An Interview with CSR Senior Counsel Melissa Cameron

February 23, 2020

Hi everyone, Crayton Webb with Sunwest Communications. We have a special segment of Two Minutes of Advice from Sunwest today because joining me is my dear friend Melissa Cameron who’s just recently joined the Sunwest family as Senior Counsel of Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropic Services. Welcome, so glad to have you. Thank you, thank you. That’s a super long title. It is indeed. But fitting, considering all that you’ve done and all that you’ve accomplished. And I think our audience would be interested in knowing what you’ve done in the past – what your background is. Ok great. Real quickly, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of nonprofits here in Dallas, specifically Habitat for Humanity and the American Heart Association most recently. Working alongside companies, individuals, foundations, to really bring their dreams of social impact to life. Melissa is very humble. So she was the Chief Development Officer for Habitat for Humanity here in the Dallas area. That’s when we met. You actually led – and in my mind, were the architect – of Dallas Area Habitat’s one-hundred-million-dollar campaign. That gives you some unique credentials in my mind, would you agree? Thank you for that. Yes. We got a chance to tag-team on that. But really, it takes a village, right? So it’s the entire time, it’s the entire board, it’s rallying all those resources together. And I think, Crayton, you’re right – it was a unique period of time for Habitat. Out there doing incredible work, not being heralded enough, and being able to galvanize all those resources – government grants, private funds, incredible volunteers – to pull together “Dream Dallas” was the name of this campaign. A hundred million dollars to impact South and West Dallas in a really tangible way. And if I might add, it told a story that not only raised a lot of money to impact a lot of peoples’ lives, but also changed, considerably enhanced the reputation of Habitat for Humanity – not just Dallas, but nationally. Then you went to the American Heart Association, Executive Director, largest affiliate in the country. Yeah, they call them divisions, but yes, the largest division in the country. And then, as part of that, there were several events you did that were also the largest in the country. Tell us about that. Correct. Dallas, of course we do everything bigger in Dallas. So the Dallas American Heart Association division no stranger to that. The largest Go Red for Women Luncheon in the country – at least it certainly has been – the largest Gala in the country which is called “Cotes du Coeur” here in Dallas, an incredible food and wine event that raises a ton of money – about five million dollars for research and programs in the community. And then the Heart Walk, which also the largest in the country. Sixty-thousand of your closest friends there at the base of Reunion Tower. That’s all? That’s all. So, tell us a little bit more about what you’re going to be doing for your clients here at Sunwest. When you say Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropic Services, what exactly does that mean? That’s a great question. And you know there’s some crossover there, right, because ultimately, whether you’re looking at corporate social responsibility and social impact or you’re the nonprofit, you’re thinking about how do I maximize the investment in the work that we’re doing to deliver results – measurable results – in the community. And so I think on the CSR side of things, Crayton, it’s really how do you marry that shared vision of what does a company want to do with their employees, what do they stand for, what is their brand, and how does that measure out into – you mentioned – reputation. I think that’s huge in terms of corporate social responsibility, CSR programs and platforms, and it’s amazing how many companies have not taken the time yet to really define what does this mean to us and understanding that having a defined CSR platform can help with employee retention, and it’s not just this afterthought, right, this sort of squishy “oh we have to have a food drive at Christmas time.” It can be really intentional. And then on the nonprofit side, wow, there’s a myriad of things that we can offer. Our part of the firm here has decades of experience raising hundreds of millions of dollars and so we’ve been involved in leadership roles from executives to fundraisers – you name it. And we’re already engaged in providing interim services and I think that Sunwest really hit it in December when you had that panel discussion of there’s a drain of development professionals here in Dallas, and I think across the country – we’re certainly seeing that – and being able to provide an interim service to step in the gap while a nonprofit is doing a search for a CEO or for a chief development officer is certainly something that’s gonna make us unique. Yeah, so interim, or outsourced, executive director services, interim chief development officer services, capital campaigns, events, you name it. And we are so excited to have you here. Melissa has been a dear friend for many, many years, and this is a huge feather in the cap, if you will, for Sunwest Communications. So once again, want to welcome Melissa Cameron. Thanks for joining us. Be sure to check us out as and we’ll see you next time.


