Teresa Coles

With a heart for social good and a brain for marketing strategy, Teresa combines the two to provide counsel to nonprofits around the country. She has been a lead strategist at RP since 1992. - See more at:
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posted by Teresa Coles Sep 17,2013 @ 11:04AM

We Must Have Done Something Good

I exclaimed to Cathy on that bright and shiny Monday morning, channeling the joy of that perfect Julie Andrews moment as we welcomed the newest member of the Riggs family. The object of our affection? One practically-perfect-in-every-way Courtney Melendez.

We became Courtney fans several years ago when we worked with her during her service as marketing director for The Cooperative Ministry. From the very first encounters, we recognized the gifts this exceptional young woman brought to bear while dissecting strategy, discerning brand truths, and managing marketing programs. Then there was her spirit: one of grace, passion and enthusiasm for all things good in the world.

So we couldn’t have been more pleased when Courtney accepted our invitation to join the firm as an account manager. She’ll work closely with clients to frame the context of their marketing objectives, then serve alongside the entire RP team to deliver marketing programs that move business needles and create social impact.

We think it’s a great time to be a Riggs Partners client. One meeting with Courtney, and you’ll see just what we mean.

posted by Teresa Coles Aug 06,2013 @ 11:44AM

CreateAthon Global: Flights Departing Daily.

What began as that we’ll-never-be-able-to-pull-this-off idea on Lady Street has routed itself to some pretty interesting destinations this year. It began with the addition of several new CreateAthon partner agencies:

Oceanic Communications, Suva, Fiji
My sunscreen is packed. Don't even think about getting in front of me on this one.

Orchid Communications, Jersey, Channel Islands
An archipelago of British Crown Dependencies in the English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. Royalty and flags are involved, which may motivate Kevin to travel.

Fleishman Hillard, Toronto, Canada
This powerhouse PR firm will launch its first CreateAthon in Toronto, which we understand to be an epicenter of social consciousness. Perhaps the next RP office location?

If this isn’t enough to get your pro bono mojo on, take a gander at the two newest marathon programs in Europe, which are cousins to CreateAthon.

KreativMarathon, Hamburg
A pro bono marathon program formed earlier this year as a collaborative effort among two pro bono intermediary programs, Talent Spender and ReFrame, and advertising agencies in the Hamburg market. We had the honor of being approached by these organizations to offer support and encouragement for the first-ever pro bono marketing marathon in Germany. We were delighted to be listed alongside our friends at Pro Bono Labs (see below) and the BMW Foundation as leaders in the pro bono movement and active supporters of KreativMarathon.

So exciting, and even more so if we knew German. Feel free to let us know what it says.

Pro Bono Lab, Paris
We met these wonderful folks about two years ago, when they were in the midst of founding an organization to help companies in France learn how to create and manage skills-based, pro bono programs. They adopted the marathon marketing model as part of their portfolio (and are always kind enough to note it’s based on CreateAthon) and now offer a student model (thanks to CreateAthon on Campus).

See? Marathon? That’s us!

As exciting as it is for us to see CreateAthon attracting global partners and inspiring other marathon programs, what’s more important is the greater context of this news: That pro bono is moving, growing and reaching areas of the world in which the practice of “giving away your skills” has been a foreign concept, to say the very least. If CreateAthon can be part of overturning that paradigm and fostering new attitudes around the notion of what it means to serve, we’ll consider that a good day (and night).

posted by Teresa Coles Jul 02,2013 @ 09:58AM

Service Unites: A New Perspective

Points of Light Conference

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Points of Light Foundation’s Conference on Volunteering and Service in Washington, DC. I knew it was a big conference with a big agenda and big-time speakers. (It took me DAYS to figure out what I would attend and when).

What I didn’t expect was the huge impact it would have on me, and on my perspective of what it means to serve.

I came to DC with the mindset of making connections on behalf on CreateAthon, spreading the message of our pro bono marketing program to anyone who was kind enough to listen. I knew I would meet people from nonprofit organizations and CSR minded companies who were great supporters of employees’ community service efforts.

The conference’s theme of Service Unites was clearly demonstrated as an agent for bringing people from various political, racial, religious, age and geographic boundaries together. But when I walked into the opening session and found myself in a sea of 5,000 people dedicated to service in one form or another, I was quickly overtaken by the real essence of this gathering.


For three days, I walked in and out of inspiring conversations, thoughtful roundtable discussions and brainstorming exercises. Whether those conversations centered on the work of nonprofits, corporate social responsibility efforts, or national service programs, everything came to rest on the possibilities that exist when we look past our personal perspectives and through the broader lens of humanity.

It was a powerful reminder to me that CreateAthon is really about expressing our humanity. By sharing the talents we’ve been given as creative professionals, we can grow as human beings while making an impact on the lives of people in our local communities. Given the momentum behind CreateAthon, we now know our work can have an impact around the globe (more to come on that).

Chris Jarvis of Realized Worth put it best during what can only be described as a three-minute homily at the end of a luncheon. “All of the work we’ve been talking about,” he said, “all boils down to creating better people.”

My thanks to Points of Light for an amazing experience and for their leadership in making better people of us all.

