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The Art of Giving Back

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Michelle Patterson, co-founder and CEO of ShakeWell Creative, shares how a workplace can successfully contribute to the local community. 

By Sommer Brugal, Photo by Tania Quintanilla 

For Michelle Patterson, giving back other community was a central part of her upbringing, whether it was through her church or partnering with local organizations throughout the year. It was part of her family’s culture, she says.

Patterson is the co-founder and CEO of ShakeWell Creative, a full-service advertising and marketing agency based in Austin that’s been named one of the Best Places to Work by the Austin Business Journal. Offering services like social-media management, branding and identity, web development and digital advertising, the agency, Patterson says, has a positive culture and environment that are heavily influenced by the community partnerships it has established and the volunteer work employees contribute.

“Being raised in a blessed house-hold, our family’s mantra was to give back,” Patterson says. “I think I always believed in that mindset, [and]I always felt hugely impassioned and rewarded by it.”

She’s worked to incorporate that outlook at ShakeWell Creative.

The community-oriented focus, matched with Patterson’s own drive to see change happen, prompted Austin Woman to ask for her expert advice. Here’s what she had to say about the importance of community giving and how to successfully integrate philanthropic outreach into a company’s mission.

Understand Your Company Values

Patterson says her first aha moment came in her early 20s. While volunteering in her spare time, she noticed the crossover between the organizations in need of sponsorship and the companies that provided services.

“[When] you align the mission of an organization or company with the core values of a nonprofit business, a really wonderful synergy [is created],” Patterson explains.

The combination, she says, allows partners to work well together.

She recommends assessing the core values of the company and passions of the leadership and employees before anything else when thinking of launching a philanthropic partnership. She also suggests understanding what principles underscore the company’s culture. Patterson says recognizing those elements can help guide your search for a nonprofit organization with a mission that aligns with yours.

“It’s kind of like a dating match,” Patterson says. “If you can find a match [of core values], you’ll swipe.”

Once you’ve recognized a potential partnership, Patterson says it’s important to research the organization to ensure it’s working to create a positive impact in the community. Considering whether there is an actual need for such a partnership is also something she recommends.

Make it a Team Decision

ShakeWell Creative currently works with The Pangea Network, an international nonprofit dedicated to empowering motivated individuals in Kenya and the U.S., and The Shade Project, a nonprofit founder through Tru-Skin Dermatology that’s dedicated to the prevention of skin cancer. Not only do both partnerships demonstrate the synergy that can come with volunteer work, Patterson says the missions of both nonprofits mirror those of ShakeWell Creative employees.

“Whether it’s philanthropic work or a for-profit opportunity, we gauge our employees to see how they feel about it,” Patterson says. “You get your best work when people are passionate about what they’re doing.”

Another way to find a non-profit partner, Patterson suggests, is by looking at the philanthropic partners of the for-profit clients you already work with. The Shade Project, for example, was brought to ShakeWell Creative through Tru-Skin Dermatology, the company’s client.

“When you have a regular client and they have a nonprofit arm they’re passionate about, you start understanding what’s important to them, what their core values are,” she explains.

Patterson says she knew the project was important to the founders of Tru-Skin, so moving forward was a natural  fit.

Working on a successful project is a at ShakeWell, Patterson says. When the company’s goal to support the organization through volunteerism, they are able to keep the culture of giving alive. That’s why she’s steadfast about encouraging other companies to do the same.

“These [core-value] alignments are important for the fortitude of the community overall,” Patterson says. “We all have so many resources to share, and I think it would be neat for every company to help.”

Patterson says when two organizations working toward a similar mission unite, it’s clear how the company and the community can be made stronger.

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