Giving back is something many companies like to claim, but what kind of giving do they do and is it heartfelt? Although monetary donations can do amazing things for worthy causes, it's often hard to tell whether companies are donating for the benefit of the recipients or for tax and public relations benefits. Giving back should not be a box checked off a list; it should be something meaningful, useful, and most importantly, personal. This can mean different things to different people, but the best kind of giving back is connected to a cause that you, your employees, and your firm are passionate about.Actualize Consulting-a financial consulting firm with offices in Northern Virginia and New York-found such a cause in The Doe Fund, a non-profit organization that helps homeless people rebuild their lives by providing housing, paid work, career counseling, and education opportunities. In conversation with The Doe Fund, Actualize identified three ways they could give back: collecting vegetables for a senior center in Harlem; leading mock-interviews (later this year) for those ready to re-enter the workforce; and making scarves to help keep workers warm in the winter months as they clean New York streets and perform other outside paid tasks sponsored by the program.When Actualize encouraged their employees to get involved in the scarves project, they soon realized they had landed upon a sweet spot-the employees proceeded to hand-sew and embroider 245 scarves! This form of giving was clearly a hit among employees and helped the firm learn why hands-on giving can be so valuable:
1.It's a way to relax and spend time with loved ones.
In such a go-go-go society, it can be hard to find time to unwind and catch up with those who are important to you. Hands-on giving is a catalyst for finding that time. It's not something you can do and just forget about; it takes effort, love, and time.You can set aside the time to relax by yourself, or invite some of your friends to help. One of Actualize's team members who sewed scarves with a friend discovered how precious such time could be: "I always get more than I give when I volunteer," she said. "This time, I got to spend time with a dear friend who is now thousands of miles away. We will both remember how much fun we had together while sewing scarves."
2. You feel connected to those you are supporting.
Especially with gifts that are tangible, you can see the difference you are making in others' lives. The 245 scarves, for example, will provide warmth for 245 people-warmth from the material itself as well as from the personal touch of those who made and embroidered the scarves. The impact of this kind of personal touch is difficult to put into words. In this case, it was maybe a little like receiving 245 hand-written letters versus 245 emails-one takes a little more effort and the message lasts longer.For one Actualize employee who made scarves with her mother-in-law, that message was gratitude: "The Doe Fund is a special organization that myself and my family are excited to continue to support," she said. "Hopefully these gentlemen know how proud we are of them and how grateful we are to be a part of their journey."
3. It connects members of the community through a common goal.
If you have a hands-on "giving-back" idea, try reaching out to your neighbors and friends to see if they would like to help. The spirit of giving should be shared, and it can also be a great way to support small businesses. For The Doe Fund scarf project, Kerry Wekelo, the managing director of human resources and operations for Actualize, enlisted the help of one of her friends who makes and sells scarves. "By working on these scarves," her friend shared, "I was not only able to earn to help my home-being disabled, this was huge for my psyche-but I was also able to create, which is something I thrive on. Most importantly, however, I was able to give back to some very important gentlemen deserving of a little extra warmth. It was my honor to have made these scarves with my hands, but best of all, with all my heart."All forms of giving are important, but the impact of hands-on giving both for you and the people you partner with comes with a special ripple effect. If you are interested in learning more about The Doe Fund, you can visit their website at https://www.doe.org/.About the AuthorKerry Alison Wekelo is the Managing Director of Human Resources and Operations for Actualize Consulting where her Leadership and Wellness programs have successfully influenced a teamwork environment. Kerry is the author of the book Culture Infusion, in which she brings us a front-row seat perspective on her experiences, blending her corporate knowledge with her mindful wisdom. She invites readers to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.Madeline Yaskowski is a junior at Virginia Tech studying public relations and German with a minor in psychology. Madeline is working for the Director of Human Resources Kerry Alison Wekelo at Actualize Consulting this summer. Kerry can be reached at email@example.com