Victoria Baxter's picture

Victoria Baxter

Senior Vice President

Victoria considers herself one of the lucky ones who have had the opportunity to build a fulfilling career out of supporting good causes and great organizations. With more than a decade working in the social justice, human rights, and international development fields at leading foundations and nonprofits, she brings a wealth of experience to Weber Shandwick’s Social Impact team. She works with clients to develop public education and issues advocacy campaigns that are not only creative, but result in true progress for communities in the U.S. and around the world. She recognizes the beauty in melding an artistic ideal with a well-designed strategy and that there is magic to be found in a perfectly told story. When she isn’t reading about trends in social media and cause marketing or keeping her Spanish-language skills sharp, you’ll find her in the kitchen making gourmet menus for her next dinner party or planning her next travel adventure. Despite the (wicked) native Boston accent that sneaks out every once in a while, Victoria has made Washington, D.C. her home for more than 14 years. She received her BA and MA in International Peace and Conflict Resolution from American University and has lived and worked in Chile and South Africa.


History

Member for
4 years 38 weeks
Feb 1

New book highlights opportunity for corporations to solve global challenges

Victoria Baxter

Corporations are uniquely positioned to drive innovations that solve global challenges while making a profit. This was the key message we heard from Alice Korngold, author of A Better World, Inc. - How Companies Profit by Solving Global Problems…Where Governments Cannot, during the launch party for her new book that was hosted by the Social Impact team in Washington, DC on January 30.  

Korngold highlighted case studies of global companies that are successfully addressing global challenges, including cases from Nike, Hewlett-Packard, GlaxoSmithKline and Vodafone while advancing their business growth.

A common theme she found in her research is that companies that are most successful in this space take a long-term, strategic view and align their mission, goals and resources to address global challenges, such as poverty, climate change, education, or human rights.

She also spoke to the business case for doing so. Beyond having a positive impact on the world, companies can also gain new customers, retain employees and forge strategic partnerships with nonprofits, governments and other important stakeholders – all important bottom line concerns for businesses.

CEOs and company leadership are essential for championing the importance of solving global challenges, Korngold emphasized. She advised on having diverse corporate boards that bring new perspectives, instead of homogenous ones that can prevent innovative thinking.

These kinds of insights have attracted Korngold’s loyal following of C-suite fans. The event gathered more than 45 CSR leaders, public affairs and corporate communications executives in the DC area. The conversation also continued online with live tweets and discussion using the #ABetterWorldInc hashtag. Paul Massey, the global head of Social Impact, interviewed Alice and facilitated the in-person and online conversation.

 

Nov 4

Insights from Net Impact Conference: CSR Reporting

Victoria Baxter

Eric Bloem and I attended last week's Net Impact conference. One session left me with a provocative reframe of CSR reporting. Teri Trielle from Cisco Systems said that her team had always been focused on preparing the report, but now they think about it as stakeholder engagement with the report as the outcome.

 It might seem like a subtle nuance, but reframing reporting to be about engagement rather than solely focused on the final product is helpful in two ways. The first is something all speakers acknowledged - there isn't a huge audience for any CSR report. It can be very disheartening for the team to calculate the amount of work necessary to complete a CSR report by the comparatively small audience who will read it. 

 While the audience isn't large in number, it is a important one. Steve Lippmann from Microsoft used the analogy of a Velvet Underground record that might not have had huge sales, but it seemed that everyone who bought it eventually started their own band. Despite meager sales, it influenced a generation of musicians. 

 The second reason is to avoid or limit reporting for reporting sake. Given the influential audience who consumes reports and increased demand by responsible investors for ESG data, reporting is now a mainstream practice. Approaching this as an exercise in engaging key internal and external stakeholders puts the emphasis back on using the data to influence or at least inform business decisions. It's not just about the PDF, but the impact on policies and practices. 

 

Oct 12

Living On One Visits Weber Shandwick DC

Victoria Baxter

 

 Last week, Living On One (LOO), a non-profit focused on raising awareness of extreme proverty, quite literally rolled into our DC office on an old school bus. 

