When a large company makes a large donation, it makes large headlines.
A smaller contribution by a smaller company might not turn as many heads, but to the people who benefit, it’s no less important.
And around central Ohio, there are plenty of small companies working hard to make a big difference.
Sophisticated Systems, Inc.
Sophisticated Systems – headquartered in east Columbus, near Gahanna – is an IT Solutions company. It employs about 80 to 90 and has been in business since 1990.
Among the company’s recent charitable actions was a Christmas in July event that collected food and toys for the Salvation Army, giving the charity a jump start on its Christmas toy collections. After all, says company founder and CEO Dwight Smith, the holiday season isn’t the only time people are in need.
“There is such a need in our community for food, and also to give young children whose parents don’t have the economic ability to give toys and such,” Smith says.
The event was a cookout, and all attendees had to do to enjoy the hamburgers, hot dogs and soda was to bring a toy or nonperishable food item.
SSI employees are strongly encouraged to give back and play a positive role in the community. Some get involved in holiday Salvation Army activities, from ringing bells in front of stores to giving away collected food and toys at Christmas. Others participate in Big Brothers Big Sisters. A company policy even allows employees to participate in charity activities during the work day without having to take time off, and it’s not uncommon for clothing or toy drives to be organized at the office, especially around the holidays.
“People are jazzed about being part of a team that really cares about other people,” says Smith. “They don’t feel that way because I feel that way; they feel that way because that’s the kind of people they are.”
As an IT company, SSI frequently ends up with old computers after installing new ones for its clients. These computers are often sent to nonprofits; for example, a school will call and indicate its need for computers, and if the company has any, it will see that they get to the school.
“We have probably donated upwards of 75 computers to local charities in central Ohio and overseas,” says Smith.
Smith and his wife, Renee, also started their own charitable group, the Thanks be to God Foundation, which they use for endeavors such as building a classroom in a Tanzania school. After the Smiths helped build the classroom, SSI employees bought desks for the students who would be attending school there.
Marion-based RobotWorx, which buys and sells industrial robots, has been in business since 1992. The company has about 35 employees.
Amid its many robot sales, the company is always looking for opportunities to contribute to robotics programs in the central Ohio area. It has made numerous donations to school robotics clubs, including clubs in Marion and Marysville.
RobotWorx has also contributed to The Ohio State University. A $50,000 donation in 2011 went toward the new science building, which includes a robotics training center, at the university’s Marion branch campus.
The idea is to provide students better opportunities to study and understand the world of robotics so they have better job prospects later in life, says Stefani Wanner, web manager and marketing director for RobotWorx.
“We’ve also donated four robots to COSI, and (they’re) actually on display there,” Wanner says.
The company donated the robots in coordination with its participation in COSI’s Robot Science Day events. The RobotWorx robots, originally built for jobs such as welding and material handling, were put to work disco dancing and assembling magnetic puzzles.
In addition, company culture supports employees’ decisions to give back to the community on their own.
“We always encourage (employees) to do that,” says Wanner.
RobotWorx’s community involvement has not gone unnoticed. On National Philanthropy Day, Nov. 20, the company was honored by the Central Ohio Association of Fundraising Professionals. The association named RobotWorx Outstanding Small Corporation at the 2012 awards ceremony, the 20th annual.
Bailey Cavalieri LLC
Downtown Columbus law firm Bailey Cavalieri, formed in 2003, has about 70 employees.
The firm has worked hard to instill in employees a sense of community and encourage them to get involved in charitable, civic, educational and pro bono endeavors.
“We emphasize stewardship, charitable giving and philanthropy,” says member Dan Bailey. “It’s something we talk about a lot, it’s something we focus on.”
The Community Shelter Board, which fights homelessness in Columbus, renamed its leadership society the Bailey Cavalieri Leadership Society in response to a gift from the firm in 2011, and the local chapter of United Way earlier this year gave the firm its President’s Award for its continuing growth in employee participation and total contribution, as well as its high level of engagement with United Way.
“I think we have successfully educated our folks on the importance of giving, the need for the funds that are given and the responsibility that comes to all of us from the many blessings that we’ve realized,” Bailey says.
Almost 100 percent of Bailey Cavalieri employees contribute to the company’s annual United Way campaign.
“We solicit all of our attorneys and staff members to individually contribute, and I have found that to be an important part of developing that culture (of giving),” says Bailey.
The company’s contributions go to United Way’s Community Impact Fund, which, in 2011, helped link almost 245,000 people in need with food, shelter and financial assistance; provide almost 27,000 youths build the skills needed to graduate high school; and connect almost 23,000 people with health and wellness services, among many other accomplishments, says Kermit Whitfield, director of communications for United Way of central Ohio.
Other charitable efforts include participation in LifeCare Alliance’s Meals-on-Wheels program and a variety of holiday giving projects, such as adopting families in need and donating clothing and blankets to charitable organizations. The firm also donates to community nonprofits; for example, it’s one of the major sponsors of the Annie Leibovitz exhibition at the Wexner Center for the Arts.
Among the organizations supported by staffers on their own time are Big Brothers Big Sisters, Buckeye Boys Ranch, YMCA, YWCA and the American Red Cross. Firm attorneys often provide pro bono legal services to the needy through the Legal Aid Society of Columbus and the Ohio State Legal Services Association.
“Every couple weeks, we’ll have somebody send an email around saying, ‘I’m involved in this organization … will you support me?’” Bailey says.
Garth Bishop is editor of CityScene Magazine. Feedback welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.