I have been working now for over 30 years (starting as a teenager)—I’ve realized there’s more to life than making money.
Don’t get me wrong; we all know making money is crucial. But even though I may not practice it perfectly or found the perfect formula yet, what I truly know in my heart is that balance is the real key to a happy, healthy life. If all you care about is making money, what are you working towards?
As a business owner, I have a unique opportunity to literally put my money where my mouth is because I choose the types of clients we take on. And frankly, I didn’t set out to work with a lot of nonprofits initially when I decided to launch Mekky Media.
However, I’ve always enjoyed volunteering and working with nonprofits, and thought it would be a dream come true to work with one I genuinely believed in.
Almost within the first few months of starting my company, a dear friend reached out and asked if I would join the PR part of a proposal for Susan G. Komen, a nonprofit dedicated to eradicating breast cancer.
Little did I know, they would go on to become a flagship client and one of my favorite causes I’ve ever committed to.
When we landed the client a few months later, I felt instantly connected to the work the organization was doing. Not only is it an incredibly inspiring nonprofit, but I personally identified with its mission as a cancer survivor myself. We got lucky with Komen Chicago. You don’t always feel such an emotional attachment to a cause. But feeling that with Komen let me know it was possible. My work at Mekky Media suddenly had a greater purpose. It launched my business in a direction I could never have anticipated. That win was a turning point, because I knew I wanted to cultivate that connection with all of our clients. Komen shaped the very clients Mekky Media takes on as a company today, and I’ve since taken on several more nonprofits as clients that we have impacted greatly, both on a local and national level—even landing one on The Today Show! I connected with the people, the mission, the work and the power to really create change and impact people’s lives through our work. It is hard to put into words what that feels like. And recently, I was even given the privilege to be a spokesperson for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition as a PR expert and as a survivor, and can see the “aha!” moment in women’s eyes when I teach them about the risks associated with this disease, ones I had no idea existed when I was diagnosed four years ago.
There are so many worthy causes out there—today more than ever and so many that need your help. Where do you even begin when it comes to choosing one that’s right for you? Here are some questions you should ask yourself:
1. Do I believe in this cause? You will not be able to give anything your full attention if you don’t believe in it, right down to your gut. Really ask yourself: do you feel inspired by this cause? Does it move you? That doesn’t necessarily mean it has to personally impact you. I don’t only work with cancer-focused organizations. My heart and mind have been expanded through other nonprofits I’ve supported. Another Mekky Media client I was proud to represent was GiGi’s Playhouse, an organization working to raise awareness around Down syndrome. I have no personal connection to that cause, but it spoke to me on such a deeply personal level that I couldn’t say no to the opportunity. I related to the struggle I saw parents went through for acceptance for their children. If you’re going to dedicate your time, you have to feel genuine passion around the subject matter. Speaking of time, you also need to ask:
2. Do I realistically have the time to commit? You aren’t doing anyone any favors if you aren’t completely honest with this answer. Listen, I get it. We’re all busy. But that’s exactly the point. None of us have the time to sit on every board, or to volunteer with every charity. In this case, it’s better to go deep than to cast a wide net. So, how much time can you commit? Does it match up with their needs? If not…
3. Is there a smaller role I can play? There are tons of ways to support organizations. As a business owner, I’ve figured out a way to merge the two worlds and support organizations through my business. I encourage other business owners to do the same. But whether or not you have that particular title, there are always a plethora of ways you can support an organization. Do they need mentors? Can you do a quick phone call once a month? When you’re honest with them about the time you can commit, ask them what their other needs are and the organization’s leaders will inform you where you can best help.
4. What are their needs? It’s unfair to the organization to assume that they are in desperate need of any help they can get. While they would likely be grateful for any support you can offer them, you’re doing a disservice by not asking first. Even though it’s a cause and not a job, you should treat it as such. Are your skills aligned with the needs of the organization? Ask them what they need, and ask yourself if you’re the right person to provide that service. Let me tell you: when the needs and skills are aligned, the results are magic. As a PR agency, I lean into organizations that need help marketing themselves. That means my work can have a real impact on their mission. For example, Mekky Media has gotten Komen Chicago record media impressions for their Chicago events – and helped contribute to the Race for the Cure being named one of the Top 100 Events in Chicago in BizBash, but if a nonprofit has a strong PR backing already, I might consider supporting them in other ways.
5. Can my network help? Every single organization basically always needs fundraising help. So if you’re someone with a wide network, you might be their biggest asset just by becoming an ambassador for the cause to your already established network. When I’ve posted about Komen or some of the other nonprofits I represent, they see a boom in attendance and donations. This is an easy one. I put my name behind causes I believe in, and that means a lot to my friends and family. They trust things I trust.
Life is about so much more than the money. It’s about giving back where and when you can.
It’s October, which means it’s Breast Cancer ACTION Month. I love this because awareness is the first step. Then it’s about taking action when you can. If you want to take action for Komen, they are hosting their annual gala on October 27th at the famous Cinespace Chicago Film Studios (where Chicago Fire, PD, Med and Empire are filmed). Tickets are $180, the average cost of a mammogram in Chicago. Buy your ticket here. Let’s end breast cancer forever, together – and have a great time doing it together.
Ready to commit?