Moderated by Tom Sabulis
Oct. 25 marked the 30th anniversary of Atlanta Habitat for Humanity’s founding. Over three decades, this organization has given new life to more than 1,250 families by building quality, affordable homes and providing support services that promote successful home purchase and ownership.
By Jim Hannan and John Somerhalder
So, it is an important moment in time to urge the greater Atlanta business community to do more to support this and other cause-related organizations that make a meaningful impact on our city.
The need for support has never been greater. In fact, we receive more requests for assistance today than ever before. Yet many in the business community remain on the sidelines. We need Atlanta companies, large and small, back in the game.
As leaders of AGL Resources and Georgia-Pacific, we are well aware that our success comes from more than financial performance. It also arises from being good corporate citizens. It is no coincidence that there is a correlation between the strength and vibrancy in the communities in which we operate, and our companies’ success. Our levels of employee engagement also rise considerably when we offer opportunities to donate time and money to worthy causes.
We’ve been on Atlanta Habitat build sites in driving rain storms and have still seen a full contingent of our employees working with a smile. It is a visible sign of the commitment and passion they have for helping others.
So, what can leaders of Atlanta businesses do to step up to the plate?
First, realize that giving doesn’t start and end with a financial donation. Both our companies approach charitable involvement as a commitment, not just a check. You can make a difference by serving on boards, donating products or assets and urging employees to participate.
Second, find causes that are a good fit for your company and employees, have good governance and are successful in their mission. Focus your collective efforts on a core group of activities that will maximize your impact on the community.
Third, take an active role yourself. It is vital for employees to see senior management as active promoters of, and participants in, worthy causes.
We both participate in Atlanta Habitat house-builds each year, doing everything from framing to digging holes and planting trees. It gives us a chance to be members of the team, working together to achieve a common goal. It’s a great experience that we heartily recommend for every business leader. This is especially true on the last day of the build, which marks the start of someone’s new life. You can see the depth of their appreciation, and the responsibility they undertake, to become educated on budgets, financing and other aspects of homeownership.
It’s why we both value our partnerships with Atlanta Habitat for Humanity. They do more than just put a roof over someone’s head. They offer a hand up by building self-empowerment through education, training and guidance that influence other aspects of people’s lives.
And that is the goal: making a positive difference in the communities we serve.
Jim Hannan is CEO and president of Georgia-Pacific. John Somerhalder is chairman, president and CEO of AGL Resources.