How You Can Make A Difference

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The generosity and passion of individuals committed to special causes is undeniably making an impact in the world. By encouraging that spirit, we will continue to strengthen our contribution and help foster a culture of giving. Our motivations for giving span from different experiences or influences. In some cases, it could be a close family member or friend who has experienced or suffered a loss due to an illness or disease. In other cases, someone may have personally witnessed disasters or visited underdeveloped regions that trigger the motivation to support that cause. Whether you give back as individuals or corporations, you can all make a difference.
According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are 1.5 million non-profit organizations in the U.S. with more than 30,000 new organizations registering in the last six months. Over $1.5 trillion have been reported in total revenues and, of that figure, 22% has come from contributions. Charitable contributions reached $300 billion last year. According to the Foundation Center, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation raised $33 billion in the fiscal year 2009, with the Ford Foundation and The Getty Trust coming in at $10 billion. Wouldn’t you want some of these funds to go to something about which you care?

Many times we often find it difficult to relate to a certain cause if we have not personally experienced hardship. However, there are many organizations that can cater to one’s personal interests. For example, surfers donate to the SurfRider Foundation, which raises funds for the coastline of California. Or, you may be interested in supporting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), which raises funds for diabetes research.
JDRF hosts two major events a year including a Walk to Cure Diabetes and a Ride to Cure Diabetes. In 2010, the Walk to Cure Diabetes raised $700,000, with the help of their major sponsor Coca-Cola.
Approximately 30% of Americans over the age of 16 volunteered for an organization last year, and this number is rising. Nevertheless, there are many other causes that may just simply be of interest to you. For example, if you enjoy bike riding, walking or other outdoor activities, you can consider benefiting the community and the children at the same time.

Let me just share with you where my inspiration came from. I was introduced to corporate philanthropy, and charitable giving, by the leadership of a good friend, Lorraine Steihl. Lorraine’s passion, her advocacy, and her decades of work in this area have proven to be invaluable to many organizations. Her experience includes making a presentation in favor of stem cell research to the California State Legislature. This was in support of the State’s Proposition 71 Ballot Initiative. She’s been in the forefront of this major movement to support diabetes research and, the most inspiring part of all of this, is the fact that her husband, Chris Steihl, is a Type 1 diabetic living with the disease. He recently had a successful kidney transplant. Today, Chris and Lorraine are prominent people in the business community and have been tremendous role models in my life. They were my inspiration, and were the ones who helped me recognize this passion to help others.
So, who has been an inspiration to you? It can be a life-changing opportunity for you whether you are lucky enough to have someone motivate you, or, are able to develop a curiosity. For example, in today’s economically challenging environment for companies employees can find a way to make a difference for charities with a company’s tight dollars. When attempting to approach your company about a new charitable contribution, one can use some personal experiences and creativity to accomplish this goal. Here’s how I did it:
While working at Nicholas-Applegate, I was appointed to serve on the firm’s Charitable Giving Committee. By serving on this committee, I gained a better understanding of the charity selection process, funding requirements, public relations, and philosophy of the corporation. With some key contacts in the biotechnology field, I worked diligently to introduce the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) to the firm. However, the committee presented a challenge by requiring focus within the local community.
Convinced that Nicholas-Applegate could make a difference in the lives of children with diabetes, I set out to demonstrate to them how JDRF impacts the local community. Since its founding in 1970 by parents of children with Type 1 diabetes, JDRF has awarded more than 1.5 billion dollars to diabetes’ research, including more than 107 million dollars in the fiscal year 2010. More than 80% of JDRF’s expenditures directly support research and research-related education. And, while the organization is made up of 100 locations worldwide, it also has a very active local chapter that contributes to the local community. I support the DiaBuddies Program, founded as a student service organization at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) campus. It raises awareness about diabetes on campus and helps with events in the San Diego community. Similarly, the Family Network Program helps to connect families suffering from diabetes by hosting fun-filled activities for families to enjoy.
So, with all of this, I prepared and presented a proposal to my company for a sizeable grant for JDRF. This effort required the gathering of critical data and the support from the Director of the San Diego chapter of JDRF. I clearly demonstrated the benefits and value of supporting JDRF. Nicholas-Applegate approved my proposal, adding this foundation to its highly selective list of charitable organizations. The firm has also become an active sponsor in the foundation’s numerous fundraising events.
Upon gaining the support from Nicholas-Applegate, I organized a group called the AppleGators to participate in the first sponsored event, the Walk to Cure Diabetes, held on the UCSD campus. I gathered volunteers ready to participate and then prepared them to represent the firm in the walk. All were very proud of their collective contribution. That year’s event welcomed more than 5,000 people and raised $700,000.
This experience allowed me to recognize the importance of social responsibility and motivated me to become actively involved. I continue to serve as an advocate and hope that my passion and commitment will lead others to follow and contribute to social causes.
I recently interviewed Mr. Wing Lam, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Wahoo’s Fish Restaurants. His restaurant locations are in California, Colorado, Texas, Hawaii, and Australia. He is also a Professor of Marketing Communications at Concordia University.
He explains his strategic approach and his theory that he uses to attract companies to give back to the community. As Mr. Lam states, “You can run a successful business and still be a part of your community. You don’t have to keep every penny that you make. It’s ok to give a little back and participate in the community that has made you who you are. In fact, if more companies would be more socially responsible in taking care of not only their employees, but of the community, we’d all be in a better place.”
In this interview, Wing Lam shared his insight and experience with charitable giving and how one person can shape the lives of others by following good sound business practices all the while following their heart and their passion.
Here are the highlights of our discussion:
K. Pereles: “While it is an inherently good practice to give back, how might you convince businesses to do it?”
Wing Lam: “Fund-raising activities will be most successful if a triangle approach is employed, with an analysis of the Value Proposition for each:
1. Charity on one corner which receives the funding;
2. Participant on another corner, who is getting something for nothing, i.e. attending an exclusive event or fulfilling his or her passion;
3. On the third corner, we have a Corporation, Celebrity, or Sponsor. These three entities are visible to the community and have community involvement and direct marketing with its targeted customers (The venue is interchangeable with the vendor).”
(Interview Continued…..)

