Tuesday, December 04, 2007

And It's Only December 4th

Just wait until you see what the neighbors add nightly to their exuberant display in the next three weeks.

I finished up our year-end charitable donations last night, because it was important to get them done before the new house closes escrow and I feel poor! We handle most of our favored organizations through the year as their campaigns run, but there are always a few to catch in December. This time, the causes were combating cancer, local poverty assistance, and disaster relief – targeted towards the southern California wildfire victims.

We're also participating in an adopt-a-family program with our Moms Group, led by D&S. Time is so pressing this month that I'm going the simple route and donating a grocery gift card, but other moms are selecting clothes and gifts for the parents and children. I love this kind of project and hope to be able to be more involved in the future.

For now, I'll have to settle for the contribution I made to our company policy on donations. Once upon a time, getting matching funds was easy. You'd write a check to the university, Red Cross, or whatever, and give them a form to submit to the Company to get the matching donation. Last year, the Company switched to an online system where you made the donation via credit card, and they held the money until the end of the quarter before releasing it to the charity with a matching amount.

I don't mind them waiting for quarterly periods to make the match, but it's is so not cool to TAKE MY MONEY and keep it for as long as three months while the agency that needs it waits. A lot of the smaller organizations really depend on the money month to month, especially if they have campaign deadlines with other large donor matches.

One of the things I've always wished I did better was asking good questions of leaders and executives when I attend big speaking engagements. Our CEO holds a periodic breakfast for everyone who has had a birthday that month (there are over 40,000 in the Company, so these are not small events) and makes it an open forum for whatever people want to talk about. He brings no prepared agenda and just answers questions for an hour. I really respect him for taking this kind of feedback without flinching, because no one is shy about letting him know what they think.

Last year, I was brave and asked my question. I wasn't able to get to the microphone before the meeting broke up, but I walked up afterwards and introduced myself and the product I represent. (Side note: The CEO responded by immediately describing two new features he wanted. There's nothing more humbling than knowing your CEO uses your product every day and has highly specific feedback.)

I asked him, "Did you know that our new charitable giving system takes our money and holds it until the end of the quarter before giving it to the recipients?"

He said that no, he didn't know that. Perhaps it was a misunderstanding, but if that was the case, it was clearly a wrong approach. He asked his assistant to take a note and look into it.

A few months later, I noticed the policy had changed and our employee donations would no longer be held. Probably someone more important up the chain got involved to make the change, but I'm still proud to have stood up and made a small difference to the organizations that work so hard through the year to help people eat, learn, and live.

Photo credit (Q in red shirt): ZY


Kimberly at http://parentingwithoutalicense.com said...

That's awesome that you spoke up and effected such a positive change in your company policy! And look at it this way, at least the CEO knows and likes your product!

Speaking as a mom who has been eligible for those baskets more than once (but never actually took one), I think grocery gift card is an awesome idea. There's something a little more independent about it rather than just being given food and told to be happy about it. Plus, it will free up that grocery money in the budget for other things that have been being neglected. GOOD CALL!

fourthbreakfast said...

I just finished reading Bill Clinton's "Giving." Awesome and very inspiring. He talks about why people don't give, but one thing he left out (that I think is a factor) is that people don't really talk about the charities they give to. Aside from runners and athletes raising money through events, I can't think of many occasions where friends have said "I gave to xyz charity today."

Mayberry said...

Good for you! Sounds like you made quite a positive impression on Mr. CEO.

I'm catching up on the past 2 weeks -- can't wait to read back and find out about the house!

appleseed said...

Q ans Swimmy should be proud of their mama! Good for you!
What a great example you are setting for them to be actively involved in charitable giving.

Alex Elliot said...

Those are some Christmas lights!