About two years ago, I received an introduction via email to a local charity. At the time, I traded emails with one of their folks about possibly getting together, breaking bread, seeing how we might help each other out. Through the back and forth, I dropped the ball. The email was part of the regular mess in my inbox that didn’t  get the attention it deserved (but that’s a story for another post).

The strange thing here is that I never forgot about the charity or John, the fellow I’d been chatting with. Perhaps the reason I never forgot is because I have a son with special needs and they support kids and adults with special needs as well as their families.

Fast forward two years to March of this year and I’m kicking around the interwebs like I usually do. I stumble upon an article: How Chicago Coffee Is Helping People With Disabilities Get Much-Needed Jobs. I was blown away—what a cool ass idea. Helping the community, providing junkies like us with some really good coffee, what’s not to love!

As I read through the article I started to connect the dots. Hey, I think to myself, is this related to that guy John? Lo and behold, it was. I then followed through to their site, Aspire Chicago, and finally did the homework I should have done two years ago. After kicking around, I was convinced of the following:

  •     Great Mission – “Aspire’s mission is to support the successes of children and adults with developmental disabilities, strengthen their families and build embracing communities.”
  •     Great Vision – “To create a community where people of all abilities live, learn and grow together.”
  •     Great Organization
  •     How can I help?

The story takes two turns from here, both awesome.

#1: Junkies

We’re a digital marketing agency, so we run on caffeine—at least the rest of the folks here do, I am a decaf guy (yes, you can ask why…shoot me an email). The day I read the article, I sent a note to our amazing Admin Manager Julia Ebner and did something I almost never do: I issued an executive mandate.

I told her: “Please order all of our office coffee from them from now on.”

We (well…I) made this choice for a few reasons really. First, it’s a great program; second, we have a charity initiative where we like to give back to our community; and finally, I have a son with disabilities.

Listen, we’re a smaller shop and we don’t go through a ton of coffee. That said, I bet we order 20 pounds a month. The way I see it is that every little bit helps!

How much coffee does your office drink, and can you switch? Yes, it’s a touch more expensive than some, but cheaper than others. What I want you to think about are the people roasting your coffee and how empowered they are and the feeling they get from having jobs and contributing. Two words: Empowering People!

#2: We Should

After we started ordering coffee, I reached back out to John. We decided to get together, and this time I kept up my end of the deal. We met a few months back to talk shop. Within a few conversations I knew Aspire was the real deal as far as charities go. Right people, right cause, right mission.

It was after meeting with John and a few other folks there that we began to wonder whether Aspire would make a good “pro-bono” client. I did some homework, talked to some friends about how to evaluate the financials of the organization (FYI…tax returns for established non-profits are publicly available). Following some due diligence, we jumped in.

It’s still early and we’ve plenty of work ahead of us. However, thinking about helping an organization that does such great work helping people to help even more people… it’s awesome.

What I want to leave you with is that when you think about charitable gifts, move beyond donations. I’ve always wondered how our work could change the world. Now I know that we’re changing the world for those empowered employees at the coffee works and we’ll be changing the world of every new child or adult that we help through the doors of Aspire.

To learn more about BFO’s values, head here.


Also published on Medium.