3 Ways to Get Started with Social Good: Q&A with Emily Yu of the Case Foundation

social good

Emily Yu, VP Marketing & Partnerships, Case Foundation

This post is part of our social good Q&A series on Bateman Banter, in which we’re speaking with inspirational companies and individuals about giving back to the community. Read more E3THOS content here.

How do you go about launching a social good program? Talk to people you trust, ask questions and be fearless, says Emily Yu, VP of Marketing and Partnerships at the Case Foundation, an organization that invests in ideas and people that are solving big social challenges.

Emily’s role involves educating and empowering people to affect positive change in sustainable ways — either as individuals or as businesses. Every day, she thinks about how best to use technology, social media and cross-sector partnerships to drive this kind of action.

Here, Emily shares her advice about how to kickstart a social good program and where to look for inspiration and further advice. Keep reading for her thoughts on taking risks, engaging employees and customers, and being authentic throughout the process.

What advice do you have for companies looking to launch a social good program?

Step 1: Talk to as many people/organizations you respect and trust as possible. And if you don’t know where to start, approach companies with social good programs you admire or want to learn more about — even if they don’t necessarily align at first glance.

Step 2: Ask questions and then listen. The great thing about social good efforts is that there is no wrong way to do it… but there are smart(er) ways to get involved. And depending on what it is that you’re looking to accomplish, chances are that someone has tried something related to what you’re thinking about doing — and there are lessons to be learned, partnerships that can be formed and knowledge that can be shared.

Step 3: Be Fearless. In order to create transformative change, the social sector you need to take risks, be bold and fail forward. Consider using the launch or relaunch of a social good program as an opportunity to make a big bet and experiment. Learn from the outcomes, improve your practice, share what you’ve learned and then repeat!

Which initiatives and/or organizations do you find most inspirational?

There are many groups and individuals doing great things to advance social good — here are several that inspire me today:

  • I’ve been actively watching the Ford Foundation’s #InequalityIs campaign, a social media based campaign to encourage conversation around inequality in all its shapes and forms to see how social media can help advance a challenging topic.
  • I’m also hopeful about the potential that platforms like Medium have on the social sector. Medium is helping to democratize ideation and engagement by inviting everyone in to write, share their ideas or comment on content with a simple user interface, beautiful design and the surfacing of meaningful content across an infinite number of subject matters.
  • In addition, I’m interested to see how the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative takes off in the next year as it seeks to tackle various issues such as health, education and scientific research with nontraditional philanthropic approaches. These three are just the tip of the iceberg.
  • At the Case Foundation we’re also catalyzing movements around impact investing and inclusive entrepreneurship, which I think are ripe for change and inspiring me!


What resources would you recommend companies that want to give?

Resource 1: The company’s employees. A company’s employees are the heart and soul of the organization, the face of the company and the ones who are bringing its mission to life. Who better to turn to for information, guidance and input than the people who make up the company?

Resource 2: The company’s consumer base. Find out what your consumers care about and how your service or product plays a role in that. Connecting the dots here will offer a more meaningful knowledge base when it comes to figuring out how to make a positive impact. When companies are able to align their giving objectives with their business objectives then both sides will benefit and be more successful.

Resource 3 (a little plug for the Case Foundation): The Millennial Impact Project, which includes: 1) MCON, June 21 – 23, 2016, a convening for anyone who is looking to better engage the next generation around the issues and causes they care about for social good. This ongoing project aims to identify ways in which to turn the next generation’s interests into action; and 2) the Millennial Impact Report surveying US Millennials to address whether or not politics influence this generation’s involvements with social good causes and issues. (2016 Report to be released on June 21, 2016.)

What’s your advice for talking about these efforts? Is there a way to spread the word about your company’s approach to giving without coming across as overly self-promotional?

There is a fine line between promotion and advancing social change that companies must be sensitive to. At its core, the issue comes down to whether or not the program itself is authentic to the company and its mission. (That’s where employees and consumers are so critical to helping identify what that right goal is from the beginning.)

A good practice and something to help ensure authenticity is also making sure that any social good effort is generated from a cross-section of your team. In particular, think about aligning your Communications/Marketing, Program/Product and Executive teams. A collaborative effort will help prevent the program from becoming too promotional or fail to resonate with your target audiences… and may help with internal buy-in at all levels and departments down the road.

Follow Emily on Twitter at @DCxchange.