A Different Kind of Bottom Line

Taking measure of a company’s stature in the community is an annual metric that too often gets overlooked… and to manage a thing, one must measure a thing (to paraphrase management maven Peter Drucker).

By maintaining focus, even small donation programs can positively impact employee engagement, health, hiring, retention, quality of life, business opportunities and so much more.

But such results can be spread so thin as to escape casual detection.

As we measure our Community Commitment in 2019, someone asked, “who cares?”

“At Next Level Performance, our mission is to help people and organizations dig deeper, reach higher, and attain the next level. The experience teaches us that your Core Values help set the company culture.” said Next Level Performance President, Dave Dittman. “For example, ours are Collaboration, Accountability, Respect, Ethics, and Service (CARES).”

Next Level President Dave Dittman speaks of conscientious capitalism.

A Promise to Serve

We know we are fortunate. That enables us to be committed to our community, just as we are to our clients. Each year, Next Level teammates participate in service initiatives and the company provides financial support to benefit regional organizations working hard to improve the circumstances of our neighbors in need.

So, the short answer to the “who cares” question is,

“We can’t expect our concerns to matter to people, with myriad cares of their own. Caring must be earned, through consistent application of effort and enthusiasm. When you demonstrate your values, as a company, you inspire trust, the precursor to any transaction.” said Dave Dittman, President.

Maintain Focus

No one is going to care about your contributions if you scatter them to the winds.

This year, we focused our efforts on:

  • The needs of children,
  • food insecurity, and
  • basic human needs.

By maintaining this focus, we have been able to find our ‘sweet spot’, organizations with overlapping missions and outlets, thereby doubling and tripling our effectiveness and the efficiency of every hour and each dollar.

Here’s how this focus guides our selection of those we helped in 2019.

Community FoodBank (Children, Basic Human Needs)

In the state of NJ, many young girls in poor communities cannot attend school monthly due to lack of personal care items. Providing these materials is one way that the organization can lift up young women, as well as the food insecure in NJ.

Next level Performance again supported the Community Food Bank of New Jersey’s “Women Fighting Hunger” Luncheon in March 2019. The event began with a Volunteer Hour, spent creating Sanitary Kits so that young girls can consistently attend school. After the packs were assembled, participants had opportunity to network and exchange ideas.

Community FoodBank (same organization, different mission: Children, Food Insecurity)

When people struggle with food insecurity, they can’t be their best selves. The greatest burden of this crisis falls on children. For a child to go hungry can compromise their future. It may become difficult to concentrate in school. A spiral of anxiety may become a growing distraction, as the source of their next meal may remain elusive. At the extreme, malnourishment can impact their brain growth and development. That kind of permanent diminishment harms both the individual and the state of New Jersey.

Last year was the third year for this event and we at Next Level Performance wanted to be a part of this important support system that truly benefits our state.

NXLP committed a donation of $5,000 to Kids Café sponsorships for 2019. This crucial program helps provide meals for 30 children participating in a Kids Café each afternoon during the school year. For some of these kids, this may be the one meal upon which they can depend, so Next Level Performance has committed yet again to sponsor a Kids Café for 2020.

But, it’s not all about the money.

HOPE Week and Holiday of HOPE and Children’s Specialized Hospital (Children, Basic Human Needs)

HOPE stands for Helping Others Persevere and Excel. The NY Yankees initiated HOPE Week 2011 and challenged other organizations to take up the cause. NXLP has embraced the effort since and each summer selects regional organizations to support with a week of service. This year’s HOPE Week:

  • Sent teammates to Children’s Specialized Hospital (CSH, a RWJBarnabas affiliate and the nation’s leading provider of patient care for children facing special health challenges), to decorate shadow boxes as part of physical and cognitive therapy. The items from the shadow boxes were then distributed to children for play and entertainment.
  • Sent a team to Children’s Specialized Hospital to host a breakfast for the parents and families of young patients.
  • Assembled Activity Kits to help keep the young patients of CSH entertained during their hospital stay.
  • Special shopping teams shopped for pajamas and books for the Pajama Program to help children in special situations have a good night’s sleep.

CASA of Middlesex County (Children, Basic Human Needs)

“Every child deserves a safe home.” explained Nora Siklosi Szabo, MA, CASA Outreach Coordinator.

