By: Claire Riggs, Managing Partner of Riggs Creative Group

Opportunities to be charitable abound in this giving season. It’s easy to do “me too” and check off the box. This year, try being intentional in your giving if you want to experience more of all that giving has to offer. Adam Heitzman wrote in an Inc article, it’s “a humble business strategy you may be overlooking, and its benefits far surpass the standard ROI of other tactics.”

Most of us get that but, in times of inflation and recession, we’re tempted to make cuts in areas that seem non-core to our business purpose. We know it’s good public relations to support our employees and community, but is it really necessary? To answer that question, get beyond the “ROI” and discover your “why.”

At this year’s Gloucester County Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast, keynote speaker Sam Thevanayagan, President & CEO of Parts Life, Inc, shared his leadership motto: “To create an environment where others can achieve their God-given potential.” He spoke of the “mystery of capital” and its ability to change lives. You can catch the replay here (starting at 24:20) — keep tissues close at hand!

Sam T’s Why

For his “why,” SamT (as he likes to be called) recalled what his first employer told about him fulfilling needs and transforming a culture, “money doesn’t talk, it screams!” SamT offered two questions you can ask yourself:

  • Who helped shape you into the leader you are today?
  • Who will remember you 20-30 years from now?

Bill Greehey’s Culture of Giving

I remember my first days as a part-time community relations consultant working with Valero’s CEO Bill Greehey. When Valero purchased the Mobil Refinery, Greehey  introduced to us a culture of “take care of your employees and your employees will take care of the shareholders.” It was all about giving of your time, talent and resources because “it’s the right thing to do.” Millions of dollars were invested in nonprofit organizations’ capital projects. Valero had an unprecedented 100% participation in the United Way campaign year upon year. An army of Valero Volunteers supported and sustained hundreds of community projects. The Boys and Girls Club of Paulsboro (now Gloucester County) was founded. And on, and on.

Greehey taught that giving is at the heart of corporate culture. “Our giving and sharing culture is the cornerstone of our success,” he’d say, and I learned how a generous “why” grows muscles on corporate cultures. The corporations he led at Valero and NuStar Energy, and the leaders he grew, learned to value intangible ROI. We got to see how employee loyalty and priceless community connections are made and sustained for decades to come. Take just nine minutes to view this video that tells the story as Greehey recalls the giving cultures he brought to life.

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Valero sold the refinery and left the area in 2009, but that giving culture keeps giving as seen in the Valero Benefit for Children vehicles, pavilions, and buildings it helped fund. The small seeds sowed by Valero and its employees all those years ago continue to have a lasting impact.

This fall, I conducted a Board Retreat for The Arc Gloucester in one of those buildings, the Camp Sun ’n Fun Sunshine Inn. There I was: standing in that room, before all those dedicated employees and Board Members who give their best to enhance the lives of people with disabilities; standing in a place that was built, partially with funds provided by the company that first taught me the true value of working in a culture of giving.

Exercise your Giving Muscles

Each new year gives us a clean slate to start writing our giving story, to make decisions that shape our company culture, and to positively impact those we lead and our communities.

What’s your why? Could 2023 be the year you bring a giving culture to your organization?