When it comes to giving, these companies have demonstrated that their hearts are in the right place. Because of them, the quality of life in Kansas City is vastly improved—for everyone.
Peter Mallouk nails it: “We have always believed that entities, like people, cannot be neutral. Companies have an ethical obligation to give back to the community,” says the president of Overland Park-based wealth manager Creative Planning. “In fact, giving by companies can actually have a disproportionately large impact, as a company is nothing but its people and financial resources.”
As a company engages in the community, its people become engaged and may find themselves extending commitments to the community in a way they haven’t before. It goes beyond just giving financially.”
This, then, is the foundation of the approach Creative Planning employs as it makes financial gifts to about 100 nonprofits a year, but especially those that align with the firm’s charitable mission: “Have an impact on the part of the community we don’t work with every day,” says Mallouk.
That means organizations serving poorer individuals lacking basic necessities or food, promoting education and “causes that help break the cycle of poverty.”
Over the past year, that has included direct donations of more than $200,000 from the Creative Planning staff, the annual assembly and delivery of Thanksgiving meals to more than 500 needy families, plus blood drives, board service and volunteering activities and much more.
It would be easy to write checks to artistic and cultural organizations that are dear to many of Creative Planning’s high net-worth clients. But the firm takes another route; a rare form of pure altruism is at work here.
“We aren’t going to nurture any clients working with the causes we support, but I think that helping those more in need better aligns with our culture,” Mallouk says. “We are all about helping people get from point A to point B. We get paid to do it for the wealthy, and donate our time and financial resources to those that don’t have money to invest, but need help getting through school or getting a job.”
Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue
What calls a company to give?
Well, before that question can even be answered, it’s worth noting that companies can’t give back—not for long, anyway—unless they are creating wealth. But the pursuit of profit can’t be the end, for Case Dorman and his team at Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue. Instead, it’s only the means. “Hope Through Hospitality is our company’s Higher Purpose,” says Dorman. “Our faith also plays an important role in our belief that we have a stewardship responsibility to give back to our community in meaningful ways,” he says.
The restaurant chain’s commitment to feeding and caring for the less fortunate is framed by a corporate version of individual tithing. Last year alone, it provided food and financial assistance by donating over 10 percent of its operating income to groups like City Union Mission, Seton Center, Hope Faith Ministry, and Catholic Charities. On top of that, it sponsors a biannual golf tournament to benefit City Union Mission, which raises enough to provide more than 50,000 meals, and it finds other ways to support local schools and churches.
“We have a Giving Mission statement: To feed and care for the least fortunate in our communities,” Dorman says. “We then try to focus our giving to maximize our ability to promote this mission.” The company does so across a broad swath of non-profits and diverse missions, he says, because “each of these groups does a great job of minimizing operating expenses to maximize their funding to the clients that they serve.”
It’s impossible, as well, to overlook the contribution that corporate structure plays here. “Generosity is a family value, in addition to a corporate value,” Dorman says. “We also believe that to serve our community well starts by each one of us doing our part. Leading by example is a way for us to encourage others to serve, too.”
And in an era where needs abound and philanthropic dollars never seem to outweigh them, Jack Stack looks for organizations that will leverage those contributions. “First and foremost, these organizations are well-run, and a high percentage of the revenue that they receive goes to their client base,” he said, explaining the company’s funding philosophy. “Many of the organizations that care for the least fortunate are faith-based. It is also important to our family that we live out our faith in our daily lives.”
At D.H. Pace, the Olathe-based distributor of commercial and residential doors and related products, philanthropy is a team sport. So much so that it created an employee-based group called Team Impact to facilitate what it considered to be socially responsible events—more than 130 of them in 2017 alone.
Over the years, that effort has created volunteering opportunities for hundreds of employees, at organizations like Harvesters and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City, and collection drives for charities like Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kansas City, Toys
for Tots and others. And the group hosted other special events like Customer Service Week, and blood drives with the Community
That is just part of a broader, strategic view of philanthropy that also works through the Newcomer Family Foundation, which receives donations from the profits of the company and uses those to bolster educational scholarships, human services, health services, and housing initiatives. Other initiatives have included contributions to Royals Charities and a partnership with Cristo Rey Kansas City, the
private high school, to create a work-study program that can help steer urban students into meaningful employment.
After Cristo Rey’s Sister Vickie Perkins approached the company seeking its support, it responded by funding grants for students. But after D.H. Pace moved to the Olathe campus several years ago it had “better capacity to accommodate the work-study program and student workers,” said Nelson Newcomer, executive vice president. “The arrangement has taught us that the work-study program
is a valuable opportunity to help shape the future workforce with positive habits through professional experience.” With dollars, volunteer hours and vision, the company’s initiatives leverage one another for a greater good. “These corporate qualities,” Newcomer says, “intentionally overflow and spill into the communities in which we operate.”
Long before it became an Internet label, the concept of social-justice warrior was thriving in the pro bono mission of what today is the law firm Husch Blackwell. Though the firm today (by it’s present name) is barely a decade old, it operates with a philanthropic strategy that has evolved over the long histories of its predecessor firm, and providing legal services at no charge to address social ills.
