Thursday, 18 December 2014

Ebineezer Says Businesses Should Celebrate the Spirit of Christmas All Year Round

Ebeneezer celebrates Christmas all year round 
Written by Robyn T. Braley

The saying never gets old. Christmas is a time for giving. It’s a time for recognizing the needs of others and responding in meaningful ways.

I am truly blest to do business in Canada. I work with clients who have a passion for what they do. Giving back to the community is a key part of their business strategies.
Many do not limit giving to the Christmas season. As Ebineezer Scrooge famously said, “I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all year round.”

Doing the Right Thing
Canadians have a rich history of giving. Why do they give? For the most part, they give because it is the right thing to do, not because of societal pressure or a sense of guilt. They don’t give because they have to. They give because they can!

Helping others in their time of greatest need is in our DNA. In early days, neighbors living in sod huts helped their neighbors survive in -40° winter storms on the wind swept prairies. People stranded in remote fishing villages in the out ports of Newfoundland survived tough times by helping each other. 

We all know leaders who overcame incredible barriers to build something significant. Many started their businesses with nothing more than a crazy dream.

They reached out to those with the means to help. Those individuals took risks by putting their faith in young dreamers believing they had the resolve to make their own crazy dream real. Angel investors went against convention to stake what would become world class enterprises.
So, it stands to reason that many leaders give because they remember their past. Many take great pleasure in helping young people find easier paths to success. They particularly love giving a hand up rather than a hand out.

Quiet Givers
But, sometimes the latter is necessary. Financial gifts are often given quietly. During the Alberta floods of 2013 thousands of dollars were given to organizations on the front lines of recovery efforts. The only instruction was to apply the funds where they would make the greatest difference.

Some companies voluntarily sent huge vacuum trucks into flooded areas to work with emergency crews pumping water out of basements. The only instruction to the operators was to return when the units needed refueling. 

Because They Can

  • Some of my clients pay their own way to join NGO teams in Africa or Asia working on clean water, health or other human service projects.
  • One started a foundation that builds healthy villages for the poorest of the poor in South America. Programs include education, economic growth and healthy living.
  • Each year my Rotary club, made up of business and community leaders, organizes 50-60 people to build 5-6 houses for the poor in Mexico over a 5 day period.
  • A second Rotary team goes to Guatemala to build schools in remote parts of the country. They’ve built 13 to date.
  • Other clients have been instrumental in starting micro-credit programs in developing nations where the subsequent economic benefits revolutionize and change families forever.
Easier Than You Think
A growing trend features companies writing a cheque for a cause and then organizing employee teams to volunteer for a day putting the funds into action. The amount of the gift is not as important as the act of doing it. Whether the donation is $500, $5,000, $50,000 or more, the key is to get started. 

There are sound reasons for instituting a corporate community action program. But, outlining a list of benefits is not the purpose of this article. Except for one;

“When people feel good about an activity that improves and enriches the lives of people in community, they will feel good about the organization that helps make that good thing happen.” RT Braley 

Who are those people? The list below is just a start.

  • Recipients of your gift
  • Employees who volunteer
  • Families of employees
  • Customers
  • Suppliers
  • Investors
  • Community at large
  • You and your executive team

Making A Difference

On pretty well any evening or weekend you will find corporate volunteers at shelters serving meals, at group homes mentoring troubled youth, at the Food Bank filling hampers, mentoring gifted children in school programs, building homes for families in distress and many other community building activities.

If you are a Canadian business owner reading this, I would be amazed if you do not have some kind of donations program. If you haven’t already done so, why not expand it to involve your employees, their families, suppliers and even clients as volunteer partners? 

They will see your company through different eyes. You will see them through different eyes. It’s just the right thing to do.

10 Tips for Starting Community Action
  1. Challenge employees to raise funds for a shelter, match them 10:1, then organize volunteers to serve a meal.
  2. Identify a school that has a breakfast or other meal program, underwrite a food, and release volunteers for a couple of hours to serve the kids.
  3. Collect winter mittens, socks, and coats and have employees deliver them to an agency working with the homeless.
  4. Team with a local service club organizing a program for the poor. Invite leaders to describe the project at a lunch and learn. Present a cheque.
  5. Support a “party” for a local children’s agency with funds and volunteers. The agency will organize it.
  6. Organize a tea and talent night for a subsidized senior’s care centre.
  7. Identify an agency that requires a group home renovation. Write a cheque and organize volunteers for a “reno” day.
  8.  Assign employees to volunteer their skills for a community rodeo, music festival, sports day, or other major event. Become a corporate sponsor.
  9. Clean up a community park or a stretch along a highway. Host a wrap up barbecue.10. Sponsor a kid’s sports team and encourage employees to volunteer as coaches, time keepers and other roles.

Robyn T. Braley is a writer, speaker, marketing specialist and community leader. He is the President of UniMark Creative which focuses on website design, video production, media services (editorial and advertising), and graphic design. Follow @robyntbraley and connect on LinkedIn. 

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