It’s a question that we should all ask ourselves more often: why do we work? Sure, you’ve got bills to pay and shopping sprees can be fun, but there must be something bigger to work for if we want to fully make the most of our time on earth.
That’s why business leaders often talk about giving back to their communities and venturing into philanthropic pursuits once their companies have reached a certain level of success.
How are today’s business leaders giving back, and where do their priorities lie in terms of charity and philanthropy? We asked around and received some interesting answers.
Take a Stand
There has always been some philanthropic component to business, but nowadays, companies are much more open about the causes they support and why.
This encourages customers to “vote with their wallets” and support companies that are also aligned with their personal values. With so much happening in the world, this is part of the broader PR strategy for companies of all sizes.
“Finding ways to give back to your community is an extremely important part of running a business,” said Steve O’Dell, Co-Founder and CEO of Tenzo Tea. “During COVID this premise has changed and the ways people go about these initiatives is extremely different than ever before. One great way you can give back is by hosting events or sponsoring events that are virtual webinar-based that give people who have less political exposure a chance to speak their minds on causes that are important to them. If you help advertise events such as this it can go a long way in giving people a voice and allowing your company to take a stand in today’s political world.”
Businesses are now expected to put themselves into the conversation, so do this wisely.
Your company has a lot of influence over your customers and the people who follow your brand on social media. If they’re happy to buy your products and be part of the online community, they will more than likely be willing to donate some funds to your cause.
Why not get the word out about your favorite organization and get started? You have so many useful technologies to help make it happen.
“Fundraisers have always been and always will be a great way to give back to your community,” said Melissa South, SVP of SwingTie. “Find ways to implement a fundraising event within your community. A virtual form of this is to advertise the event on your social platforms and ask people to donate through your website directly for the cause. This not only brings eyes onto your business but also allows you to be in the forefront of the operation to raise money for a cause that speaks to you and your community.”
Fundraising can also serve to unite people under a common cause and create new opportunities for your business, employees, and others who get involved.
Make a Pledge
Every company has a unique approach to philanthropy, and some are more consistent than others with their efforts. Make this a part of your brand identity rather than an occasional hobby.
Consistency is the key to accomplishing any goal, including anything in the sphere of charity or activism. Set up a plan and stick to it.
“Allowing for part of your revenue to go to organizations or causes that matter is a big way that you as a business owner can make an impact,” said Joshua Tatum, Co-Founder of Canvas Cultures. “If you pledge to put a small percentage of your earnings into a cause then as you make a profit you will also support something that matters to the community you are within. Just a little percent with each purchase can go a long way and speak volumes about your character and show all of your customers that you care about things aside from being financially successful.”
Before long, your company will be known for its charitable efforts as well as offering great products and services.
Some companies just talk about charity and actually do very little in terms of action. Other companies are founded on strong foundations that truly make a positive impact on their communities and country as a whole.
“An overlooked way to support initiatives in our nation is to push your production process to be fully American,” said Kamron Kunce, Senior Marketing Manager at 4Patriots. “This means what you make is totally American-made. For some businesses, it is easier to look outside of the country to find cheap ways to manufacture their products, but when that occurs it does not do much good to our local communities here in the U.S. Find ways to shift your production to American made products to show your customers that you not only care about the goods you offer them but the possibility that your business can offer jobs in other fields as well.”
It’s not always about “giving back” after the fact, but also setting a good example for supply chains, good working conditions, and community support.
Most of us know that we should be making donations and volunteering our time to good causes, but we always seem to come up with some excuse to hit the pause button.
Companies can set a positive example for customers and employees by showing them that philanthropy isn’t just for the top-tier earners in society. Everyone should be getting involved, even if only in a small way.
“Young entrepreneurs, in general, feel they’re too busy running their companies, which I think is a mistake,” said Jeffrey Skoll, Businessman and Founder of the Skoll Foundation. “But once they’re older, you see much more of a propensity to be involved in philanthropy.”
By establishing these good habits early on, we can all make more of an impact over the long term.
If your company doesn’t actively encourage employees to roll up their sleeves and help out, they will likely be less motivated to participate in these kinds of initiatives.
We’re seeing many companies facilitate employee action by incentivizing them to get out of the office and get involved.
“A philanthropy initiative that we offer at Boundery to all of our employees is encouraging each individual to spend 3 workdays out of the quarter to volunteer at a charity or organization of their choice whilst being fully compensated,” said Jason Akatiff, Co-Founder of Boundery. “This initiative allows employees to choose where they would like to allocate their volunteer hours and spreads awareness of new charities and organizations within our offices. Separately from Boundery, my wife and I work closely with the organization Casa de Amparo, which has a mission to help kids affected or at risk of child abuse and neglect.”
When philanthropy is baked into your company culture, you’re way ahead of the game.
Close to Home
Giving money to massive multinational organizations is definitely better than nothing, but we need to start thinking on a more local level if we want to see changes in our communities.
It’s hard to balance priorities between at-home and abroad, but sometimes working more directly with people and ecosystems in your area can be more gratifying and beneficial.
