At Red Ventures, we believe in leaving the woodpile higher than we found it. And when it comes to supporting important initiatives in our communities, we don’t just write checks. We empower our employees to become leaders, then give them the resources they need to maximize their impact. (More on that here.)
Meet Jacob Virgil, a Marketing Lead who’s also one of the RV’s greatest Community Involvement champions.
As a direct result of his efforts, we’ve donated nearly $78,000 to nonprofit organizations including Make-A-Wish, the Isabella Santos Foundation, Girls on the Run, and Let Me Run. He’s led 6 company-wide events (and counting), ranging from cornhole tournaments to chili cook-offs. He’s built deep relationships with each of the nonprofits we mentioned above, helping us grant wishes for 3 Make-A-Wish families. Plus, he’s created some of the most iconic moments (and photos) in the history of Red Ventures.
Read on for Jacob’s story and unique perspective on how to maximize your community involvement impact:
It all started in 2017, with an event called ‘Hotdogs for Hiking’
A couple years back, a buddy of mine asked if I’d be a part of the “Trailblaze Challenge,” benefitting Make-A-Wish. (Who would say ‘no’ to a 28-mile hike through three states?!) After spending just one day with the Wish families who participated, I fell in love with the organization.
That’s when I decided to coordinate my first-ever Red Ventures community involvement event… in the form of a Hotdog Eating competition. Frankly, the results blew me away. Our goal was to raise $1K. When it was all over, we’d raised $12K for Make-A-Wish.
It was amazing to see my coworkers band together and rally behind such a great cause. But the best part was realizing just how special Red Ventures’ Community Involvement Program truly was – it’s set up to help anyone at RV make a huge impact.
How to Become a Community Involvement Champion in 6 Easy Steps
I learned a ton from that event. (Most importantly: never attempt to eat multiple hotdogs in 95 degree weather.)
Here are six key takeaways that have helped me become a champion for Make-A-Wish (and many other organizations). Best of all, these tips can help anyone – whether you’re an RV employee hoping to get more involved, or someone outside of RV who’s the driving force behind a community cause, campaign, organization, or event.
1. Be passionate about your cause
Nobody wants to read an email that starts and ends with “DONATE NOW!” Explain why you care about the cause, what drove you to get involved with the organization, or why they’re in need of help right now.
2. Plan (and communicate) strategically
First, be thoughtful about the timing of your event. You don’t want to plan a fundraiser during a super-busy time of year – people get fatigued, no matter how important the issue is. Second, plan out your communication strategy leading up to the event. You’ll want to get the word out at least a month in advance, then ramp up your efforts a week out to generate hype.
3. When it comes to messaging, be persistent
Promoting your event is the most important (and most difficult) part. Don’t be afraid to follow up with people, and make your ask crystal clear – whether you want people to donate, spread the word, sign up to participate (or a combination of the three). That said, there’s a big difference between championing a cause and relentless pestering. Don’t be a relentless pest.
4. Don’t be afraid to network
Lean on your networks to gain momentum for your event. Reach out to the people who know you best and get them on board with your vision. You’ll have better luck generating buy-in from a friend, peer, or teammate than from an anonymous stranger.
5. Get competitive
Any time you can gamify your event, fuel a rivalry between teams, or otherwise incentivize people to get involved, the better your engagement will be. For example, when I hosted a cornhole tournament at RV, we created a few different tiers of donation levels, and gave bonus points/swag items to competitors who reached the higher fundraising levels.
6. Put some skin in the game
Perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned that to be a true champion for a cause, you must lead by example. You’ve got to show that you truly care about the organization and are willing to help out as well. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to make a big financial donation. It could be a silly bet (like agreeing to wear the same shirt for a month straight) or other type of reward (like allowing your team to pie you in the face). It’s just about making sure that if you’re asking for something, you’re also giving something in return.
Now, go forth and champion!
To close out – and at the risk of sounding like a complete cheeseball – the best part about Red Ventures is our people. I enjoy the work I do, and the speed at which we work keeps my job from ever getting boring. But RV’s core values ring very true to me. I want to leave the woodpile higher than I found it; that’s who I am outside of work. And I’m grateful to have found a place that’s embraced this mission as such an important part of its culture.