Innovations

UN Sustainable Development Goal

11
Sustainable Cities and Communities

Business

United States

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  • Jeana Wirtenberg
    Jeana Wirtenberg Caring Capital is a wonderful example of an innovation that simultaneously and synergistically addresses societal and business needs. Its proven track record makes it ideal for scaling to help ameliorate low levels of employee engagement, a critical need...  more
    June 10, 2016 - 1 likes this
  • Whitney Kear
    Whitney Kear This is a wonderful and unique story of innovation that truly encapsulates the notion of "paying it forward." The business model that Susie Schub has created has flourished into an amazing cycle of positivity that benefits every person involved. It is both...  more
    June 10, 2016
  • Claire Sommer
    Claire Sommer Kudos to Caring Capital's Susie Schub for a business model that puts caring for people at the center of her work. I wonder how other business' could benefit from this approach? It would be an interesting brainstorming exercise to ask, "How might we bring...  more
    June 10, 2016
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Creative Team Building for Sustainable Communities

Date published: 10 Jun 2016
USA     1 like   3

Overview

Susie Schub founded Caring Capital in 2008 as a way to engage corporations with the social services community in New Jersey. Her innovative concept was in facilitating workshops in which corporate employees make beautiful and practical gifts that are donated to homeless shelters, low-income pre-schools and families in need. 

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Innovation

What makes Caring Capital unique is its business model. They are rethinking corporate team building exercises. In a world where canoe races, paintball fights, and bumper cars are the norm, Susie Schub, the company’s founder, realized that team building activities need not be self indulgent; instead they might bring corporate employees together to create goods for a better world. Caring Capital provides customized workshops where corporate employees design and decorate goods for organizations that help people in need.

Caring Capital’s mission is to engage and empower “corporate volunteers to make useful gifts for neighbors in need.” Their website says, “Through our proven and unique philanthropic team-building services, employees connect, create, and make an impact on the community.” Caring Capital’s business model is uniquely designed to carry out their mission internally for corporate employee engagement and externally to build communities.Three main elements of the model are customization, relationship building, and simplicity.

Susie and her team of artists customize every workshop so that the activity is relatable to the employees partaking. Having a background in psychology, she employs her skills in listening to “meet clients where they are”. Businesses that utilize Caring Capital are often addressing common Human Resource challenges such as low staff morale, challenging mergers, on-boarding new hires, and low employee engagement. Once she gets an understanding of the business needs, Susie will usually match them with a pertinent organization. For example, Susie matched a major corporation in the hospitality industry to work with Habitat for Humanity. The work is meaningful and connected to the corporate mission. Customization can also take the form of geographic proximity between the nonprofit and corporation, an art activity that meets a request from the client company, or ensuring that the activity directly addresses the need of a nonprofit.

According to Susie, relationship building is critical for the success of Caring Capital. “A workshop might consist of fifty male accountants, initially terrified of being artistic and using art supplies. By the end they are bonding with one another, enjoying an afternoon creating scarves and hats for women and children in need.” These two types of individuals are from worlds that rarely collide, but Susie Schub is bringing them together in a way that impacts both. Caring Capital is effectively building relationships across levels and departments within a business and between organizations. 

The third component of Caring Capital’s successful business model is that it is simple. The art projects are not extravagant or expensive. They are modest and intended to be “no fail” types of projects. Those creating get to enjoy the creative process and have an opportunity to make an impact with limited detraction from their workweek. The activities can be done almost anywhere such as on location at the nonprofit or within the corporate workplace. Every project offered can be completed within two hours. Some clients request that Caring Capital engage their employees for up to half a day. Caring Capital also offers self-guided projects that do not need professional facilitation. This level of simplicity allows Caring Capital’s business model to be agile and respond to macro level issues.

Susie Schub’s original business was called Jumpstart, a creative arts organization focused on bringing art programs to nonprofits. Targeting nonprofits tied the business model to agencies that often lacked resources. With the economic crash in 2008, the population in need of social services grew significantly. Susie and her team were working at capacity. She said, “round the clock and could not pack more agency programs into our schedule.” Unable to keep the pace, Susie asked herself, “How can we grow the army of those who might pitch in to help the increasing number of neighbors in need?” She knew that somehow her business model needed to change. “The lightbulb idea was to see whether companies would embrace the notion of their employees helping neighbors in need; not refurbishing buildings and grounds but actually helping the agency clients themselves.” Over time, Susie learned that giving employees the opportunity to help others actually helped the employees and their companies. Now Caring Capital is primarily engaged with corporations, addressing Human Resource needs with community impact as a secondary benefit. This shift has enabled the company to sustain and grow.

Bringing creativity to the world of corporate team building, in service to nonprofit organizations, is the innovation that makes Caring Capital unique. The Caring Capital business model is designed to be replicable and scalable. Susie wants to “grow the army” of Caring Capital associates and artists nationwide through a partnership model that will enable others to carry out this work, scaling not only a thriving business, but also making a greater impact in helping build more sustainable communities throughout the US and around the world.

