When your organization celebrates 40 years in business, you’ve got to celebrate. You’ve got to take that time to appreciate the customers, employees, and communities who got you there. For our 40th, we did the normal celebratory parties and open houses. We cut cakes, we poured punch, and we clinked glasses. But, we realized we wanted to do something else…something more. The question was posed…how do we celebrate our anniversary in a meaningful way? How do we thank a community as a whole? How can we make a bigger impact? And, how do we get our employees involved?
The answer came pretty quickly from a harebrained idea for letting our team go out into the community to do random acts of kindness. From there, it grew into what we called "40 is for giving". Our employees were put into teams of 3-4 and each person was given $40 ($40 for our 40th anniversary). It was then their responsibility to work as a team to come up with an idea for how to use that money to spread kindness within our community. After all, what better way to improve your community than to plant the seed of kindness and hope that it spreads?
Could we have donated that money to charity? Absolutely, and we partner with a lot of charitable organizations throughout the year. But, the goal with this particular activity was to get our employees involved in a very personal way. Often times, organizations donate to the causes in their community, but the employees rarely get to see the impact of that money directly. So, we wanted to help show our team that even the smallest amount of generosity and kindness can make an enormous impact on the communities and people around us. We even added an extra piece to the #40isforgiving initiative by making it a contest – the winners would have the opportunity to donate $500 to the cause of their choice.
Our employees creativity and sense of giving in this was nothing short of amazing. We had teams who decided to spread their money out by spreading kindness in small amounts to lots of people, and we had teams who decided to pool their money together to make a bigger impact on a smaller number of people. Here are some of the things they did… went to Samaritan House in Springdale and handed out cards with words of encouragement and cash to those who were shopping, bought 22 people’s cups of coffee at 7 Brew in Fayetteville, filled people’s gas tanks, took over a Sonic happy hour, made trick or treat bags for the kids at the Children’s Hospital, put money towards someone’s dental bill, bought dessert for an entire restaurant, and handed out gift cards to people who just paid their personal property taxes to brighten their day.
At the end of it all, we had the opportunity to interview our team to see what the experience was like and what they learned. Nearly every person who participated said that it taught them that even the smallest amount of money can make a really big impact on a person’s day or life. They learned that giving, in any capacity, is important. Their perspective had changed, and several people commented on how they had already started doing random acts of kindness themselves because they realized the importance of it.
Once everyone completed their acts of kindness, our board of directors chose two teams to win the contest and they got to donate $500 each to the organizations of their choice. One team chose the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter and the other chose the Springdale Public Schools Education Foundation. The pride that our employees had in getting to present those checks to those organizations was tremendous.
As an organization, it made us extremely proud to see our employees take this project so seriously. What started as trying to find a meaningful way to celebrate our anniversary ended in all of us realizing the power of a kind gesture, the impact that people (even strangers) can have on our lives, and the importance of finding perspective in a world where we all get too busy to pause long enough to remember what’s important.