement. In Philadelphia, Kathy Killian, vice president of the Philadelphia Phillies and the Summit’s chair, warmly welcomed attendees by saying, “Today is a great day for Corporate Social Responsibility.”

In Pittsburgh, where the Pirates—a brand new SI member—graciously hosted the event at (very green!) PNC Park, franchise president Travis Williams noted the unique nature of the Satell Institute. “What really drew my attention was the fact that Satell is a Think and Do Tank,” he said. “There are a lot of organizations that get together and talk about what they want to do. But the most important thing is the action that follows it.”

At the heart of the summit were presentations highlighting three extraordinary pairs of corporate-nonprofit partners, all Satell Institute members: Philadelphia Insurance Companies and Children’s Scholarship Fund Philadelphia; Seubert & Associates and Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of Western Pennsylvania/West Virginia; and the Phillies and ALS United Mid-Atlantic.

While each presentation was energizing and unique, common themes emerged about what makes relationships flourish:

Be strong at the top.
Having a corporation’s CEO involved in a hands-on way in the relationship with a nonprofit makes a vital difference.

The Phillies began their partnership with ALS 40 years ago when a representative of ALS happened to sit next to Nancy Giles, wife of then-Phillies CEO Bill Giles, at an event. Both Bill and Nancy Giles — and the entire Phillies organization — became quickly and deeply involved with ALS, and four decades later the partnership is a hallmark of both organizations. “In that conversation was born an incredible relationship,” said Killian, noting that the Phillies have raised more than $22 million for ALS over the years and that, thanks to the Phillies’ lead, ALS United now has a partnership with all 30 Major League Baseball franchises.

Similarly, Eric Hecker, senior executive director of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of Western Pennsylvania/West Virginia, noted that his organization’s relationship with insurance brokerage firm Seubert & Associates greatly accelerated when Seubert chairman Brian Long got personally involved.

“It opened up the relationship and the communication between the two of us and the two organizations for collaborations,” Hecker said. “We’re constantly bringing each other new ways of thinking and new opportunities.”

Experience the mission.
All presenters spoke about the importance of letting corporate partners truly experience the mission of the nonprofit by seeing up-close the work that gets done. A crucial moment in the deep partnership between Philadelphia Insurance Companies and CSFP was when the company hosted the nonprofit’s “lottery day,” in which volunteers phone the families that are being awarded lifechanging scholarships for their kids.

“It’s a wonderful experience calling a parent and letting that parent know their child has just won the lottery to go to a tuition-based school,” said John Glomb, Philadelphia Insurance Companies’ president and CEO.

For the Phillies and ALS — who for years co-hosted an annual ALS festival at the Phillies ballpark— a key relationship driver has always been the opportunity for 12 to 15 ALS patients to meet a group of Phillies players and coaches. In those meetings, the players learned about the challenges that ALS patients face and the support they receive from ALS United. “The players would say that’s my favorite part of the festival – the chance to meet the people that you serve,” said Jeffrey Cline, executive director of ALS United Mid-Atlantic.

Focus on values, not just transactions.
Nonprofits rely on financial support from their corporate partners, but just as meaningful is an alignment of values that brings strategic and emotional support, as well as new opportunities.

“It’s important to have a values match,” said Keisha Jordan. “You’ll get a deep, long-term relationship when you make those values match.”

As an example, John Glomb pointed to a program his company is supporting at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia around financial literacy. The more he learned about it, the more he saw a way that CSFP might also be involved, and he’s now arranged a connection between the two organizations. “My relationship with Keisha goes beyond the transactional part of trying to raise money,” said Glomb.

The values match between Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation and Seubert & Associates has produced similar results. “Our relationship has evolved to the point where Brian is pointing us in the direction of other partners,” said Eric Hecker.

Navigate change together.
At the heart of the Satell Institute’s mission is cultivating long-term relationships between corporations and nonprofits. All SI members must make a four-year commitment to their nonprofit partners, giving a minimum of $25,000 per year for four years.

That multi-year commitment is not only important from a financial perspective — no business can operate on a one-year planning cycle, nor can a nonprofit — but also from a stability and growth perspective.

“This relationship is very much like a marriage,” Kathy Killian said of the Phillies connection to ALS United. “We’ve been very proud to walk alongside each other, learn from each other, and grow with each other.”

The road has occasionally been bumpy, including challenges such as a change of ownership, the passing of key people like Phillies announcer Harry Kalas and team president David Montgomery, and the impact of COVID on how players interact with the public. But the relationship perseveres. As Cline put it, “The key for everyone in this room is how to effectively manage the change that we all know is inevitable.”

The energizing and impactful summit concluded with SI’s hallmark peer idea and experience exchange, in which leaders sat at small tables to share their thoughts, brainstorm strategies, and deepen their bonds.

The Satell Institute is the leading CEO organization dedicated to Corporate Social Responsibility. This was the 7th Nonprofit Leadership Summit the organization has convened. SI deeply appreciates the contributions of our hosts, the Pirates and The Franklin Institute, for their roles in making this great event possible!

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