Giving back has always been one of the strongest pillars of my value system—both personally and in the way I conduct business. It’s one of the core values I built my company, Fingerpaint, around. Although we’re in the business of advertising, it was important to me to have a full-time position dedicated to philanthropy and community relations on our team to hold us accountable to that value. Giving back is in our agency’s DNA.
Despite all of this, I know for most of us, it is easy to lose sight of what’s important when your days are filled with meetings, business travel, and a never-ending to-do list. Our brains are so used to thinking about what is coming next that we lose sight of what’s happening in the moment around us.
In 2013, I was introduced to a small, local, not-for-profit organization called The Giving Circle located near my home in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. This charity defies the rules of the 501 (c)(3), operating with zero salaried employees. This means the people involved are passionate enough about the mission of the organization to sustain it through volunteer work alone, which is essentially unheard of. The founder of the organization, Mark Bertrand, and his wife started the organization with the mission to identify communities in need and connect them with the resources to help.
Through their years running The Giving Circle, they’ve established deep roots in rural Uganda, where, unlike in America, the overhead for funding economic development projects is particularly low and can literally save hundreds of lives. From installing wells that give thousands of people clean, safe drinking water, to building schools with some of the highest graduation rates in the region, it’d be just as impossible to summarize everything they’ve done as it was to sit on the sidelines knowing the difference that could be made by getting involved.
I took my first trip with The Giving Circle to Uganda in July of 2019 and came back forever changed. The appreciation the Ugandan people have for the bare necessities—and, more often than not, even less than that—makes all of my personal stresses seem insignificant. The children greet everyone with smiles and hugs, and they marvel at things we take for granted, like having cameras on our cell phones. All it takes is seeing their reaction to a selfie or video to remind you how incredibly fortunate you are.
This past February, I challenged the leadership team at Fingerpaint to join me in supporting the foundation, and we raised the funds to build a medical clinic in Mutai, Uganda. The center was desperately needed, and it will provide jobs and improve the health outcomes of Mutai’s residents. We traveled there for the official ground breaking of the clinic, and even though months had passed since my first visit, the citizens greeted me like an old friend nevertheless.
Whenever I leave Uganda, I’m reminded that everything I do in running a business is so that I can continue to help others, whether they are down the street or across the globe. This purpose is what enables me to keep pushing forward on even the most difficult days.
I understand that I’m in a unique position in that I’m able to give back in ways that others may not be able to. But if I can encourage one person to act in a way that grounds them in their purpose, I will have done my job. I’m thankful that our relationship with The Giving Circle has done the same for me.