The Importance of Giving Back

Reposted from my column in the Portland Business Tribune.

Your customers—especially the younger generation—want to know what your business is doing to make the world a better place. According to a 2013 study by Cone Communications and Echo Research, 82 percent of consumers take corporate social responsibility into account when deciding where to shop and which products and services to purchase.

Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington is the most outward-thinking place I’ve ever worked. From free ID theft prevention events to educational webinars to volunteer work, BBB and its staff serve as a great reminder of the value of giving back to the community.

BBB also awards college scholarships to local high school seniors each year. This year was a little different than years past: BBB held a video contest for the first time, and the jackpot was bigger than ever. This year’s $10,000 scholarship was recently awarded to a talented, bright young man from Alaska who plans to attend Brigham Young.

“We are impressed by the creativity and effort put into all the videos,” BBB CEO Tyler Andrew said. “When we launched the scholarship, we wanted to increase awareness among teens on the importance of marketplace trust.”

This scholarship—this one act of generosity—actually triggers a cycle:

  1. givingbackBy offering a scholarship, BBB is promoting its name and mission to the youngest generation. This ensures kids will know where to look for trust when they become adults and enter the marketplace as consumers and business owners. The scholarship also reminds parents about BBB’s services to the public.
  2. These consumers will then look to BBB for trustworthy information on local businesses. And as stated in a Roper survey, 74 percent of consumers prefer to do business with a BBB Accredited Business.
  3. Accredited Businesses pay annual dues to BBB. They will continue to renew their Accreditation each year as long as they see a return on their investment: more customers.
  4. BBB uses these annual dues to fund its day-to-day operations and its services to the public—including the scholarship.

Corporate social responsibility can help your business gain customers, but it can also help you retain and attract talented employees.

Allowing your employees to be involved in volunteer activities can help them feel more fulfilled and enriched. Reports show that when employees have the opportunity to give back to the community, they have a renewed appreciation for their contributions to your company.

If you’d like to become more involved in your community, there are some simple things you can do to get started. If you have a storefront, keep a collection jar for your favorite local charity at your front desk. Employees and customers alike will effect real change just by dropping off their spare change. You could also organize an employee volunteer day. A group activity such as cooking for a homeless shelter or painting an elderly neighbor’s house can have the added bonus of boosting camaraderie among your staff.

Not only is giving back good for business, but it’s the right thing to do. It builds relationships, it makes your employees feel more engaged and satisfied, and it reminds you just how lucky you are.

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#BBBinRipCity: Why the Trail Blazers/BBB Partnership Works

bbb_trailblazers_sponsor_headerIt’s game time! As the Portland Trail Blazers enter the NBA playoffs as a No. 4 seed, capping off what has been an exhilarating 2015 season, many wonder just how far they will go. But for Better Business Bureau, who is a proud sponsor of the Blazers, it can’t get much better than this.

BBB and the Blazers entered into a partnership last year sharing a common interest in educating, community support and consumer protection. And with the help of BBB’s Accredited Businesses, the Blazer/BBB partnership has come to fruition.

So, was it worth it?

You better believe it.

Spencer Mitton with his $10,000 scholarship check from BBB Foundation.
Spencer Mitton with his $10,000 scholarship check from BBB Foundation in March 2015.

I was in awe last month when I watched 18-year-old Spencer Mitton of Anchorage, Alaska, accept a $10,000 scholarship check from BBB CEO Tyler Andrew in front of 20,000 cheering fans during the Portland Trail Blazers halftime show. It was a huge moment for this young man, BBB and the Blazers because it reinforced the commitment that both organizations made to improve the lives of young consumers.

Like the Blazers, BBB strives to stay relevant—which has been increasingly difficult in today’s digital world. A partnership with the Blazers put BBB back into the mix.

During the 2014-15 season, the Blazers partnership connected BBB with 950,000 fans across the Northwest. With the support of our Accredited Business partners, BBB’s brand and mission was showcased in front of fans during every home game, in the community, at an exclusive watch party, during the first-ever Blazers/BBB Business Summit at the Moda Center and now in the playoffs.

