The Interrupt Giveback Philosophy: Giving Back, Pays It Forward

Interrupt has invested countless hours of team time over the years volunteering for food banks, women’s shelters, animal causes, Habitat for Humanity builds, fundraising for important life-threatening illnesses and more. Agency principal and owner Bill Rossiter shares why a giveback philosophy is part of the agency’s mandate and how it started with a mother’s mantra he heard early in life.

The Interrupt Giveback Philosophy

As he ventured from corporate America to the owner of a small business, Bill Rossiter had a clear mission in mind: advance his team, his clients and his community.

It’s a principle that originates with his mother, engraining in him that contributing to creating positive impact in the world was an imperative, not optional, accountability in life.

"My mother believed in the power of giving back and paying it forward,” Bill said. “There’s a quote she shared often, ‘For people to care about what you say, they first need to know you care.’ I honored her with that quote in Diverge, the business book I wrote. I finished the last two chapters as I sat by her bedside in her last weeks.”

Giving back became a grounding element in Bill’s life, starting with his family, which has fostered 34 kids over 16 years. He’s also invested time coaching young athletes, teaching students at the University of Notre Dame each quarter, mentoring industry professionals, and leveraging his agency business, which collectively supports local nonprofits through company-wide projects, volunteer hours and donations.

His approach to giving back was also impacted by seeing companies contribute money rather than their team time, a missed opportunity in his mind. Bill believes adding direct personal engagement of a company’s team members can have more mutual impact on the community and on the employees themselves. Because of this, Bill believes in the power of presence—actually being in the moment.

“Giving back with your hands and heart are much more impactful than just your wallet.”

“It’s good to get your hands dirty,” Bill said. “It’s easy to give money, but it’s hard to actually stop and give the time. But when you take the time and you’re doing things, versus just giving things, it gives you a new perspective on the world, on life, on what your accountabilities are,” Rossiter said. “It’s important to actually see what your impact is doing. That’s a big part of who I want Interrupt to be. It is a reflection of our accountability and what’s really important in our lives.”

Here are some ways Interrupt gives back to its local community as well as around all the communities his team members live in.

Company Givebacks

At least twice a year, the collective Interrupt team gathers out of the office to volunteer their time in the local community. That has meant everything from installing clients’ products in a Habitat for Humanity home to dishing up lunch servings at food kitchens, giving manual labor to a worthwhile cause and simultaneously bonding as a team. “Habitat for Humanity in particular has been special for us,” Bill said. “It helps our employees understand our clients and their products more, and it also ties us to understanding our community more deeply.”

Individual Giveback Hours

Determining where to give back is sometimes a very personal decision. With that in mind, Interrupt has also implemented a couple unique ways for each team member to give to causes important to them personally.

The first is that each year, every employee receives an additional eight hours of paid time off to volunteer on their own in their local community. Interrupters have spent time at animal charities, setting up a food pantry at their local elementary and shoveling snow for their homebound neighbors. “It’s another 280 hours of the year we can say that Interrupt created impact in the community,” shares Bill.

The second is that Interrupt celebrates milestone anniversaries with additional opportunities to give back. Employees who reach five, ten, fifteen, twenty (and so on) years with the company celebrate the milestone with a Sawhorse Award for their desk and a nice incremental monetary bonus. This recognition also comes with the opportunity to have Interrupt donate (on their behalf) to a charity of the employee’s choice. At five years, it’s a $500 donation, at ten years $1,000, at fifteen $1,500, and upwards as the years go on.

Bill believes “it’s such a simple thing, sometimes we’re moving too fast in life, we need to slow down to think about the power of an act of kindness. That one little act of kindness means so much to that individual, group or family we’re doing it for. Small things usually have the biggest impact.”

The giveback philosophy at Interrupt is grounded in the personal convictions of its owner, but according to Bill, having these kinds of policies is relevant at a business level, as well.

“Giving back is not only the right thing to do, but I think it’s also a smart business decision because today’s employees are looking for companies with a deeper purpose,” Bill said. “It’s important for people to contribute to something more than just an excellent service or a quality product. Having a commitment to bettering the community helps you engage your employees and prospective employees to come to a place with more purpose than just profit, which is important of course, but can’t be the only driver.”

To those reading, Bill’s challenge is this: “Ask yourself what your current company’s purpose is and how you can participate more fully. And even deeper, ask yourself how you define your own personal commitment (outside of your work) to making your positive impact on the world.”

In each class he teaches at Notre Dame, he starts with a challenge to each student, “How will you impact the world to make it a better place?” He shares his most proud accomplishment in life of being a foster family and telling his students, “Our family chose to impact the world one child at a time. What will your impact be?”

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