Philanthropy

Help Yourself By Helping Others

“There aren’t enough hours in the day,” is muttered over and over both at work and at home. And now they want you to volunteer?  Despite every modern convenience, no one seems to have ample time to get everything done. We are over overcommitted and understaffed, but if you are not giving back to the […]

“There aren’t enough hours in the day,” is muttered over and over both at work and at home. And now they want you to volunteer?  Despite every modern convenience, no one seems to have ample time to get everything done. We are over overcommitted and understaffed, but if you are not giving back to the community, it is time to re-evaluate.

The personal benefits of volunteering are numerous and outlined in the following paragraphs, but first, we’ll give the argument a firm, fiscal foundation.  Many (and we mean a lot) of the Valley’s most influential and well-connected people are active with nonprofits. Not just in name, but out there getting their hands dirty.  What better way to meet local industry leaders than working together on a shared cause?  Our non-scientific evaluation suggests that there are countless ways to give back in the Greater Lehigh Valley.  No matter your focus, passion, raison d’être, there is a place for you. Serving a greater good can be a crucial part of your personal success and your company’s prosperity.  As a business owner, it is no longer good enough to write a check and move on.  Valued clients and potential employees seek civic-minded partners who make corporate responsibility a priority.  Additionally, we cannot emphasize enough that nonprofits are businesses that hire support services to run effectively and efficiently.  What better way to showcase your competencies?  So get ready to enjoy the benefits!  Volunteering doesn’t simply offer “good vibes’ by doing the right thing. It will enhance work and personal experiences in a number of ways.

Shape a new skill set:  It is difficult, if not impossible, to make a distinct job change within most organizations unless you continue your education.  And while that’s always a great idea, the reality is few of us have the time or means to return to school. Nonprofit organizations welcome help in whatever role you choose.  A committee position supporting a different discipline is a chance to cultivate a new skill set. The challenge is real, and the success you experience may be enough to build your resume and pivot your career. Even if you have no intention of changing vocations, the unique experience will offer a new perspective and a better understanding of the workplace.

Learn to be a leader:  Many employees are vital to their organizations and add value each day.  But what if your job doesn’t give you the chance to manage others?  Volunteering can allow you to lead a project, design through implementation, and manage a team.  Already in a leadership role?  Chances are, you and those you manage share similar competencies.  Through volunteering, you’ll have a chance to hone leadership and communication skills with people from a wide variety of career and personal backgrounds.

Build your network:  We can always use a little help from our friends, and there’s comfort staying within your circle. However, getting involved introduces you to new people and broadens horizons. Through teamwork and positive volunteer experiences, new acquaintances build trust and often seek out support on career and personal levels. Relaxed, positive community impact will spark growth in places you wouldn’t have expected.

Don’t worry, be healthy:  Studies demonstrate that volunteering makes you happy.  Helping others can reduce stress, keep you mentally challenged, increase self-confidence, combat depression, gets you physically active, and gives you a purpose.  Small acts on your part can lead to big changes in people’s lives, especially for those who really need it, and that feels good.  And volunteering doesn’t have to be a singular, long-term commitment.  In fact, the more diverse your experiences, the more you’ll grow.

Become a catalyst for change:  Don’t just re-tweet or like a post about an important issue, choose to make a difference in something meaningful to you. As you champion the mission among your friends and co-workers your influence can have far-reaching effects.  Your personal accountability and involvement may jump-start others to work for change as well.  From children to dogs, building homes to the environment, there is an organization in need of your help. Begin your search at www.volunteerlv.org or www.volunteermatch.org.

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Generosity for a New Generation

Giving back has never been so easy thanks to innovative initiatives making the most of a millennial mind state and the digital age. As a product of the closing generation of the 20th century, I consider myself fortunate to have experienced pre – tech living and been given the opportunity to witness the subsequent unfolding […]

Giving back has never been so easy thanks to innovative initiatives making the most of a millennial mind state and the digital age.

As a product of the closing generation of the 20th century, I consider myself fortunate to have experienced pre – tech living and been given the opportunity to witness the subsequent unfolding of the digital information age in its entire enormity.  Some thirty years ago the Internet was discovered and no one looked back.  It has hurled us into a space of unending global advancements. It provides us with a host of abilities to connect, including email and social media.  We make the most of these channels daily via a device so appropriately dubbed the ‘smart phone’ which has forever changed the way we communicate, travel, work and even pay bills.  Streamlining many of our day-to-day activities, rendering traditional ways to do business archaic and even obsolete, and technology has afforded us more than just sheer efficiency.  We are able to connect to relatives, public leaders and remote celebrities; all putting Globalization into overdrive.

Some years ago I was able to connect with a number of like-minded individuals who saw in modern technology, an avenue to shed light on global causes and enable any one person to make a difference simply by clicking a button and staying connected online. Based on the mandate that everyone has the right to survive and thrive, Global Citizen was born out of the drive to end global poverty. It has become an immensely influential network that empowers millions of individuals around the globe to make an impact on critical issues such as Women’s Rights, Health, Education, Water & Sanitation, Finance and Citizenship.