“I am for the child who still needs a safe home. Lift up a child’s voice. A child’s life.” added Stephanie Brown, LSW, CASA of Middlesex County’s Executive Director.

Employees and their children volunteered to hand-decorate and assemble over 150 Halloween Treat Bags for CASA of Middlesex County, an organization dedicated to rewriting a child’s story, to bring some delight to children known to be in transition.

Elijah’s Promise (Food Insecurity, Basic Human Needs)

It’s easy to get behind a mission of harnessing the power of food to break the cycle of poverty, alleviate hunger and change lives.

  • Coordinated and donated to a building-wide Food Drive for local organization, Elijah’s Promise

Homefront (Children, Basic Human Needs)

When the holiday hype surrounds most kids with sparkle, circumstance can deliver a harsh blow, leaving children feeling anxious and drained of all joy during what should be a happy time. We were sure we could brighten the holiday for each child among 20 underprivileged kids. On December 5, the Next level holiday tree was decorated with tags bearing a child’s first name, and their holiday wishes. The tags held enough details to enable employees to make that child’s wishes come true.

  • Next Level efforts continue into the holiday season, as we make holiday Wishes Come True for homeless children through Homefront. Employees shopped for these children, just as they would for their own. The unwrapped gifts were gathered up into bags by family, and delivered to Homefront to help brighten the best of times, during the worst of times.

“Next Level knew just how to channel the giving spirit of the holiday in a way that brightened my own spirits… it was so satisfying to participate with my co-workers!” said Next Level employee Michael Stricker.

Elijah’s Promise (same organization, but this time Basic Human Needs)

As employees go home for the holidays, it would be too easy to forget about those we leave behind, who inhabit urban areas with little opportunity and few resources, the homeless and forlorn. The cold weather and the first real snow of the Winter has arrived. Some of the local folk right here on George Street in New Brunswick NJ felt the bitter sting of the Winter wind.

  • Next Level employees are over-filling a collection box for Elijah’s Promise. The new, or lightly-worn hats, coats, mittens, gloves, and blankets can make a real, sometimes life-saving difference when distributed to those on the street.

Engaging Employees’ Care through ‘Teammate Donations’

Our Teammate Donations program provides for $100 discretionary cash donation that each employee may direct to the 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is most meaningful to them.

This program serves both ends of the contribution spectrum, for neophytes and experienced donors.

Those new to the donor role review their options and selectively consider how the ability to donate can align with their own values and life experiences. Thus, the company-sanctioned program can help build a framework for a lifetime of giving.

For those practiced in the world of charitable donations, they get to earmark additional monies for their chosen mission, encouraging a deeper relationship with the non-profit organization.

The opportunity to spread donations among new missions enables employee engagement with the parent company, and sharing with one another.

Directed giving also affords the opportunity for employees to grow in fellowship, as they see a measure of their co-workers’ closely-held values and use that to build deeper relationships.

As an example of the rich tapestry of employee beliefs, here are the some of the organizations that received contributions in 2019. Your company’s list is likely to be as varied as your employees are diverse.

  • St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
  • Boys & Girls Clubs
  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
  • Monmouth County ASPCA
  • World Central Kitchen
  • Jersey Shore Rescue Mission
  • St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center
  • The Seeing Eye
  • Ryan’s Quest
  • Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure
  • Save the Children
  • Charity: Water
  • WaterAid
  • Prevent Child Abuse America (PCAA)
  • Make-A-Wish Foundation
  • Upper Bucks Alliance for Creative Expression

It’s Been a Very Good Year – How to Expand Your Stewardship Yet Stay on Mission

If all goes well and prosperity smiles on your firm, then you may see advantage in extending the reach of your charity.

  • Maintain focus on your Core Value(s).

Seeking to serve those same three segments that you originally defined will yield the best outcomes.

“We contribute in ways that can have a real impact,” according to Dittman. “So, we spend time carefully evaluating the charities, the work they do, and the efficiency with which they work.”

Examples of focused Holiday Giving for 2019:

Good Grief of New Jersey (Children, Basic Human Needs)

Year-end can create a deep vacuum in the heart, left in the absence of one dearly loved and newly departed. Sharing with peers creates feelings of psychological safety that encourage expression of feelings otherwise locked inside.

Since 2004, Good Grief has worked to ensure that no child in New Jersey has to grieve alone. The organization provides unlimited and free support to children, teens, young adults and families after the death of a mother, father, sister or brother through peer support programs, education and advocacy, through locations in Morristown and Princeton.

