Deciding what charitable cause to support is like choosing a bottle of wine from your cellar—they’re all good. But when you consider what wine goes best with the meal you’re enjoying, it becomes easier to narrow down the choices and find the perfect pairing. The same principle applies to philanthropy: find a cause that compliments your values and interests and you’ll have a reason to raise that glass. “The world is full of good causes,” says Susan Hall, principal of 3PM Partners. “The question is, where can you do the most good?”
Hall believes she can do the most good by helping individuals, family foundations, corporations and non-profit organizations strengthen their impact and increase their return on investment with strategic philanthropic portfolio performance management (hence the name “3PM”). “I’m a big believer in the business value of strategic philanthropy, not the business value of philanthropy,” says Hall, who opened her Vancouver consulting firm in 2008 following three years as executive director of national community affairs at Telus.
To explain how giving can be strategic, Hall describes one of the programs developed under her leadership: the Telus Walk to Cure Diabetes. In becoming the national partner for this initiative—which benefits the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the world’s largest charitable funder and advocate of type 1 diabetes research—Hall harnessed the energy of Telus employees, the power of the brand and the core competencies of the company. In addition to being the title sponsor of the event, Telus also offered technology to transmit information from devices like glucometers to a server using a BlackBerry or cell phone. The perfect pairing.
Now Hall is helping other corporations find their philanthropic feet by advising on the development of giving and community engagement strategies, such as volunteer and fundraising activities. On the other side of the balance sheet, 3PM lends a hand to non-profits, offering advice on governance and strategic planning issues, including corporate development and business management issues. Hall also helps individuals and family foundations determine their vision, mission and values in order to focus their charitable contributions and community engagement on organizations that share their views.
With 15 years of experience in capital markets and a resumé that includes executive director of debt capital markets in Asia for CIBC World Markets, Hall brings a unique set of skills to the boardroom. How this energetic chartered financial analyst transitioned from a career in finance to one in philanthropy is an inspiring story of turning misfortune into opportunity.
Hall moved to Vancouver in 2003, a single mother with twins—a boy and a girl, now 11—knowing no one. Her plan was to get plugged into the local community by volunteering, but before she had a chance, she was diagnosed with cancer. While she was sick, she noticed a lack of support groups for parents dealing with illness and realized charitable funds could be effectively put into programs that have highly targeted missions to achieve maximum impact. “Making that very personal connection with people—that’s what provides the ultimate engagement from a philanthropic perspective,” Hall explains.
When she was healthy again, it was a chance meeting in a social situation with Telus president and CEO Darren Entwistle that launched Hall’s new career. She recalls well what she said during the conversation: “I think if companies thought a lot more strategically about how they made their community investments—just like portfolio managers think very strategically about how they make their investments—they’d be able to do a way better job and drive much better return on investment.” The next thing she knew, she was developing Telus’s national strategy for philanthropy and community engagement. Once Hall felt she had built strong philanthropic infrastructure at Telus, she launched 3PM Partners so she could share her successful model with others—and share her favourite quote: “If you turn on a light, you can light a room. If you focus it into a laser, you can cut steel.” 3PM Partners exemplifies a perfect philanthropic pairing; passionate personal interests and good causes.
Photo: ©Michelle Moore/What I See Photography.