The impact of giving a damn: How our employees donated $12,000+ this holiday season.

The E&S team gathers in front of a tv screen that reads "2023 Thankfulness Challenge"

At Ervin & Smith, we care a lot about making an impact — in our community, our work and the lives of our clients and each other. This commitment is so critical to who we are that it is penned into one of our core values: Give a damn.

We believe wholeheartedly that giving a damn — by giving our time, resources and more — is good for everyone. While this ethos is just who we are as passionate people, there is also a strong business case for giving back.

But just because giving back is universally good, it doesn’t mean there’s one easy or “right” way to approach corporate philanthropy.

Finding meaningful opportunities to give back.

To have an impact, giving back needs to be authentic to your company — done in a way that aligns with your values, workforce, employer value proposition (EVP) and budget.

Every person on our team is an individual, with different goals and motivations. However, two desires are shared by everyone at E&S:

  1. A desire for purpose
  2. A desire for autonomy

Merging autonomy & purpose.

While it’s typical for E&S to do special things toward the end of the year — holiday parties, cash bonuses and company-funded Secret Santa — our leadership team wanted this year’s holiday initiative to have a bigger community impact.

“Instead of gifting to ourselves or each other, we wanted a way to focus on purpose this year, while amplifying our standing 1% corporate pledge to give back every year,” President & CEO Leanne Prewitt said.

Inspired by a similar concept Prewitt heard in a presentation by Jonathan Reynolds, we introduced the 2023 Thankfulness Giving Challenge. Employees were given $250 each and one directive: Go and make the world a better place.

Everyone was encouraged to get creative and spend the money however they wanted. The only request was to make a slide about how the money was spent to share with the full team at a gathering in late December. And because everyone loves a little competition, folks were invited to multiply their $250 by contributing themselves or collecting additional donations from family and friends.

Getting to know each other’s passions.

After gathering to share where the dollars went, it was clear the initiative was a success. There were tears, laughter and a general sense of accomplishment as each team member talked about causes that matter deeply to them.

In total, we raised more than $12,000 while fostering feelings of purpose and autonomy.

A snapshot of how dollars were spent:

  • Andrea Blankenship took her kids to the thrift store and waited at the registers to surprise shoppers and pay for their carts.
  • Several folks wanted to include their own families in the mission. Ashley Bails, Katie Herzog, Abbie Chmelka and Laine Skeen took their families on shopping trips so they could help choose gifts for parents and kids in need and see the impact they were making.
  • Kelly Heavican donated to Project Pink’d, a breast cancer support organization she’s volunteered with for years.
  • Leanne Prewitt partnered with a friend and gathered additional donations from their book club to purchase gifts for residents on her friend’s late mother’s floor at Douglas County Health Center.
  • Allison Hillyard donated to Wag N Train Terrier Rescue and ended up with a very cute puppy.
  • Abbie Perry chose the CMT Research Foundation — an organization that is near and dear to her family.
  • In loving memory of her mom, Megan Jenkins donated to the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge.
  • As a parent, Alfredo Lang wanted to help as many kids as he could. He chose Save the Children based on their 10X donation match.
  • Layne Faust donated to Love Justice International, an organization she started collaborating with in college.
  • Brittany Wozny raised funds to quadruple her donation to the Washington Co. Food Pantry that’s located in her hometown.

  • In honor of her daughter with type 1 diabetes, Connie Brown selected JDRF to receive her donation.

All Thankfulness Giving Challenge recipients:

  • Children’s Square U.S.A.
  • CMT Research Foundation
  • Colorado Doula Project
  • Douglas County Health Center
  • Head for the Cure
  • Heartland Hope Mission
  • Hope Lodge
  • JDRF
  • Journey House
  • Joy as Resistance
  • KCRW Public Radio
  • Love Justice International
  • MacArthur Park
  • The Michael J. Fox Foundation
  • Open Door Mission
  • Palestine Children’s Relief Fund
  • Project Pink’d
  • Project Santa
  • Penny Lane Centers
  • Project Wee Care
  • The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation
  • Save the Children
  • Washington Co. Food Pantry
  • Wag N Train Terrier Rescue

Leanne Prewitt

President & Chief Executive Officer

Shaped by her background in creative direction, Leanne leads the agency’s culture and creative vision and also oversees the operations that allow a team of marketing, design and media specialists to create powerful and effective work for their client partners.

Leanne began her professional career in New York City working for some of the nation’s leading agencies. In 2016, after a five-month sabbatical around the world, she returned to her hometown and joined Ervin & Smith. Her global perspective and expanded professional experience influence the work she does today.