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Profiting from Philanthropy: The Business Case for Supporting Nonprofits.

I'm extremely proud that I know the elastic properties of Tootsie Rolls and jaw breakers for two reasons:

1. Should Willy Wonka ever decide to venture into the medical device industry, I will have my testing and regulatory support estimate and sales pitch ready.

2. Those tests bring in dozens of brilliant young minds who may grow up to improve our industry and patient care.

What started as a field trip for my son's class has evolved into a program we offer to area elementary and junior high schools several times a year. We invite students in to learn about STEM careers, the difference between a scientist and an engineer, tour our machine shop, and see how we make a living off of breaking things. The uncontested favorite part of the tour is when we smash candy on test frames to mimic the work we perform on medical device parts.

More than one child has told me something along the lines of, "Wow, I didn't even know breaking stuff was something you could do with your life."

Empirical also sponsors STEM-related activities at area schools. When our sons competed in robotics, we were part of the parent/student effort to design a robot, develop a business plan and marketing plan compilation, design a booth to attract sponsors, and pitch patrons about supporting our team's robot.

Obviously, I love finding ways to connect with my kids and show them what Mom and Dad do at work all day. But the benefits of supporting your community go beyond the warm fuzzies you get from contributing to the greater good. If you consider the big picture--one now fueled by considerable data--your business can profit from philanthropy.

Corporate social responsibility has moved well beyond the "buzzword" phase into mainstream business culture. According to corporate social responsibility (CSR) consulting firm Double the Donation, corporations gave $17.8 billion to charity last year and 93 percent of the world's largest 250 companies now publish annual CSR reports. That firm also found 55 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for products from socially responsible companies. Active community engagement tends to make for a happier workforce, according to Double the Donation. The firm found 60 percent of employees who are proud of their company's CSR are engaged in their jobs.

According to the 2017 Cone Communications Study, 87 percent of Americans will buy a product because a company advocated for an issue they care about, and 76 percent will refuse such a purchase if they learn the company supports an issue against their beliefs.

This more philanthropic focus is driven by a consumer base increasingly concerned about business practices, thanks in part to socially conscious Millennials, a larger, more diverse demographic than Baby Boomers. By 2025, that generation is projected to make up three-fourths of the workforce. In addition to being savvy consumers, Millennials tend to apply that same perspective to potential employers, so CSR isn't just about being a good corporate citizen. It's also about attracting and retaining talent.

The public relations benefits of community engagement are obvious,

said Susanne Arens, president of Crystal Peak Advertising & Marketing in Colorado Springs, Colo. She told me Colorado has more nonprofits per capita than any other state, and Colorado Springs has more nonprofits per capita than another other city in our state.

Arens said major events are a great way to get exposure.

"Not only does it support a cause (the company) believes in, their company gets really good exposure for being part of something bigger, and it's good visibility," she said. "You get the credit by association."

In addition to media coverage, you typically get prominent logo placement at the actual location in addition to all promotional collateral. The event itself is also often a great way to network with like-minded businesses, particularly for smaller companies.

"Just 'running in the pack' with other types of companies [at events] gives some really good exposure," she said. "It's common ground. That makes a bond."

Arens encourages companies she works for to find a nonprofit that fits their culture and line of business, particularly for event sponsorships.

"I would try to align with your target audience," she said. "What would the majority of your target audience also attend?"

For Sawbones, a small company that produces anatomical training models, The Perry Initiative was the perfect fit. The Vashon Island, Wash.-based venture is rooted in education. The Perry Initiative is a nationwide program building the pipeline of young women in engineering and medicine by offering workshops where high school and medical students get hands-on experience with orthopedics. Sawbones donates anatomical models for the young women to practice fracture repair, spinal fusion for scoliosis, rotator cuff repair, and other procedures.

"We're very pro-education," said Thom Porro, who heads new product development for Sawbones. "We're really keen on the whole STEM philosophy. We really try to support that wherever we can. It's a really good fit with The Perry Initiative because they're teaching biomechanical skills based around orthopedic procedures."

They're one of several members of the medical device industry that also support The Perry Initiative's efforts to engage young women in orthopedics and engineering, he said.

"A lot of the device manufacturers donate their time and their equipment to support these labs, so it's a bit of a collaboration," he said.

The primary goal is to give back and support education, he said, but Sawbones' support of The Perry Initiative also fits into the company's scope of work.

"Our mantra is, we want to make better surgeons," he said. "Everything takes practice. If we can provide a vehicle for that and the next generation gets some of the skills they need, that's a good contribution to humankind."

Dawn A. Lissy * President & Founder, Empirical

Dawn Lissy is a biomedical engineer, entrepreneur, and innovator. Since 1998, the Empirical family of companies (Empirical Testing Corp., Empirical Consulting LLC, and Empirical Machine LLC) has operated under Lissy's direction. Empirical offers the full range of regulatory and quality systems consulting, testing, small batch and prototype manufacturing, and validations services to bring a medical device to market. Empirical is very active within standards development organization ASTM International and has one of the widest scopes of test methods of any accredited independent lab in the United States. Because Lissy was a member of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Entrepreneur-in-Residence program, she has first-hand, in-depth knowledge of the regulatory landscape. Lissy holds an inventor patent for the Stackable Cage System for corpectomy and vertebrectomy. Her M.S. in biomedical engineering is from The University of Akron, Ohio.
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Title Annotation:BEST PRACTICES
Author:Lissy, Dawn A.
Publication:Medical Product Outsourcing
Date:Jun 1, 2019
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