Hi everyone, Crayton Webb with Sunwest Communications. We’re continuing our conversation with Melissa Cameron, the new Senior Counsel of Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropic Services at Sunwest. As we said, quite a mouthful. You have amazing expertise in this space, and of course we talk a lot to our clients about the reputation economy, the third bottom line, that the best companies with the strongest brands are giving back not just because they’re writing a check, but because they want to be good corporate citizens and help solve some of society’s greatest problems. You have a lot of expertise with your background in Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity, the American Heart Association. What are your predictions for 2020 as to what we’re gonna see in philanthropy as well as corporate citizenship? I think that’s a great question. I think a lot of it is carryover from what we saw in 2019 and I think there’s some real basics. Transparency on both sides of the house. Both in CSR, which is defined, measurable outcomes for your investment in the community. And then for nonprofits which sometimes get a bad rap for how are you spending our money? Making sure that you have your report card and you’re able to define what it is that you’re doing with your donor dollars and transparency. Sustainability. How are we ensuring that we as a nonprofit are sustaining the work that we’re doing through our revenue generation? And then I think for companies what I have noticed is that this notion of multi-year giving is actually on the increase. So we want to be able to invest in a program, help you define your outcomes utilizing some of our professional services. That may be over a course of three years and I think ten years ago, companies were less likely to do that type of forward-thinking. You’d see a lot of companies as a former CFO that I used to work with called it, “sprinkling bits of goodness throughout the community” so they had a lot of breadth but no depth, and they weren’t identified with helping solve one significant problem. If you had any advice to give either on the corporate side or to the nonprofit side for 2020 what would it be? Well I think retention on both sides is dire, and I think that corporate social responsibility certainly has proven to be a retention driver, especially as we hear from millennials how much that they want to know the reputation of the company that they’re working for, spending all their time with, is one that is giving back to the community. And then retention in terms of nonprofits is how do you solve this brain drain, if you will, of nonprofit executives and fundraisers, and you have to do that by caring and embracing and engaging your staff and listening to what it is that they want. Tell us a little bit more about that. We’re seeing chief development officers leave in droves? Is that the observation? Oh absolutely. I think if you picked up any of the philanthropic magazines or if you were to ask the cadre of successful nonprofits even in this community, you would see that there seems to be a turnstile at that, especially fundraisers. And what I would say is, the board needs to get involved, our donors – whether it’s corporations, individuals, foundations – coming underneath that executive with a plan. First of all, having a plan, right? Secondly, engaging that plan, it being really attainable, and having that frame of what is the next step? What are the tactics we’re gonna do? Not just have a strategic plan – and you’ve seen them, they just go sit on a shelf. But how are we activating that plan in order to deliver the results. So it’s really helping to support and owning the function across the organization. Lastly, certainly Sunwest has clients outside of Texas, do you see the phenomenon that you’ve just described as going beyond the Lone Star state? We did a blog not long ago about 2020 being the year of the worker, right, that we see more laws being passed that make it easier for people to have paid leave, increasing the minimum wage, it’s harder to get earned media now so companies are talking more about their corporate social responsibility platforms and how they treat their employees. Does what you’ve just described go beyond the borders of Texas? No question. I think if you pick up Forbes, pick up Philanthropy Magazine, doesn’t matter what side of the house you’re seeing not only are executives now being measured, we’re seeing CEOs of Fortune 500 companies being incentivized around their corporate social responsibility. It’s that important to retaining a workforce. And then for nonprofits as well, being able to be flexible – that flex time. And if you’re gonna do an employee survey, you need to listen to the results. So at the end of the day, how do some of our nation’s most important and biggest companies help solve some of our most important problems? As one of my former CEOs once said, “We can’t give any money away unless we’re making money.” But they go hand-in-hand, right, with the reputation economy. With change, you need money. And then the question is, is how do the philanthropies fulfill the promises and take that money and actually solve the problems with them. And that’s what we’re talking about at Sunwest. And thanks to Melissa’s presence – along with the rest of the Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropic Services team – we’re able to have those conversations with both corporations and philanthropy. So thank you for joining us Melissa. Really excited to have you be part of the family, be part of the team, and know we’re gonna do great things together. And thank you for joining us. A little more than two minutes at Sunwest today, but a great person to talk to and a lot of great advice. We’ll see you next time. Thanks.

Be sure to check out the next segment of Two Minutes of Advice from Sunwest. Joining us is Melissa Cameron, new Senior Counsel of CSR and Philanthropic Services. What are we gonna talk about? Well Crayton, I happen to be sitting here at the crossroads of corporate and community impact, and I look forward to sharing more. Alright, check it out – or on LinkedIn.