A Behind-The-Scenes Peak at Corporate Philanthropy In Times Of Disaster

Since Thursday night’s tragedy, Dallas’ fortitude has amazed people throughout the world. From the city leadership to the memorial building at Dallas Police Headquarters, the shooting has only brought the community closer together to heal. One group that deserves a pat on the back includes the various companies that have immediately stepped in to help the victims and support first responders, especially the Dallas Police Department. Reports have been flying into MySweetCharity about restaurants offering free meals for police, Uber providing free rides to people who were stranded in downtown Dallas Thursday night, and offices making space for workers who were unable to get to their own offices located within the crime-scene zone.

Those in the philanthropic sector have not only been finding ways to provide funding, but have joined in lockstep to find the best ways to help. Thanks to their mutual interest in supporting North Texas, many already had a network in place to help each other immediately. One example is the note sent by Neiman Marcus Director of Charitable Giving Kevin Hurst. It provides a behind-the-scenes look at the philanthropic process undertaken by many corporation and reveals why North Texas is a standout when it comes to pitching in. For your consideration, here is Kevin’s note:

Kevin Hurst (File photo)

Kevin Hurst (File photo)

“It is certainly crazy times…not just in Dallas, but across the land.

I saw your story on Topgolf this morning.  Having been through my first major crisis in Dallas, I was amazed at how the community came together so quickly to support those in need.  In fact, I thought you might appreciate a behind the scenes look on the corporate philanthropy side.

“Like everyone on Thursday evening, I watched the late breaking news to see how things unfolded.  When I finally turned off the television, the devastation was not at its worst. When I awoke Friday morning at 4:30, I immediately checked the news.  That is when reality set in. That is when I went into ‘philanthropy’ mode. As the Director of Charitable Giving at Neiman Marcus, among other things, I oversee the Disaster Relief fund. Although we are a National Disaster Relief Partner with the American Red Cross, there are some crises that need different attention. It should be noted that the Neiman Marcus Disaster Relief fund is entirely funded by the generosity of associates during the annual giving campaign.

“The first step to determining support is to understand the need and identify the appropriate partner(s). In the case of the Dallas attack (and even the recent massacre in Orlando), it is about victim support. This is where the research and due diligence begins. For me, Assist the Officer Foundation (ATO) immediately rose to the top. What most of Dallas may not realize is that there is a network of philanthropy professionals from Dallas companies both large and small. I immediately reached out to my peers at the Dallas Corporate Citizens Network. Although we meet in person on a regular basis, we often email and talk to share best practices and collaborate. Friday, July 8, was one of those days that the spirit of teamwork excelled. We immediately started sharing ideas and names of organizations that we were each considering. As we learned of new initiatives and funds being established during the day (United Way, Dallas Foundation, and Communities Foundation of Texas…to name a few), we shared. In the end, we were all able to make informed decisions about what we deemed best for the community and our respective companies. It was truly remarkable to see how expeditiously and efficiently decisions were made and instituted.

“Throughout the corporate offices of Neiman Marcus, a similar decision-making process began in the wee hours. Decisions and recommendations included staff from the executive offices, human resources, security, marketing, public relations, internal communications, corporate visual, social media, and philanthropy. In the end, the corporate offices and Downtown store remained closed on Friday (safety concerns for associates and greater community), internal messages from the CEO were sent to associates, a corporate message was posted to our clients through social media, memorial windows were designed and installed in the two Dallas stores, and charitable partners were identified. The store memorial window was installed on Friday at NorthPark and on Saturday at Downtown once the store was re-opened. The Neiman Marcus family is always extraordinary; however, there was something about the day and the efforts that made Friday uber-extraordinary.

Neiman Marcus window at NorthPark*

Neiman Marcus window at NorthPark*

“The Neiman Marcus story is certainly not unique. I think there is an opportunity to highlight the amazing efforts of the corporations that react and support the community on a regular basis…more than the usual gala and event support…the quiet support that happens behind the scenes. I personally collaborated with American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Texas Instruments, JPMorgan Chase, Deloitte, WFAA, Fossil, and of course, our valued partner, Communities Foundation of Texas.

“I personally hope that we never have to go through this process again in Dallas…or anywhere…but the reality is that we are in different times.  It is comforting to know that we have the compassion, professionalism, and ability to collaborate for the good of the greater community.”

* Photo provided by Kevin Hurst