IRVINE, CA—As reported earlier this week, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County, a nonprofit organization that provides children facing adversity with professionally supported, one-to-one mentoring relationships, has recognized chairman and co-founder Rob Friedman‘s philanthropic efforts toward the organization by presenting Friedman with the Joel K. Rubenstein  award. We caught up with Friedman to discuss the award, the recognition and the role he feels philanthropy should play in business. What role does philanthropy play in business for you and for

Friedman: From a selfish position, it’s good experience, but it’s also something very fulfilling. We were originally helping between 300 and 400 kids in Orange County, and now it’s up to 25,000 kids who reach out to us for help and guidance.

The truth is, as leaders in the company we try to lead by example, and because I’m so involved in BBBSOC, we try to recruit out of our organization. We have about 10 matches of Big Brothers with Little Brothers and Big Sisters with Little Sisters. Jeff [Frieden] and I have tried to be pretty quiet about our philanthropy because we believe that you should be proud of what you’re doing, but you don’t need to be overtly proud. You need to be personally proud. Jeff and I have been supporting BBBSOC for a long time, and the only reason I accepted this award is, with as much publicity as has had, we thought it would actually help the charity. It’s typically not our modus operandi to be—we just wanted to help the kids. This has been a good year for Auction, and we thought it would help them. Why do you favor BBBSOC over other charities?

Friedman: I believe that when we solve problems when people are young, we don’t let them manifest into major problems down the road. When people have someone to lean on, drug use decreases, they don’t run into problems with the law—from a humankind point of view, it’s about solving small issues before they manifest into lifelong problems.

I truly believe that is buying charity at a wholesale price. When my money actually helps more people because I’m solving problems when they’re not major problems, I feel that my charitable dollar is going further. I also love the fact that it crosses all socioeconomic boundaries and religious beliefs. How should other firms approach philanthropy?

Friedman: A lot of the things I do philanthropically are for selfish reasons. It makes me feel good to help others. We’re so blessed to be able to be the ones who are the givers instead of the receivers. How lucky is that? I feel that all companies owe it to society to give back when they have the means to do so. Being Americans who are successful, healthy, with good families living here, we owe it to society to give back. How should firms let others know about their philanthropic activities, if at all?

Friedman: I only believe in publicizing it if the ends justify the means. I prefer to keep it quiet. I think that’s a personal view, although I do think it’s probably good that my associates at the company know we do these things so in their life they can do things like this, too.