Brookfield gives to Special Olympics DC

January 20, 2013

Who: Greg Meyer.

Company: Brookfield.

Charitable giving highlights: In 2012, Brookfield gave 865 volunteer hours to charity and raised $140,000 for Special Olympics D.C.

Tell me about the company’s corporate philanthropy.

Brookfield is a large owner of office buildings. Our headquarters is in New York, but Washington, D.C., is one of our largest regions where we own office buildings. We have 135 people operating 31 buildings, 7 million square feet that we own here. We have a four-pronged focus. We support educational causes, primarily those related to real estate. We support local community outreach, including the Special Olympics D.C. We also support environment and arts and culture. Our main focus is on Special Olympics D.C.

When did the company formalized its giving approach?

That was formalized about five years ago. Each region was supporting causes that were appropriate. To be impactful, you need to pick a few and go deeper. The four prongs were driven by what industry we were in and by the emphasis we had in each region.

What made you want to want to hone in?

I felt that it’s difficult to make an impact if you’re not really involved and if you can’t tell people stories about how this charity has impacted you.

What is the structure?

We’re a regional office so we have a budget each year for charitable giving. The company allocates annually to each region. Half of the budget is committed to those four causes. The other half is discretionary. It’s up to our region heads make their decisions based on what’s appropriate for their environment. The four areas are the thread and framework we operate under.

What areas are you looking to improve?

We want to continue to broaden the support both internally and externally. To continue to bring others into the cause, and bring more and more people into leadership roles.

How do you get employee buy in?

There’s no pressure in the negative sense for people to participate. We give people paid time off during the summer games to the extent they want to participate. That gets a lot of people’s attention. We also have a corporate citizenship committee made up of employees of different departments. They get together and have a lot of influence in terms of what we’re doing with Special Olympics and other events we do on a smaller scale throughout the year. The main thing is that it’s important that it’s not top down.

What do you look for in a nonprofit partner?

There has to be a personal connection by an employee or one of our clients. Does it fit into our four areas of focus? If it does and we feel like its something we can undertake, we might dip our toe in the water. Right now we’re doing that with a number of different charities. I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of those over time become significant charities for us.

What impresses you most about Special Olympics D.C.?

This is an environment where all the focus is on [these kids and adults that have these developmental disabilities] and what they’ve worked hard to do. To see the sheer joy when they do something really well. It’s really moving.

— Interview with Vanessa Small

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