Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blog For a Cure -Giveaway

I have several friends and a relative who have fought this illness. There is only one more day to help raise money, but any donation will be appreciated. Blog For A Cure is a blog party that will connect new bloggers from all walks of life, while offering up some great prizes, and raising money to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Click on the badge, sign up, and help raise money!!!!!!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Giving Something Back a Wise Investment

Author: Denice Gierach

Business people generally get a bad rap in the general press and the movies trying to make the business of making money a bad thing. The reality is that many businesses that are successful have a genuine desire to give back to the community, which they do in many ways. There are literally thousands of charities in the Chicago metropolitan area, all of which need help in the form of donations, manpower or active participation. Charities rely principally on volunteers who provide the service directly to that charity’s intended beneficiaries. However, many of them also need business people who can sit on the charity’s board and help to direct the business of the charity.

Whether your background is in general management, accounting, legal or sales, these charities can use your help in guiding them towards fulfilling their mission of helping people. If you serve on the board of directors, besides helping to guide the business of the charity, you will also be expected to help to raise funds to keep the charity in operation. Many boards expect that you with either “give or get” a certain amount of money to contribute to the charity. This may be contributed to various fundraisers for the charity that you will attend and invite your friends and business contacts.

The need has grown so much in DuPage County, for instance, that many of the charities have outgrown their space and are looking to either to lease another space or to buy or build another building. As in any business, there are a myriad of questions that need to be addressed in determining whether to move. Beside the basic one of need, there are many questions as to whether the charity can afford to pay the additional rent or raise the additional capital to build a building, if the new property is in a good location to be accessible to the charity’s constituents, if the building has any possibility for growth of the charity in the future, if the configuration of the building will work for the charity, to name but a few. Many times it is essential for the business owner board of director to give input to the charity, as the leaders of the charity have no real business background. They have to rely upon the board to give the proper direction.

If you do not have the time to devote towards being on the board, it is still a good idea for the business owner to participate in their favorite charity by sponsoring various events and providing manpower to help at the different events which may range from golf outings to galas to Ribfests to house raffles to Soup’s On which benefits local food pantries. The types of fundraisers are endless depending on the type of charity. There are also many ways to leave your legacy behind and benefit your favorite charity either while you are alive or after you have passed away, using techniques such as the donation of a life insurance policy that you continue to pay the premiums, using a gift annuity, setting up a charitable remainder trust or using a charitable lead trust. Sometimes this memory is in the form of your name on a building or your name on a particular office or laboratory or a scholarship fund. While this may seem egotistical at first blush, telling your story and your connection to the charity may be inspirational to others who become connected to that charity and especially to your children, who will find out from you first hand that it is not “always about them.”

While all of this is done in the spirit of giving back to the community, you will find that you get many things back from the charity, as well. Besides having fun at the events, you will find that some of the skills that you do not normally use in your business as that skill has been delegated to another person in your organization are now useful. You may also find that some of the people on the board become your best friends, based upon this one shared interest in helping out the charity. It is certainly true that in giving back you receive.

Article Source:

About the Author:
Denice A. Gierach is a lawyer and owner of The Gierach Law Firm in Naperville. She is a certified public accountant and has a master's degree in management. She may be reached at

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Shining a Light On Shine a Light Program

This summer and fall, American Express and NBC Universal is sponsoring a "Shine A Light" competition as part of their program which supports small businesses. They have invited online submissions of stories about small businesses that adopt an innovative approach to surviving tough times, set customer service as a business priority, and give back to their community.

This is their explanation and description of their contest: "What is "Shine A Light"? "Everyday small business are leading our country and their local communities to a new and better way of working and thinking. Through good times and bad, their resilience and entrepreneurial spirit can serve as an inspiration to us all." The small business winner of this competiton will receive marketing support and a grant of $100,000.00 to further their business mission.

I learned of this competition too late to nominate two small businesses in my area that I have written about and that meet the competition criteria: In Her Shoes, in Palo Alto, which donates all of their profits to the Global Fund for Women, and Mission Street Food in San Francisco, which donates all of their profits to weekly designated charities.

My congratulations to the three finalists of the competition: Sacred Wind Communications, Beacon Paint and Hardware, and Happy Baby. I would like to "shine a light' on the particular ways each of them is contributing back to their community.

Sacred Wind Communications (SWC) is a for-profit telecommunications company that employs 40, mostly Navajo people, in New Mexico. Many of their customers have never had a computer or even owned a telephone and now are able to search for jobs and to have access to educational resources. SCW also funds the non-profit Sacred Winds Communications Community Connect program, which provides computer training programs and scholarships to the Navajo community.

Beacon Paint and Hardware, in Brooklyn, NY, is an integral part of their community by sponsoring local paint and cleanup days, supporting the local public schools with paint and materials for events and new school buildings. They also are the primary sponsor for an annual fundraiser for the Xeroderma Pigmentosum Society. XP is an illness where children cannot be exposed to daylight.

