Inside the Chicago Charity Challenge: Latham & Watkins LLP

Inside the Chicago Charity Challenge: Latham & Watkins LLP

(Special thanks to Robin Hulshizer of Latham & Watkins for her time and insight)

One great thing about Chicago is a thriving community focused on corporate philanthropy. Amongst more community- and technology-based efforts, Chicago corporate philanthropy takes a unique approach, moving businesses beyond just monetary donations into building strong community partnerships. Chicago Charity Challenge focuses on building those relationships, with businesses and nonprofits focusing on joint efforts that have greater impact on the greater community.

At the recent Chicago Charity Challenge Awards Ceremony, I was invited to speak with Robin Hulshizer, Deputy Chicago Office Managing Partner at Latham & Watkins LLP, about winning the Chicago Charity Challenge’s Issue Impact Award for Latham’s partnership with Do the Write Thing, the primary initiative of the National Campaign to Stop Violence.

In all honesty, the awards ceremony was not only a great experience, but also provided a great “behind the scenes” examination of the Chicago Charity Challenge.

Although Latham & Watkins LLP had been working with Do the Write Thing for eight years, their involvement with the Chicago Charity Challenge began a year ago. Through the recommendation of Latham & Watkins Chicago partner Mark Gerstein the firm began participating in the Chicago Charity Challenge, further building its partnership with Do the Write Thing.

(Although Latham & Watkins was fortunate to have a partnership in place, many companies are not as fortunate or may be unaware of how to build a partnership. Thankfully, the Chicago Charity Challenge not only allows for currently existing corporate/nonprofit partnerships, but also provides “matchmaking” for companies seeking a nonprofit partner).

Latham & Watkins’ day-to-day partnership with Do the Write Thing is driven by the firm’s philosophy of “moving forward by giving back.” Robin volunteers as Do the Write Thing’s Chicago chairperson and she says her firm’s work with Do the Write Thing focused not just on impacting people directly, but focusing on impacting the issue of how youth learn when dealing with violence. Many of their efforts work to build strong families as well as eliminate barriers to education and well-being. Efforts are tracked via Chicago Charity Challenge’s user-friendly GiveTrak® online software for managing volunteer activities and tracking all charitable work done by company employees. Employees receive e-mail updates about the results and impact of their giving.

One of the most important elements of Latham & Watkins’ involvement with Do The Write Thing and the Chicago Charity Challenge is the impact of the work on all the parties involved, including:

  • Latham & Watkins employees feeling good about themselves and proud of their colleagues, understanding the bigger work picture, enhancing their non-Challenge work, and stronger internal reinforcement;
  • For Do The Write Thing, impact means that teachers receive lesson plans and other needed resources, as well as assistance in guiding classroom discussions; and
  • For students, it means recognition, connecting with mentors and other role models, the ability to write, and a newfound sense of confidence. (Robin recounted a participant who informed her, “I was a prior year winner, and now I’m at Georgetown”)

But the greatest aspect of Latham & Watkins’ participation in the Chicago Charity Challenge is a heightened sense of social reinforcement. As Robin explained, there is a competitive aspect to their work, but it is not about one employee vanquishing another. Although Latham & Watkins employees learn about their peers’ activities, they move forward not to “defeat” someone else, but because they know they can – and will – do better. As Robin Hulshizer says so eloquently,

Any time there is a healthy challenge to do better for the community, it is a positive thing….there is no downside.

And that’s precisely what makes Latham & Watkins – and the Chicago Charity Challenge – so vital to social change in Chicago.

Know any organizations that are doing great work in the Chicago community (around technology, social enterprise, business partnerships, etc)? Let us know in the comments section below or share 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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