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Reflections on being a “Charlie Award” Winner

By Lance Chrisman, Executive Director of the Anthem Foundation

Being presented with the Charles H. Moore Award for Leadership in Corporate Community Engagement will stand out as one of the highlights of my career and I couldn’t be more honored by the distinction. As a young professional growing in the philanthropy field, I can recall the first time I met Charlie Moore and the lasting impression his character left on me. Charlie’s relentless pursuit for positive change and his drive for improvements in our profession and our communities embody the essence of this award for me. It’s a complement to join the incredibly distinguished previous winners Vivian Pickard, President of the General Motors Foundation and Eileen Howard Boone, President of the CVS Health Foundation

In being recognized last month at the Annual Summit, CECP invited me to share my thoughts about how it feels to win the Charlie Award. Although the award recognizes an individual, I accepted the Charlie Award on behalf of the incredible work and accomplishments of my team – without them, I wouldn’t be here. I’ve been working in the corporate philanthropy field long enough to know that the effectiveness of a team can determine whether our efforts succeed and whether we meet our obligation to help the community. While those of us leading foundations help determine which direction we go in, it’s up to our team members and leadership to actually get us there. As leaders in philanthropy, you set the tone for thousands of employees who look to you for guidance and inspiration. You are the key to whether our field successfully addresses our communities’ greatest challenges, and that is an immense responsibility – one we don’t take lightly.

Corporate citizenship has never faced as strong a test as it does today. Our stakeholders are watching our efforts, and with this challenge I believe comes our opportunity. Now more than ever, our communities are in need of support – not just financially, but also help from a highly-skilled workforce of volunteers. They want to understand how real, lasting partnerships are formed and to know companies truly care. They are looking for leaders like you who stand up and make our field stand out. It was very exciting to join 250 of you, my peers, at the Summit and feel the energy of your leadership. I know how powerful this energy can be. When I assumed my first philanthropy position working in Public Affairs at Verizon, my first project was to educate and bring our senior leadership on board with a new strategy for how we would be supporting the community. We challenged them with committing to our mission and matching the energy and enthusiasm of our team.

I bet everyone reading this can remember the moment when you decided to commit to philanthropy as a career. For me it came after volunteering in Chicago on an inner city revitalization effort just after college.

It’s been an honor to spend the last 20 years working in corporate philanthropy and I wouldn’t trade one for the opportunities and rewards that have come from that work. Each of us have different stories about how we got into the corporate-side of philanthropy, and I’m sure there is a variety motivations about why we are still involved now, but we’ve all made a common discovery. We are in an arena where real societal change is possible. It’s an arena where real leadership matters. It’s an arena where the energy of your teams can AND WILL touch the lives of millions of Americans.