One thing this organization and I saw in common is the incentive created by the intrinsic need to give back coupled with the power of celebrity to influence people.  Every year, the organization hosts a larger-thanv-life concert in the middle of Central Park in New York City.  The largest names in music join in support and further encourage citizens everywhere to take action.

Fast-forward to a couple years ago, my core group and I moved in on what we saw as the future of philanthropic financial contribution. An innovative, one-of-a-kind platform that makes contributing to a cause you care about effortless.  By rounding up your digital spare change and donating to a charity of your choice, ChangUr allows you to go about your life, making normal transactions where you shop and eat while making a difference.  At a time where transparency is more important than ever, this application allows you to track where exactly your money is going and holding your organization of choice accountable to using funds appropriately.

We all share an innate desire to give back – a hunger to contribute to causes we care about.  It’s somewhat of a self-inflicted responsibility that ripples through cultural boundaries.  It is easy to become overwhelmed and uninformed by traditional means of charity.  I was attracted to the simplicity and authenticity of these models, and how they maximize our means in order to create lasting change. However, you chose to contribute, whether financially or physically, recognize that your efforts, time, money and skill are making a difference.

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How a Business Community Profits from a Healthy Arts Economy

Advocates for a good business economy have many reasons to encourage arts and culture. Data for the nation and Lehigh and Northampton Counties help to make that case. Since 2010, with Randy Cohen of Americans for the Arts, I’ve produced annual National Arts Index reports measuring the vitality of arts and culture in the U.S. […]

Advocates for a good business economy have many reasons to encourage arts and culture. Data for the nation and Lehigh and Northampton Counties help to make that case. Since 2010, with Randy Cohen of Americans for the Arts, I’ve produced annual National Arts Index reports measuring the vitality of arts and culture in the U.S. using 81 national-level indicators. Since 2012, we developed a web-accessible Local Arts Index with dozens of county-level indicators of the arts. Both projects show evidence of different ways that arts affect communities, and how they make for a good business environment. The indicators highlight the financial flows, participation, infrastructure and capital assets, and competitiveness of the arts. They describe activity in all sectors – individual, business, nonprofit, government, and in numerous artistic genres and disciplines. See the reports and data at www.artsindexusa.org, hosted by Allentown’s Kyle David Group. Here are a few high points of what we’ve found.

First, while the economics of the arts matter, they’re not the biggest part of the story. Arts advocates have always been especially attentive to showing economic impact, how investment in the arts produced positive economic flows rippling through an economy. Those are good arguments, but are not unique to the arts – other investments also increased economic activity. In fact, the competitiveness of the arts, and the ways they enhance our communities, rest on many other kinds of contributions:

  • Aesthetics: the arts create beauty and preserve it as part of culture
  • Creativity: the arts encourage creativity, a critical skill in a dynamic world
  • Expression: artistic work lets us communicate our interests and visions
  • Identity: arts goods, services, and experiences help define our culture
  • Innovation: the arts are sources of new ideas, futures, concepts, and connections
  • Preservation: arts and culture keep our collective memories intact
  • Prosperity: the arts create millions of jobs and enhance economic health
  • Skills: arts aptitudes and techniques are needed in all sectors of society and work
  • Social Capital: we enjoy the arts together, across races, generations, and places

The dynamic Lehigh Valley market environment experiences many benefits of those virtues. Our communities – not just the feature attractions in Bethlehem, Easton, and Allentown, but also the boroughs and townships, are seeing residents come out for arts and culture activities. More restaurants have original art, more coffeehouses have music, and more innovation and entrepreneurship among arts nonprofits old and new. The theme of “creative placemaking” (developed by Anne Gadwa Nicodemus of Metris Arts Consulting in Easton) is how places across the country view the arts contribution to community character and vitality.

Lehigh Valley consumers are avid arts consumers, spending more than $360 per year on arts and culture products and services, compared to median U.S. spending of $345. One household in five contributes to arts and culture or public broadcasting. Local arts and culture attractions and events draw consumers from a wide radius. It’s more and more part of our brand and identity.

There are multiple pathways for enhancing business performance through the arts. In products and services, superior design can be the main reason for competitive advantage. In managing people, fostering creativity and unorthodox thinking unleashes innovation and entrepreneurship. The arts show people with different backgrounds and professional skills how to collaborate. These new competencies promote superior competitive position for companies of all sizes.

Business leaders are always seeking out new avenues of advantage and better performance. Companies can engage in the arts as supporters, use the arts in human resource management, and foster artistic environments in their workplaces, and recognize their workers’ interests in the arts. These are good arguments anywhere, but they’re especially relevant in our Lehigh Valley with its arts-rich environment. Being a champion of the arts is good business.

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