most effective way to forge a winning team is to call on the player's
need to connect with something larger than themselves. Even for
those who don't consider themselves 'spiritual' in a conventional
sense, creating a successful team—whether it's an NBA champion
or a record-setting sales force—is essentially a spiritual act.
It requires the individuals involved to surrender their self-interest
for the greater good so that the whole adds up to more than the
sum of its parts.” —Phil Jackson, Head Coach of the NBA champion
L.A. Lakers, from his book Sacred
an age when so many people ask, “What’s in it for me?” Coach Jackson’s
ideas may seem fanciful. At Share
Our Strength (SOS) we've found he’s right.
Our Strength is an anti-hunger organization born out of the Ethiopian
famine in 1984 that has raised over $100 million to support anti-hunger
and anti-poverty initiatives worldwide. In pursuit of the most
basic of goals—ending hunger—we’ve learned some unexpected and
rewarding lessons. Most importantly, it takes more than food (or
money) to fight hunger. It takes talent, hope, and people united
by the need within the human spirit for something more. Share
Our Strength founder Bill Shore likes to point out that, “Doing
something that counts is a basic human need, like water or calcium.
We can actually get by with surprisingly little of either, but
we hold together better and longer when we get regular servings
can each of us find that elusive something more? The best
way is the simplest: share your talents with those who need help.
Tapping into that innate human need to give something back aids
the recipients and sows secondary benefits for us as individuals,
our families, and the organizations where we work. Helping others
uncovered these lessons in some unexpected places. When Bill Shore
began to think about ways to end the world hunger problem in 1984,
he had a fortuitous insight. Why not turn to the people who work
with and respect food more than anyone—chefs and restaurateurs.
This is not the group that you might think of to mobilize a global
movement to stop hunger, but we found that when chefs were given
the opportunity to share their own unique talents, we accomplished
fine-dining industry embraced the cause by donating time, talent,
and food to help Share Our Strength launch Taste
of the Nation, now the largest culinary benefit supporting
anti-hunger and anti-poverty efforts in the United States. Each
spring, thousands of community leaders—from chefs, restaurateurs,
and beverage purveyors to public relations professionals and accountants—organize
over 100 events in more than 75 cities throughout the United States
and Canada. These one-of-a-kind culinary events, including food
and wine tastings, seated dinners, brunches and barbeques, raise
millions of dollars each year that goes directly into programs
to prevent the root causes of hunger and poverty.
the chefs got a taste of helping others, they couldn’t get enough
and actively sought ways to do more. Subsequently, Operation
Frontline was launched in 1993, mobilizing chefs and nutritionists,
people who previously didn’t have an outlet to share their knowledge
and skills, to teach low-income people to shop, cook, and prepare
healthy and nutritious meals on a low-income budget. The return
on their investment of time and talent has surpassed what we could
have hoped. For many of the chefs, the experience of teaching
others means as much (if not more) than success in their career.
Goss, Executive Chef of Zinfandel in Chicago,
explains it best, “The biggest boost to my self-esteem is not
when people tell me how great my food is on a Saturday night in
my dining room. Rather, it’s when I’m teaching an Operation Frontline
class and look around the room at the participants’ faces and
see their extreme interest in the lesson.” Driven by chefs’ enthusiasm
for the program, Operation Frontline now offers classes in 90
communities in 13 states. These classes have reached more than
16,000 people and their families across the country.
you embrace these give-something-back sentiments, but think they
belong squarely in our free-time-outside-of-work lives? Evidence
is increasingly pointing to the conclusion that aligning with
philanthropic efforts benefits businesses. Cause-related marketing
and corporate/philanthropic alliances bring companies valuable
public exposure and PR benefits, and can open up new markets and
potential clients. When companies can help the world outside the
company doors, while impacting the bottom line at the same time,
everyone wins. Another benefit is that the personal and individual
rewards that come with helping others can be a business objective
in their own right. Organizations that help employees find ways,
traditional and non-traditional; to share their strengths
can dramatically improve company culture. Employee morale, retention
rates, and recruiting efforts are aided when companies are seen
as good neighbors in communities and supportive environments for
employees. Surveys support this. In 1999, People Report, a Dallas-based
research and consulting company specializing in human resources,
surveyed 50 hospitality companies and found:
88 % said their companies’ community and charitable involvement
had a positive impact on employee morale.
64 % said it increased employee commitment.
33 % said it helped improve employee retention.
recently received an email that supports those numbers, too. Joe
Macon, a Tyson Foods employee, had just returned from flood-ravaged
Houston, Texas. He helped deliver and cook some of the over 70,000
pounds of chicken and foodstuffs Tyson donated as part of their
disaster relief program, which also sends product donations and
volunteers to help in disaster areas. For Joe, the company-sponsored
opportunity to impact people in critical need through money, food,
and time, had a deep impact. Joe wrote, “It was truly a humbling
experience. When I arrived back in Arkansas I was glad to be home
and I was proud to be part of a company that thought and cared
about our neighbors enough to coordinate an effort like that.
Should the need ever arise to organize and go on a mission like
this again, feel free to call.”
Timberland Company, named year after year as one of the 100 best
companies to work for by Fortune Magazine, has also found
tremendous benefits from community service. They foster a real
sense of community-focused commitment within the corporation to
strengthen employee satisfaction and to further develop their
brand. Not only do they pay employees for 40 hours of community
service per year (known as Path of Service), but they also make
a habit of earmarking certain products whose proceeds go to an
array of community-based organizations. For example, in response
to the devastating earthquake in India in January 2000, Timberland
formed a cross-functional team of employees to help provide 9000
units of apparel and footwear, with a retail value of $400,000,
to some of the 25,000 families in need in India.
Swartz, Timberland’s President and CEO, said, “It is not enough
for Timberland to make the absolute best boots, or shoes, or clothing
in the world. Everything we do, everything we sell has an impact
on the communities in which we live and work. In short, Timberland
must serve our customers, shareholders, employees and communities
by not only creating economic value, but also social value.”
what does all of this have to do with you? Simple. Everyone has
a strength to share. The not-so-well-kept secret is that when
you are doing something good for others it pays off equally well,
if not more, for you. Here are some recommendations to get you
Pursue what feels fulfilling. Happiness will follow.
Take inventory of your talents and hobbies to identify how
you can help. Often it is a skill or talent you've come to take
for granted, but one that can make a difference in the life of
somebody else if properly deployed. It does not necessarily have
to have anything to do with how you make your living. Love of
music, love of books, love of mathematics, all can be brought
to life with kids in need of caring adults in their lives.
Engage in service with your family, friends, and coworkers
as much as possible. It’s a wonderful way to spend time together
and share a meaningful experience.
Explore community-based opportunities your company can take
part in—it will help with employee teambuilding and morale, raise
the company’s public profile, and most importantly, help the community
in which you live and work.
Encourage your company
to explore non-traditional ways to get involved—instead of only
contributing dollars, offer service hours for employees each month,
plan office-wide service days. This gives employees a sense of
ownership in the positive work their company is committed to.
Scofield is Executive Coordinator at Share
Our Strength. He has shared his strengths around the world,
including on irrigation and hunger projects in East Africa and
India, and on projects closer to home in his Washington, DC community.
Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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