Geraldine Gatehouse

Give Back, Get Back: CSR in Baking and Business

By Geraldine Gatehouse
September 15, 2011

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Giving a gift with a give back is what I like to call the knock-on effect! By doing one thing, you cause another thing to happen. Confections from Dancing Deer Baking Co. make a great idea for corporate and holiday season gifts that help give back to a worthwhile cause. 

I had seen the name Dancing Deer before and really loved the sound of it, but it didn’t occur to me that it might be a specialty baking company and not a leggy troupe on Dancing with the Stars! Dancing Deer’s philanthropic mission is to end family homelessness. It contributes to programs that help homeless families stabilize their lives and find homes of their own. 

The company works hard each year to ensure that its generosity grows along with its business. Based in Boston, Dancing Deer also supports its local community. The company’s employees, called “Deers,” are people who are passionate about food, nature, aesthetics, and community and have a wide range of interests and concerns. They enjoy making cookie contributions to a variety of charitable organizations and good works.

The Sweet Home Project is Dancing Deer’s line of gourmet gifts that give back. Not only does the bakery sprinkle in love and compassion along with its ingredients going into Sweet Home Project products, it adds a healthy serving of practical assistance: it dishes up 35 percent of the retail price of its products to scholarship programs.

Frank Carpenito, the company’s president & CEO, shared details on this unique program.

Please explain how the Sweet Home Project got started. Was there a special incident that set it off?

Carpenito: In 2001, One Family Inc. approached Trish Karter, one of our co-founders, and indicated it was looking for a house-shaped cookie as a thank-you to its supporters. But as Trish and our team talked about it, Trish realized it had the potential to be a much bigger program.

At the time, we were looking to put more of our focus on our local community and philanthropic efforts, so the timing of this request was perfect. Within a year, we introduced a whole product line around the house-shaped cookie concept and created packaging to tell the story of family homelessness.

We created a structure that enabled the product line to live within our commercial business but be a vehicle for sustainably funding One Family’s efforts through a 35 percent donation of the retail price. Since the program’s inception, we have donated almost $300,000 to the cause.

Is there any interesting background behind the Project?

Carpenito: There is a bit of an interesting story surrounding the actual cookie house itself. We started with both chocolate and vanilla, but, honestly, we could not keep the vanilla from breaking and still be as delicious as it needed to be, whereas cocoa is a really good binding agent and makes the shortbread less friable or breakable. So we ultimately defaulted to chocolate.

We initially thought of this as a small, local program, but it almost instantly turned into a great corporate gift option for companies looking to give back and impact others. Within a matter of months, Sweet Home Project packages were being sent all around the country. The large, house-shaped chocolate cookie had to be travel ready.

One Family is a nonprofit initiative of the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation to help the homeless and at-risk mothers in furthering their education. Scholarships represent a pathway out of poverty to economic self-sufficiency. To date, not one of the mothers who received scholarships has returned to a shelter since completing the program.

Please share your thoughts on your vision of where you see the future of Dancing Deer.

Carpenito: The terrific work that has been done over the years is work we hope to expand in the future. We envision creating greater awareness for the Sweet Home Project and homelessness in general, working in coordination with our partners at One Family. Today, we have an impact on the lives of a select group of individuals in the Greater Boston community, and our hope is that someday we can not only deepen our reach within the local community, but also play a bigger role in helping end family homelessness on a regional and national scale. Having our customers play a part in this vision is both exciting and rewarding for all of us at Dancing Deer.

So remember Dancing Deer when you are looking for corporate and holiday gifts this year. Items can be personalized. You can learn more about the company at its website.


Corporate Social Responsibility Versus Corporate Social Purpose
There is an excellent article in the September issue of Harvard Business Review by Nathan Foote, Russell Eisenstat, and Tobias Fredberg. Entitled “The Higher Ambition Leader,” it makes compelling reading for anyone with an interest in learning more about just how critical CSR can be for a business. It discusses the difference between CSR and what the authors see as corporate social purpose. goes a step beyond, in pointing out that addressing how corporate social responsibility can corporate social purpose

The article illustrates how some leaders with high ambitions recognize that there’s a big difference between CSR and corporate social purpose and strive for superior performance on three main levels. According to the article, highly ambitious leaders “strive to generate high performance on three fronts: creating long-term economic value, producing significant benefits for the wider community, and building robust social capital within their organizations.” The improved financial performance leads to additional resources, and these permit the leaders to “build social capital within the organization and social value outside it, generating further economic value and spurring the organization to even greater heights.”

Dale Hart, a partner in Methodologie, posted a recent report in the Environmental Leader that echoes the importance of CSR and reporting. “Half of the Fortune 100 produced a CSR report last year, and this trend will continue to grow, with reporting likely to become mandatory in the coming years. Businesses that aren’t currently creating a CSR report are missing an opportunity to communicate their impact in an open and honest way that stakeholders are demanding.”
Increasingly, we are seeing more news and information on sustainability, reporting, and CSR. The state of the world economy means that more organizations than ever will need help. We have the tools to respond. Our industry has a great opportunity to champion give-back programs to our clients and help worthwhile causes thrive and grow.

Quote of the Month

Social obligation is much bigger than supporting worthy causes. It includes anything that impacts people and the quality of their lives. —William Ford Jr., Chairman, Ford Motor Co.


Geraldine Gatehouse is an independent planner, speaker, and instructor with a passionate belief in the value and potential global impact of CSR. She is based in southern California, a member of Meeting Professionals International, a committee member of the 2011 Site Classic, a 2010 past board member of Site Southern California, and a member of the IMEX America team. She can be reached at geraldine-g@cox.net, via her 

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