Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sales Executive Leverages 'Sphere of Influence' to Benefit Charities

By Shannon Prudhomme
Contributor, Gulf Coast Philanthropy

The best way to describe Susan Casias’ energy is to think of a latte with a double shot of espresso. Yes, it’s that jolting and vibrant! Her zest for life and passion for supporting charities are infectious and magnetic.  

“I often hear ‘I want what she’s got’,” Casias said. “I tell people ‘you have it, you’ve just got to pay attention and tap into it’.”

She graciously uses her ‘it factor’ to benefit Houston area non-profit organizations by tapping into her business connections and hosting high-profile Shred Days to raise money for non-profit organizations. Casias held her first fundraising Shred Day in 2008 while working with a large Houston-based recycling and shredding company.

In addition to serving on various community boards and mentoring youth in her church, she currently donates 20 Saturdays annually to coordinating and promoting the shredding fundraisers for non-profit organizations. Individuals donate a minimum of $10 to the selected organization, and their documents are then securely destroyed.

Casias’ journey to hosting these events was a logical transition, considering her background. She has always had an interest in sales and increasing public awareness about important issues. “I was doing these shred days for the public on weekend because I have a passion for the security of information, having been a victim of identity theft a couple of times myself,” Casias said.

In 2008, a colleague suggested raising money for non-profit organizations and she quickly began working to implement the concept.

The first organization she sponsored was Memorial Assistance Ministries, which was the “Charity of the Month” for the Houston West Chamber of Commerce. The first Shred Day was a huge success. “We raised $2,000 for that first event!” she said. An additional benefit to the organization was increased public awareness due to Casias’ large professional network.

At the time, she was working with a larger company, but eventually transitioned to working with Texas Security Shredding (TSS), a smaller company. Due to the cost of providing the shredding materials, TSS was only able to subsidize the cost of providing the resources for each Shred Day at a cost of $450.

Faced with this dilemma, Susan set out to research options that would allow her to still support local organizations. “I couldn’t find anyone to do this for free, and Texas Security Shredding charged the least amount for this service,” she said. In addition to reaching into her own pocket, Casias said she also recognized the power of her “sphere of influence” and opportunities to tap into her resources.

“My former clients from my previous employer hunted me down,” she said. “I realized companies didn’t care what company I was working for – they just wanted to work with Susan,” she said.

She decided to roll the dice and reach out to her colleagues to donate the funds needed for the first Shred Day she planned to host with Texas Security Shredding. “The first time I e-mailed my business friends, it took less than thirty minutes to get the underwriting the organization needed,” she said.

Casias also sent word out to her business colleagues to ensure a large turnout for the event. Sara Rice, Volunteer Coordinator for Memorial Assistance Ministries, said the organization has hosted eight events with Casias and Texas Security Shredding, which has exposed more people to her organization.

“It’s been a new way for people to come out and learn about us,” Rice said. “We also pair the shredding events with Houston Computer recycling, so it’s a green and environmentally-friendly event.”

For Casias, the Shred Days have affirmed her belief that “there is always a way to help a charity.” She provided the following suggestions for individuals seeking to support non-profit organizations:

  • Think beyond money and large amounts of time. “Dedicating just an hour a week to volunteering for a local charity is a great way to help.”
  • Co-op your efforts to maximize the impact. “Combine your funds with friends and contribute your funds to one organization,” she advised. 
  • Use your voice to support an organization’s fundraising or public awareness initiatives. “Find a charity who needs people to make phone calls,” she said. “Let’s say you’re homebound; this is a great way to support a charity and interact with people.” 
  • Reach out to your circle of friends. “You’d be surprised by how many people in your circle already contribute to a charity, and don’t say anything about it,” she said.
Casias said these events have reinforced her spiritual values. “To be forthcoming, I wasn’t always the best citizen,” she said. Since turning her life around, she said she feels empowered by her ability to give back and watch her efforts grow through the organizations she supports. “When you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do, God just puts things in front of you and gives you everything you need.”

Epiphany Community Health Outreach Services (ECHOS) is currently seeking underwriters for a June 18th shredding fundraiser with Susan Casias and Texas Security Shredding. To support this event, please contact her at or (713) 320-8019.

Guest Feature: Continuity of Plans for Nonprofit Organizations

By Sharie A. Blanton
Guest Contributor, Gulf Coast Philanthropy

As we embark upon the month of June we are reminded that hurricane season is upon us once again. Luckily for south Florida, our major disasters are somewhat seasonal and predictable and therefore we should be better prepared than some of our neighbors facing unannounced tragedies such as earthquakes, flooding and tornado damage.  

As community based organizations we have a responsibility to: 1) protect our staff and property (physical assets and agency records); and 2) also to serve as a resource to our community in times of need. In my area, the Miami Dade County Office of Emergency Management has a template for organizations to use. Organization may also design their own plan or to update/strengthen your existing plan using the Continuity of Operations Plan provided by the Virtual Community Action Network

According to the county-provided Continuity of Operations Plan, “the plan should develop procedures for alerting, notifying, activating and deploying employees; identify mission essential functions; establish an alternate facility; and roster personnel with authority and knowledge of functions.” 

Disaster and emergency preparedness should not be limited to the hurricane season and wind and water damage.   Fire, electricity outages and hazardous waste spills are probably more likely to occur than an explosion at Florida's Turkey Point or a tsunami in Biscayne Bay. Having mission-critical information stored in a secure and accessible off-site location or on the “cloud” are great first steps to ensuring data is not lost and downtime can be minimized. 

An Emergency Communications Plan should be in place to share critical information with key people and agencies. Defining, in advance, what role your agency can serve in the event of a localized disaster is another value-added sign of your organization’s commitment to the community’s well-being.  Residents might seek your agency out in a disaster as a communal gathering place and a source of information and safety whether you plan for that to happen or not. Is your organization ready?  

Sharie A. Blanton is Managing Director of Conscious Connections LLC in Miami, Florida. She provides strategic advisory consulting to local and international nonprofits and emerging social enterprises.