Originally posted on the AppNexus blog by the AppNexus team.

If you’ve browsed the web or turned on the news in the last couple of weeks, you’ve probably been confronted with images of the destruction caused by natural disasters in Texas, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere.

They certainly struck a chord here at AppNexus.

Within days of the news that Hurricane Harvey had devastated much of the Houston area, AppNexians were thinking up ways to rally the company to raise money for victims. Fortunately, they weren’t alone – the AppNexus Impact Steering Committee was ready to help.

AppNexus Impact’s mission is to foster a culture of civic engagement and charity, and the primary way they do that is by providing the infrastructure and guidance for employees to spearhead initiatives for the causes they’re most interested in. That way, no one’s left in the situation of wanting to take a stand for something they’re passionate about and not knowing what the first step is – they can just contact AppNexus Impact, tap into their wealth of experience and resources, and get the ball rolling.

With AppNexus Impact’s help, we were able to come together and hold an informal, Texas-themed breakfast in our cafeteria that raised over $6,500 for disaster relief. In this article, we’re going to share some of the best practices that helped us achieve that goal and put us in position respond quickly and effectively when our employees want to promote their causes.


Build a playbook

One of the reasons that AppNexus Impact has become such a valuable resource is the wealth of experience and institutional knowledge its members have on what makes a successful charity event. Better yet, they’ve distilled this information into a handy, step-by-step playbook anyone at AppNexus can access. Some of the highlights include:

  • Guidelines on what kinds of organizations to partner with
  • Information on how to engage Community Groups within AppNexus to bring more attention to charitable initiatives
  • A guide to marketing charity initiatives within the company
  • A full rundown of all logistical needs for different kinds of impact projects
  • A how-to on retroactive case studies to ensure every event results in new lessons learned

Our playbook makes it easier for us to execute on these kinds of events, and it’s always growing as we learn new lessons.

Play to your people’s strengths

Adriana McDonald, a member of our Global Office Operations team, had the original idea for the breakfast taco bake sale, and quickly got support from other members of TexNexus (our affinity group for proud Texans – there truly is a group for everyone here!).

But a successful event needs more than one person driving it. And it’s not just about getting more people involved – it’s about getting the right people in the right roles. AppNexus Impact helped Adriana identify the people with the skill sets, interests, and passion to make the event a hit. A few examples:

  • The team asked Pablo Dominguez, our VP of Global Business Operations, to help publicize the event. As a senior leader, he had the reach to amplify the message to as many AppNexians as possible.
  • They enlisted the help of Ashley Babinecz on the food front. Ashley is a Director in our Talent Acquisition Group but moonlights as a leader of BakeNexus (you guessed it, our affinity group for baking enthusiasts), so she was a natural choice to help the team cook up a great meal.
  • They reached out to Neville Hall and Lillie Ratliff – leaders in the AppNexus Black Alliance and the AppNexus Latino Alliance respectively. Those are two of our most active affinity groups, and with their help, the team expanded their efforts to include a clothing and supply drive.

By being deliberate about who they engaged, AppNexus Impact and the volunteers were able to get the right people in the right roles to make the event a success.

Listen and be flexible

One of AppNexus Impact’s key strategies for getting engagement around these kinds of events is letting the people who drive them decide where the money is ultimately donated. People feel more connected to an event when they know they’re helping out organizations whose missions they connect with.

Flexibility in deciding who to donate to was also became important as time went on. As you probably remember, Hurricane Harvey was quickly followed within the same week by Hurricane Irma in Florida and an earthquake in Mexico. With AppNexus Impact’s help, the team was able to expand the scope of their efforts and send money to organizations in Florida and Mexico. This is the kind of decision that could have easily slipped through the cracks if not for the sense of focus and tested, repeatable processes provided by AppNexus Impact.

Ultimately, we ended up donating to five organizations in Texas, Florida, and Mexico:

  • Houston Food Bank
  • Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
  • Greater Community Houston Foundation (an organization that will help rebuild Houston’s damaged infrastructure)
  • American Red Cross, South Florida Region
  • Oxfam Mexico

We felt that each of these organizations served different but vital purposes in the affected regions.

Practice makes perfect

We’re thrilled to have helped the victims of these recent disasters, and it all started with AppNexus Impact’s experience and dedication to making these kinds of efforts as smooth as possible. In fact, by following these processes, we were able to quickly coordinate similarly effective events for those affected by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico – yet another example of how our system enables us to respond to quickly to what’s happening in the world. We hope that these best practices can help other companies make it possible for their people to advocate for the causes they care about.

If you’re interested in fostering a culture of philanthropy at your organization, consider joining us in partnering with Pledge 1%. They’re the experts in corporate giving and can help you come up with a plan to allocate more resources to worthy causes. Taking the pledge represents a commitment to donating 1% of your company’s resources (not just money, but time and products too) to charitable causes, and you can get started here.