Beyond the check: A partnership approach to corporate philanthropy

Giving By Western Union Global Social February 1, 2017

By Elizabeth Roscoe, Executive Director, Western Union Foundation

The corporate philanthropy conversation is changing. New terminology is taking hold as the culture of corporate giving continues to evolve. Words like “collaborative relationships,” “strategic partnerships,” “collective impact,” and “skills-based volunteering” are now front and center, reflecting a shift in the way corporations and their independent non-profit private foundations view their roles.

While giving and grant-making are important aspects of what corporate foundations do, the new terminology and path forward places a greater focus on how corporate foundations operate – emphasizing a more collaborative approach to help generate long-term impact. And it’s not just about establishing strong relationships with NGO grantees. According to the Council on Foundations report, Increasing Impact, Enhancing Value: A Practitioner’s Guide to Leading Corporate Philanthropy, it’s important for corporate foundations to seize the opportunity to align and engage efforts with corporate   stakeholders and philanthropic partners.1

In fact, many corporate CEOs agree. The Center for Effective Philanthropy 2016 report, The Future of Foundation Philanthropy, the CEO Perspective, found that close to 30 percent of CEOs surveyed believe that foundations need to collaborate more or better, suggesting the need for many types of coordinated efforts including increased collaboration among funders, promoting collaboration among grantees, and convening on issues of shared concern.2

At the Western Union Foundation, we are continuing to build a philanthropic program that goes beyond the grant check to include multiple stakeholders and relationships. With the support of the Western Union Company, its CEO Hikmet Ersek, employees, Agents and business partners, and working together with NGOs and other organizations, we are taking a big picture, long-term approach to addressing social challenges. This means acting as a partner and a bridge to establish a deeper understanding of social needs, as a way to create lasting impact.

One example of these efforts is the recent three-year, USD$1,119,000 grant made by the Western Union Foundation to support the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI). This grant is part of a long-term approach that showcases the Western Union and Western Union Foundation shared commitment to creating a sustainable future for refugees, that includes leveraging Western Union technology and talent, and providing financial and operational support. The WPDI grant will help fund a peacebuilding initiative at a refugee camp in Kiryandongo, Uganda – providing access to conflict-resolution education and life skills training for 10,000 refugees at the camp, as part of a new program that will be unveiled over the coming months. Click to watch:


Another way that the Western Union Foundation has worked to extend and enhance relationship building is by identifying a small group of regional NGO anchor partners across the globe, and collaborating with them for long-term positive impact. Through our flagship Education for Better program, we’ve been working with SOS Children’s Villages, Junior Achievement, Save the Children, Education for Employment, National Academy Foundation and Teach for All. These anchor partners received Foundation grants and also work with the Foundation to drive programs that engage Western Union employees, Agents and business clients through volunteerism and giving.

Photo Credit: EFE Egypt

My December 2016 Western Union Foundation blog post, Turning Hope into Reality for Hundreds of Young Refugees, also highlights how collaboration can help amplify efforts and results. In this example, the Western Union business, its customers, employees and the Western Union Foundation came together through grants, cause marketing, donations and volunteerism to support Greek NGO SolidarityNow, the Hope School at the Skaramagas refugee camp in Greece, and other refugee schools in Greece, Jordan and Lebanon. These activities generated positive results and, at the same time, established and enhanced relationships with NGOs, Western Union customers, employee volunteers and even refugee beneficiaries.

Going forward, the Western Union Foundation will continue to seek out new ways to collaborate and partner with others, moving “beyond the check” to help create long-term, positive impact.


1Council on Foundations, 2012. Increasing Impact, Enhancing Value: A Practitioner’s Guide to Leading Corporate Philanthropy.

2 Ellie Buteau, Ph.D., Naomi Orensten, and Charis Loh, 2016, The Center for Effective Philanthropy. The Future of Foundation Philanthropy, The CEO Perspective. Research commissioned by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.


The Western Union Foundation is a separate §501(c)(3) recognized United States non-profit corporation supported by the Western Union Company, its employees, Agents, and business partners working to support education and disaster relief efforts as pathways toward a better future.