Wing Lam: “This triangle approach works because the celebrity motivates everyone to show up, and gets good public relations by endorsing the company. The celebrity gets attention from the public and gets endorsement from the company. At the same time, the company looks good because it’s doing well on one side, and getting endorsements from the other side. So, the arrows are going every which way. The company is like The Toyota Corporation (Toyota), for example. It looks good because it helps the diabetes foundation and then it has great photo opportunities with celebrities, who help Toyota sell cars. Meanwhile, the public gets to donate money for a charity, while they get to hang out with celebrities. So, it’s a win-win for everyone.
While we all might think, “yes”, it is an inherently good practice to give back to the community, individuals and companies are really not motivated to do it. The cause alone isn’t enough unless somebody they know has something related to it – for example, if their child is diabetic; it’s easy to sell them on juvenile diabetes, and so on.
• Only 10-20% of people involved in any one charity are directly related;
• Another 30-40% are friends of them;
• And the rest have money, but they have no real reason to be there. The reason they’re there is because, they’re going to have a little bit of fun.”
K. Pereles: “How do charities work and operate?”
Wing Lam: “#1. A few people pay and a lot of people get to attend for free. This is the case with golf tournaments, gala dinners, and auctions. All of these things are designed to give people a reason to come: They are going to have a lot of fun, and someone else is going to pay for it.”


(Interview continued…)

Wing Lam: “#2. Everyone pays. An example of this is a 5K Walk/Run where most people who participate are runners, and like to be physically fit. These events are easy, but they are a lot harder to organize because there is only a little bit of money but a lot of people that attend. It’s all about logistics and money.”
K. Pereles: “How did you first get involved with charitable giving?”
Wing Lam: “I had been asked to do so by customers, and to help out a friend, but once I really started diving into charities, I found out they weren’t as efficient as they could be. So, I put my best foot forward, and helped them see that there are better ways to ask for money – so that the return on investment of sending out 100 letters would result in not just receiving one letter in return, but 20-30 solely by the way you ask. The way you ask is the key to success. This is where I started implementing these triangle approaches. It showed that you can’t just ask for money, but, you have to give them a benefit. I turned a lot of non-profits into doing business for profit: You don’t just sell people something for nothing; you sell them something for a benefit. It is good for business if someone can show you the return on investment, and what one can get for their efforts.
Charities have got to give you a good value proposition before you give away your hard-earned money. But why it touches so many of us is because it is motivating to say that maybe, we are not doing enough, and we’re not finding cures fast enough. This makes people like us realize the sense of urgency. Education is the cornerstone of these causes. We all need to become more educated about the research, the cause and the stories. By doing so, we can all make better decisions for the future of those in need.”

(End of Interview highlights)

I challenge each of you to make a difference in someone’s life today. Whether it be through storytelling, monetary donations, or through education. Listening, dreaming, and lending an ear to someone can make all the difference. If you let your guard down, your life will be transformed and so will theirs.

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