For foundations and most nonprofits, supporting issues and furthering causes is at the heart of what they do. And because of their status, these organizations are able to benefit from gifts and other third-party funding sources themselves. Whether its donations, volunteer hours, tax breaks, grants or other similar funding streams, special funds and gifts are primarily what keep many of these giving organizations afloat.
Conversely, most corporations are built around a “profit above all else” mentality. Historically, for these organizations, giving was often something reserved for PR reasons or certain tax breaks. Giving was “a nice thing to do,” but was far from being a requirement.
Thanks to the efforts of visionary leaders like John Elkington and campaigns like Pledge 1%, corporate giving today is far more than just a nice thing to do. Giving is now part of the bottom line for many for profit corporations – giving rise to the notion of the triple bottom line.
During the mid-1990’s, John Elkington strove to measure sustainability by developing a new framework to measure performance in corporate America. The new accounting framework he developed, called the triple bottom line, went beyond the traditional measures of profits, return on investment and shareholder value. It included environmental and social dimensions as well.
By focusing on comprehensive investment results, along with the interrelated dimensions of profits, people and the planet, triple bottom line has become an important tool to support corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability goals. The reason for this is that behind the triple bottom line lies the fundamental principle that what you measure is what you get – because what you measure is what you are likely to pay attention to. Only when companies measure their social and environmental impact will they have socially and environmentally responsible organizations.
Not wanting to become a nonprofit, Brian and Patricia Fitzgerald, who founded Innovation Station in 2016, wanted to create a for profit enterprise that acted like a nonprofit by putting giving above all else.
“It’s great when companies develop philanthropic initiatives that are tied to what the company does, rather than being separate from it,” said Patricia Fitzgerald, Chief Innovation Officer at Innovation Station. “And this is what we were aiming to do when we launched Innovation Station. However, we took things a step further by creating a company that was developed 100% to support the advancement of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (S.T.E.A.M.) education and opportunities in both rural and underserved communities.”
Developed for fairs, festivals, schools, amusement parks, community events and similar venues, Innovation Station features hands-on, immersive experiences that take visitors of all ages on an epic journey through the worlds of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics. Through hair-raising demonstrations, high-speed challenges and interactive exhibits, visitors not only become inspired to innovate and create, they walk away ready to experience the world in a whole new way.
“Innovation Station is a highly interactive experience that is great for all ages,” said Mark Hansen, Grounds Attractions Manager, San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. “Guests spent hours building, playing and learning together. This was a great addition to our event because it gave families a chance to bond while being immersed in all things STEAM. I look forward to the great ideas and exhibits that Innovation Station will continue to create!”
To date, Innovation Station gives roughly 20% of its revenue to paid internships, apprenticeships, giveaways, matching funds for schools and a new scholarship program (which is launching in 2018). Innovation Station also plans to develop a business incubator for talented people that want to get into S.T.E.A.M. related fields, but that don’t have the education or experience required by most organizations in the field today.
“Contrary to traditional thinking, we have been able to create a sustainable, profitable business by giving a lot of it away,” added Fitzgerald.