Jon Belsher | Philanthropy

Jon Belsher is a committed philanthropist

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Companies That Offer Incentives for Volunteering

In my previous blog, I discussed how business leaders can give back to their communities by encouraging their employees to volunteer. Whether it was through VTO days, downloading charitable software on company computers, or offering employees assistance with housing costs, business leaders have an opportunity to give a new meaning to what philanthropy means in their workplace. To give business leaders all the more reason to encourage their employees to volunteer, here are a few companies that offer their employees incentives for doing so.

NuStar Energy

Texas-based NuStar Energy L.P. has about 1,600 employees, $5.1 billion in assets, and pulls in about $2.1 billion in revenue. But it’s assets and revenue isn’t what the company is known for.

NuStar has been ranked as one of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” for eight consecutive years because of its “sharing is caring” culture and their strong commitment to community service. In fact, NuStar employees participated in a total of 95,000 volunteer hours last year because the company gives its employees an incentive to volunteer: 60 hours of paid volunteer time off per year!

The company has been awarded for its volunteerism, philanthropy, and great corporate culture, which revolves around guiding principles that include: commitment, making a difference, teamwork, and pride. NuStar’s guiding principles are so well-engrained in their employees and their culture that they’re emphasized in all of the company’s communications, activities, and events, and the company displays posters with these principles all throughout their buildings.

PCL Construction

PCL is a group of independent construction companies across the United States, Canada, and Australia. Because the company spans across a few countries, finding a common organization to volunteer for can be challenging. That why the company feels it’s important to let individual districts organize local volunteer efforts that are meaningful in their respective locations. This type of thinking has led the company to be named on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” for 10 years!

Although it can be difficult for this international company to recognize employees for their volunteer work, PCL Construction holds an annual volunteer recognition luncheon to show their appreciation. Employees who attend have an opportunity to win a $200 check for the charity of their choice, and those who went above and beyond with their hours of volunteer service are awarded a Presidential Service Award plaque.

Zumasys

This small, cloud computing services firm packs a punch in the volunteer world. With only 63 employees, the firm makes sure everyone’s voice is heard because one percent of Zumasys’ annual revenue is donated to a variety of charities nominated by its employees. Even better, some of the donated money also benefits employees’ friends and family members who are facing financial crises.

Now that you’ve read about businesses that provide incentives for employee volunteer work, are you willing to implement this into your business?

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How Business Leaders Give New Meaning to Philanthropy

As a business leader, you’ve probably thought about the best ways for your company to assist a philanthropy. Donating money every year is undoubtedly helpful, but it probably doesn’t hold a special meaning for you. Here are three creative ways that your company can give back to the community.

Giving Employees VTO Days

PTO, or Paid Time Off, is a fairly standard work policy. However VTO, or Volunteer Time Off, is a new policy that many employers are adding to their playbooks.

VTO gives employees an opportunity to volunteer during work hours. Initially you may think this will decrease productivity in the workplace, but it’s a great investment for the future of your company. Workers who get VTO are more likely to go above and beyond for their employers in times of need, thus increasing productivity in the long run.

In addition, providing your employees with opportunities to give back to the community increases employee loyalty, says VolunteerMatch.org. It makes your employees proud that they’re working for a company with a strong commitment to the community, and they’re more likely to stick with their employer for a longer period of time.

“When employees are actively involved in giving back, it can lead to a deeper commitment and connection to the work,” says Elizabeth Stocker, a consultant at the Great Place to Work Institute, a company focused on building high-performing workplace cultures.

Downloading Tab for a Cause on Company Computers

How typical is it for you or your employees to have more than one internet tab open at a time? This normal, everyday practice can be turned into a charitable action with Tab For A Cause.

According to USA Today, Tab for a Cause is one of the simplest ways to raise money. When users open a new browser tab, the internet app will display a banner in the corner of your web browser, and the profits from these ads are donated to charity.

Users can choose which charities they want their profits to go to. A few examples of charities that partner with Tab for a Cause are Save the Children, which protects children during times of natural disasters or war, and Educate!, an organization that is helping transform education in Africa to lift youth out of poverty.

Companies Can Be Philanthropic to Their Employees, Too

Although slightly more uncommon, employers are offering incentives for their employees to stay with a company by offering to assist with housing costs — as long as their residence is near their workplace.

Currently, only three percent of companies help their employees with down payments on a home, according to a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management. But that might be changing. “The idea of paying for workers’ homes lost momentum during the recession but may be gaining new steam,” said Robin Snyderman, principal at Illinois consulting firm Brick Partners.

The concept of offering to help employees with housing has the potential to encourage employees to work longer, more productive hours and eases the stress of long commutes. It’s also good for the surrounding community as well. With more people living and working closely, it encourages spending and provides more money for community revitalization.

