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Corporate Philanthropy for 10-Year-Olds: An Interview With Deloitte's Evan Hochberg

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I sat down this week with one of today's rock star stars in corporate philanthropy Evan Hochberg, National Director of Community Involvement for Deloitte Services, to talk about the key differences between service in the private and public sectors, how to get buy-in for a pro bono program, and how to explain corporate philanthropy to a room of 10-year-olds.

I am proud of what I do, but I have trouble explaining it to my kids. I know you recently had to present to your kid's third-grade class for career day. How did that go?
I start from square one -- about how some kids don't have the opportunities they have and how and why companies could help. They all get that, the social impact angle. Then I use an example. If you were choosing an ice cream, and you knew it tasted just as good, and you knew that $1 out of the three or four dollars you spent would go to help a social issue, would you be more inclined to buy that brand? And they would. They got it. So, at least third graders understand the business case for corporate community involvement.

What did you want to be when you were in third grade? Was it to be a director of community involvement at a large company?
I think at 8 or 9 years old, I probably was looking for something more fun or fantasy oriented, like being a professional basketball player in the NBA. But I do think that later on I had a more realistic inclination toward this type of work.

Where did that inclination come from?
My mother had been involved in nonprofits and local politics.

Yeah, but you are working in a company now, not the nonprofit sector.

I think business has a huge role to play in the community. At Deloitte there are thousands and thousands of people who are thinking every day about opportunities for Deloitte to engage in the community.

Corporate social responsibility is a popular topic these days. Is Deloitte a CSR-minded company?
I never liked the word 'responsibility' in corporate social responsibility because everything we do in community involvement is a "want-to-do" not a "have-to-do." I think that especially within the community involvement space, we're looking to do things not only because of the community benefit, but also because they're in the firm's best interest.

What is the difference between community involvement and CSR?
I see it as two distinct elements. When they get blended it does a disservice to both. A lot of people cast aside community involvement as window dressing, but we can engage corporations in their own self-interest to make a much more powerful impact and be a much more powerful player in their communities.

Do you find working at a large company limits your ability to really make the change you want in the community?
No. Doing this job I'm not going to become the world's expert on homelessness or other social issues, but I'm working at more of a 10,000 foot level creating a strategy and programs so that our people can engage at that level of depth. But I rarely think of this job as limiting.

Three years ago Deloitte made the groundbreaking pledge of $50 million in pro bono services. Was this one of those examples of a CEO mandate that the rest of the organization just had to jump and implement?
No. Deloitte's pro bono commitment had support across leadership. Our people own it.

Was it hard to build that kind of support across leadership?

Again, no. I spent my first three or four months asking leaders, 'What is the best thing we've done here in the last couple years?' The answers I would get back were all about pro bono projects, and this was before we even had a formal pro bono program.

Where does pro bono fit into your community involvement strategy?
We are the world's leading professional services organization. We help organizations deal with business issues every day. Typically, when a company says we want to be more strategic in the community, the default is to choose a single issue like literacy or education or homelessness. For us, pro bono is the most powerful way we give back -- that is our strategy.

This Friday is your national IMPACT Day, when you rally 40,000 Deloitte employees to get out in the community. Where do you see the value in this kind of strategy given the obvious cost to pull it off?
To me the power of it is the celebration of the importance of community involvement inside a company and a celebration of the amazing things we do year round. It is really a culmination of what we have been working on that year. And, we do more than 800 projects that day across 70 cities. That's terrific.

A nonprofit wants your pro bono support. What do you tell them?
We like to work with organizations we know, that we're already involved with, in some way. And it's critical for nonprofits to understand that addressing organizational and business challenges is not something where you go to sleep and wake up the next morning and the consultant has done it for you.

What can we expect from Deloitte in the next three years?
We'll do more pro bono than ever before and we are also taking the opportunity to continue to learn how to do it better.