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‘Tis The Season to Give

Rory S. Coakley Discusses Ways Businesses Can Give Back to Their Community

Article by Marie Robey Wood

Photography by Jack Hartzman

Originally published in Potomac Lifestyle

There are many examples of businesses engaging in corporate social responsibility, or CSR, including hosting events to help those in need from local communities. The benefits can be mutual: businesses giving back can have a positive impact on the community in which they operate, and a company can experience internal benefits including increasing employee satisfaction and productive team building.

Rory S. Coakley, co-founder –with his wife Nancy– of Coakley Realty, discusses his experience giving back to the community:  

Potomac Lifestyle: What is business social responsibility and why is it important to you?

Rory S. Coakley: There are countless ways companies can exercise business social responsibility, including financial giving, offering a company’s resources or expertise, and participating in matching donations.

Business social responsibility is important to me based on my upbringing and education. Growing up, I saw first-hand the importance of corporate philanthropy through my parents who were involved in schools, their church, and many charities. They ingrained in me that we are supposed to help others.

The motto of my Jesuit-run high school and college is “Men for Others.” This saying sums up the philosophy these schools teach– that it is important to give back to the community because the community gives to us.

PL: How do you determine what your business social responsibility initiatives should include?

RC: I would encourage business leaders to urge their employees to find something they are passionate about and to support that cause. In high school I became friends with a student whose sister was visually impaired. Through this experience I learned that training and helping people who have lost their sight can lead them to successful lives. While working for my family’s business Coakley & Williams, Inc., we supported Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind and held black-tie dinners and 10K races, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for this important charity.

PL: How do you get your team and employees to buy into your business social responsibility culture?

RC: I believe that first you should lead by example so your employees can learn what is involved in giving back. Also, it is important to hear directly from your employees regarding organizations they wish to support. In the past we put our employees into teams of twos and had them choose charities to help. That is how we became involved with Stepping Stones, a homeless shelter for families in Rockville.

PL: What are the ways individuals can give back to society?

RC: Individuals should consider how they can best offer help to the less fortunate. For some it is contributing financially, for others it is offering physical man hours such as working to fix up dilapidated buildings or houses needing repairs. Tutoring students appeals to many employees and the option of giving through their company’s matching donations can also be considered.

PL: Can you give other examples of charities individuals might want to help?

RC: The possibilities are endless. My wife Nancy and I decided to get involved in scholarship programs for five schools that performed a great service to our children. We talked to the development directors of these schools to learn how we could help, and their responses were all different. We have raised money to help food pantries and I have been involved with The Positive Coach Alliance, an organization that helps facilitate training for youth sports. As past Chairman of the Board of Directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ of the National Capital Area, I was able to provide my business and fundraising expertise to help support their mission. I have enjoyed spearheading drives to generate donations to numerous youth, high school and college athletic programs and worked with the Positive Coaching Alliance in a similar manner.

In summary, the need to help others in our communities is there, and businesses have a responsibility to give back in whatever way suits the company and its employees.

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