GQ's Ideal Gentleman

The Gentlemen's Fund: Where Being Good and Doing Good Intersect

By Published on .

Peter Hunsinger
Peter Hunsinger
Tonight, after many good men are honored, after musical maestro B.o.B rocks New York's Edison Ballroom into a hip-hop frenzy, after Ashton Kutcher heads back to Hollywood and Jimmy Fallon to "30 Rock," after our generous sponsors—Nautica, HP, Gillette, Snickers and Movado—are thanked, and after all 350-plus guests go home, GQ's third annual charity event, the Gentlemen's Ball, will be a wrap, but the spirit of the night will carry on.

Hopefully, we will have done something small yet meaningful to embrace what it means to be a gentleman today. It's why GQ created the Gentlemen's Fund in the first place.

We started the Gentlemen's Fund in 2007. It would be the golden moment to commemorate GQ's 50th anniversary, but above all, it would be the beginning of something good. Our mission was simple: Give our clients a unique platform to elevate their brands and grow their businesses, establish a tangible way to give back through good work and create an initiative that would go beyond the balance sheet—one that would motivate GQ's staff with a greater sense of purpose.

With musician John Legend as our first spokesman, five deserving charities and the support of 90 founding advertisers, we knew the good had started. We then did what GQ does best: We raised awareness for these charities, drummed up donations and broadcast our message with a PSA featuring Mr. Legend, encouraging men to give back.

We stayed out of the business of what we don't do. We didn't create a charity or a 501c3. This enabled us to rely on the expertise of our partner charities and stay clear of nonprofit operations and logistics. It also allowed us to get all of the money raised directly to our partner charities.

In the first year, we raised $900,000 and elevated public awareness around key issues. Our advertising partners were thrilled, which resulted in more business for us. Better yet, it moved the conversation past discounts and deals. Little did we know that putting a stake in the ground to mark GQ's 50th anniversary was just the beginning of something really, really good. Trent Stamp, the founder of Charity Navigator, imparted some words of wisdom to us: "One of the most common mistakes that most fund-raisers make is that they only do it once. And a one time-only event never leaves a footprint." We also found from our research that nearly nine out of 10 men are more likely to purchase a product from a company that gives back. With that, we pressed forward to make the Gentlemen's Fund even better. Every year, the Gentlemen's Fund has grown. Since its inception, we've created several pillars under the Gentlemen's Fund. The pillars represent causes that are important to men, and unite the charity, celebrity ambassador and sponsor. This year's pillars include conservation, education, leadership and hunger. When we look more closely at each pillar, we see that the individual pieces become even stronger together.

At the helm of the conservation pillar is Nautica. Engrained in Nautica's heritage is the ocean, which is why its charity, Oceana, makes so much sense. At the same time, its ambassador, Adrian Grenier, has helped Oceana's efforts to save the bluefin tuna and bring attention to protecting our oceans.

HP, representing the education pillar, has always created innovative tools for modern-day learning. Along with Ashton Kutcher, it is supporting, an online charity that allows individuals to donate educational resources to classrooms in need.

The hunger pillar supports Feeding America in partnership with Snickers. While it may seem counterintuitive, Snickers will donate as many as 3.5 million meals to Feeding America in 2010 with its "Bar Hunger" campaign. David Arquette champions our efforts here, and not only does he volunteer weekly at his local food bank, he's also very active in Feeding America.

No brand knows men quite like Gillette, which represents our leadership pillar. Jimmy Fallon is the ambassador, and the charity is the Natural Resources Defense Council. This year has been a particularly poignant time to recognize the leadership of the men and women who have been working to clean up and protect the Gulf Coast.

Finally, GQ, along with Movado, held the third annual Better Men, Better World Search. Each year, GQ accepts hundreds of nominations from across the country in its search for men who dedicate their time and energy for the betterment of society--extraordinary efforts put forth by ordinary guys. Through charitable work, volunteerism and community involvement, these men embody what it truly means to be a gentleman.

Which brings us back to one of the reasons we started this whole thing.

There was a time when being a gentleman held serious weight. But then, the notion of a gentleman morphed into a strange caricature, connoting tops hats and tuxedo tails. Before long, every club that used the word made what was supposed to be gentlemanly into something it was not.

With the Gentlemen's Fund, GQ sought to reclaim the definition of what it means to be a gentleman: to give added purpose to what we do, to be a great brand-builder and to provide a closer connection to GQ's customers at both the consumer and trade levels.

To date, the Gentlemen's Fund has raised more than $3 million for charity and spread even more good will among our sponsors. Ultimately, it's not only good business, but we've moved closer to our goal of better men, better world, too.

Peter Hunsinger is publisher of GQ.
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