Chicago Charity Challenge: A worthy gamble

 Chicago Charity Challenge: A worthy gamble

Sometimes, taking a gamble can pay off.

When I was invited to a charity night put on by Paul Hastings, I had let it go due to work commitments. Thankfully, I received a follow up and with a new window of opportunity this past Thursday night, attended their Casino Night event for Christopher House. There, I learned that this event was part of an overall effort called the Chicago Charity Challenge.

To put it bluntly, I'm impressed. Very impressed.

Now in its second year, the Chicago Charity Challenge was started by Craig Foster, who founded Call One and was seeking a way to make a greater philanthropic impact. With many other companies crafting a "Day of Sharing" with nonprofits, Craig realized that many charities and businesses could benefit from longer-term relationships. (If one day of impact is good for both organizations, building working relationships can help extend the range and focus of that impact). From April 1st through December 31st, companies  collaborate with nonprofits who share their Corporate Social Responsibility mission. With help from Challenge staff, these collaborations work on a variety of activities (including joint events, fundraisers, and other team building activities. Data and donations are collected through free access to GiveTrak, and companies are encouraged to compete against each other (and results are tracked in real time).

But how do companies feel they benefit? Allow me to share how one company views the benefits of the Chicago Charity Challenge:

Paul Hastings Law Firm and Christopher House Honored with Grand Prize Award from Chicago Charity Challenge on Vimeo.

One of the key strengths of the Chicago Charity Challenge is that it integrates a value that most nonprofits tend to avoid - competition. With companies competing towards philanthropic efforts, the Chicago Charity Challenge may seem "at odds" with conventional wisdom....but it means that people are encouraged to work harder towards social benefit. (And as Stephen Lee of ChariPick learned in his research, people often get more pleasure from giving donations over receiving). The Chicago Charity Challenge's concept of "competitive philanthropy" has even acquired a nomination for the 2015 Chicago Innovation Awards.

Right now, the philanthropic landscape is becoming more diverse and improvisational, with businesses seeing the benefit of philanthropy and nonprofits conducting themselves in a more businesslike manner. The Chicago Charity Challenge is a fine example of the power of collaboration - when two different organizations with common values work together for the benefit of the community.

As for my experience....I had a blast. Played quite a bit of blackjack (my personal game) and even tried my hand at roulette (hit a lucky streak for a bit) while meeting a variety of people from a variety of nonprofit and corporate organizations. (Including an all-too brief - yet charming - conversation in the elevator on the way out). At the end of the night, we were encouraged to donate our "winnings" to various charities (by dropping our chips in various labeled boxes), and I don't mean to brag....but I had plenty to give away that night.

Collaboration? Community? Having fun while doing good? That's a gamble that's always worth taking....and the Chicago Charity Challenge is a worthy gamble.

(Special thanks to Michelle D'Amico, Stacey Raga, and Craig Foster for their time, their hospitality, and most importantly - for all their hard work)

Know of any other great philanthropic efforts happening throughout Chicago? Have any questions or comments? You're more than welcome to share below or join the conversation on our Facebook page. You can receive updates via e-mail (instructions below), or contact me personally via the About page.

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