This is a partnership that works—for everyone.

BBB staff with Jerome Kersey and Blaze the Trail Cat at BBB Secure Your ID Day in October 2014.
BBB staff with Jerome Kersey and Blaze the Trail Cat at BBB Secure Your ID Day in October 2014.

“We have already had the pleasure of working successfully with BBB,” said Steve Scott, Trail Blazers Vice President of Corporate Partnerships Marketing & Sales. “Based on our experience with BBB during Secure Your ID Day, we know this partnership will provide security to many deserving members of our community.”

Now with the NBA playoffs in motion, BBB and our participating Accredited Businesses have an even bigger opportunity to leave our mark. As thousands of fans pile into the Moda Center, they’ll see BBB’s seal on the LED board, hear about our mission over the radio and read about us in the Rip City Magazine. This connection drives trust and connects consumers with an added resource to help improve their lives.

Just ask Spencer Mitton, who created this 90-second video about BBB:

His video entry on how BBB protects people from identity theft earned him a scholarship to BYU so he could pursue a career in engineering.

So the next time you’re at a Blazers game, or when you’re watching them on TV during the playoffs, look for the seal and be reassured that the Blazers/BBB partnership is not only working, but making a difference to the people we serve.

Alaska Student Wins BBB Scholarship Contest

This year, Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington offered one $10,000 scholarship for a student (or up to three students on a team) in our three-state region. High school seniors applied for the scholarship by creating a 90-second video demonstrating how BBB helps people become smarter consumers. Judges evaluated the applications based on BBB branding, effort and creativity, content and total website views.

Spencer Mitton (center)
Spencer Mitton (center)

Spencer Mitton, a student at South Anchorage High School in Alaska, won this year’s contest from a pool of 16 finalists (individuals and teams). His video offers consumer tips on preventing identity fraud, garnering more than 2,000 views on YouTube.

Spencer grew up in Anchorage and plans to attend Brigham Young University this fall to study engineering. He has always been strong in math and science but found that he also enjoys creative projects. He has been studying graphic design on his own since middle school—a talent that is evident by his winning video. Spencer would eventually like to combine innovation with math and science in the technology industry.

Currently the captain of his high school cross-country running team, Spencer would like to continue competitive running while attending college. During the summer months, Spencer runs his own business mowing lawns and teaching piano for clientele that he has built over the past few years.

Spencer is also the winner of the Anchorage School District’s Spirit of Youth Award and has earned the Eagle Scout award for community service.

What You Need to Know about Scholarships and Financial Aid

Image courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/people/pictures-of-money
Image courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/people/pictures-of-money

Millions of students depend on grants and scholarships to pay for college, and applying for financial aid can be confusing.

Some companies claim they can help, but they often end up charging fees for information and assistance that students could have gotten for free elsewhere!

Before paying a company to find financial aid for college, do your research and listen for the following red flags:

  • “The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.” No one can guarantee they will get you a grant or scholarship. Refund guarantees usually have so many conditions or strings attached that it is almost impossible for consumers to get their money back.
  • “You can’t get this information anywhere else.” Scholarship information is widely available in books, at libraries, at financial aid offices and on the Internet.
  • “We’ll do all the work.” Only students and parents can determine and provide the financial information needed to complete the forms.
  • “You’ve been selected by a national foundation to receive a scholarship.” If you have not entered a competition sponsored by the foundation, this claim is highly unlikely.
  • “May I have your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship?” This is never a requirement for a legitimate scholarship offer.
  • “The scholarship will cost some money.” Legitimate scholarship offers never require payment of any kind.

In 2015, your Better Business Bureau is offering a $10,000 scholarship to one lucky high school senior in Western Washington, Oregon or Alaska. It is 100% free to enter–all it takes is a little creativity! Click here for details.

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