Rather than host a big celebration for their 40th anniversary, employees of a small consulting firm in Montclair decided to open the company's purse to Bay Area nonprofits.
This spring, Cliff Consulting, started in 1972 by former Cal professor Bob Cliff, asked its workers and clients to identify organizations the company could contribute to in a spirit of community. The firm ultimately identified more than 40 groups to share in a portion of $25,000 or donated time.
"We wanted to celebrate, but none of the ideas resonated for us that were consistent with our own style," CEO Robin Nasatir said of suggestions that the company throw a party or send thank-you gifts to clients. "There is a real humility to our founder, and that is the way we operate -- making a difference not making a splash."
The guidelines for nominations dictated that organizations be nonprofit, nonpartisan and directly benefit the Bay Area. Donations ranged from $100 to $5,000.
The contributions will fund a variety of initiatives, including equipment for a new computer learning center at Family Bridges, Oakland, a nonprofit providing social services to the Asian community. A donation to the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley will help the organization buy scanners and other equipment for a new membership card system.
"Once we went out to our client base and asked for nominations, there was a lot of excitement about it," Nasatir said. "Everyone has enjoyed
The firm is made up of about a dozen consultants who work on referral for companies, nonprofits and other groups in need of organizational or technical support. It operates under the principle of facilitating changes that businesses can sustain by themselves over time -- a focus the company applied when considering how to make donations.
"In 25 years of consulting, this has been far and away the most exciting and inspiring project," Nasatir said. "It's inspired us to stay more involved in a philanthropic level."
When Nasatir called client Ray Poppino, an executive director in Kaiser Foundation Health Plan's pricing, program and project management, he recommended Cliff donate to First Place for Youth, East Bay. The Oakland organization provides support for teens coming out of foster care.
It's a program near to Poppino's heart because he was in foster care from ages 13 to 18. When he left the system, he had to navigate life on his own without a family structure to support him.
"First Place for Youth is giving them a place to land and gives them guidance and direction," he said. "I feel touched that (Cliff) reached out to me."