Medical Mutual SHARE Award
Budros, Ruhlin & Roe Inc., a wealth management firm with a 40-person staff, was like many midsize companies. Employees volunteered with charities through individual efforts here and there, when they could.
Then in 2015, two wealth management administrators, Ryan W. Garland and Matt Ullmer, had the idea — independently — to create firm-wide opportunities for community service.
By organizing the firm’s charitable outreach, it could get everybody involved, Garland says.
BRR employees are encouraged to come up with initiatives every year, so when Garland and Ullmer had similar ideas, one of their initiative advisers suggested they work together.
“We had a lot of smaller events or smaller groups that were going out and doing things, but there was never a formal process or procedure,” Ullmer says. “There was never anything written in the handbook for the firm, as far as taking time off or being allowed to have a set amount of time where you could have those paid time off hours. People were just using their own personal time to do that.
“But this incentivized people to do a little bit more and encouraged those that weren’t previously volunteering to get out and find something that interested them.”
Thanks to the efforts of Ullmer, Garland and others, three initiatives have strengthened BBR’s culture of philanthropy.
During its spring community day, the office closes and all employees participate in a firm-wide service project in the surrounding community. So far, staff has volunteered with LifeCare Alliance and LifeTown Columbus.
For its winter community day, BRR closes early and the employees and their guests attend an evening fundraiser that includes a service activity. Most recently, the event supported Blessings in a Backpack to feed children, who depend on their school’s free and reduced meal, during the Thanksgiving holiday.
“It was a lot of work, a lot of organization, but we have such great employees that everybody pitched in,” says Administrative Assistant Janie Dreher.
Employees also are given eight hours of annual volunteer paid time off. They can volunteer on their own or with a group of colleagues.
These initiatives are run through a Make BRR Better committee, and Dreher says people are coming to the committee and asking: What can I do?
“They are now looking for more and more places to devote their time and their charity,” she says.
It created awareness for people who didn’t know where to start, and everybody has been willing to donate money, time or even use their volunteer hours to help, Dreher says.
It also enabled different sets of employees to interact and deepened relationships when the staff got together outside of the office.
“While we always had a very collaborative culture here, the community service events and volunteerism have strengthened the collegiality and camaraderie,” says CEO Peggy Ruhlin. “There is a tremendous sense of pride evident, and not just during an event.”
In fact, Ruhlin has been surprised at how the firm’s community service has been so attractive to potential employees. She says almost every one of them mentions it during an interview.
Start with what you have
If you want to encourage more philanthropy, start by finding out what people are already involved in and what else they are interested in supporting with a staff survey, Garland says. Then, it can be a matter of focusing.
The Make BRR Better committee uses survey information as a guide. The first community day with LifeCare was a good fit because people wanted to help the hungry and one employee had volunteered for LifeCare for years.
While Dreher says it helps to have the backing of upper management, Ruhlin is grateful the effort came from the employee base.
“I’m not sure our efforts would have been as well received had the ideas come from top management,” she says. “They seem to be perceived as more of a grassroots movement in which everyone can participate and share equally. As a bonus, it has enhanced employee morale and allowed them to see that they can make a difference in how the firm is managed — and that anyone can be a leader here.”
When Ullmer and Garland started formalizing BRR’s philanthropy, they wanted attainable goals. Now with a framework and budget that doesn’t need to be pitched every year, the committee knows what needs to done and who has to be involved when.
“Just getting that first year under our belt was a huge help; getting that experience running these events,” Ullmer says. “We hadn’t ever held any event at our office, much less a charity event.”
For just the second year, it’s running pretty smoothly and the turnout has been tremendous as well, he says.
How to reach: Budros, Ruhlin & Roe Inc., (614) 481-6900 or www.b-r-r.com