Bridge of Books Foundation (Basic Human Needs)

Recreational reading is frequently cited as a trait of successful people, lifelong learners and high achievers. Instilling this joy of learning while young is essential to creating better learning – and higher-earning – lives.

Thousands of New Jersey children do not have adequate access to books in their homes, schools or communities. This holiday season, help put books into the hands of the children who need them, with a donation to the Bridge of Books Foundation. NXLP is helping to give the gift of literacy by donating books and making a donation so new books can be purchased.

The Pride Center of New Jersey, Inc. (Children, Basic Human Needs)

The iniquities of others often focus unwelcome attention and derision on vulnerable populations. The resulting ostracism and isolation can create fear, anxiety, self-doubt, depression. Those feelings, taken to extremes, may prompt thoughts of suicide.

An all-volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the health and wellbeing of individuals in the LGBTQ+ community. The mission of the Pride Center of New Jersey is to provide a safe and welcoming place for all in the LGBTQ+ community, especially our youth, to come for support, education, health education, and social opportunities to help grow self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-esteem, in order to live healthier and happier lives with equality and social justice. Programs for youth and young adults include Health Education and free HIV testing.

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) (Children, Food Insecurity, Basic Human Needs)

To be out-of-home for the holidays is a recipe for sadness, while foster care can feel cold, insecure and dehumanizing.

CASA of NJ empowers and supports a statewide network of local CASA programs covering all 21 NJ counties.

CASA volunteers provide one-on-one advocacy to abused or neglected children placed in foster care and other out-of-home placements. These volunteers provide a voice for children in court, in school, and in the community. They work tirelessly to ensure children and youth have the services they need while in foster care and remain with each case until a permanent place to live is secured. That could include reunification with parents and caregivers, placement with relatives, or adoption. This past year, 2,186 volunteer advocates served 4,035 children, which represents about half of the children in need of such advocacy in NJ.

A rising tide lifts all boats

You know the drill: Reach back. Offer a hand up, not a hand-out. Give back.

Time and time again, business leaders, influencers, thought leaders, motivational speakers, religious figures, mental and emotional health counselors and therapists, tell us that the redemption we find in helping others adds meaning to our own existence, lends purpose to our working lives, builds bridges to a broader network of those who share our mores.

With so much good that results for oneself, the question is not “did you contribute”, but “to what did you give”?

Making such giving transparent and open might be seen by some as self-serving conceit, but for the example it sets among peer companies, partners, employees, vendors, lenders, and prospects, the effect of positive influence can be priceless.

“That is what will ensure that people care about your Core Values – when they’re applied, not typed on a keyboard. Social Networks are a great medium for expression, but they never fed a child.” added Dave Dittman, President. “Next Level Performance excels at the principles that achieve real results. This application is another opportunity.”

What Intensifies Employees’ Care

Employees take audible pride in their employers’ giving. Introducing new generations to social donation benefits our society. Donations of time or treasure flexibly accommodate the workers’ ability to give. Contributions alleviate pressure on government to solve perennial issues that resist legislation. Participating in the common wealth of your community builds a better, more prosperous and resilient social fabric. Working with colleagues outside of for-profit goals provides satisfying social returns. Giving is good for the individual’s mental health, physical wellbeing, spirits, satisfaction, life skills.

What Heightens Employers’ Caring

Companies that practice charitable giving earn enhanced reputation, stature among peers, visibility in the community. Side effects for executives may include networking and board opportunities. Tax advantages may befall the donor. A healthier community makes for a safer and more secure environment for the workforce. A giving company meets the Millennial demand for social responsibility among the companies that they buy from and invest in. All of this presents a robust, holistic view of a well-rounded enterprise that will appeal to new hires and build a stronger case for employee retention and an engaged workforce.

What Makes Observers Care

Many people look for omens, signs that the world is more than a cold, transactional place. When citizens witness the delivery of compassionate care, it kindles their hearts with hope. Care is a contagion of good.

Next Level Performance is not the largest NJ donor organization. Not by a longshot. But by demonstrating Core Values, maintaining focus, involving employees and using our knowledge of motivation and incentive, we have a force multiplier for the greater good.

We hope our experience aids yours, and thank you for sharing your own commitment to your community.


About the author

Michael Stricker

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