HAPPYBABY organic baby food, in addition to being the first baby food company of its kind using organic, sustainable ingredients, and has expanded its product line to include toddler snacks and meals, has created a local Community Marketing Specialist Program which educates parents about the importance of organic, fresh, and healthy foods to the development of a baby's health and well-being. The company supports Project Peanut Butter, that helps feed a starving child in Africa for an entire day for each unit sold by HAPPYBABY.

The Shine A Light business directory also contains a list of all the nominated small businesses. This directory was developed to help customers connect with and support the small businesses in their community. I have read the stories of some of the 432 nominations, all of which are very deserving of their nominations as they have contributed to their communities in so many ways.

In addition to hosting this competition, Shine a Light hosts an online support site with a discussion board for small businesses and an expert advice forum.

I haven't decided which of three nominations I will vote for-it's a tough choice. Certainly all three deserve to receive the economic boost and marketing help to their venture.
You can find more information about each of the finalists and have a chance to vote at:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Micro-volunteering, a Big Idea for Small Businesses

Small businesses that find it hard to take time a full day off to volunteer can take advantage of the innovative idea of micro-volunteering. The idea of leveraging "every little bit" of time has been applied to using a computer or cell phone to do something good for the world, through a crowdsourcing technology developed by the company, the Extraordinairies.

The Extraordinaries partners with nonprofit organizations and cause-oriented groups and creates a set of micro-actions on their platform that links to the non-profit's needs. This allows individuals to sign up for on-the-spot volunteering using the software application on their computer or cell phone.

As an entrepreneur or small business owner you are often working around the clock fulfilling all the roles in the company. By capturing those seemingly wasted moments of time like waiting in line at the post office, bank, or for a doctor's appointment you can still use your time, energy and skills towards some social good.

Micro-volunteers can participate in all kinds of worthwhile projects: exotic projects like transcribing ancient texts, or tagging images for the Smithsonian; fun projects like mapping playspaces for Kaboom or taking photographs for police investigations; community projects like mapping waste-water use or local potholes. Tying these causes to the values, core strengths and the purpose of the company will give you the satisfaction of contributing to the benefit of society in a way that is meaningful to you and your business.

How does micro-volunteering help? An example of one of the volunteer jobs, translating documents or websites could save a non-profit about $.14 a word for Spanish, or as much as $1.50 a word for Swahili in translating services.

If your business has employees that are interested in becoming involved, they too can micro-volunteer during some of their down time, using the computer or their smart phones at the office. This gives employees the opportunity to be engaged in the values and the greater purpose of the business which helps build employee morale and commitment.

But be careful, they might have so much fun they won't get back to work!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Restaurants' Cause Marketing Programs to Help Meals on Wheels Charity

Restaurants in New York, San Francisco and South Florida Team up for the Perfect Pairings Menu Campaign to Support Local Meals-on-Wheels Programs, PRWeb, Sept.15
"Throughout October, restaurants in New York City, San Francisco and South Florida team up for the Perfect Pairings (SM) Menu Campaign, a first-of-its kind cause marketing campaign benefiting local Meals-on-Wheels programs. Participating restaurants will feature deliciously paired food and beverage items on their menus designated by the Perfect Pairings fork+bottle logo. When diners order these items, $1 of each pairing is directly donated to the corresponding local beneficiary: Citymeals-on-Wheels in New York City; Meals on Wheels of San Francisco; and Florida's Cooperative Feeding Program. Featured pairings include both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, savory and sweet dishes alike.

Diners and avid foodies can browse a complete list of participating restaurants, learn more about the beneficiaries, and discover new ways to pair food and drink starting October 1st at the official website:"

Posted using ShareThis

Monday, September 14, 2009

How Charities Can Help Small Business

Charities that are tired of the endless solicitation for donations and sponsorships from local businesses can try a new creative approach , a cause marketing partnership. Non-profits can propose a plan to their business supporters that can bring mutual benefits to both parties. The non-profit can bring more customers to the business, advertise the business on their own sites, and share in some of the advertising and promotion costs.

Success stories such as the RED campaign or the Susan G Komen for the Cure, show that when charities approach businesses with a cause marketing proposal that works for both sides it can become as a successful fundraising avenue for the charity and a great marketing approach for the business.

But as in any new approach it needs consideration and planning.

Michael and Shirley Tomberlin's blog site: causemarketing101, has great posts about non-profits using cause marketing relationships for their fundraising. In their latest post: "How Does Cause Marketing Work" defines cause marketing and lists the basic steps non-profits need to take to set up a cause marketing partnership. They are:

1. Find a company and a program that fits your goals and form a partnership.
2. Publicize the partnership to your members and the community. Make them aware of how they can support your ‘cause’. (The company can help with this)
3. Provide your members and the community at large a way to purchase the products. (A good company will do this part)
4. Go about your daily activities of supporting your cause and let the company handle all the money and inventory and delivery problems.
5. Use the funds generated to do the ‘good’ your non-profit was set up to do.

