This time of year and with the huge success of the #GivingTuesday initiative, many people are turning their thoughts to how they can give back to their communities. But what happens after the spirit of the season starts to fade? In response to ongoing community needs, this Chicago company has set out to make charitable works an ongoing part of their mission. Please enjoy this interview with Kimberly Eberl, CEO & Founder of Motion PR and Nellie Lopez, Motion PR’s Account Executive & Nonprofit Committee Lead.
Kimberly, you have actually integrated charitable initiatives within Motion PR by forming a non-profit arm within the company, so that employees can engage in volunteerism in an ongoing basis. Can you talk a bit about why Motion PR opted to take this step? Why not just do an annual seasonal event, such as a Giving Tree and leave it to your staff members to look for ways to volunteer beyond that if they wanted to?
KE: We feel that many people want to give back, but don’t know how, where or what are the best opportunities to do so. At Motion PR, we like to have opportunities at our fingertips. We’ve made it an ongoing initiative for many reasons. First and foremost, it develops a habit in individuals of giving back to their community on an ongoing basis instead of just once a year. What’s more, volunteering is a healthy team bonding exercise above and beyond an average happy hour. Lastly, one of Motion PR’s goals is to be well-known in Chicago. That goal can not only be achieved by speaking engagements and awards, but also by being good corporate citizens.
And having experienced the joy that comes with volunteering, I would imagine that these bonding times end up being a lot more fun and rewarding than Happy Hour. What was the reaction within the organization when you set up the nonprofit committee?
KE: There was a great deal of excitement from the very beginning stages of the nonprofit committee at Motion PR. Many staff members were quick to volunteer their time to meet once a month to research potential volunteer opportunities the whole office could participate in. It is great to see that level of excitement still exists a year and a half later as turnout always includes a majority of the office – this truly speaks to the agency’s commitment in giving back to the community.
Nellie, you are the lead on this initiative. Can you give us a picture of what it looks like? What is the committee makeup? Administrators? Support staff? How did you pull it together?
NL: The makeup up of the committee consists of the agency’s Senior Vice President Wheatley Marshall, Nellie Lopez as an Account Executive, Kyle Haas as a Senior Account Executive, Julie Kudlacz as an Assistant Account Executive and Connor Wickens as an Associate. There is one representative from each level at the agency and, is open to anyone who wishes to join. We have an agenda for every monthly committee meeting where each person is responsible for bringing a different volunteer opportunity to the table. As a committee, we then vet each idea, discuss logistics and develop a calendar. Typically, we like to alternate each month between donating items like participating in a coat drive and actually going out into the community to volunteer, such as distributing meals at a soup kitchen or providing terminally ill children with a bedroom makeover.
What vision does the committee have in terms of the kind of community involvement they want to have? Are there particular needs or causes within the community that everyone feels motivated to address?
NL: We like to make decisions about where to volunteer based on causes staff members are passionate about. For example, a lot of our staff members are animal lovers and pet owners, which greatly influenced our decision to get involved with the Anti-Cruelty Society of Chicago. Additionally, some ideas come from past volunteer activities committee members have been involved with as children. It’s always a great option to open up volunteer suggestions to the greater office as well.
So the committee picks a cause to partner with and then invites everyone to attend?
NL: Correct. When presenting the opportunity, we like to provide the office with as much information as possible including who the cause helps, what the organization or activity supports, how much time is needed, etc. so everyone knows how their involvement and participation will make a difference and potentially impact others.
What kinds of projects have you participated in so far?
NL: We have participated in clothing drives for Bridge to Success, which works to enhance employment opportunities for at-risk, low-income adults, and Howard Brown’s Brown Elephant Resale Shop, supporting the mission of raising money for those who cannot afford health care. We’ve also hosted a coat drive for Button and Zipper, providing Chicago’s homeless community with coats during winter months, donated books to Chicago Books to Women in Prison, supporting rehabilitation through education, and collected canned food for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Additionally, we have volunteered our time by distributing meals at Wicker Park’s Marquard Center’s soup kitchen and done handy work for Special Spaces, an organization providing bedroom makeovers for ill children. Lastly, we also created hand-made blankets for Project Linus, which distributes them to children in hospitals. This coming new year we are all looking forward to expanding upon our previous philanthropic work and volunteering with even more organizations.
That is quite a range! What great exposure your staff are getting to organizations they might not have heard about otherwise. What has been the effect of the nonprofit initiative on your company? Kimberly, can you see a difference in the company pre- and post-volunteerism?
KE: The effect of the nonprofit committee on the company has greatly enhanced our overall workplace culture. Creating a positive workplace culture further increases our employees’ commitment to the agency. Additionally, we are able to increase team building skills while providing gratification through meaningful volunteer work.
You mentioned earlier that just this week, you actually went to a place near and dear to my heart. We adopted a cat from The Anti-Cruelty Society back in 1991 and had him for 19 years. Tell me about your trip there.
NL: Volunteering at the Anti-Cruelty Society has been one of our favorite activities this year. We learned a great deal about the organization and all the great work they do. During our visit, we toured the facility and learned how to make toys for the animals, which help keep them busy, happy and stimulated until they find a loving, permanent home. It was heartwarming to spend some time with Money, a well-trained Pitbull (in photo above), and provide her with some much-needed affection and socialization. This recent experience truly highlighted the significance of adopting a pet and supporting a great organization, committed to the welfare of animals.
Kimberly, What would you like to say to other companies who might be interested in following your lead and seeing up a similar initiative for their own employees?
KE: I would advise other companies to gauge their staff’s level of interest and commitment to volunteering and social responsibility. If those two key elements exist, that is a great starting point to establishing a successful program with minimal time, money or resources involved.
Congratulations on taking this step. I can only imagine the smiles on the faces of your staff the day after participating with a local charity. It has to make everyone’s day brighter. What a great example to follow!
This article originally ran on chicagonow.com, and was written by Laura Young