By Jeff Eaton, Regional Managing Director
How do you create meaningful impact in your local community?
The office of Cushman & Wakefield Minneapolis-St. Paul has found success in answering this question since it launched its annual company-wide philanthropic initiative, CommUNITY Day in 2010: giving back by doing what you do best.
We started with the need. We found that most often nonprofit organizations, especially those in in-need communities like North Minneapolis, direct most of their funding to their mission, leaving little for capital improvements to their facilities or building maintenance. Many times these nonprofit organizations are limited in expanding the valuable services and programs they can offer because of the limitations of their physical space. Whether it’s providing nutritious food, shelter, professional development training or life skills to the children, adults and families they serve, a nonprofit’s physical location can be a big factor in the impact it can make.
As Minnesota’s leading commercial brokerage and asset services provider, our office leverages our local CRE and asset services expertise, vendor partners, and talented employees to provide a facility rehabilation to these great organizations that they would likely not otherwise be able to receive.
Our CommUNITY Day Initiative
Each year, we select a nonprofit organization that serves the North Minneapolis community and revitalize their facility at no cost, which helps the organization significantly increase the impact of their mission. This charitable program includes a large-scale donated renovation project and an annual volunteer day for employees at the selected site.
2017 marked our seventh CommUNITY Day project. This year’s project was located at Metro Hope/Healing House, a residential drug and alcohol recovery program serving women and mothers with children since 1926. Projects included remodeling an office, retrofitting of the lighting systems, painting hallways and sprinkler pipes, installing a new fence, replacing a gazebo, replacing aging HVAC equipment and increasing the energy efficiency of HVAC systems.
Cushman & Wakefield’s “investment in North Minneapolis is making a transformational change on the individual, family and community and family level” – the 2015 project’s program director
“We feel like we won the lottery” – the 2013 project recipient’s program director
“Wow!” – one child/program member who saw the new playground after the 2015 project
“It’s a win win. We get just as much out of the experience, if not more, than our partner site.” – Cushman & Wakefield employee and volunteer
To date, our total contributions, donations and labor to North Minneapolis nonprofits have valued at more than $1.3 million. Volunteer participation each year is typically around 100 employees strong. More importantly, the spirit of teamwork, and giving back to our community has become an important part of the culture at Cushman & Wakefield.
Starting a New Philanthropic Initiative
If your company is considering getting involved in or starting your own philanthropic initiative or community impact program, I offer here these four things to consider:
- Identify a need that your organization is uniquely qualified to fill.
- Select your “team captains” early to carefully define project scope, budget and volunteer roles.
- Reach out to your key vendor partners – they are eager to support and multiply your effort.
- Make employee communications a priority. They want to know the charity partner’s mission and understand how they are helping to extend it.
Jeff Eaton is Regional Managing Principal of the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Detroit and Chicago offices of Cushman & Wakefield. In this role, Mr. Eaton is responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations and bringing the best professionals in the industry together to win and service clients at the highest level.