For 15 years, the Pillar Award for Community Service has honored the importance of giving back

Dustin S. Klein, Publisher and Vice President of Operations, Smart Business Network Inc.

This year, we celebrate the 15th annual Medical Mutual Pillar Award for Community Service program — Smart Business’ initiative that recognizes the symbiotic relationship between the for-profit and nonprofit communities.

Most people are relatively humble about their philanthropy. It’s a personal issue, and they’ve been taught it is not good taste to boast about how much money they give to a specific cause or the countless hours they spend volunteering for an organization.

Discussing philanthropy, especially when it comes to thinking about how business and nonprofits work together, however, is a good thing.

When we co-founded the Pillar Award in 1998 with Medical Mutual of Ohio, our organizations had three common goals: honor and reward companies that have made a commitment to community service, encourage other companies to get involved with the community, and identify and share creative ideas that companies of all sizes can use to make the community a better place to live and work.

It’s safe to say that the program has lived up to its lofty promises.

Along the way, we added a fourth goal — give back to the community ourselves. We established The Pillar Fund, tied it into the existing program and began distributing grants to regional nonprofits.

Together with our partners, we have been humbled to read more than 1,000 nominations over this decade and a half and honor more than 100 organizations and individuals who best exemplify what happens when we band together to strengthen our communities — we make a difference in people’s lives.

As you read about this year’s finalists, please consider the following ways in which you can give back:

Find your cause. Align your giving or volunteerism with something you personally believe in or care about; something that fits with what your company does or something close to your employees’ hearts.

Get involved. Writing a check is nice, but lending vital manpower can be just as impactful. Organizations such as Business Volunteers Unlimited provide lists of available group projects that regional nonprofits need to have accomplished.

Make a difference. When you get involved in something you care in, this is what happens. And better yet, not only will you impact others’ lives, but you will find that you’ve changed your own. 

Dustin Klein is publisher and vice president of operations for Smart Business Network Inc.