By Laura Lomow, and EO Winnipeg member and president of AQ Group Solutions.
Recently, I had the privilege to plan and execute a very successful social-action project with an amazing team of dedicated people. Our goal was to “fill empty bowls” for Winnipeg Harvest, a food bank that distributes more than 10 million pounds of food annually to more than 320 partner agencies in Manitoba, Canada. Their partners include soup kitchens, emergency shelters, community food banks, after-school programs for at-risk inner-city children, senior citizens’ support groups and low-income daycares. The food requirement to feed the hungry (of which 47 percent are children) was on the rise, and they needed to raise funds to support their initiatives and their first capital campaign.
We sold out a 500-seat ballroom, where attendees enjoyed a unique menu designed by an executive chef, a beautifully decorated room and stage, quality sound and visual technology, entertainment and film. Silent auction and live auction bidders were captivated by autographed and decorated bowls from celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Justin Bieber, Steven Tyler, Michael Bubble, Elton John, a number of high-profile athletes and humanitarians, to name a few. Every aspect of the event was donated. From the venue, including all the prepared and served food, to the labor and services. All in all, roughly US$286,000 was raised in one evening to feed the hungry at an event that traditionally grossed just more than US$40,000 for the organization. As this organization can leverage US$20 of food for every dollar raised, the impact was tremendous.
It was through the power of social responsibility, both from the corporate/business level and individual level, that this event was successful. Everyone involved became part of the campaign to fill empty bowls and help more than 49,000 people fight hunger and feed hope each month. Winnipeg is “Canada’s child poverty capital,” and almost half of the food banks recipients are children. A large percentage of the adult recipients are “working poor.” Everyone involved believed in the cause and wanted to make a difference. This experience affected how I view social responsibility.
The expression “social responsibility” by corporations and businesses have become mainstream. I’m sure everyone can refer to a moment in time when they have contributed in the name of social responsibility through their business. Social Responsibility is defined as “an act by an organization or individual to benefit society at large.” Philanthropy has numerous definitions, such as “the love of humanity,” “what it is to be human,” and “private initiatives for public good, with a focus on improving quality of life.” Social responsibility by businesses is essentially “corporate philanthropy.”
The combined synergy of social responsibility through business and individuals at this event resulted in phenomenal value creation. Outside of increasing their return on investment by five times, they were able to increase awareness at multiple levels, which kick-started their capital campaign and enabled the organization to reach more people in need.
Witnessing this powerful synergy inspired me to reflect on my goals, both professionally and personally, and impacted my perceptions on social responsibility. Each day we are focused on value creation for our clients, as well as for the people on our professional teams. Value creation resulting in greater profits but without demonstrating a commitment to social responsibility is denying the most human element of value creation. Corporations/businesses have a human face, and it is through social responsibility that true value will be created.