As part of our ongoing series of executive interviews related to corporate social responsibility (CSR), Development Crossing recently had the opportunity to ask Nancy Mahon, Executive Director of the M•A•C AIDS Fund a few questions about the foundation and its initiatives around the world.
1. Could you provide a brief overview of the M•A•C AIDS Fund and your responsibilities within it?
The M•A•C AIDS Fund is a leader in the global fight against HIV and AIDS, supporting more than 500 charitable organizations worldwide each year all working to combat the epidemic. As the philanthropic arm of M•A•C Cosmetics, the M•A•C AIDS Fund has given more than $148 million to organizations in over 67 countries since its founding in 1994.
Grants given out by the M•A•C AIDS Fund are generated from a consumer-based giving model that directs 100 percent of sales from M•A•C’s VIVA GLAM lipstick and lipglass directly to HIV/AIDS causes. M•A•C Cosmetics underwrites the cost of the product, donating the full $14 sale price to the cause, including would-be profits for retail partners.
I serve as both the Executive Director of the Fund, which is a free-standing foundation, as well as a senior vice president of the MAC brand. My dual role allows me to ensure that the foundation and its work are supportive of and and relevant to the work of the brand and its business strategy, and vice versa.
2. With all the possible philanthropic initiatives that M•A•C Cosmetics could have invested time and resources in, what led to such a strong focus on HIV/AIDS?
The M•A•C AIDS Fund was the brainchild of Frank Toskan and Frank Angelo, co-founders of M•A•C Cosmetics. As the AIDS epidemic spread and began to ravage the fashion and entertainment worlds in the early 1990s, the two searched for a way to respond to their personal and profound sense of loss. Encouraged by M•A•C employees, they decided to make HIV/AIDS organizations the beneficiaries of the company’s charitable focus.
The M•A•C AIDS Fund has become the heart and soul of the company, contributing to an employee retention rate that beats the industry standard by more than 20 percent.
3. Having every cent of the selling price of VIVA GLAM lipsticks go to the M•A•C AIDS Fund is very impressive, especially in the current economy. What led to such a bold approach?
The generosity of the model stemmed from the commitment and determination of the founders and employees to make as big a difference as they could in the fight against AIDS. Viva Glam is consistently one of the top selling products of the company because our artists believe in it and believe in giving back. As a pioneer in the HIV/AIDS arena, the M•A•C AIDS Fund has been a trailblazer for the last fifteen years, funding groundbreaking programs and regions that others have ignored. The Fund’s work has often led other funders to follow suit, investing in new and experimental programs and in underserved regions.
As the largest corporate non-pharmaceutical giver in the space, the M•A•C AIDS Fund strives to show all corporations that not only is giving to HIV and AIDS causes the right thing to do, it is also good for business.
4. What types of programs and initiatives does the Fund invest its resources in, both in the US and around the world?
In the U.S. the MAC AIDS Fund focuses on food, housing and harm reduction. Internationally, we focus our funding on South Africa and the Caribbean, the two areas of the world that have been hardest hit by the epidemic.
5. More generally, how has the current economic downturn affected the fight against HIV/AIDS, as well as global giving towards the epidemic? What are some of the obstacles and challenges that lie ahead?
Like many other companies, we are seeing a decrease in revenue at the fund. As a result, we are constantly adjusting our grant-making strategies and budget based on the sales of Viva Glam. The economy has given us the opportunity to collaborate with other funders and grantees to develop innovative ways to make a difference.
6. What advice would you give to individuals and organizations looking to get more involved in fighting the epidemic?
With so many people affected by HIV and AIDS globally, it is up to everyone to help fight the epidemic. For individuals, there are several different ways to get involved – ranging from volunteering time and money to something as easy as buying a Viva Glam lipstick or lipglass. Now more than ever, grant seekers need to show the competitive advantage of their programs and why donor dollars will have a substantial and unique impact.
7. Any additional thoughts?
There is so much work left to do in the battle against HIV and AIDS and healthcare reform in general. A recession, no matter how severe, cannot and should not stop all of the talented people in this field from innovating to save lives!
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