Carol — Philanthropy is a Win/Win for Businesses, Nonprofits, and the Community

I grew up in a middle-class home where giving back was just routine—a part of daily life. My Mom, a cook at a local restaurant, made sure that no one she knew went without. That’s where my commitment to giving began.

When I was coping with the grief of losing both parents within a year of each other, I found some solace in continuing our family traditions. I knew what they would have wanted me to do. So, I volunteered for various organizations and served on the boards for Loudoun Hunger Relief and the local chapter of the American Red Cross. It became a real passion for me—a part of who I am. I would give to everyone in Loudoun County if I could. I know it’s OK to say “No” sometimes, but, it’s hard for me.

It just seemed natural, therefore, when my husband and I started our business in 1997 to build charitable giving into the very core of the company. We decided not to spend money on marketing but to give that portion of our annual budget to charity. There are many benefits to running a charitable company in this part of the world. Many people have remarked on how much we give. Our employees respect and appreciate our deep commitment to the community. Making philanthropy an unapologetic centerpiece of our business’ core values has had amazing ripple effects. It has paid us back ten-fold. We live in a blessed culture.

And now, I am focused on passing along my sense of responsibility to the next generation. My teenage son volunteers at a local food pantry. He was overwhelmed by the need—the hunger—in this community. He loves the work so much, he is considering pursuing nonprofit work as a career.

People are so generous in our area during the holiday time. But, the need doesn’t go away between Christmas and Thanksgiving. Companies and individuals just don’t understand how much of a difference they can make throughout the year for people who are hungry or homeless, who are coping with domestic violence or surviving cancer. Nonprofits can help so many people, but they need the support of small businesses to do more. You’ll be surprised at how impactful and gratifying it is to support your local community. I tell people: Just make the commitment, take an action, and help us end the need.