It’s no secret that South Jersey is home to some amazing businesses—both large and small—that are helping drive the local economy and solidify the region as a hub for any number of industries. But beyond job creation and revenue generation, many of these companies feel a corporate responsibility to be a good neighbor and lend support to numerous causes in the community.
And area companies are achieving this in multiple ways, whether creating their own charitable arms to raise crucial funding, volunteering with different organizations and partnering with nonprofits to help them achieve both short- and long-term goals.
On the flipside, nonprofits are certainly welcoming this compassionate and crucial support, as it helps them further their mission and expand their outreach. Having these philanthropic partners is rewarding for both sides: The end result is a better South Jersey for everyone.
We spoke to some leaders from both businesses and nonprofits in the area to get a sense of how corporate giving can be a fulfilling mission for all those involved.
For those who give to your organization, how do you work with them to show the positive impact the money they donate will have, and how that will have a direct benefit for the countless people you are able to help as a result?
“For every donor and corporate group, staff take the time to share how the donations make an impact. This happens through conversations with donors and corporate groups as they plan their ways to give, or plan volunteer projects, to maximize impact and be sure they have the chance to invest their time and resources into the people who they want to help. This also happens through speaking engagements onsite at community organizations and corporate partners’ office locations, where donors hear stories directly from our staff about the children and families who will benefit from their contributions.
“The impact of corporate engagement, donations, and volunteerism is also highlighted in the quarterly newsletter, The Spark, and frequently on social media. The more that folks spread the word about the positive impact they are making in the community, the more they will inspire others to get involved and use their own unique strengths to benefit another person in need of help—and it’s as simple as sharing a social media post or forwarding an email.”
—Mary Beth Woodward, associate vice president communications, Center for Family Services
Do you encourage your members to take an active role in giving back to the community and why is that important to you?
“Oh, my goodness, yes. We’re not here just to service an individual because they have a business. We’re here to help an individual grow their business with the expectation that that member’s family grows, and therefore their community grows. So it’s not an ‘I have it, you go get yours’ type of scenario: It is ‘I finally have it, let me spread it amongst the community.’ There’s clearly an expectation—and it is in our nature as African Americans to reach back and assist the other individuals in our community. …
“When we watch our members grow, our expectation is that they reach back and grab one of the newer members who’s just coming on to assist them in getting into some of these opportunities that they now are sitting in. It is an expectation that’s the fiber of our chamber.”
—Mary O. Griffin, PMP, IOM, vice president, membership retention and relations, African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ)
Obviously nonprofits survive on the strength of community support, so how do organizations like yours benefit from a proactive, involved and compassionate community of corporate volunteers and supporters?
“Without corporate and community support, MEND would not be able to successfully obtain donations and event sponsors that financially support the services provided to our residents, which includes the provision of high-quality, accessible, secure and safe affordable homes. Most notable is the support to our Children’s Holiday Fund, which receives donations of toys and gift cards, as well as cash. This fund is truly magical for our resident parents and their children because it provides a bundle of gifts for each child and helps with individual needs, like winter clothing and food. In short, this fund provides a happy holiday to MEND resident children and their families.”
—Eileen Wirth, president and CEO, MEND (Moorestown Ecumenical Neighborhood Development, Inc.)
Do you feel businesses share a responsibility to give back to the area they call home, and why is it important to establish that presence in the community?
“Because together we are stronger. [A nonprofit organization’s] success is our success and vice versa, so it’s very important. The most rewarding aspect of giving back is being able to do so, so anytime there’s someone facing some kind of challenge, we are there to support them any way we can.
“And I’ll be honest, I haven’t come across a business in this area that hasn’t given back in some shape or form. … Everyone I’ve spoken to or that we deal with is doing something for someone else and thinking of people besides themselves.”
—Kim Leiby, director of business development, The Lerepco IT Group
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Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 13, Issue 11 (November 2023).
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