The Karma of Pro Bono Work

Charity Helps Your Agency Brand; That's Nothing to Be Ashamed Of

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Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
Our local business newsweekly, the Philadelphia Business Journal, recently honored the most philanthropic companies in the Philadelphia/South Jersey/Delaware region. To our surprise and delight, our agency was named the No. 1 Most Charitable Company among all companies up to 100 employees. The metric was for all in-kind and cash contributions to nonprofit causes in a single year.

To be honest, we never measured the amount of contributions we donated each year; it has been merely a way of doing business at our shop for 44 years. As my dad (founder of our agency) says, "Giving back to the community is the right thing to do." But when the first Corporate Philanthropic Summit was announced, we were asked to measure our contributions. I must admit, even I was a little taken back at how much we donated to area charities. (You should try it yourself -- I bet you, too, will be surprised.) The large total won't change how we approach giving back, though. It's a fundamental part of our culture.

We have never sought the limelight for our philanthropy. And we likely wouldn't have, had it not been for this summit. While getting recognized for our philanthropy was exciting, it made us realize how important it is to our company's brand. It's also something every small agency should give more thought to. So here are some ideas for those of you who are also doing the right thing, but aren't necessarily recognized for doing so:
  • Be singular in your giving. There surely is no shortage of nonprofits seeking your pro bono counsel, but it's been our experience that if you pick your cause (no more than one or two), then you can make a difference. Conversely, if you help a dozen organizations just a little bit, you'll do neither your agency nor the organizations much good.

  • Get connected. if you are going to give of your valuable time, choose a cause that you are passionate about -- and one that has a powerful board of directors. Your good deeds deserve to be rewarded by the grateful directors who also happen to run large, for-profit companies.

  • Do spectacular work. This may seem obvious, but often intentions to do great work get bogged down in the politics of the nonprofit administrators. Vet your opportunities carefully to determine how the decision-making process will be done. That will be telling about your chances to get great work through.

  • Spread the gospel. Share your good deeds with your employees; let them know how important giving back to the community is to your agency. That source of pride will boost morale. Also, it can help your recruiting efforts. Who wouldn't want to work for a company that has a big heart?
These are but a few ways to make the most of all you do for your community. I'm sure you can think of many more. The point is, serving others has many benefits, and, done properly, comes back to positively impact the cause, and your agency, alike.
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