By Dan Clappison
March 19, 2009
Rockford Construction lives by the mission to help the hungry, homeless, and less fortunate in West Michigan. It is not just a corporate mission, though. Rockford’s employees, from the top down, take part in company-organized charitable events. Participation is voluntary, but the extent of personal and professional satisfaction that comes from helping others is apparent from the level of involvement in these events.
The two keys to ensuring success and participation in an event are: 1) help a charity that people will care about and 2) choose an event in line with corporate culture. Some companies find a charity to support and get involved in that charity’s fundraisers, such as putting together teams of runners or walkers for an event. Rockford, on the other hand, decided to create a new event to support its favorite charity. Many of Rockford’s employees enjoy motorcycles, so Rockford created the annual Rally for Hope and Hunger motorcycle ride. The Rally began 10 years ago and has raised nearly $500,000 for two local charities - a food pantry and a cancer research foundation.
Creating and organizing a charitable event is easier that it seems. First, allow people to plan and coordinate the event during work hours. This helps staff maintain work-family balance and increase participation. Second, ask business partners, suppliers, vendors and associates for donations and sponsorship of the event. By doing so, the company can raise all of the funds necessary to run the event. (In this economy, it is tough for a company to front the cost of such an event.) It is surprising the amount of vendors and suppliers that are willing to donate items such as food, paper, banners, signs and more at no cost.
Rockford and its donor partners select a brand new motorcycle each year to raffle, with the winner announced at the Rally. Rockford’s employees work hard to sell all 3,000 raffle tickets at $20 a piece. This is an immediate $60,000 in the pockets of the local charities, plus any other donations received from sponsors. The day of the event, 100 event volunteers come together with around 500 motorcycle riders for a 50-mile ride, followed by a concert and picnic. And what a beautiful day - the weather has been perfect for nine years in a row, the music is loud and fun, the food is great, and the crowd is enthusiastic and happy. West Michigan’s homeless will be receiving meals for that many more months from the money raised, while advances in cancer research can be made right here in Rockford’s hometown. The trickle down effect of self satisfaction is felt across the region, from Rockford’s employees that helped coordinate the event and sell raffle tickets ,to vendors and partners that donated time, money, and supplies for the event.
Now, before everyone out there rolls their eyes at the thought of staging such a major event, think about the little things that can be done. Creating an environment of caring for the local community improves a company’s image both internally and externally. So start small. Rockford supports one local, inner-city public school through a food drive to help students survive a winter break without access to regular school meals. Rockford supports Junior Achievement and gives its employees time off during the work day to teach classes and mentor students. Go beyond corporate missions, though. Rockford’s employees are given ample time off and support for any personal charitable work.
A company that helps others is stronger and more appealing. A company full of employees that helps others is truly outstanding and will continue to be one of the best and brightest.
Dan Clappison is a vice president at Rockford Construction Company in Grand Rapids, selected in 2008 as one of West Michigan’s 101 Best & Brightest Companies to Work For. He oversees the operational end of Rockford Construction’s $300 million construction business. He can be reached at [email protected].