Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Spotlight on Social Responsibility: Do you "Live United"

Friday October 14, 2011 marked the end of the one week 2011 Ernst & Young Columbus Office "United Way Campaign". I'm sure almost all of you, at least those of you in the U.S., have seen a commercial on television. The United Way has done a great job of branding itself over the past few years which has helped further its cause including forming a strategic collaboration with  the National Football League ("NFL" ,and yes that's Football Americano to my Brazilian friends) to create "Play 60". However the most important collaboration they created was with everyday people like you and me through the "Live United" campaign. The "Live United" campaign was launched in 2008, shifting the focus back to the communities' where people live rather than only focusing on donations from the larger groups for time and money. One of the strategic elements of the campaign included featuring local residents on promotional materials to tell the story of how they "Live United". It had a similar effect that the Miller High Life Commercials had when they were filmed in real convenience stores. Despite their bad tasting beer, people still bought it because of great marketing right?

So back to the United Way, despite their great cause to further the communities in which we all live, work, and play, they were not getting the exposure from the youth or the working middle class. It was the wealthy corporate executives that had some money to stash before paying taxes or even the life long giver that was taught the value of community back in the 1930's. With this new campaign, it became cool and trendy to "Live United". With the ingenious marketing scheme, there were suddenly teenagers, college students, and young professionals wearing the "Live United" tee shirts around town on any given day. At least in the circle of friends that I have, and in the Columbus Ohio Community, I have seen a large swing to get involved both from a volunteering and a financial perspective.

"Live United" Campaign
  At Ernst & Young, the United Way is one of our focus organizations, and we encourage everyone to support them as our community goals align with the overall strategy of the United Way. The United Way focuses on Education, Income, Health, and Home. Seems pretty simple right? Ernst & Young does a great job of helping organizations at a global (How do you think I got to Sao Paulo in the first place?), national and the local levels. Our E&Y Columbus Office has seen a significant impact in our participation and service in our initiatives with the United Way of Central Ohio. Over the past 5 years, despite a tough local economy due to the recession, we have continued to increase our giving (also despite a reduction in overall headcount). For example, In 2007, we had 221 employees in our office with 154 donating to the United Way for a 70% participation rate and total giving of $115,668. In 2008, we formed a United Way committee and took on the task as a major project for our office by setting goals, timelines, and outlining a set of incentives and prizes. With 186 employees in the office, we achieved a 100% participation rate and raised $128,265. That calculates out to almost an 11% increase in giving despite a 19% decrease in overall headcount. That's impressive right? Well we did not stop there as we have achieved 100% participation over the past 3 years as well (4 straight!) with total giving being $135,029 (165 employees), $144,237 (157 employees), and approximately $163,000 (168 employees), for the years 2009, 2010, and 2011 respectively. Despite a somewhat level headcount we have experienced continued growth as we focus on our goals, including an increase in 13% from 2010 to 2011! Should I also remind you again that we accomplish this all in one week?

We also changed our internal marketing to include messages from not only from Partners and executives, but we also used our peers to spread the cause and education the employees on the programs of the United Way. We developed a United Way kickoff event where we described how small changes in your spending habits for one day per week could go a long way in helping United Way. For instance, if a person gives up Starbucks/Red Bull once a week ($3-4 per week) this would result in a donation of $192 a year, which the United Way could turn into a week of preschool education. Or if you packed a lunch ($10) once a week, it resulted in a donation of $520 per year, which the United Way could turn into 15 visits to a Wellness Center for someone in need. Breaking it down into elements that people understand and it makes sense. Just like the "Live United" marketing campaign. It helps when you have incentives too.

You want to know more about those incentives don't you? There are not grand in scale by any means and are certainly not an increase in salary or extra vacation days (However if I get a 1% boost in my salary I could give that to charity, hint hint). However, they are things like Jeans Days on Fridays, Bagels for the Office one day per month, or that our Office Managing Partner, Craig Marshall, and the United Way Sponsoring Partner, Eric Schreiber, both do the annual "Jump into Mirror Lake". For those that are not familiar with the jump into mirror lake, it's a tradition that started in the 1990's where Ohio State Students would jump into Mirror Lake on the Thursday before the game versus arch rival "That School up North" (click the link if you don't know the school's name, I cannot bring myself to type it out, but it's the school name on the right). The game is played at the end of November so if you are not familiar with Ohio weather in November, it is typically just above freezing (32F or 0C) so the water is extremely cold. Why people want to do this I don't know, but no one questions it, because its tradition, and it's awesome. See picture below for a photo of the famous E&Y Plunge.

L-R Columbus Office Managing Partner, Craig Marshall and United Way Sponsoring Partner, Eric Schreiber
Entitled: "Brothers from another mother"

In addition, the United Way has many giving societies for donor recognition based on your giving level and certain basic demographic information. To compliment those societies, we created the A.C. Ernst Society, (aptly named after Alwin C. Ernst, founder of Ernst & Young back in 1903 and considered the "father" of management consulting) which is for all employees of the Columbus Office who give at least 1% of their current salary, or who promise to increase their donations over a 3 year period resulting in a 1% donation level. Members of this society are treated to an elaborate dinner and celebration at Craig's house, which if you have ever been to, is the perfect place to host such an event. There is also a lot of wine, which always helps. We currently have an admirable percentage of our employees as a part of this society and it certainly can be felt come campaign time.

 Also, I could not go without mentioning another way that we have been able to create interest and support for the United Way, is through the use of teams. For the past three years, we have split the office into eight teams with an equal number of people and the first team to reach 100% participation has won a lunch or happy hour with Craig and Eric.

I have shown a list of the winning captain for each of the three years of the team competition below.

2011 - Tyler Schleich*
2010 - Tyler Schleich
2009 - Tyler Schleich

That's right, a 3Peat, just like my beloved Los Angeles Lakers in 2000, 2001, and 2002. ! I could not have done it without the support of my team members from each of those years. Whether they really wanted to give or they did not want to get anymore emails, voicemails, phone calls, etc from me and deciding to make their pledge. Also, you proabably noted this year has an asterisk. That is not because I used performance enhancing drugs, but because I had help on the ground in Columbus while I was down here in Sao Paulo Brazo participating in the E&Y Fellowship.

A special thank you goes out to Michael "The Enforcer" Bowman.

In all seriousness, I would like to thank the rest of the Ernst & Young United Way Committee for another job well done:

Craig Marshall (OMP), Eric Schreiber (Sponsoring Partner), Celina Hardy, Jeff Harden, Andrea Hecht, Femi Adeyanju, Becky Kavka, Angie Haag, Beth Schindler, Stacy Zhang, and Michael Bowman.

Also a thank you to this year's 2011 Winning Team for getting their pledges in early:
Mark Blawas, Amy Burke, Kevin Grove, Cassy Guth, Jen Hutson, Kyle Kaufman, Michael Bowman, Karen Macrina, Bob Moreland, Paul Naumoff, Tim Neff, Brett Nobles, Lisa Readout, Jessica Verhotz, Jon Weaver, Jessica Wipperman, Brian "E6" Zehentbauer, Sean Johnson, Megan Payne, and Alex Criss.

E&Y employees participating in the United Way Community Cares Day
(L-R) Maureen Westrick, Tyler Schleich, and Chris McFarland
Do you "Live United"? If not, click on this link to either donate, advocate, or volunteer.

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