Friday 18 December 2020

Ebineezer Says Businesses are Making a Big Difference in a COVID Christmas

Ebeneezer says, "Make a COVID Christmas a giving Christmas" 

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. Christmas is a time for sharing out of a pure heart and a desire to make the world a better place to live. 

COVID-19 has increased the needs in our communities to uber-extreme levels. And now we are dealing with a steady flow of new variants. First, there was the Delta, and now we have the Omicron. 

I know many reading this post are without a job. You've been laid off or your job has been moved to other cities and you are faced with the choice and expense of moving.  

Perhaps you own a small business that failed due to the pandemic. Because of it, your employees are without jobs also. 

Families are in distress. All of this has increased pressures at food banks, family resource agencies, addictions recovery organizations and mental health services. I know counsellors who are overwhelmed by the number of people seeking help. 

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 Ebeneezer Scrooge famously said, “I will honour 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 we give? For the most part, we give because it is the right thing to do, not because of societal pressure or a sense of guilt. 

We don’t give because they have to. We give because we can!

During the COVID pandemic, the requests for help are many. Every day businesses receive letters, emails and phone calls pleading for help. I know many companies give even though their accountants tell them they can't afford to!

The challenge is to choose recipients when so many are so desperate. You can't give to everyone. 

At one time in my career, I was a professional fundraiser working for a Public TV and Radio network. When I started my branding business, I also provided fundraising serves for a few organizations. 

I learned from large corporations that the way through the sea of requests is to develop a strategy. Identify areas that need help that are close to your heart. What community needs do your employees care about?  

Identify general categories that are close to your heart, 
those of your employees, and circle of influence.

I suggest focusing on needs within your community. While international needs are also great, it makes sense to make local support a priority in the short term. 

Make a list. It might include...

  • Food supply
  • Homelessness
  • Troubled Youth
  • Mental Health
  • Seniors
  • Education

After making your list, identify organizations that serve within each category. For example, Food Supply may include food banks, school lunches in poor areas, meals on wheels for seniors. 

Helping Others

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

Some can give a little, and some can give a lot. When we all 
give something, great things will happen in the community. 
-Robyn T. Braley

I know leaders who overcame incredible barriers to build something significant. Many started their business with little more than a crazy dream.

  • A major manufacturer immigrated to Canada from Germany carrying all of his possessions in a cloth bag
  • A gentleman came from Italy, got a lowly construction job, and went on to form his own home building company
  • A woman took over her dad's hose supply company and grew it ten-fold

There came a time which each reached out to those with the means to help them. 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 the convention to fund high-risk start-ups that 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 than the one they followed. They particularly love giving a hand up rather than a handout.

Quiet Givers

But, sometimes the latter is necessary. Financial gifts are often given quietly. During the Alberta floods of 2013 five-figure cheques were dropped off at 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 to their shops for refuelling. We are hearing similar stories from the devastating floods in Abbotsford, B.C.

Hundreds of companies and people of wealth have already responded to the COVID crisis and donated to helping organizations. 

Let Others Know
If being a silent giver fits your philosophy, that's O.K. But the challenge of COVID may also be a time to let others know about your kindness. The purpose may not be to draw attention to your company but to be a model and example to others.

Because They Can

  • Some 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 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, organize 50-60 people to build 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-banking programs in developing nations where the subsequent economic benefits and change families and communities forever.

Easier Than You Think

Many companies write a cheque for a cause and then organize employee teams to volunteer for a day as they put funds into action. 

Whether the donation is $500, $5,000, $50,000 or more, the key is to get started. 

The amount of the gift is not as important as the act of doing it. 

There are sound reasons for developing a community action program for your business. 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 the community, they will feel good about the organizations that help make that good thing happen. -Robyn T 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 homeless 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 business owner reading this, I would be amazed if you do not have some kind of strategy for managing donation requests. If you haven’t already done so, why not expand it to involve your employees, their families, suppliers and even clients as volunteer partners? 

Why not form an employee committee to provide input into who you support? Make it a communal effort? 

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 Post COVID Community Action

  1. Challenge employees to raise funds for a shelter, match them 10:1, then organize volunteers to serve a meal or some other activity.
  2. Identify a school that has breakfast or other meal programs, underwrite 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 another 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, timekeepers and other roles.
Robyn T. Braley is a brand specialist, writer, and speaker, 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. 

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Twitter: @robyntbraley

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