By Laura Packard
In the weeks after Hurricane Harvey, the national media shined spotlights on the charitable efforts of Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, founder and owner of Gallery Furniture, Houston, Texas. He opened his store as a shelter and gave hundreds of displaced flood victims a place to sleep, warm food to eat, and perhaps most needed, comfort and security. Mattress Mack was in the news again leading up to Thanksgiving, as he coordinated and executed a community dinner at his store that fed 5,000 people (amazingly he was actually prepared to feed 20,000).
While his heroic efforts are news to most outside of Texas, Houstonians are accustomed to seeing and feeling Mack’s philanthropic efforts, as they span back decades and vary from blood drives, to furniture giveaways to needy families, to supporting the military and donating to college scholarship programs and tsunami relief efforts.
His business philosophy is simple. He says, “We believe in Capitalism with a Cause … Why work so hard if you can’t do something positive with what you earn?”
Surely, the insurance industry itself is known for outstanding philanthropic efforts as well. But everyone can use a little “gratitude check” this time of year. How do you, and other leaders within your organization, encourage a culture of gratitude and giving? Here are some tips:
- Examine all of your organization’s current efforts. Are they still impactful? Do your employees get energized by participating in them? Do they make a difference in the community you serve? There is no shame in paring down efforts to focus on new or different ones that will engage your client base and excite your employees.
- Encourage your team members to suggest causes that they are passionate about. It builds goodwill with staff and is great for morale. In my former workplace, one of our employees raised seeing eye puppies. When management learned of this, we encouraged her to bring her pup-in-training into the office on a weekly basis so that he could learn how to interact in an office environment. This not only showed the employee that the company cared, but better helped the pup prepare for his future job. (And who on earth doesn’t like an adorable puppy at work?!)
- Consider low-cost or cost-free endeavors and make it easy for your staff and community to participate. Everyone has a budget and might not be able to fully participate in things like cash fundraisers or new toy donations. Consider other options — blood drives, used coat drives, professional clothes or shoes drives, etc. Get creative! Mix up your efforts throughout the year, so there’s an opportunity for everyone to get involved.
- Invite your clients and your community to maximize efforts! When the flood waters in Houston started to dissipate, Mattress Mack invited the public to drop off cleaning supplies at his store, so others who needed them would have an easy place to pick them up. He did so much, but didn’t do all the heavy lifting on his own — at times he merely coordinated some of the efforts but let the public participate. You can do the very same thing — put your logistical and leadership skills to work, but invite your clients to participate. They will feel a part of your organization and see the gratitude within your culture.
When looking into 2018, don’t forget to put philanthropy on the front burner within your organization. Ask yourself, “What would Mattress Mack do?”