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Doing a World of Good

(August 2010) posted on Tue Jul 27, 2010

Finding a way for your company to give back to the community.

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By Craig Miller

Because we have gotten so good at working with families in their time of need, we have extended our services to non-military funerals. When there is a death within members of our circle of friends and acquaintances, customers, or the police or fire departments, we are either called or we call to offer our services. Be warned, though: If you go down this road, it can be heart breaking. We have shed a lot of tears. But, the reward is worthwhile.

I think it would be a great testament to the generous nature of our industry if a service such as this were available in other communities around the country. And I’m sure such an opportunity exists for other print providers like our company—organizations that are looking for a chance to pay it forward—and who are willing to do contribute their time and resources to making it a success.

Every little bit counts
Has your company ever considered the public good you could do with your imaging resources? Do you ever give your product away; do pro-bono projects?

You don’t have to give away the farm. There are many levels of giving. One is selling your product at the deepest possible discount rate without losing money. Another is throwing in extras like art charges, setup fees, and installation work at no additions charge. You can also charge only for materials. Or you can be pure pro bono— providing product and services for free.

The definition of pro bono I like best, though, is something that is done for the public good without compensation. That said, the question arises: Why should you give away product? In this awful economy, maybe no one can afford to give anything away. It’s not unreasonable to ask, “What’s in it for me?”

If you measure rewards in terms of dollars, the answer is, “Nothing.”

There is a fine line between good works motivated by quid pro quo as opposed to altruism. It ruins the spirit of giving to look at the act as a branding or a marketing ploy. True, pro-bone work probably won’t drive business to your door, but we have found it to be good for our company and our employees.

It’s okay to say no
I may be the wrong person to be writing about this subject. My wife Sue, daughter Christy, and I are family and the principals of our company, and, with a combined total of 70 years working in the service sector, you could say that we are predisposed to give things away. As entrepreneurs, this is something we’ve had to learn to moderate. Every once in a while, I watch Gordon Gekko’s “Greed is Good” speech on YouTube to get my business attitude into proper adjustment.

Over the years, though, I’ve learned that you don’t have to go it alone. We have contacted manufacturers and suppliers and asked for their support on a particular charitable project. A number have stepped up and generously provided free materials.

If you choose to use your resources occasionally for the public good, what causes should you support? I can’t tell you that. What I can tell you is that you shouldn’t go after every good cause that comes your way. Sit down with your principals and a few key staff and determine what causes you really care about. It needs to be personal, and there should be a consensus. Having a plan also gives you a way to decline some requests. When we respectfully decline to provide assistance, I state that our company has a plan for charitable giving and that we have already allocated all of our resources for this period.

We know our pro-bono efforts have been good for our company. Our employees take pride in their contribution. They feel better about where they work and whom they work for. With as tough as things have been the past year, it’s beneficial to think about problems beyond our own. It has definitely put our situation and work into the proper perspective.

Craig Miller is president of Pictographics ( is Las Vegas, a large-format-graphics service bureau that excels in digitally dyed textiles, wall coverings, and custom applications.