Spotlight: Community spirit

Good citizenship lies at the heart of all truly great businesses. The OP industry should be very proud of its giving ethos - in the spiritual as well as literal sense.

Business supplies in their growing diversity are of course the nuts and bolts of our industry, but it’s the community spirit that is the invisible superglue which holds it all together and that makes people often dedicate their entire career to it. Nowhere is this more evident than in the wide variety of philanthropic efforts that year after year support a large variety of charitable causes. 

Often these happen on an individual company basis, such as International Paper’s support of the Susan G Komen foundation (see ‘Rising to the challenge’, page 48), but there are also several country and even industry-wide initiatives that bring all channels together and, most importantly, raise much needed funds for some incredible causes. Here’s a selection of three from across the globe (for more examples of CSR initiatives, look out for our Green Thinking supplement in November).

City of Hope

OPI: What is the business products industry’s involvement with the City of Hope (COH) and how has it evolved?

Matt Dodd (Senior Director of Corporate Philanthropy, City of Hope): City of Hope is a leading research and treatment centre for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases and we’re headquartered in Duarte, California. For the past 35 years, leading executives and companies from what we now call the National Business Products Industry (NBPI) have supported the City of Hope through organised, industry-wide fundraising campaigns.

In total, over 200 companies support these initiatives every year. To date, about $165 million have been donated. The 2017 Saving Lives Hand in Hand campaign alone is expected to raise over $14 million.  

OPI: What specifically has been achieved at COH with the monies raised? 

MD: Most of the funds raised are what we call unrestricted, so they go into a large pool of general operational funds from where COH allocates monies to support what it feels is the most promising research, facility, talent, etc. 

From time to time, NBPI leadership directs amounts towards specific projects or facilities such as the National Business Products Industry Chemical GMP Synthesis Facility; the National Business Products Industry Center for Biomedicine and Genetics, or the National Business Products Industry Cellular and Tumor Immunotherapies Center. 

OPI: What are the key priorities for the City of Hope? 

MD: We’re focused on developing new life-saving drugs, therapies, patient protocols and cures for cancer, diabetes and HIV/Aids. COH developed Humulin about 35 years ago, for example, which is now used by millions of diabetics around the world. COH research breakthroughs have also led to the development of many well-known anti-cancer drugs such as Herceptin, Avastin, Erbitux and Rituxan. Over 100 million patients annually benefit from new therapies and drugs developed at COH. 

Earlier this year, our research team and leadership announced that it is the City of Hope’s goal and expectation to cure Type 1 diabetes in six years via The Wanek Project (www.cityofhope.org/wanek). 

OPI: How specifically can our industry get involved?

MD: There are several ways. NBPI organises about 20 annual fundraising events which include golf outings, fishing trips, walks and bike rides as well as the City of Hope Tour and Hall of Fame Dinner or the annual Spirit of Life Gala get-together where a member of the business supplies industry is honoured. Supporting any of these events is one option. 

Companies are also raising funds for COH by hosting their own events in collaboration with vendors and suppliers. Employee engagement is another way and monies are raised via payroll deductions, bake sales, car washes, jeans day, etc.

In addition, there’s consumer involvement whereby manufacturers identify a product and create sales promotions around it, donating a specific percentage or dollar amount from the sale to COH. 

Finally, there’s the NBPI personal giving programme which aims to raise $3 million over five years in support of the NBPI Chemical GMP Synthesis Facility. Donations range from $25 upwards to $100,000.

OPI: Aside from the raising of funds, how is this industry-wide collaboration in the US benefitting the industry and community as a whole in your view?

MD: In many ways. COH and our fundraising activities and events are helping to keep the industry connected from a professional, business relationship development as well as humanitarian angle. Our events tend to have great support and turnout from the most influential executives, companies and brands in the industry. 

Even taking philanthropy out of the equation, these events represent a great opportunity to spend quality time with your business partners.

Climb of Life

The Climb of Life (COL) dates back 30 years and has become the fundraising event in the UK business supplies industry’s calendar. 

Founded and organised by industry veteran and Chairman of the BOSS Business Supplies Charity Graeme Chapman MBE, COL brings together over 100 members of the UK OP sector who, once a year, climb some of the toughest mountains in the country’s Lake District. This year’s theme is ‘30 YEARS, 30 MOUNTAINS 4 ICR’.

