The holidays are a good time to think about philanthropy. Practically speaking, the end of the calendar/tax year is the right time to think about philanthropy. Consumerism is a hallmark of the United States’ economy, but so is charitable giving. So much has been written in 2007 about the record number of millionaires, billionaires, and the all around increase in wealth for the highest wage earners in our society. The financial challenges, real estate crunch, and credit crunch have disproportionately impacted those on tight budgets and the poor. The working class has felt the pinch of inflation much more than the wealthy. In Connecticut, we have one of the highest standards of living in the country. Our state ranks first in income per capita. However, we also have some of the highest expenses, including real estate values, property taxes, sales tax, and income tax. In Connecticut, generally, people earn a lot and spend a lot.

I have followed various trends in philanthropy over the years. Horst Engineering has done a lot directly and indirectly for the community. In recent years, Horst Engineering has predominantly supported environmental education and conservation organizations, such as the Appalachian Mountain Club, Green Mountain Club, and Connecticut Forest & Park Association. In my opinion, the environmental crisis is the largest challenge that we face. Climate change as a result of global warming isn’t even the worst of it. It may have the broadest impact, but we are degrading the earth in many ways, through both our production and consumption. In the United States, we are over-developing the land and building structures in places where they shouldn’t be. Open space is under threat and pollution of all types (e.g. air, water, light, etc.) is on the rise.

Many other people also choose to direct their philanthropy towards the environment. Notably, Yvon Chouinard and his company, Patagonia, Inc., have led the way with their support of 1% For The Planet. Chouinard co-founded the organization in 2001 with Craig Mathews of Blue Ribbon Flies.  Each of 1%’s member companies is required to contribute 1% of gross sales to qualified environmental organizations. Horst Engineering has helped many organizations, but the company is not yet close to meeting 1% goals yet.

During the holidays, charity is a hot topic. Aside from the environment, there are many other noble causes. Causes including: feeding the homeless, treating the uninsured and sick, providing aid to the international poor, the arts, medical research, require support. As a capitalist nation, rather than leading the way in consumption and spending (e.g. of consumer electronics), we should focus more energy on leading the way in philanthropy. A recent Wall Street Journal report provided fresh insight on the topic. This year’s focus was on transparency. Most charities are not-for-profit organizations and it is critical that they be run with the efficiency that is the hallmark of many for-profit businesses. They require leadership, governance, and management, just like any organization that consumes and deploys resources. The end of the year and the holidays are a great time to think about philanthropy.

3 Responses to “Philanthropy”

  1. 1 Susan Hyatt 26 December 2007 at 12:57 am

    I agree with you that the holidays are a very good time to engage in philanthropy. I was really pleased to see the numbers of businesses that were engaged in their community(ies) this holiday season – it was great. I now have many new ideas and creative examples that I will share in my future work with clients about ways to give back and engage employees. However, I wish more businesses would take the time to craft an annual action plan for their community involvement – making sure they continue their give back/philanthropy during the holidays but also taking into account what other assets they have to offer to nonprofit alliances throughout the rest of the year. Giving at the holidays feels good…and…hunger, homelessness, and nonprofit organizational capacity development, etc. are year round needs.

    So what’s next? What will you or your company do in 2008?

  2. 2 SL 1 January 2008 at 9:42 pm

    2007 year end planning was a wee bit stressful, but in the end, several organizations benefitted despite my procrastination. In 2008, Horst Engineering’s approach will be much the same as it has been for the last few years. We intend to direct much of our philanthropy towards environmental organizations, and primarily those in New England. We also will support social and environmental organizations in our local communities of East Hartford, Connecticut and Nogales, Sonora. Increasing our philanthropy in Sonora, as well as in Southern Arizona, are two additional goals for 2008. However, since we have been in Connecticut since 1946, our home state will continue to benefit the most.

    One international NGO that we support every year, is worth noting:

  3. 3 Susan Hyatt 19 January 2008 at 4:50 pm

    I appreciate that your business has intentionally chosen to support social and environmental organizations in the areas where you actively do business, with your home state as a primary focus. Too many folks don’t think it through and get really scattered in their give back strategy. Kudos to you!

    If you ever need help tweaking your community involvement strategy or evaluating your impact, we can help:

    Keep up the good work!

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