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This Company Really Puts Its Cash Where Its Mouth Is

Lots of people talk about doing good in their community. But the Mars Agency actually follows through on it.
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A lot of companies want to do good in the world, and offer official social-justice platforms and the like.

But the Mars Agency does more than just say it believes in helping the community--it actually does. 

The agency's senior copywriter, Debbie Feit, spent a month volunteering for two charities, the Association for Children's Mental Health in Michigan and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. To her, the experience was more than a way to get press but a way to demonstrate that the things that mattered to her also mattered to the company.

As a writer, she helped the Association for Children's Mental Health request grants, overhaul a brochure, edit a document on the juvenile justice system, and generate ideas for its newsletter. These things couldn't have been done in just a few hours, which is what most busy people believe they have to spare. Her monthlong sabbatical allowed her to truly do good.

The company program began in November 2011 in conjunction with the Mars Agency's 40th anniversary. The firm decided to give back to the community by launching a Corporate Responsibility Program that includes three pillars: community involvement, a formalized wellness program, and formalized training for doing good. 

In 2013, the company began offering employees the opportunity to take monthlong sabbaticals so long as the Martians, as they're called, felt the goal was worthwhile, according to Rob Rivenburgh, COO of the Mars Agency. Thirty-five employees put together presentations on what their sabbatical would entail, which management pared down to 10 and then asked every office to review. Of those 10 projects, the higher-ups decided on four. Feit's service was among them, but here are some others that stood out.  

Cross-cultural Solutions 

Kasia Koziatek, a manager of client service in Detroit, recently returned to work after spending time at an orphanage in Peru, where she offered support and one-on-one attention to children there.

Launch of Doodlegooder

Tom Drennen, a creative director based in Detroit, is launching an organization meant to inspire creatives to come together to reclaim their doodles and submit them to Doodlegooder, which will deliver them to children who need a little joy. 

Clearwater Camp for Girls Scholarship Fund

Mary Evans, vice president of strategic planning in the agency's Detroit office, plans to provide marketing and PR support. The project will help girls of all financial standings learn not just about themselves but about others and foster a love of nature. 

You may be wondering how all of this will benefit the Mars Agency, and your company, if you were to try it. As Rivenburgh says, "It's all about the Martians. If our people are happy, the clients will be happy, and the money will follow. It's all about people being all in and invested in the Martian community. We hired this time a full-time trainer for training and development. That's a pretty big commitment. It's all about the people." 

As you can see, this goes for the people outside the company, too. 

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Apr 21, 2014

SUZANNE LUCAS | Columnist

Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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