Gifts of time and treasure

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank

Never is there a month that focuses more on gifts than that of December. We get to experience the joy of receiving the unexpected and the satisfaction of giving to let someone know we care. It’s easy to focus on the physical – the new diamond earrings, the drone, the programmable light switch (hey, we all have our wish lists) – but we know there’s more to it than that. There’s a sense of peace and joy that comes with the twinkling lights and a cup of hot cocoa. I always think to myself, “I wish it could be like this all year long.”

It makes me wonder – what would that look like in the business world? Sure, we give client gifts or take someone to lunch, but is that enough to show we care? What’s under the surface? It’s called social responsibility. But here’s the catch: to do it right, it has to be authentic.

We are blessed as a community to have really active, purposeful nonprofit organizations that support social issues, economic development and preventative health. Not to mention, supporting them has real, positive effects on our employees and our bottom lines. According to a May 2013 study by Cone Communications and Echo Research, 82 percent of U.S. consumers take a company’s adoption of social responsibility into consideration when making purchasing decisions. This could be sponsorships, but it’s also the very culture in which the company operates.

So whether your company encourages it, or you’re looking for more in this life, find your passion and get involved. That doesn’t mean leapfrogging to the board level. If you really want to make a difference, get knee deep in a committee that needs some TLC. Yes, that might be for a prominent organization in town, but it also might be that lesser known group with a heckuva lot of potential.

When the time is right, be a leader. Take that opportunity to join as a board member, but do it knowing that you have a commitment to set an example through time, treasure and passion. When I think of the really active boards in this community – the ones everybody wants to be a part of – they’re chock full of people who live, eat and breathe its mission. I think of people like my friend, Jackie Kouri, who has won awards for her commitment to the nonprofit community. She hasn’t gained that recognition by being involved in anything and everything. She’s been careful to pick those causes she can stand behind. Listen to her talk for 10 minutes about Tulsa Ballet, and you’ll be a raving fan. She can give you 100 reasons why this company is the best in the world – and has the facts to prove it. But ask her about the looming effects of Alzheimer’s disease on our healthcare system, and you will be springing to action to find a cure. That, my friends, is being a passionate community member.

The truth is, when you care, it shows. It’s not all about the connections and rubbing elbows and saying “look at me.” It’s about knowing that you – a person who happens to work at X company – has gifts and talents that are needed by those around you. It’s about knowing that your company has done well in this community and is adamant about giving a piece of that treasure back to those who need it.

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill