Outstanding Corporate Citizenship Awards Executive Leader of the Year
Submitted by: Danny Vargas, VARCom Solutions, LLC
1. Why do you believe CSR is an important part of your personal brand?
People that know me know that I’ve had to overcome lots of obstacles in life; having grown up in poverty on welfare in the streets of Brooklyn in a broken home, etc. Statistically, I should be dead or in jail, but I was blessed to have had people intervene (family members, teachers, neighbors, etc.) to help put me on a path to create a successful life. The least I can do is find ways to give back and help as many people as possible to strive for their dreams. This has included my service to nonprofits organizations focused on helping struggling families achieve self-sufficiency, working with underprivileged students, supporting the small business community, and advocating on behalf of my fellow veterans. As the saying goes, "for those of us lucky enough to take the elevator up, we need to make sure we send it back down for someone else."
2. Do you believe that the CSR work you participate in should be affiliated with the work you/your
company does? For example, should an Oil company’s CSR be in cleaning up oil spills?
Associating your CSR activities to your work or your company can be beneficial to both. For example, I have provided some of my marketing and public relations capabilities to nonprofits I have supported. However, you should not necessarily limit yourself to direct correlations. You should, however, follow your heart in both your business as well as your CSR efforts. It’s often said that if you are doing what you love in your job it’s not like working at all. The same holds true for CSR. You should devote your efforts to those areas where you feel a personal connection thus making it more impactful and meaning full to those benefiting from your contributions as well as yourself. In my case, I have focused on finding ways to help disadvantaged families and individuals works towards independence, make sure our veterans come home to jobs and the support they need, and doing everything possible to secure a vibrant and safe community for our future generation in an environment where everyone can succeed.
3. Do you believe contributing back to the community allows you to have a deeper connection with your clients/customers?
Giving back means staying connected with real people and the real problems they face. As a marketing, public relations and communications company it is vital that we keep a finger on the pulse of the community. My community service is a labor of love and it feeds my soul, but it also has the benefit of making me a better communicator and allows me to focus on those things that matter most to real people.
4. What are some events or causes that inspire you and your team?
One of the things I focused on when I ran for office last year was to create an environment in which disadvantaged communities could have the opportunity to succeed. As a result, I worked with the general assembly to craft and pass legislation to create a commission on Economic Opportunity for Virginians of aspiring and diverse communities. One event that has always inspired me and filled my heart with both joy and compassion is the Training Futures Graduation. Having served on the board of Northern Virginia Family Service for seven years, I had the good fortune to see the amazing work they do for families in need. One of their programs is Training Futures, where they provide intense workforce training to individuals in in-demand areas and help them land jobs. At the graduation you get to hear the personal stories of some of the graduates who have had to overcome severe adversity and worked hard to get their lives on track to a brighter future for themselves and their children. I always advise first-time attendees to bring a box of tissues.
5. What advice would you give to individuals trying to find a cause in which to participate?
a. Finding a cause to get involved with is a very personal journey. As I have said, you have to follow your heart and do something that is meaningful to you, that way the benefit is significantly greater for all concerned. Start by thinking of categories that you care about most (e.g., families, children, veterans, those dealing with addiction or incarceration, etc.), then find reputable nonprofits or other programs that are having the most positive impact. Lastly, don’t wait until you find the ideal way to help before you engage. In most cases, I would say just show up and jump in and find out what activities need help and where you can be most useful. Let your heart lead the way from there.