• 22Mar

    imageI recently stumbled across the blog started by my last agency employer, Allison & Partners. I may as well get the platitudes out of the way up front. I have worked for a number of agencies and Allison & Partners is far and away the best place I have ever worked, and they are committed to delivering superior results. Thank God I love consulting because Allison & Partners has spoiled me for any other agency job. And I was gratified to see the title of the blog is “It’s About the Work.” I recall the first Allison corporate retreat where employees from offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego gathered in Pismo Beach to map out the company’s future. I was one of the members of the committee that captured the core values of the firm, and I guess it has stood the test of time. 

    And this past week I have been sharply reminded why the work matters. I have been doing some pro bono work for Lifehouse, a local organization that helps people with developmental disabilities lead independent lives. Mostly I have been helping them promote fund raisers, which is rewarding and interesting in itself, but this month they approached me with a real problem. As you know, the state of California is in a fiscal crisis, and they are threatening to cut vital funding for Medi-Cal Intermediate Care Facilities (ICF). What this means is that non-profit organizations like Lifehouse will be forced to close some of their care facilities, in essence making their clients homeless.

    What is really heart breaking about this is many of these clients have lived for years, even decades in these care homes. The residents and caretakers have become family and this budget cut will force these family groups to disband. And these people can’t advocate for themselves, which is why they depend on organizations like Lifehouse to advocate for them.

    What’s even more ridiculous is that by cutting Medi-Cal funding to ICF homes, the state is increasing its overall costs. Those with developmental disabilities will need care because they can’t care for themselves, so if the state cuts funding to support ICF homes and those homes are forced to close, the state will have to pick up the cost of care at three times the expense, or more. The California Association of Health Facilities estimates that a small community-based ICF home serving six residents costs $70,000 per person per year. The same care in a State Developmental Center would cost $300,000 per year. How much sense does that make?

    So this is one occasion where the work is its own reward, and I am happy to do what I can to help. I am applying what I know to get the word out about this issue which could impact more than 7,000 people across the state. I don’t see this as a local or government spending issue, but one of humanity where we need to care for a group that need our care and concern. And I am glad that I am in a position to bring my expertise to help spread the word.

    If you read this, I hope you will spread the word as well.

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  • 22Sep

    I recently posted a blog entry about the benefits of pro bono work. I posted the blog as a discussion topic on one of my LinkedIn forums and got a lot of interesting feedback as to why PR professionals should take on pro bono work. Here are just a few of the responses:

    “Many of my pro-bono clients have hired me later. Even if they don’t, they often provide great resume entries. In return for my work, I typically get letters of recommendation, introductions to valuable networking contacts, enthusiastic referrals to other potential clients, and an opportunity to demonstrate my commitment to improving our community and nation by supporting a worthy cause.”

    “I usually choose to work pro bono in an industry that I want to learn more about. I always let the client know that I haven’t worked in that industry and we experiment together. I have gotten paid work from it – and it is a lot of fun.”

    “And pro bono work often means an opportunity to be a bit more creative than usual, not having a client’s constraints.

    And then I saw this interesting story in the New York Times that features one of my affiliate clients, Gumas Advertising, among others. As agency president John Gumas says in the article:

    “In good times, we did not have to scrutinize our charitable giving or employee perks… But in these economic times, we’ve really had to think through what we could afford to give and still be able to make a difference.”

    One of the things about an economic slowdown is it gives you more time to think about developing your business and evaluating what’s important for growth, including where where to commit your free time and resources. Some companies are increasing their charitable programs because they keep staff busy and focused. John, for example, uses the work Gumas Advertising does for the San Francisco Giants Community Fund as a focal point to pump up the staff and get their creative juices flowing. Gumas has been working for the Giants for a long time (as the memorabilia in John’s office attests) and having more time available means the agency has more opportunity to give back to the San Francisco community. For John, this is part of his philosophy of corporate karma, ““When you are doing the right things for the right reasons, good things will come of it.”

    So when the going gets tough, maybe it’s time to give more back to the community. As the New York Times article points out, in tough times every company is being asked to give more, and many are coming new creative strategies that can have a bigger impact at lower cost. I was recently asked to contribute to a fund-raising event and instead, I offered by services to help with promotion. It was a small gesture but it’s the kind of support that non-profits need these days, and it doesn’t have to cost you a cent.

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  • 08Sep

    LifehouseLogo I saw an item today in MediaBistro that my old PR firm, Allison & Partners, has adopted Big Brothers and Big Sisters as their first pro bono client. I  couldn’t have been more delighted. All public relations and professional service firms should take on pro bono work, especially in tough economic times. Everyone needs a helping hand, and it’s both good for the cause and good for business to offer your services without a fee. I’m not surprised that Allison & Partners selected Big Brothers as their pro bono client. Scott Allison, the founder and CEO, is a terrific guy with a strong set or family and moral values, and a commitment to the community. Adopting Big Brothers seems a natural for the firm.

    Even in my consulting practice I work to give back to my community. Over the past year I have had imagethe privilege of helping two non-profit groups here in Marin County – Lifehouse, an organization that helps people with developmental disabilities remain independent, and Meals of Marin, which provides food to homebound clients suffering from AIDS, cancer, and other life-threatening illness.

    The work you do doesn’t have to be extensive, or expensive, but just taking the time out of your busy schedule to counsel and give support to someone who really can benefit from your services is gratifying. These organizations have limited resources, and cash, and they can use any help they can get promoting awareness and funding. Through various circumstances, I had the privilege of connecting with Lifehouse and Meals of Marin, and my public relations experience was just what they needed at the moment to help promote their annual fund-raising events. If my small effort can help build awareness in the right places and add that many more names to the guest list, the difference in additional dollars means that I have a direct responsibility for helping those with disabilities help themselves, or feeding some unfortunate soul who is housebound due to illness.

    That’s how we can use what we know to really make a tangible difference.

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