You may have noticed in all CameronDowning email signatures this text:
Where 5% of all revenue is donated
To homeless assistance in Miami.
What’s behind this? I thought my readers might find the story interesting.
Shortly after Jonathan Cameron and I founded CameronDowning in 2014, I read a piece in the Wall St. Journal about companies that fulfilled their ethical obligations to the community by giving money to charitable endeavors off the top, rather than as planned gifts. This really caught my attention. Lots to consider here.
An obligation? As a business do we have an ethical obligation to the community at large? After all, one could make a strong argument that any business has but one obligation, and that’s to generate a profit for its owners, meaning, usually, the shareholders. But Jonathan and I have always been in agreement that since we draw our living from this community, we have an obligation to support it – and indeed, it is in our best interests to do so. The very nature of our business is that we serve affluent people. Yet affluent people don’t make up the majority of Miami. So how can we serve the rest of the community?
There are a few ways. We are always glad to speak to any non-profit group interested in having us, i.e. giving educational presentations. But the main way is by contributing 5% of the firm’s gross revenue – not profit! 5% off the top – to the Miami Rescue Mission.
It has been a joy for Jonathan and me to write those quarterly checks that we send in, because we know those checks do so much good! A big part of the CameronDowning ethos is building one another up – each other during the workday, our clients, and others in the community. And it is also a joy to see the size of those checks increase as our business grows and succeeds.
I remember meeting Marilyn Brummit, CFP® at a Financial Planning Association meeting. Marilyn and her husband Ron Brummit have the responsibility for running the Mission. She invited me to come see, and I did, and ended up being a regular volunteer at the Men’s Education Center for a time. And what a Mission it is! They literally take in the homeless off the streets and care for them with food, clothing, and shelter. There is a program for people to go through, which grounds the participants in basic education and job skills. There is a women’s center, where children are looked after as well. This is a Christian Mission, so there is a strong spiritual component, all about healing relationships with one another and with the Almighty.
In the men’s education center I tutored on such basics as adverbs & adjectives and fractions & decimals. Many of the men go on to get a GED and continue their education down Biscayne Blvd. at Miami-Dade College. The point is to build self-esteem and self-reliance with work/life skills, so that the program graduates can re-join society as participating, productive members.
Now to the title of this piece: Am I my brother’s keeper? This famous phrase comes from the 4th chapter of the book of Genesis. Sadly we have our first occasion of fratricide here – Cain has just killed Abel. The Lord went walking through the garden, and asked Cain where his brother was, and Abel gave Him the now famous smart-mouth answer: I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?
Everyone needs to answer that question for himself. Jonathan and I have answered in the affirmative. We look after each other, the larger CameronDowning team, our clients, and others with whom we do business. But we work out our business obligation to support the community at large by supporting the Miami Rescue Mission. After all, how many missed rent/mortgage payments are most of us away from homelessness ourselves?