In order to reach our goals in the community, we collaborate with a diverse mix of organizations. A hallmark of our philosophy is that we consider the organizations we support to be partners, not “grantees.” Likewise, we think of ourselves not as funders, but social investors who believe in leveraging our company resources and linking our partners to assets beyond just cash grants. We call this effort “link and leverage.”
What this approach means in practice is that when we meet with our partners, we discuss which of our company assets might benefit their organization, and how we can best leverage them. We evaluate whether we can provide a board member from our employee base, volunteers with special skills (such as marketing or legal expertise) needed for a project, job-shadow opportunities, training materials, in-kind contributions — all opportunities to build on our cash investment and increase the impact our nonprofit partners can make in the community.
In 2009, we asked the organizations we partner with to anonymously assess our performance as partners. Overall, their feedback was positive and highlighted our unique strategy of linking and leveraging our internal resources. Through linking and leveraging, we have created added points of contact that allow us to deliver more to our partner organizations, engage more strongly, and in turn, make a greater impact in the community. It also allows our nonprofit partners a greater view into Gap Inc. and the resources we have available to create community impact.
This approach to partnership has evolved into a program that more directly builds the capabilities of our partner organizations and their leaders.
In 2009, we launched the Gap Inc. Leadership Initiative to help amplify leadership capability among our youth-serving nonprofit partners by leveraging the programs and curriculum we use for our own leaders’ development. Our Human Resources and Learning & Development employees partnered with CompassPoint, a nonprofit consulting firm with expertise in capacity building, to adapt our internal tools into a holistic program that meets the needs of our nonprofit partners. Our employees deliver many components of the program and lend support as facilitators and coaches. Nonprofit leaders who participated in the first year of the initiative showed statistically significant gains in leadership capacity, including areas such as delegating responsibility and leveraging data for decision-making.
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“Corporations like Gap Inc. hire the best and the brightest. Sharing their brain wealth with me is as important as sharing their financial wealth with me,” says Olis Simmons, CEO of Youth Uprising in Oakland, California. “Their support allows me to be innovative and as thoughtful as I can be – money can’t buy you that.”
Another leader of one of our nonprofit partners, Sacella M. Smith, Executive Director of the Youth Job Center of Evanston, adds that “Gap Foundation does so much more than simply write a check. They also provide the linkages and resources necessary for nonprofit organizations to build capacity and long-term sustainability. Gap Inc. employees have volunteered countless hours at the Youth Job Center, from providing technical expertise in strategy or operational planning to conducting job-readiness workshops or job shadowing activities for our teens. The Gap Inc. Leadership Initiative enabled the Youth Job Center to work on developing a pipeline of internal leaders, as well as help identify leadership gaps. All of these examples validate Gap Inc.’s vision of creating holistic partnerships with the organizations they support and believe in.”