Business donations to charity have taken a tumble, but cause marketing has had a big surge. This has created some wonderful opportunities for innovative approaches in business philanthropy using cause marketing that even small businesses can take advantage of.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Community As Partnership of Individuals, Businesses, and Organizations

Let me get on my business philanthropy soapbox for just a minute.

I just came from an annual awards breakfast for a community organization, CSA in Mountain View, CA that provides services to the homeless, the poor, seniors and the sick in our area. The statistics about the rise in need for services were shocking.

What was heartwarming to see were not only the individuals that were mentioned for their support, faith-based organizations, local organic farms, and food markets. Especially honored was a for-profit hospital, El Camino Hospital, that contributed $100,000.00 dollars towards the organization's Senior Health Services and Dr Mary Lou De Natale, who works with the volunteer nurses.

Best of all, was the guest speech given by Jose Antonio Vargas, a young Pulitzer prize winning reporter formerly of the Washington Post and now with the Huffington Post, who graduated from our local high school. He began his speech with a definition of community from Webster's as: a unified body of individuals. What struck him was that a community could be made of individuals with differences that came together for a common purpose. He recounted how the community supported him even though he was different and how he sought to focus on the subject of differences throughout his career in journalism.

A community that can support the needs of individuals involves partnerships between the various constituents of that community. This community partnership was evident for the most part. But, what was notable to me was the lack of presence of business at this event. Now, in all fairness, CSA has a wonderful partnership with and support from local restaurants in a program, Chefs Who Care, where one restaurant a month hosts a fundraiser for the organization. And when the organization put out an SOS that the food pantry was bare, the local paper, the Los Altos Town Crier, ran a front page story, which caused many businesses to put out food collection bins, and created a flood of donations from the community in general.

But the tables at this event were composed of wonderful individual supporters and other community organizations, no businesses that I could see.

"We need to inspire individuals in the community to step up to the plate," said  one of the speakers. My comment to the head of the CSA: "We need to inspire businesses as members of the community to step up to the plate." He smiled, I think with hope.

Now I can step off my soapbox.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Partnerships Between Businesses, Non-Profits and Other Businesses

"It was heartening to discover than many businesses, despite their own financial hardships, are recognizing this fact. I learned this during my interview with Terry Kellogg, CEO of 1% For The Planet, a nonprofit whose sole purpose is to help businesses help the environment by providing a third-party seal of authenticity for their philanthropic efforts -- a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for the 21st century, if you will. One percent of total sales may not sound like a whole lot, but let me assure you that it can amount to quite a commitment, especially for businesses struggling during the economic downturn."

Partnerships between businesses and non-profits, businesses and other businesses, appear to be the most effective force for change. Even small businesses that feel their impact is no more than a drop in the bucket , by partnering with others can turn that drop into a ripple that can then turn into a wave, as Linda Resnick aptly put in this post.

Comment posted on Lynda Resnick: Doing Well by Doing Good -- Together at using Reframe It

Friday, September 4, 2009

Getting To Know- Better World Books- Better /Part I

Last June we posted a story about one of our favorite "business that cares" Better World Books. Subsequently, I have had the pleasure to interview Xavier Helgesen, one of the founders. I have since then learned a lot more not only about how it started, but also about the inspiration behind it, the partnerships with the non-profits they support, their mission to save millions of books from landfills and to support worlwide literacy programs. It was also interesting to hear from Xavier about what it takes to be a social entrepreneur: the challenges, the obstacles, but also the passion.

Better World Books has created a triple bottom line enterprise that is an exemplary model of innovation for affecting social change while focusing on the profitability of the business. So, this prompted me to write yet another post about them-well-two posts actually, as the actual interview will be Part II.

Better World Books offers a personal touch while engaging the customer too. After recently making a purchase, I received notice of my order and delivery status that included a personal letter:

(Your book(s) asked to write you a personal note - it seemed unusual, but who are we to say no?)
Holy canasta! It's me... it's me! I can't believe it is actually me! You could have picked any of over 2 million books but you picked me! I've got to get packed! How is the weather where you live? Will I need a dust jacket? I can't believe I'm leaving Mishawaka, Indiana already - the friendly people, the Hummer plant, the Linebacker Lounge - so many memories. I don't have much time to say goodbye to everyone, but it's time to see the world!