Overall impact

Caring Capital’s impact is multifold and has both short and long term effects. In the short term, the workshops are facilitating employee engagement and boosting workforce morale. Additionally, the projects are meeting the unique needs of nonprofit clients. Those who lost their home are getting furniture; victims of domestic violence are getting journals to write in as an aid to process emotion; children who lost a parent are getting a cozy quilt; and children in Head Start programs receive colorful learning toys.

Such thoughtful and purposeful gifts have the capacity to impact individuals in the long term. The projects are directly influencing people who have experienced many forms of trauma. While Caring Capital is currently in the process of determining how best to capture and measure the long-term impact on these gift recipients, they are already reporting some impressive success. They have 62% repeat customers and their revenues have doubled from 2014 to 2015. Caring Capital has done 345 events at over 60 companies, have had 33,578 employees engaged and 122,185 citizens helped in 26 states, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti and Canada.

A critical long-term effect of this innovation is the relationships built within and between corporations and nonprofit organizations. Executive Directors of nonprofits join the corporation’s team building activity to introduce the nonprofit and put a face and story to the needs being addressed. Caring Capital’s level of customization is such that Susie and her team of artists will hand deliver the gifts to the youth and families and often leave with thank you notes and pictures. These are shared with corporate leadership who, in turn, share them with the staff. This shared caring fosters ongoing communication and follow up within corporate hierarchies, positively impacting internal operations. Best of all, employees are eager to stay connected with the nonprofits through volunteering and financial support. Such long-term inter-company relationships are a valuable benefit for non-profits that continuously struggle with securing adequate resources.

Inspiration

Susie Schub has had a passion for the arts since she spent her childhood immersed in the rich cultural life of Boston. Noting a dearth of arts experiences when raising her own children in the New Jersey suburbs, she created a series of workshops for preschoolers that evolved into a ten-year run as the Director of the Children’s Cultural Arts Center at the Montessori School in Morristown. Eventually she expanded her scope to art workshops throughout the state, with a particular focus on working with families of 9/11 victims and social service organizations.

With the increased need for social services during the recession that began in 2008, Susie, a trained social worker and psychologist, had an inspiration that she could help her more fortunate neighbors “pay it forward” by making useful custom gifts for the social service organizations with which she was working.  Susie came up with the idea of looking to the corporate sector to make beautiful gifts for families and individuals in need.  She turned to a friend who was Senior Vice President and Team Leader for the local U.S. Trust/Bank of America office, who agreed to let her test out the idea with a group of employees.

The Bank of America group built and decorated six coffee tables on-site at a family shelter called Homeless Solutions. The teams of employees created a unique mosaic inlay for each table.  The impact of this gesture of caring was immediate. “Families staying at the shelter broke down, the U.S. Trust group broke down, and even the local reporter was moved,” Susie recalls vividly.

She knew she was onto something, “an amazing opportunity to do good and help folks at risk.”  Susie describes the transformation that occurred in her thinking about approaching corporations to become clients of her innovative creative gift-giving program. “When I first reached out to the corporate community during the recession, our clients were facing hard times themselves. Our first corporate client thought it was a way to demonstrate to their employees that there were people worse off. At first I thought it was companies wanting to know what I could do for them--team building, morale, etc. Now I talk about how we can help you with those things and in that process you will be helping others.” 

Business benefit

Caring Capital has provided Susie Schub with a unique opportunity to create a career out of what she loves, the arts. For 10 years, the success of Caring Capital has allowed Susie to earn an income while being able to “sleep at night.” Furthermore, Susie is using the arts for good, as a tool to enhance her community. However, as the business founder, Susie is constantly driven by the question “what else can I do?” According to Susie, the only thing slowing down her ambition is “the time it takes to engage more clients and scale up the Caring Capital Army.”

Social and environmental benefit

Caring Capital’s founder, Susie Schub, is connected with a wide range of non-profit organizations, especially in her home state of New Jersey: homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, youth services, and organizations serving veterans, the developmentally disabled and other disadvantaged populations. At no cost to a nonprofit, the output of each of Caring Capital’s corporate team building exercises directly meets the needs of those whom the nonprofit serves. Caring Capital relentlessly pursues opportunities to connect big companies with worthy organizations. From unique backpacks and water bottles for school children to colorful blankets and furniture for families in shelters, these projects bring not only material benefit, but also the goodwill that comes from demonstrating a caring connection.

Interview(s)

Susie Schub, Founder and President

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3 comments
  • Aisha Jones likes this
  • Jeana Wirtenberg
    Jeana Wirtenberg Caring Capital is a wonderful example of an innovation that simultaneously and synergistically addresses societal and business needs. Its proven track record makes it ideal for scaling to help ameliorate low levels of employee engagement, a critical need...  more
    June 10, 2016 - 1 likes this
  • Whitney Kear
    Whitney Kear This is a wonderful and unique story of innovation that truly encapsulates the notion of "paying it forward." The business model that Susie Schub has created has flourished into an amazing cycle of positivity that benefits every person involved. It is both...  more
    June 10, 2016
  • Claire Sommer
    Claire Sommer Kudos to Caring Capital's Susie Schub for a business model that puts caring for people at the center of her work. I wonder how other business' could benefit from this approach? It would be an interesting brainstorming exercise to ask, "How might we bring...  more
    June 10, 2016