“Giving” and “back” are two inconsequential words by themselves. But, when you put them together, they can become a movement with the power to change people’s lives. Although cliché (and definitely inspired by the film “Letters to Juliet”), it nonetheless rings true — especially for the AV community. Each day, we hear inspiring stories of how commercial AV businesses come together and make meaningful contributions that have a positive impact on various communities. But how can #avtweeps who want to make a difference begin their journey of giving back? And why is it so important to give back in the first place?
To answer those questions, Commercial Integrator sits down with FSR’s Jan Sandri, Midwich Group plc’s Ben Thompson and Spinitar’s Katie Rogina. Each of them expounds on the need to give back to the community. They also provide insight into how each of us, in our own way, can do our part.
The Spirit of Giving Back
According to Sandri, president of FSR, the reason for giving back is simple. “It’s important to give back to the community and the industry because we owe them everything, don’t we?” she asks rhetorically. Sandri expands on that line of thinking, observing that all AV professionals live and work among one another. By giving back, everyone has a chance to build a better community in which to work and live. “The industry is our extended family,” Sandri notes. “It’s a community [that] we feel close to, no matter where we all are. Ultimately, helping those around us [also] helps us.”
Rogina, director of marketing with Spinitar, echoes this sentiment, adding, “Any time you’re given the opportunity to help someone in need, you should do just that.” Touching on Spinitar’s own efforts, Rogina underscores that bringing any ray of hope or understanding to those who are struggling means a great deal to the organization. She says, “In the case of Golf for Hope, it’s important for Spinitar to give back to the community because, unfortunately, so many lives are impacted by cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening illnesses.”
The spirit of giving back does, indeed, often center on helping those struggling, and, in so doing, ensuring they have a better world to live in. Thompson, engagement lead with Midwich Group plc, emphasizes that giving back is easy and incredibly rewarding, but, critically, “It’s about doing what is right to help others.”
What it Means to Give Back
All three interviewees agree that giving back does far more than just helping community members and worthy causes; it also helps discover the transformative effect that their work has on people’s lives — including their own. The best part of giving back, Rogina explains, is “seeing the outcome of how one person, or one organization, has the power to change someone’s life for the better, forever.” Sandri chimes in, adding, “The satisfaction that we’ve made a difference — whether large or small — is priceless. And we’re so fortunate that we’ve been able to achieve that goal so many times.” Indeed, her organization has had a palpable impact on so many people, whether they’re children thrust into a sad or dangerous situation through no fault of their own, or community members devasted by a hurricane, or young adults who lack the funds or means to improve their life situations.
Thompson states that, although they’re secondary to helping the beneficiaries themselves, the positive impacts on volunteers’ own well-being are impossible to deny. “[Our staff] have enjoyed working as a team and feel like they’re having a positive impact on the environment and local community,” he says. What’s more, Thompson hopes that other companies also observe this positive impact and act in kind. He adds, “As a global AV distributor, it’s important we are leading by example. If we can share all the great things we’re up to, I hope other local businesses and other #avtweeps follow suit.”
Certainly, seeing others give back can inspire peer companies to join a common mission. Rogina proclaims, “[It’s] a fantastic way to unite the organization with partners, customers, family and friends.” Being united behind a mission often creates a more caring environment and boosts company spirits. And, according to Sandri, “Being involved in different charitable initiatives does elevate the presence of the company and underscores its position as a caring entity.” Here, she says, partner organizations are attracted to FSR, wanting to work with people who are dedicated to a cause. However, Sandri notes that, of course, promotion of the business should never be the primary goal. “Giving back to the community and the industry is the priority,” she underscores.
Steps to Building a Better Community
The next question is how people can prioritize giving back and make it part of their lives. Sandri advises those who are considering taking up volunteer efforts to do their homework and find a cause about which they’re passionate and whose mission they hold dear. “Find an organization that has goals to match your own and do it,” she exhorts. “Don’t overthink.” The imperative to act is strong, and worthy causes need all the help they can get. “There is so much that can be done, and [there are] never enough people to help,” Sandri declares.
When it comes to giving back, Thompson says the most important thing is “…having the full support of the senior leadership team within the business.” He also emphasizes that these things take time and it’s often wise to start small and be consistent. He says, “Try [to do] a few things every few months, and, when you look back over the year, it will be evident you’re having a positive impact.” Thompson declares that another important aspect is making sure any company-led charitable initiative resonates with not only the executives but also the workforce. “It’s got to mean something to you,” he stresses. Thompson offers an example, citing a litter-collection project in and around Midwich’s head office as a starter volunteer project. “This is easy to set up and colleagues love it!” he enthuses.
Rogina succinctly sums up the initial steps as follows: Find a cause that will make a difference, be passionate about its purpose, support its mission, and share it with friends, family and colleagues.
Seeing to inspire #avtweeps to give back, all three interviewees spotlight efforts their organizations were undertaking at the time of our interviews. Rogina, who is the event chairperson for the Golf for Hope event, hints at bigger plans following the successful 2022 iteration. This year, guests in attendance joined a cocktail and dinner reception that featured a special program, patient guest appearances, a raffle and a silent auction, among other programs. “Planning for the year 2023 is already underway,” Rogina enthuses.
Thompson, too, expresses excitement about upcoming plans. “We have just launched our four major fundraising events for 2023,” he declares. According to Thompson, these events will be open to any AV professional — not just Midwich employees — with the aim of raising £70,000 for deserving charities. He gives a sampling of the events, such as a 156-mile cycle challenge; a football tournament at a Premier League Stadium; and The National Three Peaks Challenge, which involves climbing the three highest peaks of Scotland, England and Wales, often within 24 hours.
Sandri reveals that, at the time of this writing, FSR is gearing up for its joint project with Kindness Shared Happiness Squared. The organization, a nonprofit institution, was created to “distribute happiness” and help improve the lives of children who have disabilities and financial needs, as well as to create homes for rescue animals. “I am on the Board of Directors, and I’m delighted to support the many programs this charity runs,” she says. “We’re sponsoring their Annual Christmas Movie Trip by sending children in group foster homes to a movie on Christmas Day, with vouchers for candy, popcorn, drinks or snack of their choice.” Sandri adds that these children also receive a gift chosen especially for them.
Giving back undoubtedly has a positive impact on the communities in which we live. All it takes is finding that spark within us and taking that first step. With that, we can forge our paths to building a better world for all.
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