Few companies have channeled their brand values as a force for good like Blackbaud. The company started out in the 1980s as a nonprofit accounting and fundraising software platform and is now recognized as the world’s leading cloud software provider powering social good. Blackbaud helps to pump more than $100 billion annually into the social sector via funds that are raised, granted and invested by its customers.
So how does a company grow from a single-product portfolio into a global game changer for good? How does any company, for that matter, grow with both scale and intention? I spoke with Rachel Hutchisson, Blackbaud’s VP for Corporate Citizenship and Philanthropy, about brand values as a transformative agent for business growth and social good.
The value of values
Teresa Coles, Riggs Partners: Everyone in business is talking about being purpose-driven and guiding an organization based on values. No news there. But Blackbaud did this before values were cool. How has this helped shape the course of the company?
Rachel Hutchisson, Blackbaud: Before we even had a codified set of values — the five things we believe in at our core — we were always about helping organizations do good things in the world. We set out to develop, sponsor and support technology that helped nonprofits with accounting and fundraising. Today, we are working well beyond the nonprofit sector with products that address so much more. But the fundamentals are the same: it’s all about using our technology to create an ecosystem of good.
TC: What does being intentional about purpose and values mean to Blackbaud today? Its culture?
RH: For Blackbaud, we consider ourselves to be “agents of good” in what we do every day to create that ecosystem of good. We lead with this message every day, and it’s a living, breathing example of why we’re here. Our set of five values — which are about teamwork, heart, creativity, expecting the best from each other, and giving back — reinforces the things that allow us to uphold this promise to our customers, and the world.
Values in action
TC: How does this vision manifest in the business strategy?
RH: Our business strategy is about the constant pursuit of delivering the kind of software, expertise, data and innovation our customers need to do good in the world. In many cases, it means identifying and eliminating the barriers our clients may have and developing the technology they need to overcome those. It’s also evident in our growth strategies: identifying and serving new markets — like healthcare, K-12 and others — that need new technology options to help overcome their distinct barriers. And our acquisition strategy feeds into this, as we look for more ways to partner with others who can bring new kinds of expertise to these markets.
TC: What are the implications of Blackbaud’s culture in other key areas of the business?
RH: Talent acquisition and investor relations are two. Both are very active, interested audiences that help us embrace and celebrate our belief system. In recruiting, our vision and values definitely help us identify the kinds of people who are best wired to be with this kind of company. We know people come to us because of who we are, what we are helping customers achieve, where and how we exhibit sustainability, and how we give back. They’re eager to be part of that. And investors are interested in knowing more about our own commitment to being an active participant in the ecosystem of good.
TC: How does your vision connect with the way the brand is marketed externally?
RH: It’s hard to separate them, and that’s how it should be. Part of our journey toward becoming a global brand has been to understand what it means to communicate what has always been true about what we believed. Global Marketing has brought voice to our brand values, bringing emotive language and design to that story. We work hard to keep our values in front of us and to share stories that help each of us understand we’re connected to the story we are telling in the world.
Values for everyone
TC: I know you believe very deeply in the truth that “good is for everyone.” How have you seen the shift to be a more purpose-driven business evolve to include companies of any size?
RH: Back in the day, people thought nonprofits were good and businesses were bad. Then it was just about the big companies doing good things. It’s very different today, in that there are a great many tools entrepreneurs and small business owners can use to develop programs that can help them be good citizens. It’s up to each company to determine what being a “good business” means, but the idea of integrating more intentionality into your business has certainly become more commonplace. And it’s not going away.
TC: Have you seen examples of smaller businesses that have done a good job in being intentional about their culture and living out their values?
RH: One of the easiest things to do is to look around your home community. For example, there is a coffee company here in Charleston called Bitty & Beau’s that hires people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including Down Syndrome. It’s completely competitive with all the other coffee companies in town, but it has social impact at its heart.
Another tech firm close to us is Boomtown. They came to town and called us for advice on how to build a CSR practice into their business. They’ve done wonderful things in the community and have become very recognized as a business with heart that is engaging in positive ways. So, it can be any size or kind of organization. The question is, how we can reach more organizations and inspire them to do more of this kind of work?
TC: And Blackbaud is a tremendous example for us all.
RH: Well, our mission, as I’ve said, is to power an ecosystem of good. So anything we can do to encourage and support other businesses to connect their work to doing good in the world — whatever that may be — is important to us. We can all benefit from that shared value.
About Riggs Partners
Riggs Partners is a creative marketing consultancy that specializes in helping clients build Responsible Brands, aligning organizational health, business strategy and brand marketing. For more information, visit www.riggspartners.com.