Make ‘em earn it Featured

9:38am EDT July 22, 2002
The next time a youth group comes to your company with its hand out, put a scrub brush in it. That’s exactly what Dave Bianconi, president of Progressive Medical Inc. in Westerville, did earlier this summer when a young man raising money for the Boy Scouts called and asked Dave for a $500 donation.

Rather than “give” the Boy Scouts the money, Dave gave them an opportunity to earn it -- by washing his employees’ cars at a rate of $15 each. Since Progressive employs 80 people, the earning potential more than doubled what the Boy Scouts had been looking for in terms of a corporate handout. What a clever way to teach the next generation of business leaders the value and reward of hard work.

It’s sad, however, that this task falls on the shoulders of a quick-witted businessman. What are Scout masters teaching these boys when they OK cash solicitation calls? Is this the ‘in’ way for youngsters to raise money now? What ever happened to newspaper drives, bake sales and youth work days when groups would volunteer to do odd jobs to raise money?

Growing up, I participated in those and a handful of other fund-raisers for our church youth group, Girl Scouts, the marching band, the gymnastics team and so forth. Even selling raffle tickets, cookies or magazine subscriptions door-to-door beats asking, flat out, for a cash donation. It promotes the concept of working for what’s important to you; that nothing in life is free.

Perhaps that’s why I have such a hard time turning away neighborhood kids who ring our doorbell selling everything from candy bars to Christmas ornaments. I don’t need any of this stuff, but I appreciate and want to support their efforts. Last winter, a couple of what-looked-to-be 6-year-old boys even offered to “shovel” the walkway and front stoop of my home for $4.

My husband couldn’t turn down these youthful entrepreneurs. When we saw they were using dustpans to do it apparently their parents thought they were too small to work with real snow shovels, we tipped them an extra few bucks. You’ve got to admire that kind of ambition.

You’ve also got to foster it, which is exactly what Dave Bianconi’s counteroffer to the Boy Scouts’ fund-raising plea did. Although only seven boys turned out for the car washing expedition at Progressive Medical, together they washed 44 cars, raising $660 for their troop. Not a bad afternoon’s work and certainly a more rewarding experience than begging for donations via phone.

One of the troop’s Scout masters even wants to see if Progressive Medical might consider making the car wash an annual fund-raiser for the troop. Way to go, Dave! Your quick thinking taught these boys a valuable business lesson.

It’s an example we all should follow.

Nancy Byron (nbyron@sbnnet.com) is editor of SBN Columbus.