By Jason Bramwell
During the monthlong festivities that preceded this year's Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend, Ted Dickman saw a lot of smiles – not only on the faces of those who organized and participated in the events, but more importantly, on the faces of those who attended the events.
"The most satisfying part is to see the joy that you bring to the people in the community who come to all of our events", Dickman, CEO and partner with national accounting and advisory firm BKD LLP and chairman of the board of directors for the 500 Festival, told AccountingWEB. "It's about putting a smile on people's faces. Life is tough enough on a day-to-day basis for a lot of people, so by creating opportunities for them to come together, it's really satisfying."
Dickman is in the middle of serving a one-year term as board chairman of the 500 Festival, a not-for-profit volunteer organization that was created in 1957 to organize civic events for the Indianapolis 500. Nearly fifty events – which included a free concert, mini-marathon, Kids' Day, and parade – took place from the end of April to Memorial Day weekend leading up to the race on May 26 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Approximately 300,000 people attended the IPL 500 Festival Parade on May 25, which was televised nationally on the NBC Sports Network, Dickman said. More than 35,000 people participated in the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon on May 4, which is regarded as the nation's largest half marathon.
"These events bring the community together. People are having a good time, they're engaged, and enjoying the city. It's just a lot of fun", he stated.
The 500 Festival has twenty full-time employees year-round and approximately 7,000 volunteers, according to Dickman. Planning for next year's event will begin in the next week or two.
"That core group of staff and volunteers really runs the events", said Dickman, who has served on the 500 Festival board for the past seven years. "Our board members are assigned to different events to provide some governance and oversight and a little bit of forward-thinking on how we can continue to improve or expand the festival. We have some hands-on involvement, but the heavy lifting is done by the staff and volunteers."
Dickman's involvement in this large-scale community endeavor only scratches the surface of the types of community service initiatives in which BKD employees throughout the country participate. The BKD Foundation, the firm's charitable arm, empowers partners and employees to give back through a combination of sponsorships, grants, and volunteerism.
Donations made through the foundation totaled nearly $1 million in 2012, pushing its total charitable giving to more than $9 million since February 2000. Outside of the foundation, BKD partners and employees contributed nearly $1 million to the United Way in 2012 and also volunteered for a variety of groups, including Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Salvation Army, Toys for Tots, Alzheimer's Association, March of Dimes, and the American Cancer Society.
"I think every person in our firm believes it's their responsibility to give back to their communities. They are givers and not takers. It's in our cultural DNA", Dickman said.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
BKD doesn't mandate a certain number of volunteer hours an employee has to complete during the course of a year, nor does it stipulate which community organizations employees should help.
"We just encourage it. We're more of a walk-the-talk kind of firm than we are a talk-the-talk kind of firm", Dickman said.
According to the 2012 BKD Foundation Annual Report, some of the community service projects that BKD participated in - either physically or financially – in states where the firm has offices include the following:
Arkansas: The BKD Foundation served as sponsor of the Jingle Bell Run held by the Arkansas Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation. Members of BKD's Little Rock office helped with registration and setup, and several personnel from the Rogers office participated in the Jingle Bell Run in northwest Arkansas.
Colorado: Personnel from the Denver office visited the Medical Center of Aurora to assemble "fun packs" for children in the hospital that were distributed by the Starlight Children's Foundation. The event occurred the morning after the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting, adding to the impact of the volunteers' work.
Indiana: BKD was the largest donor to the Community Harvest Food Bank Turkey Rally, giving more than $16,000 to the program that provides holiday turkeys to families in need in northeast Indiana.
Kansas: BKD was a title sponsor of the 2012 Treads & Threads event at Kansas Speedway. Proceeds benefited cancer care at the University of Kansas Hospital, the patient care provider for the University of Kansas Cancer Center.
Kentucky: BKD employees in Louisville gave a $5,000 donation as well as their time and sweat – up to sixteen hours per employee – to help build a home for Habitat for Humanity.
Mississippi: The BKD Foundation sponsored the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation 2012 Hope Gala and made significant donations to the Boy Scouts of America Andrew Jackson Council for operations and maintenance and the American Heart Association Art for Heart gala in Hattiesburg.
Missouri: St. Louis employees partnered with local accounting students to spend an afternoon at Our Little Haven, which provides services to children who suffer from abuse and neglect. Volunteers gave their time to clean and prepare a home for renovation.
Nebraska: Employees from the Lincoln and Omaha offices helped with a home-building project for Habitat for Humanity – part of the 2012 Buildable Hours Competition between BKD professionals and area attorneys to see who could raise the most money for Habitat. In addition to the monetary donation, BKD employees spent a day in October volunteering on-site.
Ohio: Cincinnati employees, along with family and friends, participated in the annual Paint the Town event, where community members donated their time, effort, and money to repaint forty homes in the Cheviot neighborhood.
Oklahoma: Oklahoma City employees participated in the citywide Day of Caring event, with volunteers contributing time at Martha's House; Integris Hospice House; and Upward Transitions, an advocacy and assistance center for impoverished and homeless individuals and families in crisis. Employees also made a significant donation to the American Heart Association Heart Walk.
Texas: Employees from the Houston office formed a team to participate in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Employees also came together to participate in and raise money for Bowl for Kids' Sake for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
The firm also encourages employees to serve on boards or committees for the organizations they support.
"I think it's a great leadership development opportunity for our people. Our employees learn how to interact with others, lead committees, work on boards, and learn governance, so there's a lot of learning that we benefit from because of our involvement", Dickman said. "Oftentimes, one of the expectations to be on a board is to provide some sort of financial support or to sponsor an event, like a dinner. So we try to make sure financially that we're there to support our people so they don't have to go completely out of pocket to be able to participate."
Down to Earth and Humble
Dickman doesn't expect a letup in the number of community service initiatives that BKD employees will be involved with in the future.
"The kind of people we have are very down to earth and humble, who by their very nature understand 'to those whom much is given, much is expected,'" Dickman said. "The kind of people who are attracted to our firm, that's the kind of firm they want to be a part of. The people we do have are drawn to us for that reason."