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Sunday, 17 March 2013 22:00

Heart of the Matter: Amway aligns giving with passion for entrepreneurship, helping children

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While Amway’s culture is built off its founding principles of freedom, family, hope and reward, it’s also added another focus, at least on its charitable giving side: children.

This year, West Michigan-based Amway Corp. is celebrating 10 years of its One by One campaign. The initiative, which claims to have transformed the lives of 10 million children in its decade of existence, was borne from the idea that in order for the direct selling giant to do the most good and have the most impact, it first had to hone in on its own values and what was most important to the organization.

At its core was fostering an environment of entrepreneurship. To help the communities in which its independent business owners operate, as well as to further its own mission, the company turned its focus toward helping children learn and develop skills in entrepreneurship.

Along the way, the company also helped hone its charitable efforts, company officials said.

Prior to the implementation of the One by One campaign, the company felt that its charitable time and contributions were scattered and unorganized, said David Madiol, Amway’s West Michigan community relations manager.

“We felt that children were the place we could make the most impact,” Madiol said.

To make that impact, Amway partnered with a number of local organizations and nonprofits, including playground builders KaBoom, the Grand Rapids Public Schools and Kids’ Food Basket, a nonprofit that aims to eradicate children’s hunger in the region.

Beyond just giving money and encouraging its employees to volunteer their time, a large part of Amway’s campaign is to take a hands-on approach and use employees’ business acumen to work on strengthening these organizations they want to help. For example, Jay

Ertl, one of Amway’s executives, sits on Kid’s Food Basket’s board of directors. (See sidebar for more details on how the company helped transform the nonprofit by implementing lean manufacturing principles.)

“[Amway has] talented individuals who head up divisions who lend their time and talent … helping to guide nonprofits,” said Nick Wasmiller, a senior public relations specialist with the company. “It’s about advancing our community and the place where we live and work.”

Some of Amway’s strongest partnerships, however, are with organizations such as Junior Achievement and Grand Rapids Public Schools, largely because Madiol says that Amway sees “education as a baseline for a number of things” the company holds dear.

“We have a long-standing relationship with Junior Achievement … that ties back to us because that is really based in the free enterprise system and entrepreneurship,” Madiol said. “Junior Achievement is a great piece for us because it’s kids, it’s our future. It’s giving them that [economic] freedom when they get out of school.”

Real-world education

Besides Amway’s partnership with Junior Achievement, the company is also working with Grand Rapids Public Schools, namely by sponsoring the School of Business, Leadership and Entrepreneurship curriculum at Ottawa Hills High School on the city’s southeast side.

The program debuted as one of the district’s Centers Of Innovation initiatives that launched in 2007.  

The program pairs CEOs and businesses owners with students to expose students to real-world business topics including technology, marketing, multimedia, management, accounting and business law, according to GRPS.

“The idea behind it was to foster public-private partnerships with universities, job providers, nonprofits, and institutions to develop high-quality, attractive school choices,” said John Helmholdt, director of communications for Grand Rapids Public Schools. “Some would say they act like a charter school in many ways.”

Admission is based on the availability and number of seats, Helmholdt said. While the program has no specific admissions criteria, the business school aims to develop a “professional atmosphere” where teachers blend expertise from both education and industry, Helmholdt said.

This is a big part of where Amway has made a serious contribution to the centers, Helmholdt said. Aside from helping to develop the curriculum for the business school — while noting that all four schools have business principles embedded into their foundation — Amway put $50,000 toward renovations and new computers in a student lounge with state-of-the-art furniture and workstations.

Helmholdt said Amway has also provided tutors, scholarships, mentoring and paid summer job opportunities for Centers of Innovation students.

“The idea is develop schools where you’re bringing in the experts from higher education and industry to make that bridge between high school and career preparation,” Helmholdt said. “This is an opportunity for kids with a clear college-path.”

Sharing best practices

As a large international operation whose parent company, Alticor, announced sales of $11.3 billion for 2012, Amway is better suited for large-scale giving than many smaller companies, said Wasmiller. But he said even a small business can take Amway’s model of corporate giving and adapt it to its own specifications and resources.

“Any organization, large or small, should first align the cause or causes it wants to support with its core competencies and business goals,” Wasmiller said. “(Also,) it should encourage and promote employee participation by making it easy for employees to take time off to volunteer or, if needed, to use company resources to help the cause.”

No matter the case, Wasmiller believes that the most important aspect of a company’s giving is for the business to work with causes that are aligned with corporate values and to play off the business’ or its employees’ strengths.

“[It’s about] taking what Amway is good at, which is supporting entrepreneurship and advocating for entrepreneurship, and advancing that forward,” Wasmiller said. “We are able to do that in our educational efforts with children, as well as distributors, who obviously support the organization.”

Read 4617 times Last modified on Tuesday, 16 April 2013 11:09

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