The team of recent college graduates wanted to go beyond the lessons of their economics classes to gain a deeper understanding of global poverty, and so lived in rural Guatemala on $1 a day for 56 days. Now, two years after the initial trip to Guatemala and just two months out of college, Chris Temple, Zach Ingrasci, Hannah Gregg and Sean Leonard are touring the nation with their full length documentary to raise poverty awareness among their peers. 

“We want students to go from watching this film to doing something at some level that has deeper engagement. We provide opportunities through the student microfinance movement, which is our platform. But we also think it’s equally important for someone to find something they are passionate about and just go do it and share and create impact in an effective way,” Zach added.

In their experience in Guatemala, the Living on One team wholeheartedly appreciates the impact of small, seemingly negligible changes on the lives of the poor. Witnessing the difference in livelihoods of families that survive on 75 cents per person per day versus those who subsist on $1.50, and experiencing firsthand the physical and psychological benefits of affording a mattress to sleep on or lard to cook with. “It was empowering because [it helps you] realize that you do not need to solve poverty, but instead you know that these small changes are incredibly important in someone’s life,” Zach explained.

Their DC stop included a film showing at Georgetown University and a luncheon with Weber Shandwick Chairman Jack Leslie. “How would you live on one dollar a day?” was the hot topic of the hour as this inspiring young team shared this story with area NGOs including The Aspen Institute, The UN Environment Programme. LOO also joined us for a roundtable, teaching Weber Shandwick and our guests a thing or two about how to motivate young Americans to care about and engage with social issues such as AIDS and extreme poverty.

For more information and to find out more ways to get involved with this impressive initiative, follow the below.

http://www.livingonone.org/

 

 Laura Zaim contributed to reporting

 

Jul 23

Annual Corporate Giving Survey

Victoria Baxter

The Chronicle of Philanthropy issued the findings of their latest Corporate Giving Survey today. As expected, overall funding remained fairly flat with the continued economic recession.  Key findings include:

  • Of the 115 large corporations responding to the survey, cash donations grew just four percent in 2011.
  • There are 13 companies that donated over $100,000 in cash
  • Production donations are growing at a faster rate than cash donations

One area the survey also highlighted was that companies are more strategically investing their philanthropic dollars and focusing on fewer causes. This is something we are also seeing with our clients as the concept of Shared Value – focusing on the connections between societal and economic progress – is taking hold with more corporate CSR and philanthropy programs.

As the CoP article notes, this is a “long-term trend” with companies “zeroing in on social issues that threaten their bottom lines like people’s ill health, high transportation costs, or diminishing fresh water.”  CoP also highlights the positive benefits for the company by helping them to access new markets, continue to build brand equity and relationships with their consumers and engage their employees in volunteering.

Jun 15

Social Impact at Rio+20

Victoria Baxter

We are heading down to Brazil for the Rio+20, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development. It is an exciting event with influencers and decision makers coming together to shape policies around sustainable development and determine how to advance social equity and end poverty while also protecting our planet and natural resources.

We’re supporting the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative.  The UN Secretary-General launched this initiative with three critical and interlinked objectives:  ensure universal access to modern energy services; double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

We created three infographics to help visualize the potential of, and strategies for, achieving a clean energy future.  The infographics for Energy Access, Energy Efficiency, and Renewable Energy illustrate how we can truly make Sustainable Energy for All a reality. 

We’ll be sending tweets from Rio+20 on both @wssocialimpact  and @vbax. Follow along. 

Mar 29

The #BCConf12 Takeaways

Victoria Baxter

I have just returned from two enjoyable and informative days in Phoenix at the International Corporate Citizenship Conference organized by Boston College. Over two days, 600 CSR professionals from businesses of all types, sizes and industries discussed and shared best practices from their corporate citizenship programs. I wanted to share a few reflections from the conference.

