Palo Alto’s boards and commissions and nonprofit community organizations (such as the Palo Alto YMCA) could use more involvement from corporate bigwigs.

Get a few more of these well-connected people serving on our boards and commissions or linking us to the corporate culture and we will be in Fat City instead of lean times. We need the creativity, ingenuity and — to be blunt about it — the connections of these high-powered corporate leaders to help us tap into corporate financial, public relations and human resources. Imagine the success the next YMCA fundraising drive could have if some CEOs, CFOs or corporate presidents made a few quick calls to their pals. Consider the media tools Silicon Valley executives could provide to rally our citizenry around a pressing city issue.

The benefits to our city commissions and nonprofit boards of having more corporate involvement could be endless. And there is precedent: HP co-founder David Packard, one of the truly wealthy of his time, served for years on the Palo Alto school board. We have in Palo Alto a rich tradition of rich persons not only giving of their dollars but of their personal time and leadership abilities to community organizations, and found it deeply rewarding to themselves as well. Perhaps I could locate corporate stars by joining the Chamber of Commerce and networking there. However, between work, my crazy exercise routine, family commitments, and my admittedly minimal social life there really is not a lot of time left for me to devote. So I’ve thought of another way for me to make the corporate bigwig connection: Write an open letter to one of our famous residents from the corporate world. I’ll obscure his identity so as not to embarrass him.

My letter will be so persuasive he will promptly reply (by e-mail at the bottom of this column, perhaps) or forward my message to his well-connected corporate friends.

Let me know if you think this works:

My email to Mr. J

Dear Mr. J.:

We do not know one another, although we have a small connection though the Palo Alto Children’s Theatre. Speaking of the Children’s Theatre, which is a center for creativity, I admire the tremendous creativeness of your company’s A Computer and P Films. I think of myself as a pretty creative guy, but given what you have done with those companies, I pale in comparison. I am not trying to flatter you to extract something from you, although if it works, who am I to knock it?

I serve on the Palo Alto Human Relations Commission and the Palo Alto YMCA Board of Directors. I joke that I became involved with the Y Board because of the wonderful food they provide at their meetings. It harkens back to my college days. My impoverished classmates and I would go to Pathmark Supermarket late at night because they provided free coffee and donuts. Fond memories — but I digress. I write because I have a proposition for you: Would you like to serve on one of our boards or commissions or invite some of your corporate friends to do so? Michael Eisner, of whom you may not be very fond these days, would not qualify, since he does not reside in Palo Alto. I imagine that you serve on many corporate boards. However, like all of us creative people, you probably look for something new and different to get those brainwaves flying faster and more efficiently. By serving on one of our boards and commissions you and/or your corporate friends can develop those thinking-outside-the-box brainwaves even more by addressing problems you may not encounter working strictly in the corporate culture.

You can help us too, by offering different perspectives on how we can better meet the needs of a diverse population, which you have so ably done with your variety of beautifully designed and trendy products. Our population may be broader than your target demographic, however. It includes the very wealthy, the homeless, immigrants, the disabled, and minorities. Perhaps you can offer creative insight to help us grow our city and broader community without sacrificing the passion and connectedness that makes our region such a special place. I would love to chat with you some time over tea (I hate coffee). I will not suggest that we meet at Pathmark, however, since none of those supermarkets are around here, to my knowledge. And I don’t know if Happy Donuts ever gives out free samples.

I will pay for the tea, if that helps. My e mail address, again, is written below.

Please feel free to invite your corporate friends to join us. I am a firm believer in that old adage the more the merrier.

Jeff Blum

P.S. I bought my daughter one of your laptops when she went to college. She is very happy with it. Oh, and our family has several of those cool tiny music machines you make.


Originally posted by Jeffrey Blum on Palo Alto Online on May 9, 2007

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