“While it’s important to think on a global scale, there are so many great causes that we can contribute to within our own immediate communities,” said John Berry, CEO of Berry Law. “People in your own city or town need a helping hand, so try reaching out to them first before expanding your influence further.”
Especially with the fallout of the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to lend a hand.
Throwing a pizza party or buying merch for staff can be a good motivation booster in the short term, but the thrill wears off pretty quickly.
For a more effective team-building initiative, consider getting involved with a community volunteering event or something of the sort.
“Holding fundraisers and events with your team can be a great way to build bonds between employees and also do something good for the world,” said Dan Potter, Co-Founder of Craftd. “It’s a two-birds-one-stone kind of thing where everyone has fun and you come away with a sense of accomplishment.”
First-time volunteers will see how great it feels to get involved, and those lessons learned will have a positive effect in the workplace as well.
This might be a good time to review your company mission and see how philanthropy fits into the equation. Does your organization make genuine contributions to the community, or is it just lip service?
These are questions that we all need to ask of ourselves and the companies that we start and join.
“When starting your company, you’re probably only focused on cash flow and holding the whole thing together,” said Katie Lyon, Co-Founder of Allegiance Flag Supply. “It helps to focus on a big-picture goal that goes beyond money, however. How are your products improving lives and bettering communities? These are the things that ultimately matter the most.”
When you have a cause that transcends revenue and customer service – the usual suspects – your organization takes on a whole new meaning for everyone involved.
If you can’t find a cause worth donating to, you probably just aren’t looking hard enough. There are so many great ways to pitch in, and they don’t need to be billion-dollar organizations.
Think smaller, think local, and think outside the box if need be.
“Anyone can anonymously donate to a huge charity organization and not really think twice about it,” said Dan Widmaier, Founder or Mylo Unleather. “It’s way more impactful to do some more research, discover new causes, and be personally involved in those efforts. Your contributions are more appreciated and more effective as a result.”
There may be an issue that wasn’t even on your radar, and you can tell friends and family about something new.
Know the Details
The ethics of charity can get a little fuzzy sometimes, and even the most established philanthropists acknowledge this fact. You might not be 100% sure where your money is going, or if it’s doing exactly what you intended.
That’s why more people are thinking about giving in a more direct way that they know will be effective.
“Be more specific with your donations instead of just taking a general approach to philanthropy,” said Abraham Rahmanizadeh, COO of Leafwell Botanicals. “I prefer to give to causes that tell you exactly where your money is going. Many people in developing countries need soap, for example, or school books. Those are real, tangible investments that make a difference, rather than just ambiguous donations.”
Start a Convo
On one level, philanthropy is a personal choice that you need to make for yourself. In another sense, it’s something that you should be comfortable talking about and sharing with others.
That’s how all great social and environmental movements begin, so don’t shy away from talking about this kind of thing at work and beyond.
“Open up a dialogue with people in your workplace about different causes and movements that you think deserve attention,” said Matt Seaburn, Partner and President of Rent A Wheel. “Don’t be judgmental or anything, just speak your mind and ask what they’re doing to help. This can raise awareness and build positive connections.”
Everyone is coming from a different place in life, so use discretion and approach topics with care to avoid controversy.
Follow Your Heart
So many social pressures influence us in our daily lives, and we often just want to go with the flow. However, if you feel very strongly about a particular cause, there should be nothing that holds you back from making a contribution of money or time.
“Not sure where to donate or how to give back?” asked Brittany Dolin, Co-Founder of PocketBook Agency. “Philanthropy is a very personal thing, so do what feels right to you and don’t worry what others think. If you love animals, give money to rescue organizations or animal rights groups. If you love music, give to programs that save the arts. There is no right or wrong way to do this.”
When you follow your own moral compass, it’s always the right decision.
We look at figures like Gates or Buffet and wonder if we can ever make a positive change on the world in the same way. They do so much, so what’s the point of giving $20 here and there?
That’s not the way to look at it, of course, and it’s important to simply get started.
“Like anything in life, giving back is not easy at first, but it quickly becomes enjoyable and you’ll want to do more and more,” said Scott Rosenberg, CRO of MaryRuth Organics. “Just taking that first step is the hardest part. Make a small donation, see how great it feels, and you’ll be eager to take more action.”
A single step in the right direction is never easy, but it’s absolutely necessary.
One Key Cause
Everyone should have a single cause that becomes their signature thing, especially at an organizational level. Sure, you can contribute to many different things, but that definitive cause will be tied to your brand with a positive association for life.
“VitaminIQ is committed to giving back,” said Sarah Morgan, CEO of VitaminIQ. “A percentage of profits annually is donated to VitaminAngels. Vitamin Angels is a global public health organization founded in 1994 which works towards ending malnutrition worldwide by distributing life-changing vitamins and minerals to at-risk mothers and children under five in the U.S. and around the world. Both Charity Navigator and GuideStar give Vitamin Angels their highest marks for financial transparency.”
Apply this principle in your own life and choose an organization that matters most to you.
Not Just Money
Think beyond the bank account when getting into philanthropy, especially if you’re just starting out in your career.