Giving your employees VTO days, downloading charitable software on company computers, and offering your employees assistance with housing costs are just a few ways that business leaders can give a new meaning to what philanthropy means. Do you have creative or outside the box ways of charitable giving in your company? Let me know in the comments!

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How Children Can Get Involved in Philanthropy

I care deeply about education and the important role that it plays in children’s lives. As a father, I aim to be an exemplary role model and teacher for my children. There are many ways you can model, and even encourage, charitable behavior to teach your children to be selfless. This can help build their self-esteem, teach them the importance of community activism, and give them a greater appreciation for the things they currently have in their lives.

Below are a few ideas about how you — and your children — can get involved in philanthropies.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand

The Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) is dedicated to raising funds for research, treatment, and cures for children battling cancer. Alexandra “Alex” Scott, the four-year-old founder of the foundation, had childhood cancer herself. At such a young age, she was on a mission to find cures for all children battling cancer by selling lemonade at a stand in her front yard. Although she passed away at eight-years-old, she raised more than $1 million to help find a cure for childhood cancer.

You can encourage your children to become active volunteers with Alex’s Lemonade Stand. They can collect spare change, donate a portion of their allowance, sell handmade bracelets in the foundation’s colors, or host a lemonade stand at a local baseball game or fair. It’s also important to educate your children about childhood cancer. “Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand,” written and illustrated to highlight the true story of Alex, is an excellent way to educate your children about the importance and awareness of childhood cancer.

Donate Hair to Those Who Need the Confidence

Do you remember when Thomas Moore, a fifth-grader from Maryland, didn’t cut his hair for two years just so he could donate it to cancer survivors who lost their hair from chemotherapy? Children like Thomas can grow out their hair to donate to individuals who have lost their hair to severe burns or diseases like cancer or alopecia. There are a handful of organizations that take donated hair and turn them into wigs — Locks of Love, Pantene Beautiful Lengths, and Wigs for Kids are just a few examples.

Operation Gratitude

“We are told again and again that the most cherished items in the packages are the personal letters of appreciation,” says the Operation Gratitude website. Your children can brighten the spirits of deployed troops, recruits, and veterans by sending a handmade card or letter. They can use colorful construction paper, markers, and stickers to add pizazz to their cards. While your children are busy crafting one of these cards, you can educate them about the importance of these men and women serving our country and inspire them to express thanks for their service, dedication and sacrifice.

This post was inspired by 6 Secrets for Cultivating Charity at Home from the University of Texas at Austin.

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The Philanthropic Organizations I’m Passionate About

I’m blessed to have reached a high level of success in my professional career, and I have made it my duty to give back to the community that has yielded these great rewards and success. I’m eager to share my involvement with the United Way, Health Care for the Homeless, and Special Olympics, all organizations near and dear to my heart.

United Way

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The Big Brothers & Big Sisters program of United Way is a mentorship program that believes every child has the ability to succeed in life. They partner with parents, guardians, volunteers, and others in the community (called Bigs) to make meaningful matches with children from the ages of 6 through 18 (called Littles).

For a number of years, I was a Big Brother for the United Way. In this role, I had the opportunity to help shape a child’s future for the better. I made weekly visits to my Little Brother to help him with tough things like homework, but also went to the park to throw the ball around or grabbed some ice cream together.

This experience helped me develop a deeper understanding of the importance of caring for children that are in need of love and support, while also fostering their leadership skills and helping them realize their full potential. If you’re interested in becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister, you can find more information here.

Health Care for the Homeless

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At one point in my career, I was motivated to explore a side of medicine that I had less familiarity with. My training at the Mayo Clinic involved caring for individuals who were generally more socioeconomically fortunate, and that inspired me to join Health Care for the Homeless in Phoenix.

Health Care for the Homeless delivers quality healthcare to homeless people through street outreach and integrated primary care. It provides mental health services, substance abuse services, case management, nutrition services, and more.

As a staff physician, I gained a better understanding of the homeless plight and their lack of access to basic healthcare. It was an enriching and rewarding experience to be able to care for those who needed it the most, but most importantly, I gained compassion for all mankind regardless of circumstance. It was profoundly humbling to gain insight into the backgrounds of many homeless people, including those with advanced degrees.

Special Olympics

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I played football, basketball, and track when I was in high school. Given my sports’ background and love of children, I jumped at the opportunity to spearhead the medical program for Special Olympics Minnesota.

Special Olympics is a leader in raising awareness about the abilities of people with intellectual disabilities. Through the power of sports, people with intellectual disabilities have the opportunity to discover new strengths, abilities, and skills to achieve success.

Since I believe every child, even those with disabilities, deserves a safe and secure foundation to realize their full potential in life, Special Olympics became the perfect opportunity for me to put my experience as an athlete and physician to use.

