IBM Culture of Service

Practicing Citizenship: Putting the Client First

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At IBM, the practice of corporate citizenship is fully integrated into our overall business strategy. This integration enables IBM – and IBMers – to affect meaningful and sustainable change for our citizenship clients. In this second installment of our series on the practice of corporate citizenship, Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs Manager Pamela Haas details the importance of putting the client first in non-profit engagements.


IBM’s first corporate value – “Dedication to every client’s success” – applies equally to our non-profit and for-profit customers. Given our integration of corporate citizenship initiatives with overall business strategy, this makes perfect sense. Treating non-profit and for-profit clients with equal care and concern also makes sense in a world where corporate executives and decision makers serve on the boards of non-profit organizations. Whether for-profit or non-profit, clients can count on IBM to put their concerns first.


Our for-profit clients often connect with us when they’re being honored for their contributions to non-profit causes. While the special events to recognize these contributions can be important networking opportunities, they also get us thinking about how we might serve our non-profit clients better. For example, what if a nonprofit’s strategic mission complements an IBM program or initiative? In those instances, we have discovered that our contributions of time, technology and expertise can be far more effective than so-called “checkbook philanthropy” when it comes to bringing about real and sustainable change. This is particularly true in an age when nonprofits are called upon to accomplish more with
fewer resources, and to do so with operational efficiencies traditionally associated with
for-profit enterprises.

Not all nonprofits’ missions align with IBM’s strategic focus, but where there is synergy we collaborate by forming public-private partnerships – among client teams, business units, corporate social responsibility (CSR) managers and non-profit constituencies – to help address a broad spectrum of societal challenges. One example of IBM’s putting this policy into practice involved our providing a Technology Roadmap Impact Grant to a non-profit partner whose board of directors included a senior executive from one of our for-profit financial services clients.

Our involvement began with the IBM Client Team’s participation in a Hands-On Science activity at a New York City public school. At the event, which took place as part of IBM’s Centennial Celebration of Service, we discussed ways in which the client team could integrate IBM’s corporate citizenship programs into their customer relationships. This was a first step toward building a partnership between the client and community relations teams.

At a meeting between the financial services client and the nonprofit, we were able to detail how the nonprofit could use an IBM Impact Grant to fund skills-development programs and workshops to help them operate more effectively and improve service to their beneficiaries. The nonprofit subsequently received a Strategic Planning Impact Grant, and was able to expand its outreach to include the innovative Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) in Brooklyn, New York.

By establishing and nurturing relationships across the traditional boundaries between
for-profit and non-profit entities, we have been able to provide a variety of benefits to enterprises, community-based organizations and the populations they serve. In this
case of two organizations with a mutual interest in strengthening STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education in the public schools, IBM’s involvement facilitated improvements in the nonprofit’s operations, established connections between the corporate and education sectors, and benefitted students preparing for meaningful careers in technology.

Pamela Haas is an IBM Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs Manager in
New York City.

Related Resources:

Practicing Citizenship: Being Essential to the Community and IBM

Doing More With Less: Why Professional Management Is Essential for
Social Services Providers

IBM Services Grants Help Georgia Nonprofits Succeed

Read More Stories About IBM Impact Grants

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