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Bringing Social Responsibility to Work: Rachel Keen Hutchisson '89

Rachel Keen Hutchisson '89.

Photo courtesy of Rachel Keen Hutchisson '89.

Meet social-impact champion Rachel Keen Hutchisson '89 

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

Rachel Keen Hutchisson ’89 was a college junior, weighing career paths, when the 1987 blockbuster Wall Street brought a vivid portrait of capitalism to the silver screen. As the corporate villain Gordon Gekko, actor Michael Douglas uttered nine words that seemed to capture the spirit of the age: “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”

“It was a time when people believed that if you’re going into business, you want to make money at all costs, and if you want to do good, you’ll work for a nonprofit or government organization,” recalls Hutchisson—who, as a result, harbored zero interest in a corporate career.

Much has changed since—including Hutchisson’s view of what corporations and employees can do. Working through a global tech corporation, she’s championed a model that places people and businesses in service of a greater good.

Writerly education

The daughter of an English professor, Bill Keen ’57, P’89, Hutchisson wrote avidly as a child, heard T.S. Elliot recite works on the living-room stereo and took part in lively family debates. And after a year at Tulane University, she transferred to Dickinson and declared an English major.

Hutchisson played women’s soccer, earned Phi Beta Kappa honors and worked campus jobs in the registrar’s office and in alumni publications. She even wrote for the alumni newsletter and magazine during her junior year abroad in England, submitting them by airmail.

With encouragement from the publications director, Hutchisson went on to earn a master’s in journalism (University of Missouri-Columbia) and grew her portfolio of newspaper and magazine clips. An early success—managing Spin magazine’s first college issue—offered a crash course in targeted marketing.

Hutchisson enjoyed the writing and research, but not the print industry’s wobbly outlook. She also yearned for more values-driven work. When she met the CEO of a growing tech company, a new path emerged.

Prosocial tech

Blackbaud provides software, guidance and data to help nonprofit organizations better meet community needs. Hutchisson began as a market-research analyst there. As Blackbaud grew into a global organization, she rose up the ranks to lead corporate communication—the narrative that defines and guides the company’s culture and work.

Working with organizations that directly advance worthy causes, Hutchisson came to believe that organizations can make a positive difference while remaining highly profitable. She’s taken this message to national and international audiences, including from the TedX stage and through The Huffington Post.

“The idea is to bring social responsibility to work and make data-driven decisions based on these values. It’s about not only what you do as a company or an individual, but also about how you live—your purchasing decisions and how you treat people,” says Hutchisson. “The results are measurable—I’m all about the data. But the narrative arc is also essential, because that’s what inspires people to buy in.”

There are ripple effects: Employees who feel known, see good work afoot and understand their work in the context of a prosocial company culture feel more invested. This strengthens the organization and benefits both prosocial causes and the bottom line.

Under Hutchisson’s social-impact leadership, Blackbaud engaged in the U.N. Global Compact and the Generosity Commission, among other initiatives, and deepened investments, programs and reporting on prosocial work, such as sustainability and diversity, equity & inclusion efforts. Accolades rolled in from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, among other entities. Newsweek named Blackbaud one of America's Most Responsible Companies (2022, 2023).

Strengthening voices

After three decades, Hutchisson recently stepped down as Blackbaud’s vice president of social responsibility and now consults on social-impact work, as she pursues next steps. She’s advising and serving on boards for organizations including Common Impact, which connects professionals with skills-based volunteer opportunities, and Procure Impact, helping nonprofits sell products and create opportunities for economic mobility. A veteran public speaker, Hutchisson also helps women professionals advance--and helps professional athletes uplift social causes—through the power of personal narratives.

“People often say, ‘I don’t have a story,’ but most people do have a lot to share, particularly if they’re willing to be vulnerable,” Hutchisson says. “They just need someone to listen, help them identify their stories and crack the code of connecting with an audience. I love helping them find their voices and their power.”

Empowering students

Hutchisson and her husband, James, give back to Dickinson as longtime Mermaid Society and John Dickinson Society members. When her dad endowed the Marion Clay Keen Annual Scholarship, the couple partnered with Keen in the endowment.

The scholarship is named in honor of Hutchisson’s Great-Aunt Marion, a schoolteacher and member of Dickinson’s class of 1924. When Hutchisson’s dad earned a partial scholarship to Dickinson, Marion made it possible for him to attend by covering the remaining costs.

In that vein, Hutchisson says everyone benefits when young people are empowered to do impactful, meaningful work. “We all have a choice about how we walk through life and what we support,” she says. “I believe in helping others, with a hope that they might also give back.”

TAKE THE NEXT STEPS 

Published October 26, 2023