Philanthropy: It’s What We Do

Americans are becoming increasingly philanthropically-focused, and not just today on National Philanthropy Day®.

We are a bunch of worker bees in this country, or rather, giving bees. America’s Charities, in fact, estimates that Americans give about $4 billion annually through workplace giving. What’s more, employees say they want their companies to sweeten the charitable pot, with 79 percent reporting they prefer to work for a socially responsible company, according to Cone Communications research.

Generally speaking, that’s reassuring news for us in the “business” of fundraising and development. The numbers tell us that people are progressively relying on the workplace as a conduit for community giving. Employees also feel better about working for companies that merge the bottom line with giving back through corporate philanthropy programs.

But what’s the real story behind the stats and trends? For companies, and for all of us in this age of glossy social media and brand-driven “do-good/be-good” media campaigns, action must be behind the claim if it’s to have substantive, lasting impact.

Simply put, do we practice what we preach—and portray?

It’s a DNA thing.

At The Stelter Company, “practice what we preach” is ingrained into our cultural identity. It’s part of our very DNA, unable to be separated from the fiber of who we are and how we operate, beginning with owners Larry Stelter and Peggy Fisher.

“We try to be good, generous people who are compassionate about our families, our friends, our employees and the things we believe in,” Larry says. “We will continue to try to lead by example about values and charitable giving to all of our family members as well as to our employees.”

Because it’s not always the big, branded fundraising that yields “success.” Sometimes, the one-on-one moments create the true milestones, the magic.

Jim Trier, a young man who’s 20, has been working for Stelter part time since 2013. On his days off from Stelter, he also works at ColorFX, a Stelter vendor/partner, thanks, in part, to Larry and Peggy reaching out and facilitating the connection. Since he was hired, Jim has become such a star at ColorFx that the company was inspired to hire two additional employees with special needs.

One good thing leads to another

Jim also has spoken about his work experiences at both Stelter and ColorFX to other local businesses. As a result, some have requested additional information, and one inquired about the possibility of Jim speaking to their employees. Jim’s willingness to share his story is opening doors for other individuals in similar situations.

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Jim enjoying the fun with fellow Stelter employees at a company event.

Embracing the practice-what-you-preach culture comes from a deeply felt, sincere motivation to help others. It starts with one or two people, but the enthusiasm and goodwill is quickly contagious.

Other ways we preach it—more like sing it—and practice corporate philanthropy at Stelter include:

Stelter Committees

Managed solely by employees, Stelter committees sponsor nearly a dozen fundraising and volunteer events year-round, with a focus on supporting lesser-known—but equally vital—area nonprofits. They facilitate volunteer opportunities, donations, food drives and so much more.

Wendi Lanning, a Worklife Committee member, with donated goods for a recent Stelter food drive for the Des Moines Area Religious Council’s food pantry. Employees donated 2,238 items.
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This year, Stelter employees divided into two teams—the Iowa State University Cyclones and the University of Iowa Hawkeyes—for a friendly competition to see who could deliver more donations for the food drive. Alas, it was a pie-in-the-face moment for the team (rep) that came in second.

Stelter Stitchers Committee Bake Sales—This dedicated group creates handcrafted items for community groups in need of a soft and loving touch. They’ve made blankets and accessories for premature babies, and toys, such as sock monkeys, for children at Hawthorn Hill, a local nonprofit that operates housing programs for homeless families. The group also meets monthly with local retirement community residents for a night of crafts and conversation.

In 2017, the Stelter Stitchers held their annual Valentine’s Day bake sale to raise money for philanthropic projects throughout the year.
The Stelter Stitchers’ bake sales are a sweet treat for employees as well as for the community. Their most recent Halloween bake sale raised $328 to go towards activity books, new patient room television trays and blankets for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Blank Children’s Hospital.

Philanthropy Committee Luncheons—Held quarterly, the luncheons offer a dedicated time and place to learn more about nonprofits, their mission, their impact and events they host that Stelter employees are able to participate in. The Philanthropy Committee cooks lunch for employees, with proceeds benefiting area nonprofits. They inspire us to remember that the work we do has real impact, on real people, and yes, even pups.

A visitor from the Animal Rescue League of Iowa stopped by during a Stelter philanthropy luncheon to thank the group for its support. Employees rated it as the best luncheon ever.

A Day to Volunteer

A new program announced in 2016 by Larry Stelter and Peggy Fisher, each employee now receives eight paid hours of volunteer time off each year to support their nonprofits of choice within the greater Des Moines area. So far in 2017, nearly 60 employees have used their day for good in the community. The really exciting aspect of this program is that employees are taking ownership by organizing volunteer teams and recruiting others to join in. The goodness is growing.

The Heart of the Matter Award

This employee-nominated award is given annually to the colleague who best exemplifies the company’s 12 corporate values including, but not limited to, integrity, teamwork, and family. Community involvement and—of course—generosity are major criteria.

Preach what you practice at your organization! How does your group give back to the community or to a nonprofit through its charitable endeavors? Photos of these activities are most welcome, of course. You might spur others to take action.

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