As president & CEO of Burdette Ketchum, a Jacksonville-based integrated marketing communications firm with 26 employees, Will Ketchum has gradually increased his personal support as well as the involvement of his team, as they have seen the United Way’s positive impact on peoples’ lives.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH THE UW?
We have been supporters through the annual community campaign for as long as I can remember. About two years ago we got involved as volunteers and we’ve really enjoyed it. Recently we divided our staff into two teams and did different volunteer outings on a Friday. One group painted a shuffleboard court on the playground at West Jacksonville Elementary School, and the other team did a cleanup project at Episcopal Children’s Services Early Learnings Center. Also, this calendar year we’ve become their pro bono media buyer.
The theme is our involvement has grown over the years as we’ve seen the good impact. We’ve gone from individual donor to company wide fundraising campaign and then getting involved as volunteers and now doing pro bono work. They have some very compelling outcomes.
HOW HAVE YOU SINCE HELPED?
As pro bono media buyer, we plan and buy media that promotes their initiatives, including their annual fundraising campaign and their mentoring program with (Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver) Cecil Shorts. We’ll also start with media buying in January for their RealSense initiative, which provides free tax preparation services for people who otherwise might not be able to afford it.
WHAT PROGRAM(S) ARE YOU MOST INVOLVED IN?
They’re all good causes. We encourage our people to give individually to the causes that mean something to them. For us, the United Way can create economics of impact because of its scale and its reach. It seems to be a very efficient way to make dollars do more in the community.
Our company’s purpose is to use our talent to make an impact for our clients and community. We talk about the rocking chair test. When we’re all looking back some day, we hope to have the fulfillment of not only a decent living and retirement but hopefully having done some good in the community.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM THE PEOPLE WITH WHOM YOU CONNECTED?
We’ve worked with mostly their staff members. It’s what you begin to learn about the United Way as a charitable organization, the economies of impact.
It’s been compelling to us to get our folks involved in a way that they have such a great impact. As a business, you’re focused on the economic health of this community but that’s only part of the equation. The United Way helps us see the human half. That’s what we need.
The speaker for the start of our annual company campaign will be someone who was having a hard time and the United Way helped them out. There are thousands of those stories. That’s what’s woken us up to how crucial that is to the total community.
HOW DOES UNITED WAY’S WORK MAKE OUR COMMUNITY MORE ATTRACTIVE TO BUSINESSES INTERESTED IN STARTING HERE?
When we help get people on their feet, they’re more employable and we become a more productive community in an economic sense. Jobs are everything and if the United Way can help get people on a the right path for young people or the corrected path for somebody who has had a struggle as an adult. It changes their lives and benefits the economy.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER SMALL-BUSINESS LEADERS INTERESTED IN ENGAGING WITH THE UNITED WAY?
Don’t believe you’re too small. Call them and they’ll get you involved in a meaningful way. There’s some perception that the United Way is a vehicle for the larger companies, who happen to take a large role in the annual fundraising campaign. It seems the Blue Crosses and Wells Fargos of the world are the most visible in those efforts but actually 80 percent of our local economy here is small business. There are so many ways for small businesses to make an impact.
It’s been terrific for us. It feels good to do good. But most of all it’s our duty. It’s been very meaningful for us and hopefully very helpful.