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Creating an equitable and empathetic future: Q&A with 2023 Philanthropic Company of the Year

Positive, measurable and economic impacts on community

Shapiro+Raj is the winner of the 2023 MREF Philanthropic Company of the Year Award. The Philanthropic Company of the Year award recognizes a marketing research firm that leads by example in terms of time and financial efforts given to their community.

With more than five philanthropic partners, Shapiro+Raj believes providing a positive and measurable economic impact in one’s local community is a start to a more equitable and empathetic future.

Shapiro+Raj is dedicated to making a difference, starting from within, and we hope this can inspire more companies and business leaders to raise their hands and be counted as agents of change.

We connected with the company to learn more about its philanthropic endeavors and impact, and asked company leaders to share advice for other firms looking to become more involved in their communities.

Explain the philanthropic endeavors Shapiro+Raj takes part in.

Our philanthropic endeavors embrace a wide list of causes. Our network of partners includes Junior Achievement of Chicago, Chicago United’s Five Forward Initiative, American India Foundation, Center for Advancing World Peace, and World Central Kitchen.

Providing a positive, measurable economic impact in our local community is a start to a more equitable and empathetic future.

As partners with Chicago United’s Five Forward Initiative™, we are helping to mentor, grow, and build the capabilities of five MBEs to create an economic ripple effect. Minority-owned businesses are far more likely to hire from the minority community, which means a growing tax base, spending at local businesses, and funding for social and educational institutions to crate more opportunity.

Our longest philanthropic partnership – and one that we are especially proud of – is with Junior Achievement of Chicago (JA). Over the last two decades, Shapiro+Raj has supplied financial assistance and in-classroom support to Junior Achievement’s efforts to prepare today’s students for bright futures.

Shapiro+Raj has dedicated countless hours volunteering in local elementary and middle-grade classrooms. Volunteers are essential to the delivery of JA’s mission and outreach of its programming. Shapiro+Raj volunteers bring to life the world of work, life skills, and career exploration to the many students they have reached.

In addition to helping JA deliver essential economic education programs to local Chicagoland students, Shapiro+Raj has supported major special events JA has hosted, where the funds raised go toward the implementation and delivery of JA’s financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship programs to local K-12 Chicagoland students.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, our teams pivoted to virtual classroom sessions because we knew how integral in-classroom experiences were to the middle schoolers that JA supports. It brings us great joy to have officially returned to the classroom this year!

We actively explore ways to provide greater and more meaningful assistance to JA and its efforts. The world has changed dramatically during the last few years. These changes have created new challenges that require stronger commitments.

How have your philanthropic endeavors impacted the company?

Our philanthropic endeavors have had a profound impact on our company in multiple dimensions.

The initiatives have been a source of pride and motivation for our employees. By contributing to causes that matter, our team feels a deeper connection to our company and its mission. This has enhanced team cohesion, motivation, and overall job satisfaction. In addition to bolstering our corporate culture, engagement with different communities and addressing unique challenges, our teams have been exposed to diverse perspectives. This has sparked innovation, encouraging us to think outside the box and come up with solutions that we might not have considered otherwise.

Our philanthropic activities have positioned us as a responsible corporate citizen in the eyes of our customers, partners, and our community. While we don’t give back with the hopes of any benefit, it is important that we show other organizations our size that we can all play a role in making the world a better place. Philanthropy aligns our hearts with our business practices. Our goal was never to be a “leader” when it comes to giving back and affecting change. Our history of continuous support for organizations like Junior Achievement of Chicago proves that our connection to the communities in which we thrive is part of our DNA.

Our support for JA has become an integral part of our culture. Our team members look forward to taking part in the in-classroom and mentorship experiences. We are fortunate to experience the ripple effects of our support to JA and see, hear, and feel how our efforts shape our community.

Maya Angelou once said, “I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” This is profoundly true for Shapiro+Raj. We share the details of our philanthropic involvement as a way to keep us accountable to our legacy of support as well as any new challenges the future may bring.

The path before us is clear. Shapiro+Raj will continue to provide support when and where it matters most and to shine a light on causes that need us.

What advice do you have for other companies looking to get more involved in their community?

The times we are living in today require every person and every company to stand for what is right and give everyone – no matter who they are – the opportunity to live up to their full potential. In other words, it’s not just about improving the valuation of our Fortune 500 clients, but also upping the odds of success and the dignity that comes with it for our fellow minority business owners and their employees, and for many underserved communities.

Here are some key pieces of advice for companies looking to get more involved in their community:

1. Understand your community: Start by gaining a deep understanding of the community in which your company operates. This involves not only knowing the demographics but also the needs, challenges, and opportunities present in that community.

2. Support local economic development: If possible, prioritize local suppliers and contractors, and create jobs within the community. This not only contributes to the local economy but also enhances your company's image as a responsible corporate citizen.

3. Engage your employees: Encourage your employees to get involved in community activities. Offer paid volunteer days, organize team-building events with a community service component, and recognize and reward their efforts.

4. Form partnerships: Collaborate with local non-profit organizations, government agencies, and other businesses to maximize the impact of your community initiatives. Partnerships can provide resources, expertise, and broader reach.

5. Be consistent: Community involvement should be an ongoing commitment, not just a one-time effort. Consistency in your support and engagement is crucial for building trust.

Remember that community involvement is not just about giving back; it's also about building a positive relationship with the community, which can benefit your company in various ways. Ultimately, the most successful community involvement initiatives are those that genuinely address the needs of the community while aligning with your company's values and mission.


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