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Company helps others by donating seminar money

Company helps others by donating seminar money - by Nathan Gonzalez - May. 26, 2008 The Arizona Republic

When Express Digital Solutions co-founder John Longobardo wrapped a recent seminar on the business, his company left something behind - a cash donation.

About once a month, the chief executive officer and his partner, Chief Technology Officer John Principale, offer clients an overview of the company's electronic document managing system.

But soon after starting the successful Phoenix-based company in 2004, Longobardo and Principale said they felt something was missing.

Longobardo is a former Xerox sales manager.

Principale is a former Motorola Inc. technologist.

Their former companies made regular donations to boost business and awareness for causes by supporting local charities.

"Then all of a sudden it hit us," Longobardo said. "Let's take the money we're making from the seminars and give it to a worthwhile charity."

This month, it was the non-profit Scottsdale Training and Rehabilitation Services Inc., or STARS, collecting the $25 registration fee.

Founded in 1973, STARS provides employment for about 130 people with living with developmental or physical disabilities. It's an organization that serves eight Valley communities with a budget of about $1.8 million, according to the group's Web site.

STARS, like many non-profit organizations, rely heavily on financial contributions and grants to offer services. About 12 percent of STARS funding comes from contributions.

Corporate donors accounted for 20 percent of the $1.7 million in contributions made last year to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Arizona, said Jan Lee Sproat, executive director of the foundation's Arizona chapter.

"We totally depend on that," Sproat said of donations. "We don't get any money from national institutes. We don't get any help from the pharmaceutical companies. The only way we function is if companies and individuals help us."

Ninety cents of every dollar received by the foundation goes toward researching the causes and cures of cystic fibrosis, an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system.

The disease is linked to a defective gene and its protein product that cause the body to produce mucus that clogs the lungs and can lead to life-threatening lung infections. The disease also affects the production of enzymes that help the body break down and absorb food.

It's estimated the disease affects about 30,000 people in the U.S. and 70,000 worldwide.

Researchers recently discovered a mutated gene and were able to develop a therapy to open air channels in the lungs, allowing people to breathe better, Sproat said.

"It took us $79 million to do that and it was mostly all raised by donations by corporations and individuals," she said.

While non-profits undoubtedly only stand to gain from charitable donations, it's also good for business.

Since Express Digital began donating, business has grown as clients and non-profit partners spread word about the company's philanthropy, Longobardo said.

"It's had the best impact on our business," he said. "We've made more friends; have had better visibility, more business - more everything."

"It's just good business and it makes you feel good," Longobardo said.