Suzanne Hammer created a situation for herself that might serve as inspiration to others: she stopped and asked herself, “What do I really want as my career?” After more than fifteen years in retail management in addition to working with her father in his retail business while growing up, Suzanne knew that she wanted to work to help others.
Today she is the founder and President of Hammer and Associates, a company that “develops strategic corporate charitable giving and community investment programs, bridging the gap between corporations, foundations, non-profit organizations and our community.”
So how did this woman that had been a major player in the big leagues of retail including a division of Macy’s, Loehmann’s and Bed Bath and Beyond, primarily in New York City and the Bay area of California turn to aid those involved in charitable giving as well as individual charities here in Colorado? “Once I’d visited out here (Colorado); that was it. I knew I this is where I wanted to live.”
With a content smile Hammer told of how she celebrated her birthday, on May 31, one year by skiing in eight inches of fresh powder at Arapahoe Basin. “I had gone to school in Vermont and spring skiing there meant pushing slush around the mountain. It was totally different here; it was amazing!”
Hammer had already proved that she was the adventurous type when she spent a college semester under a study abroad program in Salamanca, Spain. She proved her love for adventure further when she accepted a year-long position at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. McMurdo is the largest science station; it is run by the United States National Science Foundation and is operated by Raytheon Polar Services, located in Colorado. “It was remote, cold and had ice and snow, which is near and dear to my heart. I worked in the station store during the summer months that served 800-1200 people.”
She spoke of how pleasant it was during the summer months, “It would get up to 37 degrees. You would wear the (outdoor) gear, but,” she added with a smile, “bring out the chaises!” During the winter months Hammer worked in recreation where, with the keys to all the beer and wine at the station, she earned the nickname, “Booze Mama.” (She didn’t think it necessary to include that fact, but was willing to go along with it.)
While there, “we also did fundraising. We put on “The Vagina Monologues,” and raised money for Christchurch, NZ non-profits including an orphanage, a rape crisis center and for a Scott Exhibit at the museum. The 211 ‘souls,’ which is what we were called, raised a lot of money and I got to be a part of that and to volunteer. Afterward I traveled through New Zealand and returned to the East Coast where my family lived. I had the chance to sit down and figure out what I wanted to do.”
She knew then that it was to return to Colorado and to work to help charitable organizations. But what Hammer did that singles her out from others is find a new perspective in the challenging world of raising funds for important causes. She recognized that often individuals, corporations, and foundations simply distribute monies randomly, without any plan. There is seldom any tracking to determine the success of the programs and therefore dissatisfaction often follows.
“What I’ve learned is that in our world most people give away money to their place of worship, school, non-profits, etc. We generally want to give to others,” she believes. “I provide services to point out how much better giving becomes if it is done strategically, regardless of whether it is a small amount or $100,000 or ten million.” She asks corporations, for example, “How can we take your charitable donations and have measureable results for you and the community?” For businesses, we determine how to take the donation dollars and expand them to positively impact employees for improved morale and to make working there a better experience.” Hammer expands this to include company vendors and customers to further strengthen relationships.
She works to find the right non-profit for a company. “Rather than follow the ‘spray and pray’ approach,” in which donations are simply delivered randomly to non-profits in the hope that something positive ‘might’ be achieved, Hammer helps identify what the company stands for and connects them with non-profits that serve a specific cause.
Hammer practices what she preaches by giving much of her time to help others. “I teach a course at the Colorado Free University, ‘I Want to Make a Difference” series. It’s helping the every day person have a plan to identify the best volunteer opportunity for them and even how to recognize if they’re having a good or bad experience.” She is also an active Rotarian in the Rotary Club of Denver Southeast.
Hammer and Associates "work with non-profits, some that already have a 501(c)(3) status. They work with businesses and corporations to learn their history and help them determine whether or not their best strategy is to create a stand-alone 501(c)(3) foundation or create a community investment strategy that operates out of marketing or human resources. Either way, the goal is to provide strategic evaluation, planning and implementation – ‘soup to nuts’."
Hammer offers her clients an equation to keep in mind. “By living by the 30/30/40 rule they can find success. Thirty percent to events, such as charity golf tournaments, 30 percent to community causes such as supporting your local school or little league and 40 percent to what we truly stand for; what is in our heart. That’s what I propose; that way one cause to another isn’t in competition but in compatibility.”
She admits that there are a few businesses and organizations that she has chosen not to work with them. “I love to work with those that are donating to charitable organizations for the right reasons; those that genuinely want to help others.” Unfortunately, she comes across others that simply want to give for public relations purposes. Hammer is sincere in her desire to help others and finds that working for someone solely to gain publicity doesn’t interest her.
Hammer and Associates continues to grow and has a rich history of helping others since 2004. “We usually work with a client anywhere from six to eighteen months.
“It goes back to Margaret Meade’s quote: Never doubt that a group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has”