I encourage you check out the conference highlights and to learn more about these and many other incredible service initiatives that are happening across America. There’s a place for your gifts, here.

posted by Teresa Coles May 28,2013 @ 05:48AM

One More Month To Make A Change

Teresa Coles at Billion + Change launch

About 18 months ago, I had the privilege of participating in the launch event of A Billion + Change. It’s a national campaign — powered by leading organizations including Deloitte, Hewlett Packard, the Case Foundation, and IBM — seeking to mobilize the largest-ever commitment to corporate pro bono service. Specifically, they’re looking for 500 companies that are willing to lend their business skills to nonprofits and the causes they represent on a pro bono basis. Riggs Partners is proud to be among the first 50 companies in the US to take the pledge on behalf of our national pro bono program, CreateAthon.

I’ve had several opportunities since that time to attend A Billion + Change events, including one here in Columbia we hosted with our friends at Central Carolina Community Foundation. What amazes me most about these gatherings is the spirit that permeates them: a palpable belief among professionals that pro bono service is no longer a “nice to do” but a vital part of American business culture. Plus, there’s the whole emergence of the CSR profession, with people who are making a living helping their companies understand, develop and execute truly innovative programs that integrate socially conscious leadership with corporate success.

I believe business as we know it may change for good — and you can be part of it.

A Billion + Change has just one more month to reach its goal of 500 pledge companies, and we need people like you at companies like yours to step up and take the pledge. All you do is sign up to find at least one skills-based volunteering opportunity for your organization in the year ahead. It's completely free, and here’s what you’ll get in exchange:

• Learn more about the power of pro bono service as a differentiator for your business and its brand

• Interact with some of the nation’s top leaders in corporate social responsibility and community engagement

* See example after example of successful skills-based volunteering efforts

We’re one month away from being a part of business history, and we’d like you to be with us when it happens. If you have any questions about A Billion + Change and what it means to be a pledge company, let’s talk now.

posted by Teresa Coles Mar 13,2013 @ 06:26AM

Global Pro Bono? CreateAthon Worldwide? Believe.

“YOU are CreateAthon?

“Well, uh, yes, I guess I am.

“Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it’s really you! I talk to people in India about CreateAthon all the time!

That is what greeted me within 10 minutes of stepping into an evening reception at the Global Pro Bono Summit, hosted recently by Taproot Foundation. It was a moment that took my breath away, and the start of a 24-hour experience that filled me with the promise of good in the world like never before.

Joining me at the event in NYC was none other than CreateAthon Chief Evangelical Officer Peyton Rowe. That, in itself, is enough to get me pumped up on the matter of all things pro bono. Then there were our friends from Taproot Foundation, A Billion + Change, and other swell folks from socially minded corporations we’ve come to know. I expected to see these flag-bearers for pro bono, and to once again be inspired by their leadership.

What I encountered was something altogether different.

I was surrounded by people from about a dozen different countries who were part of Taproot’s global fellows program. Then there were “intermediaries,” people throughout the US who lead programs designed to mobilize pro bono efforts in their respective industries and/or communities. Like CreateAthon.

Before we intermediaries were introduced to the global fellows, Taproot Founder and event organizer Aaron Hurst provided some meaningful context to us on why these people had come to New York, and why we had been invited to meet them:

Understand that most of the people you’ll meet today come from countries in which pro bono is neither encouraged nor tolerated. In some cases, they are not only putting themselves at professional risk for advocating the practice of pro bono, but also personal. They can go to jail for this.

“You’re here to get to know them, encourage them, and connect with them from now on, so they can be prepared to carry out this work when they go home.

That got our attention.

Then here they came, 22 of the most delightful people I’ve ever met. Between their broken English and my heavy Southern accent, we often had to repeat ourselves or help interpret each other’s sentences. But what transcended that awkward dialogue was the immediate, shared spark of something between us: the belief in pro bono.

There’s so much to say about this experience — perhaps I shall come back here and unpack all of my takeaways — but for now, I hope you’ll be inspired by three things I now know to be true, thanks to this global gathering of good.

Pro bono is going to become an industry, not a nice to do.

We can capitalize on it and make a living giving it scale throughout the world. What some may have once considered a pipe dream is now quickly becoming a force.

People are different. Their hearts are the same.

The power of human connections around a central cause has never been more palpable to me than in the last two weeks. All it takes is one moment, and an extended hand.

The impact of CreateAthon has only just begun.

Our 24-hour marathon model is being noticed in places far from here, not just in India. In France: “We now have a marathon model in place inspired by CreateAthon.

In the Netherlands: “Oh yes, we've heard of you. What a great program!

In Germany: “We love CreateAthon, and I am going to get you to Berlin to teach us how to do it.

Where do we go from here? Global fellows, corporate leaders, and intermediaries like us will reassemble for Global Pro Bono Summit II a year from now. In the meantime, we’ll be connecting with each other, one by one, sharing ideas and offering encouragement. We’ll also be working together on a number of initiatives coming out of the summit that will help to move the global pro bono movement forward in the next 12 months.

The last thing I know for sure?

If you have a little idea, it can be big.




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