  • There is no one size fits all model.  Some companies are able to integrate CSR and volunteerism in a more mandatory way, while others must build internal alignment and support.  The CSR function can reside in Marketing, HR, Communications, Operation or Strategy.  The realities of the employee base, the channels of internal communication that facilitate or hinder alignment, the size of staff, and the reporting structure all vary and reflect the unique histories and cultures of each corporation.  It’s valuable to see how other companies integrate CSR, but ultimately, it has to fit your own company’s culture.
  • It is helpful to make CSR benefits clear and tangible – and in some cases, ambitious – for internal stakeholders.  Heather Lofkin Wright from PwC talked about the value of “fewer, bolder goals” as a way of driving internal alignment and creating an easier way for all stakeholders to understand – and therefore communicate – about the company’s efforts and impact. Riva Krut from Praxair shared a story of how a chart illustrating progress on sustainability prompted an almost breakthrough of understanding of where the company was and what could be accomplished.  Understanding and speaking in a way that resonates with your internal audience is important.
  • Communicating the CSR story requires all channels, an authentic voice and ongoing engagement.  Many companies use all the available channels to engage and educate their employees about CSR, including content on an internet, employee newsletters, corporate sites and employee townhalls. Externally, owned, earned, social and stakeholder channels should all be used as a way to communicate impact of programs.  CEO support and communication can be very valuable in elevating CSR and setting the right tone. Microsoft’s Brad Smith underscored the value of speaking in one voice – and moreover, a human and authentic voice – to build support, explain a company’s program, and connect with stakeholders.  
  • Change is a constant and therefore it’s valuable to step back and refresh programs and approaches.  Many companies talked about how social media created a new imperative for transparency and engagement. New mergers, new realities of the market place or industry or new platforms in social media are all opportunities to refresh, readjust and realign as needed.  On the panel I moderated both Jennifer Silberman of Hilton Worldwide and Nicole Rustad of Disney spoke about the value of stepping back periodically to ensure the program is matching realities of evolving companies.
  • There’s still little consensus on the terms we use, but shared value models dominate.  Dave Stangis from Campbell’s Soup acknowledged that we may never get to a single term – and debating that might be slowing us all down.  Some companies prefer to take the social out because that seems too philanthropy focused.  Mary Capozzi from Best Buy noted that they put out a sustainability report and use it as an opportunity to educate on all the meanings of the term.  Lee Ballin of Bloomberg LP noted their company uses “Corporate Social Opportunity” to better reflect the benefits of CSR rather than the requirements or obligations.  Despite the variety of terms, it’s clear that companies are adopting a shared value approach and have the most traction with engaging leadership and stakeholders around the idea of doing well by doing good.

You can read the online conversation from the panels by searching the #BCConf12 hashtag on Twitter.

 

 

 

Mar 26

Boston College's CSR Conference

Victoria Baxter

I am excited to be attending the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship Conference today and tomorrow in Phoenix. The event draws over 600 corporate CSR professionals and opinion leaders together for conversation, presentations and thoughtful reflections on the many dimensions, challenges and rewards to corporate citizenship programs.

I’m facilitating a panel tomorrow on how companies can pursue strategies that link reputation and citizenship activities. The panelists are Jennifer Silberman, Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, Hilton Worldwide and Nicole Rustad, Corporate Citizenship Program Director, The Walt Disney Company. It promises to be an excellent discussion.

As I’m sure the panelists will speak to, citizenship building efforts can be enormously helpful to strengthening reputation and enhancing brand equity. Yet, it’s also not without its challenges in managing stakeholders and driving internal engagement and support. We’ll talk about how their corporations – both large and iconic brands – approach CSR and citizenship strategies.

I’ll be asking a number of questions of the panelists. Are there any topics you’d like us to cover?

Mar 9

The Last Philanthropy Beat

Victoria Baxter

Last week, Stephanie Strom, the philanthropy beat reporter of the New York Times, tweeted that she was no longer covering philanthropy. This set off some speculation if the paper would assign a new reporter to the beat.  Today, we learned from a Chronicle of Philanthropy story that they won’t and plan to cover nonprofit and philanthropy across multiple desks.

Stephanie was the last full-time reporter to cover national nonprofits at a daily paper. The Washington Post eliminated their full-time journalist covering nonprofit and philanthropy in 2008.  They launched an online section called On Giving late last year, which features both original reporting and opportunities for guest posts.

What does this mean for nonprofits and foundations?

