Bill Simon, President & CEO of Walmart U.S., Shares His Story

Today, the TPN Bentonville office attended the Benton County Single Parent Scholarship Fund luncheon. Bill Simon, President & CEO of Walmart U.S., spoke at the event. Instead of speaking about how Walmart and the Walmart Foundation give back by supporting the Single Parent Scholarship Fund, it was a much more personal speech.

Mr. Simon was very real and down to earth. He discussed his upbringing in a single parent household with four siblings. His mother never graduated from college, and she did any odd job she could to help support the family. She instilled in her children the value and importance of an education, that being average or being exceptional is a choice, and the importance of giving back. Because of this, Mr. Simon, along with three of his siblings, all graduated from college. Two of them even went on to receive their Master’s degrees. While Bill’s mother never got the chance to earn her own college degree, she believed she earned six- thanks to her children’s accomplishments.

Besides gaining an appreciation for Mr. Simon and his personal story, we were reminded that while Walmart may have its share of detractors, they do give back to the communities in which they serve. Mr. Simon specifically mentioned the $4 prescription program, which he helped implement, as well as the emphasis and importance Walmart places on helping the community – illustrated through their everyday low prices, the practice of hiring veterans and associates without college degrees, and making it easier to shop with one-stop convenience.

The Mall Fountain Reimagined

The fountain at the mall is a destination among the hustle and bustle.  It’s a place of gleeful excitement for children throwing coins (who am I kidding? I still like to throw coins in), a rest stop during a busy shopping trip or a meet up point for friends. Every great mall has a fountain. And now, artist Charles Long has reimagined the mall fountain with his sculpture, Fountainhead, installed at Dallas’s NorthPark Mall. Part of the Nasher Sculpture Center’s Xchange program, Fountainhead is a virtual, interactive electronic sculpture that has dollar bills and coins projected on it, which gives the impression of water as they flow down. A zen-like soundtrack plays in the sculpture’s area. Three kiosks equipped with iPads border Fountainhead, each a donation point for one of three charities: Bookmarks, part of the Dallas Public Library located in NorthPark, Dallas CASA and the North Texas Food Bank. Here, visitors can make donations either by dropping coins in a slot or swiping a credit card. A coin will appear on the iPad that donors can flick towards the sculpture, where it makes a virtual splash.

Without a doubt, this sculpture grabbed my attention when I turned the corner at NorthPark. For as much as the fountain at the mall is a destination, it’s also expected and doesn’t change since they’re typically permanently installed, which is part of what makes this so cool. After soaking it all in, I immediately wondered how could this approach translate into something that brands could build on as a promotional show piece – maybe a giant virtual Brita filter sculpture fountain could be set up in Times Square or a huge virtual chocolate sculpture fountain could rain Reese’s Pieces at the NCAA Final Four. Or perhaps, brands could simply sponsor art in their retail space so that every time someone reads the artwork description or stops to make a donation, their logo reiterates brand recognition.

Again, this sculpture is a cool new take on an expected element in a busy retail environment. The fact that three local charities benefit as a result of the piece is a great bonus.

Video and Photo Credit: Emery Martin via Vimeo

Giving Back on the Go

Last week, TPN participated in its Annual Day of Service by volunteering at food banks across the nation.  The Chicago team worked together to unpack, rebag and repack 2,000 pounds of Corn Flakes at the Greater Chicago Food Depository.  It provided a break from the office and gave us a chance to do something different for the day.

It also reminded me how tough it is to make time to volunteer consistently throughout the year, outside of our TPN-dedicated days of service.

So I took it upon myself to look into some online and mobile solutions for those of us who want to give back, but may not have the time:

Snoball

Snoball “turns any action into a donation,” by using the power of social media to raise money for nonprofits.  By connecting Snoball to your Facebook, Foursquare or fantasy sports apps, it “empowers individuals to seamlessly integrate giving with living.”

I personally use this program, and each time I check into a restaurant on Foursquare, it donates a dollar to my selected nonprofit.  I also have a monthly limit on how much money I’ll give (I’m a bit of a Foursquare addict and can’t afford a dollar for every check-in).

FreeRice

Owned by the United Nations World Food Programme, Freerice.com has two goals: 1. Providing education to everyone for free, and 2. Helping to end hunger by providing free rice to hungry people for free.

Simply visit the website and answer educational trivia questions.  For each question you get right, 10 grains of rice are donated to the hungry.  It’s literally that simple.  Monetary support comes from sponsors who advertise on the website.

Charity Miles

Charity Miles, like FreeRice, uses corporate partners to support its cause of allowing users to “earn money and raise awareness for charities by walking, running or biking.”

The app not only tracks activity as any other running app, but users have the power to choose which charity they will run for.  Walkers and runners earn $0.25 per mile and bikers earn $0.10 per mile.

Today is TPN’s Day of Service

It’s an annual day of giving back to those less fortunate in the communities we live. We chose to give our time to Food Banks– a logical extension of our understanding and respect for retail and shopping.
A lot of the food that is donated comes from great retailers like Walmart & Safeway, and is repacked by volunteers (like us) and sent to shelters that are set up like stores (with shopping carts, aisles, merchandising) so the people who need the food can come in and shop for things they need and want vs being given a pre-packed handout. A dignified way to lend assistance that leaves everyone whole.
$1 donation to the North Texas Food Bank equals 3 meals, so little goes so far.
And in our offices in NYC, Chicago, Richmond, Hershey, LA and San Francisco, TPN’ers participated on behalf of other local charities. A great day all around.