In each of the past three years, COL raised over £100,000 ($129,000). If 2017 donations exceed £100,000 again, the total amount received over the past 30 years will be £1.5 million.

For the past 11 years, all monies raised have been donated to the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) which, in partnership with The Royal Marsden hospital, forms the largest comprehensive cancer centre in Europe.

Given that the climb takes place in November, trekking conditions are rarely pleasant, with battering rain and snow, high winds and storms a common occurrence. Rather than acting as a deterrent, however, it makes participants even more determined to reach the top and in the process hopefully raise much needed funds. 

One of the long-standing supporters and main fundraisers of COL is OPI. This year again – on 3 November – OPI will take a team to the Lake District in the hope of not only conquering the mountains but, step by little step, also the dreadful disease that is cancer. Says CEO Steve Hilleard: “Practically all of our friends, colleagues and family members have been affected in some way by cancer. We at OPI and the industry as a whole have lost so many loved ones to this illness in the past few years alone that even the toughest day in the mountains feels like a privilege compared to their suffering. 

“And as long as cancer claims lives and makes those of family and friends difficult and miserable, we’ll be climbing mountains to raise money that can go towards research, treatment, drugs and cures.”

Coming together for COL at the ‘base camp’ Swan Hotel in the small English town of Grasmere is one of the highlights of Chapman’s year. Despite the sad cancer tales told by many participants, the fundraising event also illustrates the enormous companionship and community spirit in our industry, he comments. “In 1987 when I started COL, I simply wanted to raise money for charities. I’m staggered by how the event has evolved and progressed over the past 30 years, not only in terms of fundraising, but also in terms of its positive community spirit. I’m immensely proud to see so many people in our industry trekking and socialising together for the greater good, even if they are the fiercest of competitors.”

Australian Office Products Charitable Fund

The Australian Office Products Charitable Fund was founded in 1999 by Anthony Keyzer whose son was suffering from an incurable and debilitating disease. Keyzer, along with other members of the OP community, decided to run a charity golf day, with all funds raised being donated to help his sick child. 

This is how it started and evolved from – a desire and pledge to help sick or underprivileged children in Australia as well as deserving causes specifically in our industry. 

John Donaghy, Managing Director at dealer Australian Forms Office Choice and Chairman of Office Choice, and Brian Brown, General Manager Commercial at ACCO Brands, are joint Directors of the charitable fund. They are supported by a committee made up of industry personnel from companies such as Fellowes, Canon Australia, Stationery News and GNS. 

As Donaghy explains: “The charity’s mission statement is to provide funds to children’s charities in Australia that are not mainstream and do not receive a great deal of government funding. In addition, we try to help people in hardship within our industry. Last year, for example, we had a sales person from Avery whose brother committed suicide and she asked if we could donate some money to Beyond Blue which is a charity set up to help people deal with depression. We donated A$10,000.”

Over the past 18 years, about A$800,000 ($641,000) have been raised to assist children’s charities, industry-specific hardships and on occasions other causes such as the tsunami victims of Sri Lanka in 2005 and the Bali bombing survivors in 2008.

Funds for the chosen causes predominantly come from two main events – a golf day and a Christmas charity lunch. Annual donations are now in the region of A$100,000, up from about A$14,000 when the fund was first set up. Every year, charities are invited to pitch their cause, with ultimately about A$5,000 being given to an industry plight throughout the year, with the remainder being allocated to one or occasionally two charities at Christmas.

In addition, between A$15,000 and A$20,000 are raised at the annual Office Choice conference through an auction and raffle at its awards night. This is awarded to the Dealer of the Year to donate to their local charity of choice. 

The selected children’s charity in 2016 was Foster Care Angels which provides assistance to foster children throughout Australia. Says Donaghy: “To see the faces of the recipients when I give them the cheque is priceless. Last year Foster Care Angels thought they would receive A$10,000, so you can imagine the tears when I gave them A$80,000 – it’s an amount that funds them for a whole year.” 

This year, the core beneficiary of the monies raised will go to the Mirabel Foundation, an organisation that assists children who have been orphaned or abandoned due to parental drug use. The charity supports children aged 0-17 years and works at restoring a child’s sense of self-worth, offering practical as well as emotional support. 

 “I believe the industry can feel very proud of its efforts – we have bought wheelchairs, paid for treatments and helped a whole variety of hardships. Hopefully we are only two years off hitting the magic one million dollar mark in terms of total funds raised,” Donaghy concludes.