Author Archives: Teresa Coles

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.

One More Month To Make A Change

Teresa Coles at Billion + Change launch

Where it all began: T at the A Billion + Change launch, DC

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.

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.

Peyton checks in at our mod venue, Steelcase


Telling our stories, one by one

P and T reunite with our global bestie, Armin from BMW Foundation.

Heated debate among the panel of judges for best global pro bono plan

Champion of pro bono and lover of all things CreateAthon: Taproot Foundation founder Aaron Hurst

RP Goes Gold, Silver and Camo at 2013 ADDYs

It’s well known that no one loves a good dress-up party more than the Riggs Partners clan. So when the Columbia AAF folks announced a Reality TV theme for the 2013 ADDY® awards gala, we harnessed our love of country and camo and showed up to the soiree on Saturday, February 17 as none other than DUCK DYNASTY.

West Columbia's finest checkin' in at the WECO

After a quick Sears Family Portrait session, we traveled en masse to 701 Whaley to join our comrades in the communicating arts for an evening to celebrate the best creative marketing in the Midlands. As pleased as we already were with our fashion sense, we were more than a little giddy with the lineup of awards that came our way in recognition of our work in 2012.

Riggs Partners received a total of 11 awards during the evening:

Special Judges Award for Excellence in Annual Report – Palmetto GBA Annual Report

Special Judges Award for Excellence in Radio – Express Oil Change Radio Campaign

Gold ADDY – Palmetto GBA Annual Report

Gold ADDY – Express Oil Change Radio Campaign

Gold ADDY – Lukas, Nace Gutierrez & Sachs Website

Gold ADDY – Bug Outfitters* Logo

Silver ADDY – Central Carolina Community Foundation Annual Report

Silver ADDY – Goodwill Industries of Midlands/Upstate SC Annual Report

Silver ADDY – Goodwill Industries of Midlands/Upstate SC Outdoor Campaign

Silver ADDY – Pulliam Morris 50th Anniversary Announcement

Silver ADDY – 52 Windows Event Poster

*official camo outfitter to the RP stars

the ADDYs were biting that day

We were thrilled to be recognized for our work across such a broad array of disciplines, and especially pleased to have Joy Skinner and Bartley Boswell from Palmetto GBA on hand to accept top honors for the Palmetto GBA annual report. Our sincere thanks go to them — and all RP clients — for allowing us to be part of such great work.

Twenty-five years after C.C. Rigg’s received Best In Show at our very first appearance at the ADDYs, the 2013 ADDYs were one for the record books and the photo album.

(Did we mention we were the Best In Show Costume Contest Winners? Well, we do have a standard to uphold.)


country boy, city boy


Country Loafers and Crazy Pepper Country


This here's Davis Country

Country Turners

duck, duck, shoe, addy, beard

Altria and CreateAthon Connect for Good

So here’s what happened: One year ago last week, Peyton Rowe and I found ourselves in Washington, DC at the launch of A Billion + Change, a national movement to mobilize billions of dollars in pro bono service. We were there to talk about CreateAthon® as an example of what a small business can accomplish when it chooses to put its talents to work for social good. In between pinching ourselves, we had the opportunity to meet a great number of people with very impressive titles from very big companies.

The shocker? When one person after another came up to us and said “Oh, CreateAthon. I’ve heard of that.” At which point Peyton and I would not look at each other for fear of blowing our cover as global marketing sophisticates.

One of those friendly folks was Cynthia Cecil from Altria, a Fortune 500 company and parent of Phillip Morris USA, US Smokeless Tobacco, John Middleton and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. We stayed in touch, and to our delight got a call from her this summer, asking if we might be able to help their brand strategists organize a CreateAthon event. You can imagine the back flips we threw over the idea of bringing CreateAthon to a company like Altria. One, I might add, that just last Thursday was named to Bloomberg’s Civic Top 50 list.

Since that time, Peyton, Yanti and I have been working with the Altria teams, conducting workshops, organizing conference calls, and providing all manner of consulting on the secret sauce that is CreateAthon. We also had the pleasure of having Jamie Berkowitz and Alex Viscarra from Altria at the CreateAthon Mothership’s 15th annual event. (They lived to tell the tale, and were even more fired up after they had their own dousing of the CreateAthon spirit.)

All of which leads us up to this Thursday, November 15, at 8:00 am, when just over 40 employees and volunteers will gather at Altria’s first-ever CreateAthon to make marketing magic for four Richmond-area nonprofits. Special guest volunteers will be branding gods from none other than Landor Associates and the PR gurus at CRT/tanaka.

And in the glorious middle of it all will be Peyton, CreateAthon’s Chief Evangelical Officer. She’ll be throwing around the pixie dust and signing on more CreateAthon converts for life.

Are we surprised to see CreateAthon land in the Fortune 500? Not really. Because pro bono service isn’t about small business or big business. It’s about people with big hearts. And we’ve found plenty at Altria.

Stay tuned for some goodness.

Jamie and Alex: they came, they created, they were converted.


A Billion + Reasons to Believe

Earlier this month, we had the honor of officially welcoming A Billion + Change and the national movement for skills-based, pro bono service to South Carolina. Along with our friends at the Central Carolina Community Foundation, we hosted a gathering of 60 or so bright-minded business leaders with the intent of starting a dialogue in South Carolina on the benefits of skills-based volunteerism.

We Riggs folks are always up for a conversion about pro bono, and the Billion + breakfast was a great way to share our belief in skills-based volunteerism as a means of corporate social responsibility. But my new best Twitter friend Paul Klein unearthed a whole new perspective in his Forbes post this week by stating “social change isn’t the responsibility of business, it is the result of business.”

That’s what A Billion + Change is really all about: helping American businesses understand that the fastest and most profound way to create results in the community is to give employees the opportunity to put their best business skills and talents to work for nonprofits. In doing so, they help NGOs and NPOs build the kind of capacity and intellectual resources they need to build sustainability and move their missions forward.

We’re thrilled with the enthusiastic response from the A Billion + Change event, and we look forward to sharing more news very soon about the South Carolina companies that are taking the pledge to create or expand their own skills-based, pro bono programs. As always, we believe South Carolinians will rise to the occasion, expressing our collective belief in doing the kind of work that matters most.