  • Be ready to provide more background: When approaching reporters who don’t regular cover your issues, provide additional background or take more time to explain industry terms or issues facing the sector.  This will be particularly true for stories about larger trends, such as the nonprofit leadership deficit, fundraising trends or legislation impacting charitable contributions.
  • Be more creative about who you approach and how: Reporters covering business, education, local news, and the economy are now part of your outreach.  Be prepared to make the connection on how your philanthropy or nonprofit story maps to the focus of their regular coverage.
  • Be your own content provider: Shrinking newsrooms are a way of life. Use online channels like the Huffington Post’s Impact page and the On Giving section to tell your story. Create rich and interesting content that tells your own story and can be shared across social platforms and among your supporters. These could include blog posts, infographics, videos or photos.

 

Nov 16

I won!

Victoria Baxter

My colleagues are probably already tired of my gloating, but I have to share that I won a contest.  A new restaurant recently opened up near our office called Roti.  (Not a client, by the way.)  In addition to the big sign announcing their opening and giving just enough information about their take on the classic lunch offering, they also handed out flyers with a contest to win free Roti for a year.

Who doesn’t like the idea of free lunch for a year?  Certainly not me because I went back to my office and pulled up the contest website.  

Now this is where I can actually make the gloating relevant to our Social Impact blog.  This wasn’t the online equivalent of tossing your business card in a jar contest.  You actually had to write something about why you thought you should win.  

I got to the essay part – and, of course, it was a required field – and stopped and thought, “Do I really want to do this?  Do I have time?  Do I have something interesting to say?”  But when I thought of all the contests I have organized as part of education and awareness campaigns, I knew that the higher you set the bar for entering, the less likely people are to participate.  

The upside of that particular hard truth is that the people who do enter and take your action – be it an essay, a photo, a haiku or a video – are probably pretty motivated and make the best advocates or potential donors.  And, yes, I fall in that bucket apparently.  Exhibit A: I’ve started following Roti on Twitter and have tweeted twice about what I am eating there. And, exhibit B: I’m writing a blog post about it for Social Impact.

I don’t know how many people entered. It could have been my clearly superior content that resulted in a win (albeit a runner up category) of free food for a month.  I am a communications professional after all.  We’re all writers and editors here. But, it is something to think about when designing a contest.  Is your goal to get the most active and motivated participants?  Then, set your bar high.  If you want broad participation, make it easier for people to join, get to know you and hopefully take progressively more ambitious actions.

Oct 28

Bland Chicken, Billionaires and Bow Ties

Victoria Baxter

Flickr creative common photo by comedy_nose

There is a lot of a conversation swirling around the Internet about the value of philanthropy and what motivates people to donate and how they like to make their donations.  One of the most interesting is why Steve Jobs wasn’t a big philanthropic player, at least publicly, despite being worth billions.  Chronicle of Philanthropy reporter Caroline Preston wrote that Jobs “found many things about professional philanthropy—the jargon, showiness and all the rich people who thought they could shake it up—distasteful.”

The always provocative blogger Seth Godin raised questioned about fundraising galas. Aside from a completely understandable criticism of the bland food that is served, Godin calls galas “corrupting” because people are driven by “social and selfish motivations to attend, and thus the philanthropic element of giving – just to give – is removed.”  

In addition, policy leaders are debating decisions that would have tremendous impacts on giving.  President Obama has been calling for a limit to the amount that wealthy taxpayers (those making more than $200,000 a year) could write off in their itemized tax deductions – down from the current maximum of 35 percent.  Studies range on the bottom line impact this would have on charitable giving, but charities would definitely take a fundraising hit.

Running through all of this is the question about what motivates people to give money to a cause.  Having been in both the nonprofit and foundation sectors, I know it’s foolish to expect people to never have social or selfish reasons for giving. But is there an ideal mix of the social, the selfish and the self-less?

To me, it comes down to knowing your audience and finding the right ask, in the right venue (black tie or not), at the right time and in the right media.

The most effective charities are adept at knowing their audiences and building in multiple ways for them to get engaged.  It’s not a coincidence that end-of-the-year appeals include information about tax deductions as a way of reminding people of this benefit.  Some charities know that their major donors expect and like getting together for an annual gala.  Some people (maybe even Steve Jobs) only give anonymously and don’t seek credit or an ongoing relationship.  If you know your audience, you can adjust your strategies.