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Philanthropy Is More Than Just Writing a Check

According to oxforddictionaries.com, philanthropy is the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes. Although it is generous to donate money to philanthropies, the true extent of philanthropy can be more than just writing a check. So, what is the true extent of philanthropy?

I believe that an important component of philanthropy is taking the time to spend time with an organization that is important to you. I’d like to provide some examples.

Provide Guidance to Those Who Need It

For a number of years, I was a Big Brother for the United Way. In this role, I had the opportunity to help shape a child’s future for the better. I made weekly visits to my Little Brother, helping him with homework, going to the park to throw the ball around, or just going to get something like ice cream.

These weekly visits were more satisfying to me than simply donating money to the local United Way. Witnessing the joy and security I brought to my Little Brother gave me more satisfaction than board games or frisbees could have had I simply donated money.

Utilize Your Professional Skills to Help Others…

At one point in my career, I was motivated to experience a side of medicine that I had less experience with, namely helping those less socioeconomically fortunate. As a staff physician for the non-profit organization Health Care for the Homeless, I gained a better understanding of the plight of those who were homeless and without access to quality healthcare. It was an eye-opening and rewarding experience to be able to provide healthcare to those who needed it the most.

…And Utilize Your Passions to Do Good

As a high school athlete, I participated in football, basketball and track. Given my sports’ background and love of children, I jumped at the opportunity to spearhead the medical program for Special Olympics Minnesota. Since I believe every child deserves a safe and secure foundation to realize their full potential in life, Special Olympics became the perfect opportunity for me to put my experience as an athlete and physician to use.

My professional endeavors in the healthcare field and my passion for sports have helped guide me to philanthropies like Health Care for the Homeless and Special Olympics. If you volunteer with an organization that shares similar passions, it makes for a very satisfying and enriching experience.

Actively volunteering with an organization that holds a special meaning for you can be more satisfying than just writing a check. The next time you’re thinking about helping a philanthropy in your community, consider actually spending time with the organization. After all, studies have shown that volunteering helps people feel more socially connected, reducing stress and blood pressure, warding off loneliness and depression, and leading to a longer lifespan.

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3 Tips to Fundraise for Your Philanthropy

Although I’m an accomplished business executive, I don’t forget about my roots and my commitment to philanthropy. My father passed away when I was young, and as the eldest of four boys, I assumed the head of the family. My desire to care for children who need love and support didn’t go away as I got older, so I became a Big Brother for the United Way. I also volunteered for many other organizations, and each was a unique eye-opening and rewarding experience.

No matter which organization I was with, I realized how important it is to fundraise. There are so many great organizations out there that help children and families — but they can’t help them without the funds to do so. Here are a few key ways to fundraise for your philanthropy.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a form of fundraising that’s gained traction over the past few years. When you create a page for your fundraising campaign, it’s important to have information about what the money will be used for and why it’s needed. Not all crowdfunding sites are for philanthropies, so here’s a small list of philanthropic-centered crowdfunding sites to help you get started:

  • CrowdRise – CrowdRise is the world’s largest and fastest-growing fundraising platform dedicated exclusively to charitable giving. Used by millions, CrowdRise has been named the best place to raise money online by Mashable.
  • Indiegogo – Indiegogo has had substantial international growth because of their flexibility, broad approach and their early start in the crowdfunding industry. Through Generosity by Indiegogo, nonprofits and socially minded are able to get discounts with a 0% platform fee. Some examples of fundraising campaigns on this site include causes in the medical, education and sports fields.
  • Razoo – Razoo was formed out of a desire to offer a service for underfunded nonprofits and people in need. The platform empowers nonprofit organizations, highlights teamwork and gives individuals a voice for what they care about.

Fundraise with Food

Food brings people together for a common cause, and after all, everyone has to eat! Here are a few ways to fundraise for your organization with the power of food:

  • Don’t do the traditional bake sale because they’re so overdone! Make your organization stand out by doing something different like a baked potato bar, pancake breakfast or barbecue. And instead of having a set price, sell the food and tickets by donation. People will be more inclined to donate more money to your organization.
  • Fundraise at a local restaurant. Some restaurants have fundraising programs to donate a fixed amount of money for every patron in a certain time period. Applebee’s, Fuddruckers and Friendly’s are just a few.

Have an Online Presence

The first place people go to get more information about an organization or event is to look it up online. Whether it’s a website or social media profile, having one or both of these aspects can be extremely important for your fundraiser. Make sure you include the key details like contact information, addresses, dates, locations, times and visuals that represent your organization. It’s also important to make sure the website and social media profiles are updated regularly.

Have you tried these tips before? If so, let me know in the comments section because I would love to hear about how it went.

Welcome!

Welcome to Jon Belsher’s Philanthropy Blog. Please stay tuned for more updates!