The modern version of that focuses on supporting organizations that serve the indigent or protect or preserve civil rights, civil liberties, public rights and human rights—regardless of the non-profit’s budget or means to pay attorney fees. Last year alone, that commitment produced nearly 28,900 pro bono hours with an estimated value of nearly $8.7 million.
“Our partners and associates are encouraged to provide pro bono legal services, engage in activities that improve access to justice for all, and provide financial support for organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means,” says Margaret Richards of the Kansas City office, who manages the pro bono services for the firm. “The majority of our pro bono work is referred to us from various legal service corporations and other agencies across the firm’s footprint. We also handle a number of court-appointed cases—93 percent of our offices participate in the firm’s pro bono program.”
In recent years, Husch Blackwell has made mergers and acquisitions with other firms across the country, moves that in other sectors might create conflicting philanthropic missions. But because those new partner firms had cultures that meshed with Husch’s own, the effect on pro bono work has been minimal, Richards says, and has, in fact, strengthened that outreach.
“For the most part, the attorneys and offices who have joined the firm came from firms that also encouraged pro bono and aligning them into HB’s pro-bono culture has been fairly streamlined as a result.” That, she said, has had the side benefit of appealing to young lawyers, who come from an age cohort intent on careers that have a meaning beyond a paycheck.
For the founders of design-services firm Hufft, the motivation to strengthen non-profits in the region isn’t just professional—it’s personal, too. Take CCVI, and the role that Matt and Jesse Hufft play on its behalf. “There is a bit of history and definitely emotion behind this,” says Matt. “One of the early Hufft team members had a baby almost the exact time that Jesse and I had our first born. It was fun to talk about all of the new little things the baby boys were doing, but after a month or so, their son stopped hitting certain milestones and they learned that he was completely blind. I cannot recall the exact diagnosis at this time, but it was devastating.” That child’s parents found such help and support at CCVI, and that’s how the Huffts first learned about the organization. “After that, I gave a lot of thought to how the world of design is largely a visual experience, and how different of an experience it is for those with visual impairments,” he says. “How can we make sure that everyone can experience design. I reached out to then-executive director, Nicola Heskett, and introduced myself and said, how can we help?”
And they did, by fabricating furniture for the facility, donating marketing services and motion/video creation capabilities, and through Jesse’s service on the CCVI board. Board service, incidentally, is a hallmark of the firm’s principals, benefiting organizations like Citizens of the World Charter School, Kansas City Young Audiences, Girls on the Run, St. Paul’s Episcopal Day School, and service on behalf of Kansas City Community Gardens and Community LINC.
The firm also backs up their work with financial donations, creation of bench seating and other innovative ways to help non-profits stretch dollars. Though not a large company—yet—the firm has the philanthropic underpinnings of one. “We all need to do our part—whatever that part may be,” Matt says. “Because we are a smaller company, our capabilities to contribute lie more in the services that are already in our wheelhouse, design and fabrication.” The Hufft team also gathers up gifts for families in need over the holidays, helps fill food pantries, makes snack bags and volunteers in other ways.
Tim Harmon is both a business owner and a father of five. He knows well the demands of each job. When it comes to philanthropy at his Olathe construction company, he says, “it breaks my heart to see single moms raising children without a father figure in the family. It’s a huge burden for her to work and raise children; it’s a two-person job.” That’s why non-profits focused on youth services hold a special place among the long list of non-profits he and his team support.
“My work with the Boys & Girls Club Olathe advisory board has enabled me to see a lot of less-fortunate people who need the support of community and mentors to reach them,” Harmon said. “There are good role models and bad ones… children and young adults need good ones.” In addition, the company engages with Mission Southside, other youth organizations and camps. He learned the value of that engagement as a boy, and continues to see it applied in business.
“I had great role models growing up who had high expectations for me in regards to work and college,” he says. “My 85-year-old mom still volunteers in her community;
she modeled that for me and I’d like to model that for others.” And during his career, “a prominent leader in our community once told me ‘when you give, it comes back to you tenfold’ … and that’s the culture of our company. They helped me stay well-grounded and that’s what I’d like to do for others. We’ve been highly blessed and we at Harmon truly enjoy giving back.”
Volunteering and giving, he says, can be a humbling experience: “I try to remember that by the grace of God, I could be in that food line too, and I need to be continually treating people how I’d like to be treated, should I find myself in their shoes.” The company also works to benefit the Olathe and Overland Park Mayor’s Christmas Tree Funds, Olathe Health, Shawnee Mission Health, and other organizations, Harmon says, “that play a large role in bettering our community and the surrounding areas, and we very much want to be a part of that.
“Philanthropy is a responsibility that all business owners have for their community—it’s not just for the ‘bigs’ or the ‘smalls,’ but for everyone,” he says. “It’s hard for us to say no. Of course, we have to have a process for selection, which really boils down to a priority on the local community: Where we work, live, and worship.”