A Case Study in Corporate Giving and How to Thoughtfully Give Back
SmithBates has a long history in giving back to the community and its client organizations. With more than 100 years of being located in the same community, the company and its principals have been active participants, including membership in the Klamath County Chamber, KCEDA, Soroptimist International and Rotary International. Significant financial support has been given to capital campaigns for Oregon Tech, Sky Lakes Medical Center, Ross Ragland Theater and Klamath Community College. We have participated in annual fundraiser drives for United Way, Citizens for Safe Schools, Friends of the Children, Ross Ragland Theater, Favell Museum, Klamath Community Foundation, Klamath County Animal Shelter and many more. And let’s not forget the donated products and services to schools, sports clubs, non-profits and so many other deserving causes.
While more of our business is now outside of our immediate market area, we still focus on giving back to the community in which we work, live and play. We feel blessed to live in a small town where neighbors know each other, and we embrace these local community values as we work with our national and global clients. We believe the social fabric of the community is sacrosanct. Without this, our community would not have survived through the great recession and years of the wood product industry decline.
Ann Cavanaugh, vice president and CFO of SmithBates, discusses the company’s philosophy on corporate giving and what’s next.
Let’s start with the most obvious question, how do you decide what to give to?
AC: We live and work in a small rural community that has been affected significantly by the recession in recent years. We have had to re-focus our giving to reflect the needs of the community. We look for ways to give back that leverage what we do and offer as a company that will in turn, help fuel the economic engine of Klamath County and our region.
Has that changed the way that SmithBates gives back?
AC: Yes and no. We still support the community in a number of ways we historically have through discounts and print donations. However, in recent years we have tried to focus our giving to have a larger impact. I had an “aha!” moment a few years ago when I realized that we were being very reactive and, in many cases, giving away effort and time that was being used for endeavors that were not strategically organized or thought out. Instead of helping every organization that is having a fund-raiser each year, we are looking for more targeted ways to have a positive impact on the community.
What are some examples?
AC: We’ve mentioned Klamath Community Foundation (KCF) in a past blog. We have continued to help that organization grow, both from involvement on the board and in direct giving. KCF is on our list because their mission to enhance and sustain the quality of life in Klamath County aligns with our values. Some other examples are Discover Klamath, Klamath Works and KCEDA. All of these organizations are helping to build and enhance the community by focusing on specific areas of need and growth that in turn, lift our community up. In many cases, we have jumped in at the beginning with other community leaders and helped shape these organizations by donating expertise, time and financial resources.
What types of gifts do you consider?
AC: We give back in the way that makes the most sense. We budget an amount for cash, product and services donations. We also provide discounted products and services on a case-by-case basis. And our staff donates countless hours serving on boards and volunteering their time. We like to focus our main efforts on a short list of projects that we feel we can really help advance.
What organization are you focusing efforts on right now?
AC: We have connected with Klamath Film – a nonprofit with the mission to build, promote and support an industry of local/regional filmmaking in and around Klamath Falls, Oregon. Klamath Film’s main fund-raiser is the Klamath Independent Film Festival (KIFF). This year will be the sixth annual festival, which is coming up on September 14 – 16. We were a sponsor last year and learned a lot about the organization and really believed in its mission – both from the creative standpoint of supporting arts and the craft of filmmaking and videography, but also the potential economic development impact this industry has for our community.
What have you learned since being involved?
AC: Well, as we started to get more involved, we discovered that several smaller films have been made in the area already. In fact, one of the outcomes of the festival in 2016 was the filming of a project in Klamath called “Phoenix, Oregon” this year. The Hollywood produced “Brother Nature” of a few years back brought $700,000 into our local economy, demonstrating the potential impact of filming in Klamath. This is a great opportunity for growth and we want to help elevate awareness.
What has SmithBates contributed to Klamath Film?
AC: Our involvement included in-kind design to produce a new KIFF logo and promotional ads. Our lead designer, JC Thompson designed the logo and developed the “look” for the ads. We continue to provide specific printing, such as the festival rack cards and other needs, with our sponsorship.At the end of 2016, Klamath Film reorganized their board and I agreed to become a board member. We have since hired a part-time executive director and have developed more sponsor relationships. This is an example of how we partner with nonprofits to kick-start or help grow the organization to the next level.
So, what’s next for SmithBates’ giving agenda?
AC: We are in the process of developing a new program, PartnerUp!, that will accept applications twice a year. From these applicants, we will choose an organization or cause to champion based on specific criteria. This will help us focus our efforts and resources in a meaningful way that will make a difference. Our whole team will be involved which will be really exciting – more to come on this new initiative so stay tuned!