Giving Back: Three Best Practices

By Erika Stutzman     |     May 09, 2017
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One of our core values, “Acting out of Love Instead of Fear,” includes a mission of giving back to our community. We’ve built a system in our agency that encourages a culture of giving back, and enables team members to spend time on causes they care about.

We volunteer, and serve on boards and committees of local nonprofits. As individuals, our causes range from easing homelessness to protecting the environment. As an agency, one of our favorite events we do together is the annual March for Babies, a fundraising event for the March of Dimes.

This year’s event included team pages for fundraising, a leaderboard, the walk itself and a house party. Our goal was to raise $5,000 for March of Dimes, which holds a very special place at our agency. We surpassed that goal by almost $1,400 — not including individual gifts donated outside of our team website. (Surpassing our goal was not a surprise — what was a surprise was the weather. It had been in the 70s; we awoke to freezing temps and several inches of snow. Springtime in Colorado is spectacular.)

The March of Dimes supports research, programs and support for premature babies, babies born with health complications, and their families. Room 214 co-founder James Clark’s daughter Josie was born premature, at just 24 weeks. She’s now a healthy teenager, thanks to the work March of Dimes drives and supports. The Clark family’s personal connection to the lifesaving work the March of Dimes does inspires us, and drives this team-building event.

We’re always trying to improve around here, both in professional development and in living our values. To that end, here are some of the major things we learned this year.

Three Best Practices

Select a cause that the team genuinely cares about. Whether your company finds one cause to work toward, or you have a half-dozen issues you support every year, connect with the organizations that reflect your values. There are countless nonprofits that need support. If you pick your favored one simply because it’s the best known, or because you think it will reflect well on your company, that won’t inspire action across the whole team. Having a personal connection to March of Dimes, and through our camaraderie with Josie — who now works in our office — is a powerful driving force. Maybe you have colleagues who are passionate about food insecurity, or who have a connection to a place that has suffered a natural disaster. Or maybe there’s a cause where your time and treasure can have a major, transformative influence. Find a cause that resonates on a personal level.

Remember that inspired giving is fun. Fundraising, food drives, and hands-on volunteering are worthy in and of themselves, and important for companies to do. Giving back is good — but inspired giving is also fun. Remember why you work with your team: You value and respect one another as individuals. To build a strong team and inspire creativity, make your generous culture one that’s social and celebratory as well. After our fundraising, we walked the 5K course in the snow together, and went to an after-party at a colleague’s home.

Celebrate success, and don’t be afraid to address problems. Get the event team or steering committee together very shortly after a fundraising event. Celebrate wins and say “thank you” early and often. That’s a given. But don’t be afraid to bring up issues that can be improved the next time around. Too often, improvements aren’t suggested in a way that can positively impact the next event. That’s a natural instinct: Critiquing fundraising or other acts of generosity feels churlish. By bringing up any qualms or suggestions for improvement when they are top-of-mind means that next year’s event will be stronger, and even more inspired.

 

 

About Erika Stutzman

Erika Stutzman was an award-winning reporter and editor for 20 years at newspapers in Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Washington, D.C. and Boulder, Colorado. Erika enjoys helping Room 214’s team and its clients tell their own unique stories in compelling ways. If she's not writing, she's probably skiing, camping, trail running or at the farmers' market.

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