Sarah Ford | November 22, 2012

Real Superheroes Make a Difference

Each week I write about the importance of giving at work and share with you different ways to engage your employees through workplace philanthropy. This week I’d like to share with you a little bit of what we’re doing here at America’s Charities.

If you’re reading this it’s likely you have a job, are able to provide for yourself and your family, and, in general, have much to be thankful for. But as I told our team here at America’s Charities, there are more people than ever that are falling through the cracks. Even here in Fairfax County, Virginia, one of the wealthiest jurisdictions in the country, we are seeing more poverty, more families on the street due to unforeseen and uncovered medical expenses, more people losing or in danger of losing their homes as they are underwater on their mortgages, and more pressure than ever on the nonprofit service providers who, like all of us, are feeling a pinch on their budgets.

During this giving season we decided to use the theme of “Superheroes Make a Difference” for our employee workplace giving and engagement efforts. Why Superheroes? Because we can each be one in our own unique way – sometimes very visibly, sometimes more subtly – but always with the kind of impact that changes lives.

As you can see in these photos, some of us truly got into character. That’s me with the red cap (I just have to lose a few pounds!) talking with America’s Charities staff about how important their work is in helping charities develop the infrastructure and capacity they need to meet the needs of families.

As part of our campaign, we encouraged our employees to submit a short vignette about a charity that they were familiar with and believed represented the work of a superhero. Three vignettes were selected and the employees who submitted them were asked to share those stories in person with the rest of our team.

  • One employee spoke about the incurable disease, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), which had just taken her aunt. She spoke about the emotional strain she and her family experienced as they watched their loved one slip away, knowing there was little they could do. But she was so thankful for the guidance and support that her local Texas ALS Association chapter provided her family during such a tough time.
  • Another spoke about SERVE, a program of Northern Virginia Family Services, where she frequently volunteers her time. The organization offers an array of services to a wide range of individuals in the community with a particular emphasis on the growing elderly population who are finding themselves homeless and without proper food and nutrition. This America’s Charities employee detailed how she actually connects seniors that she sees on the street to SERVE. Now that’s a superhero at work!
  • Finally, another one of our employees spoke about the work of an Orlando, Florida-based charity called, Kids Beating Cancer and the group’s founder, Margaret Guedes whose nine-year-old son lost his battle to Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS). MDS is a particularly lethal form of leukemia for which there was no effective treatment or cure. Following her son’s death, Ms. Guedes worked relentlessly to establish Kids Beating Cancer and, through what to many appear to be “super powers”, created an organization that now serves over 5,600 of Central Florida’s sickest children, has added some 37,000 new potential marrow donors to the national registry, and much more. Read more about Ms. Guedes by clicking here.

While we shared these three Superhero stories I’m sure each and everyone one of our staff had similar stories to share. You might ask, why is this important to workplace giving? It’s important because storytelling is an important way to share passion and commitment. It’s personal and from the heart. It’s compelling in that it’s real. When we think of Superheroes we first think of the characters we all know – Superman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman. But these are fiction. What we heard about from our colleagues was about real Superheroes who through their work make a difference in the lives of others.

As you consider your organization’s workplace giving and employee engagement efforts, don’t forget the importance of storytelling. Don’t forget the Superheroes.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

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