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Helping Others Is Good

Darrin Gross's picture

During the holiday season our office volunteers at a local soup kitchen. We work side-by-side with the regular volunteers preparing lunch and serving it to local people in need. The kitchen’s clients run the gamut from families with children to adult men and women down on their luck. Many of the clients are homeless and some display signs of mental illness. On my volunteer day we served over 600 meals in just a couple of hours. The appreciation on the faces of the clients was effusive and the sense of helping those less fortunate appeared to buoy the spirits of the volunteers.

Immediately following my shift I drove back to the office to prepare for our post season departmental outing. As I drove it occurred to me that my typical cynical outlook had been replaced with a smile on my face and a whistle on my lips…I felt good. As I continued my trek to the Coliseum I explored my euphoric state further and came to one very simple explanation, helping others is good. That’s it. Nothing earth shattering – helping others is good.

In the world of sports and entertainment we have many opportunities to help those in need. This can be accomplished via your team’s community relations department, Foundation or though thoughtful creative corporate partnerships. As it has become increasingly difficult to mine for traditional sponsorships, the community/charitable angle can be a great conversation starter and eventually lead to an integrated partnership with a community/charitable asset as its centerpiece.

For the purpose of this column I will assume that everyone is familiar with sponsorship programs tying donations of dollars to the accomplishment of certain in-game events. For every strike out recorded by the home team’s pitcher $50 is donated to a local food bank or for every three-point basket scored during the month of December $100 goes to the Boys & Girls Club. These types of programs are great; they are easy to explain to both client and fan, and are not difficult to administer. If you are not engaging in programs like these you should. For the 2012 season the A’s raised over $50,000 with a “Win’s” program supported by our accounting partner, with all proceeds going directly to Oakland schools. Depending on how the program is set up, your Foundation (501c3) may be able to contribute matching funds as well.

The examples above are good, however not likely to be the cornerstone of a partnership.

Several years ago I worked with a corporate partner in the retail mattress business. During our annual business review and needs assessment meeting we asked the retailer if they supported any local causes. They enthusiastically told us of their close tie with a local foster kids program and their corporate mission to help improve the foster care system and the lives of the affected kids. They also noted that this was a year round effort, not just something they did during the holidays.
Armed with this new knowledge we commenced a brainstorming session back at the park and created a program we knew they would love. The idea we came up with would help enhance the lives of over 50 foster kids, reinforce our partner’s commitment to the community and solidify the renewal and up sell of a key team sponsor.

Our idea was to have our soon to be renewed partner host a sleepover at our ballpark for 50 foster kids. The team would provide game tickets, ball caps, dinner and breakfast (donated by our concessionaire and grocery partners), a movie on our video board after the ball game and staff for the event. We asked our mattress partner to provide an introduction to the foster group they worked with and 50 beds for the kids to sleep on. Then, as a total surprise to the kids and their foster families the retailer would donate and deliver the beds to each foster kid’s home. The donation of beds was kept a secret until the next morning. When told they would be able to keep the beds several kids broke down and cried (so did our staff) as for many of these children this was the first real bed they had ever slept on.

To further this wonderful event our media relations department sent out a press release and several local media outlets conducted interviews with our partner, our team and administrators from the foster kid’s program. To protect the identity of the children none were shown on camera, but a couple chose to share their stories with the media and talk about their night at the ballpark. The following week we received a thank you note from every child and many drew pictures of their exciting sleepover experience or of themselves sleeping in their newly donated bed.

This story could end here, but it’s important to mention the ancillary benefits of giving. As we returned to work the next day we noticed an immediate uptick in moral, albeit we were a bit tired, but everyone had smiles on their faces. From a sponsorship standpoint we were able to renew and up sell a corporate partner while meeting their stated objectives (ROO – Return on Objective). Additionally, the sleepover motivated my team to come up with more programs designed to help those in need and in turn they became more confidant pitching and selling community/charitable assets moving forward.
In Oakland, our volunteerism was spread over an entire week and each afternoon upon the return of that day’s volunteers everyone shared their stories. Several walked down to our manager of community relations and thanked her for providing this opportunity to give back.

The intent of this story is not to be preachy, but to remind us all that we should look at our teams as community assets. As community assets we have an obligation to help those less fortunate in our communities. Tying in corporate partners should not been seen as opportunistic, but rather as an opportunity to do more to help further our partners goals and objectives while positively affecting the regions in which we work. To take credit for these types of programs should not be viewed as self serving, but rather as a catalyst to those who see what has been done and then choose to act, because after all, helping others is good. Happy Holidays!

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