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VolunTourism & The Global Do Good Grant™
Cathey Finlon, former owner of McClain Finlon Advertising, will be inducted into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame on 12 February 2009. Cathey spent more than two decades running McClain Finlon Advertising before closing its doors in late August 2008. Her legacy, and that of her team's creative genius and philanthropic nature, touched the VolunTourism sphere in 2005 via the creation of the Global Do Good Grant™, an all-expenses-paid scholarship for one aspiring employee to live her/his dream of traveling and volunteering in the destination of her/his choosing. I had the privilege of interviewing Cathey Finlon, her HR Director, Heidi Stevenson, and the first recipient of the GDGG™, Christina McCoy on 14 August 2008 and offer their answers to 3Q's posed during that conversation.
If you take time to read about McClain Finlon Advertising, some of the blog posts that appeared on Denver-area online communities at the time of its closure, you will see the respect for the firm and, most especially, for Cathey Finlon. I met Cathey a couple of years ago after reading a Denver Post article about their Global Do Good Grant™ and spoke with some of the employees regarding what it meant to them. Cathey has always held an affinity for philanthropy, but when her eyes lit up in describing the GDGG™, I realized she was incredibly proud of it, in a manner, albeit, quite humbling and awe-inspiring.
To see that she has recently been named to the 2009 Colorado Business Hall of Fame serves notice of her character and commitment, but I would like EVERYONE to know that what her team did in creating the GDGG™ is nothing short of profound. As I recently reviewed the private interview that I had with her, Heidi Stevenson, and Christina McCoy, I am indebted to them for taking the time to speak to me on this subject just days before the firm closed its doors. I offer the following answers to 3Q's posed during that conversation as a tribute to Cathey and her Team.
1) What was the impetus for initiating the Global Do Good Grant™?
"The first point of vision had to do with a struggle we were having over a period of time of how to engage our employees more directly in the concept of giving. It was something that I was struggling with personally, and Heidi (Stevenson), you’ll fill in the blanks a little on this, but a number of years ago I was in Notre Dame with my husband and sitting there thinking:
'How could McClain Finlon get a sense of itself of being able to give and give back, in addition to the way we normally gave, which was to give our services to nonprofits and things like that? And how could that giving become embodied in individuals?'
And so I came back from that trip and I tried a few things that didn’t work – they were more like challenges and things like that - so that little seed was sitting there. Then, in the course of developing some very senior level business planning around the vision for the organization and where we could go, Heidi and the leadership team began to then think about that idea, but it was coming from them. The path of engaging started from that little baby seed, but then, Heidi, you begin to tell about how then it really came from the Leadership Team which was what then made it such a beautiful thing as opposed to a management thing." Cathey Finlon
"That seed was planted on the Leadership Team and basically, because I was the HR (Human Resources) Director, it was a sign to me to do some thinking. And so I was brainstorming with our Creative Director at the time and we not only wanted to expand on the idea of giving back to the community but we wanted to also incorporate it into our training program which was developing at the same time; and come up with a way that we could really help our employees see the much broader picture and help them expand their world.
I had just had an experience visiting my daughter in the Peace Corps, which was hugely expansive for me personally, so I was talking to the Creative Leader and I was explaining how that had really changed my life and I was only there three weeks. We came up with the idea of could we, McClain Finlon, provide that kind of experience for one employee a year. And if we could, wouldn’t that be an awesome thing for us to offer to our employees and then for them to be able to come back to the agency and offer up their experience in a very motivating and inspirational way to the rest of the group – and just have it be, this continuous learning, be part of our culture and also giving back on a world view, on a world stage, really." Heidi Stevenson, Former Human Resources Director
How did this experience impact you personally & professionally, and was one aspect impacted more so than another?
"When I was looking at this question, I can’t really say that it impacted my professional life more or less than my personal life, it certainly impacted both. And in areas that it did so, the importance of flexibility; again it’s going to help me personally and professionally. Remaining organic; and when I was thinking in those terms I was thinking of just the idea of arriving in a foreign country, learning how to evaluate my situation and the people around me, and then devising a plan for how to spend the next three weeks with all of these people that I don’t know, a group of students that have varying abilities, limited resources, and obviously a huge language barrier - again, those areas that will help me in all areas of my life.
The ability to see the potential in a person, a project that we were working on, or a situation; what I did when I was over there (Tanzania) is I worked with art students in a little three-room school that had no electricity or running water. And so to watch them in Pasto Areno, my entire class of twelve people passed around one eraser – they just learned to cope with what they have and that’s what I had to do as well. At lunch time, they would go down to the crick (creek) and get water to make lunch; and even though that water had tadpoles swimming in it, that’s what you do.
And then, in addition to that, just through watching them, I learned to value, and appreciate, and even treasure my current setting, whatever it is – however great or humble – because in different parts of my life it’s going to be one, both, or the other. So those are all areas that it impacted me, again, personally and professionally and I think they’ll all be a benefit throughout my life if I can keep all of those in my mindset." Christina McCoy, Grant Recipient & Former Employee
3) What is one of the strengths of a "Global Do Good Grant™" approach for the corporate world?
"One aspect… you know how you read today where people long for fulfillment in their lives and don’t think they can get it from the business world and so it’s do what you want, do what you desire with your life. And I think that that it is not necessary to leave the world of business in order to gain fulfillment. But, one doesn’t gain it from just being productive everyday; it’s from having meaning and purpose. There is no reason in America today that people should leave the corporate world because they can’t find meaning and value if you have programs like this where people can say, ‘I’ve gone and done something that fulfills me from a heart standpoint. And now I can go back to work and share that with others who might want to do something similar, but I’m still part of this productivity world of business.’
There’s no reason for people today to have to leave this world of producing goods and services and things like that in order to become fulfilled people and I think that is what the companies need to recognize. It makes no sense that the entire world must be a nonprofit world in order for people to feel fulfilled because that’s not real, or complete reality, that’s not a complete reality. So I think that’s an interesting avenue for the more enlightened company to take.” Cathey Finlon
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