I can't wait to meet you! You sound like such a well read person. Although, I have to say, it sure has taken you a while! I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but how would you like to spend five months sandwiched between Jane Eyre (drama queen)and Fundamentals of Thermodynamics (pyromaniac)? At least Jane was an upgrade from that stupid book on brewing beer. How many times did the ol' brewmaster have one too many and topple off our shelf at 2am?
I know the trip to meet you will be long and fraught with peril, but after the close calls I've had, I'm ready for anything (besides, some of my best friends are suspense novels). Just five months ago, I thought I was a goner. My owner was moving and couldn't take me with her. I was sure I was landfill bait until I ended up in a Better World Books book drive bin. Thanks to your socially conscious book shopping, I've found a new home. Even better, your book buying dollars are helping kids read from Brazil to Botswana.

Better Worlds Books’ strength lies in their philosophy of partnership and engagement with the stakeholders. It’s a philosophy that includes everyone -even people like me - in the success of the venture.

Aside from the sweet touch of the orphan letter, Better World Books ensures their customer service meets the highest standards. Their ethos of social consciousness applies to all - employees, customers, their global literacy partners, even their financiers and local community.

It may not be businesslike to say, but I truly love this company!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Building on the Best of Business Philanthropy-Six Months of Looking Back and Looking Forward

I just passed my sixth month anniversary of writing this blog. This has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done because it has given me a birdseye view and an appreciation of the many ways that businesses have contributed to solving problems in local their communities and in the world.

These stories about business philanthropy serve as examples of inspiration and caring and about "how to give and get back." They also reveal the common factors that contribute to the successful carrying out of a philanthropy program or project.

These are key factors and themes that I think stand out:

They have a mission and purpose for their philanthropy.

Whether it’s a bigger company like Sleep Train that has made a commitment to the helping foster kids in California by collecting shoes and other items year round, or a small shoe repair shop that I stumbled upon the other day that collects old shoes for the homeless, they have a clear sense of who they want to help, why they want to help, and how they can achieve that.

They partner with others to better achieve their philanthropic goals.

Partnership with customers in raising money for a charity.
It’s easy to immediately engage a customer in supporting a cause by simply collecting donations at the checkout: Whole Foods does it for their own foundation or for a local charity; a small local fitness center like Curves has a canned food drive; customers buy the yellow capped bottle of Tide laundry detergent that donates a portion of the proceeds of the sale to families affected by natural disasters. Consumer philanthropy is becoming an increasingly more significant part of business philanthropy and more and more business are coming up with ways to involve the consumer in their giving.

Partnership with other businesses creates more impact and results.
The Chamber of Commerce in Mountain View, CA has developed a Shop Local program with“ a heart” where businesses have partnered to support local schools while attracting more customers to their businesses. In Detroit Michigan, businesses have joined together to sponsor fun fundraising events for the Live to Give Foundation that helps needy and homeless families. Mission Street Food in San Francisco describes the effort between themselves, the chefs, and the restaurant they work with, as a charitable collaboration. Collaboration once again seems to be a very powerful way for business to do good.

Partnership with the charity creates benefits to both.
Corporate sponsorships have been around for a long time, but involvement with the charity by contributing other resources of time and expertise adds more benefit to both the business and the charity. While donations have declined in the last year, cause marketing has seen a big rise. Cause marketing helps both the cause and the business increase their visibility to the public and gain a positive brand image. Companies like the The Gap have partnered with the RED campaign, which has brought attention to and to raise money for AIDS in Africa. On a local level, a community charity, CSA in Mountain View CA, has partnered with several restaurants for a monthly event, Chefs Who Care, that raises money for the charity, and has brought tons of publicity to the partnering restaurants.

They utilize other non-financial resources.

Volunteering their time and expertise and pro-bono services to non-profits have risen dramatically in recent years. Studies have shown that volunteers become donors and that holds true in for businesses also. Information for developing a successful Employee Volunteer Program is at Points of Light Foundation. Information for local volunteer opportunities can be found through Hands On Network, the volunteer-focused arm of Points of Light Institute, which is the largest volunteer network in the nation and includes more than 250 Hands On Action Centers in the country.
In-kind donations, where a business can donate its services or goods are well received by non-profits as reduces their operational costs as well as can be counted as contributions.

They think about how their giving goes further.
Anyone who watches public television can see how corporate matching funds are an effective method for increasing private donations. This method is also useful for small businesses that are unable to donate huge amounts on their own. There are many other ways to “multiply” a donation amount. A small real estate business owner in the state of Washington gave each employee 500.00 to donate to a charity. Every single employee came up with a creative way to use the initial amount and expand it.

While the economy has forced businesses to cut back on their philanthropy, at the same time innovative thinking has made it easier than ever for business to engage in charitable giving and to continue to “do well by doing good." Most importantly, when a business really wants to contribute, no matter how limited the resources are, they are so many ways that this can be accomplished. This is less about capability and more about the desire. And my desire for the next six months (and further) is to help businesses to build and expand their contribution to their communities and the world.