Spirit of Giving

Donating time and skills helps others--and your own company, too

When most companies think of philanthropy, they think of donating money. A more innovative approach is to donate employee or organizational skills, which not only helps the beneficiary organization, but also builds team cooperation and morale.

Take Goodstock, a twenty-four-hour strategic communications marathon run by Knupp & Watson. The event is a nonstop creative think tank and productivity machine at which the company produces marketing goods and services ranging from counseling and logo development to print ads, web-page designs and even donated airtime.

First, nonprofits complete an application that outlines main goals and how the company’s services would aid in achieving them. Then, based on the projects’ feasibility (Could they realistically be completed in twenty-four hours?), diversity in target audiences, project media and company size, Knupp & Watson selects ten organizations to receive their services.

Last year’s participants included Arts Wisconsin, the Madison Public Library Foundation, the Exchange Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Fine Feathered Friends Sanctuary, a group dedicated to the care and placement of exotic birds. Goodstock also expanded, assembling a network of experts to consult on everything from liability and health insurance to 401(k)s and media relations.

President Andy Wallman emphasizes the emotional aspect of the event. “There are always tears, and there is always one great big cry-baby, and last year that was me,” he says. “We are all running on fumes and exhausted, and when you finally get to the finish line, you just collapse.”

Spearheaded by Wallman, who recently purchased the company from its founders, and by vice president Jennifer Savino, Goodstock has completed more than one hundred projects for sixty-plus organizations since its start in 2005. Wallman says Goodstock is a true win-win for both the non-profits and his company. The event boosts Knupp & Watson’s own productivity, and employee reactions to the gratitude of these nonprofits are overwhelmingly positive. “It’s a wonderful kind of crazy,” says Wallman.

For the past five years, Rejuvenation Spa has partnered with Sunset Limousine to provide four shifts of fifteen YWCA residents with haircuts, massages, manicures and refreshments. On Christmas day, Sunset owner Mark Holzhuter drives YWCA residents to the spa, and Martin O’Grady’s Irish Pub provides a three-course turkey dinner. “It’s a humbling experience that many take for granted,” says spa manager Alexandria Benter.

And on Christmas anything can happen. Last year, a woman received a call mid-haircut that her daughter was going into labor. Benter recalls the woman ecstatically screaming, “I’m going to be a grandmother!” Stylists quickly finished her hair and drove her to the hospital. Holzhuter drove the other women back, each with a gift bag of customized Aveeno products.

Klinke Cleaners runs an annual coat drive, Koats for Kids, collecting coats, scarves and gloves from customers. In exchange for each coat, Klinke provides a dry-cleaning coupon. With help from WISC–TV, Community Action Coalition, Magic 98 and Cooperating Congregations of Waukesha County, Klinke averages more than ten thousand coats a year for a total of 227,601 since 1986. Klinke also sponsors All Dressed Up, a program that collects, cleans and gives away dresses and shoes for high school prom-goers. The Suited for Success drive accepts women’s business clothing for cleaning, pressing and delivery to the YWCA.

For one promotion, company president Steven Klinke recalls how “Channel 3 decided to kick off Koats for Kids by interviewing me in a meat locker … It was bone-chilling cold in that freezer!”

After trudging through all the planning and logistics, many can lose the true spirit of helping others—but not these three companies. Steve Klinke puts it best: “It’s not what you think, it’s not what you do for yourself, it’s what you do for others that counts.”

How can your company donate its services to help a nonprofit organization?

Seth Collins is in the honors program at the University of Michigan. Denis Collins is a professor of business at Edgewood College.

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