We tend to think about big checks and donations when this subject comes up, but that’s really only one part of the bigger picture.
“One of the big myths about philanthropy is that it’s all about donating funds for a cause,” said Pankaj Patel, Chairman of Cadila Healthcare. “I like to look at it quite differently. Philanthropy is about ‘giving’ – not just in monetary terms but also in non-monetary aspects, like time, ideas, or being a volunteer. Donating money is just a small part of philanthropy.”
Can you spend a few hours on the weekend to get involved? That’s something that we can all manage at least once in a while
The internet has made it easier than ever to donate time and effort to good causes. The only downside is that we’re exposed to so many different ideas and organizations, we might get a bit of paralysis by analysis.
“With so many issues worldwide, we can all feel overwhelmed when approaching philanthropy,” said Kelli Lane, Chief Marketing Officer of Genexa. “Nobody can solve all the problems at once, so zoom in on a particular area of interest and stay in that lane until you’re comfortable shifting focus. That makes everything so much more manageable.”
Do your best to avoid the trap of “doing it all” and you’ll be much more effective in everything you pursue, charity or otherwise.
Is your company just starting out in its philanthropic efforts? You’re going to need to set some realistic goals, just as you would with any other pursuit in business.
Commit to one thing upfront, set a monthly target for money or time donations, and be sure to hit that mark every single time so that you can make substantial long-term progress.
“I believe it is so pertinent to set business goals that go beyond our benefit but reach a common good for all,” said Olivia Young, Head of Product Design at Conscious Items. “One of our goals this year is to plant 300,000 trees through our initiative, We’re Planting Hope. Since the beginning of 2020, we have been on a mission to plant a total of half a million trees. We are looking forward to actualizing this dream by the end of this year.”
The goal-oriented approach is key to all things in life, and charity is no different.
Pride in People
It makes sense that employees should be some of the main beneficiaries of humanitarian efforts within a company, yet so many businesses overlook this simple concept.
If someone in your organization is struggling with health or family issues, why not make them the center of attention and help them out where you can? Also, look for ways to assist communities that serve your business at every step of the supply chain – beyond the office.
“Inclusivity and diversity is the center of our brand ethos at De La Calle,” said Danielle Calabrese, COO of De La Calle. “While we have created an authentic and nostalgic Mexican beverage, it is important for us to honor and prop up the culture that we are paying homage to. We do that by supporting several organizations that give back to the Latino community.”
If your philanthropy initiatives somehow relate to your brand, even better.
Do it for You
The whole point of charity is to stop thinking about ourselves for a moment and see how we can help the people around us.
However, it all comes back around, and we end up feeling good about what we’ve done! This is a good thing for our own minds and souls, and sets a strong example for others, too.
“Generosity and gratitude are such powerful forces, and you need to experience them for yourself to really understand what giving back is all about,” said Sarah Morgan, CEO of Even Health. “You help others in the process, but you’re also helping yourself and creating a more fulfilling life.”
If you need some direction in life or just a mental reboot, try getting involved with a local cause and see how much better you feel.
A big part of philanthropy is simply doing research, becoming more aware of key issues, and spreading awareness to other people in your life who you love and respect.
This is important to deepening our understanding of the world and our roles in it. It’s a lifelong education that doesn’t just end with one donation.
“Philanthropy is a learning experience like nothing else,” said Tyler Forte, CEO of Founder of Felix Homes. “You discover how the world works. Not all those revelations will be positive – some will be demoralizing or concerning. But the point is to never stop learning and keep moving forward in the right direction. That’s the only way.”
Read books, read articles, listen to podcasts – however you learn best, make it a priority.
The organizations we donate to should always reflect our values and priorities in the world. If you aren’t 100% on board with a particular cause or initiative, don’t feel pressured to get involved.
This is a matter of personal ethics and the things that are near and dear to your heart.
“What do you value most in your life?” asked Dr. Robert Applebaum, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. “That’s a key question to getting started with philanthropy. For some of us, family is the most important thing, and that should be your focus when giving time and money. Others are more interested in environmental issues or politics. Whatever your thing is, pursue it 100% and be unapologetic in your efforts.”
Some people treat charity like fashion – don’t do that. Instead, be authentic in how you donate your time, money, and care.
Use all the tools at your disposal to make your philanthropic vision a reality. We live in the best time in history for raising money, spreading awareness, and building organic movements of people from all over the world.
Are you a skilled marketer or branding expert? Apply those talents to fundraising and see if you can make some money magic happen!
“In this time of a global pandemic, it is extremely important to find ways to give back,” said Brandon Monaghan, Co-Founder of Miracle Brand. “When thinking of ways to help, there are the obvious ones of donating money or offering time to help organizations that are doing great things for those affected. Although it is important to help in any way possible, I think there are so many other creative ways to give back. As a businessman and entrepreneur, I can offer lots of knowledge from my experiences in the business world. Organizing a virtual Ted-Talk style fundraiser where the audience comes to learn and gets to leave motivated and inspired is a valuable and creative way to give back.”
Now is the Time
2020 had implications beyond the pandemic. For millions of people around the world, food and medicine shortages became a daily reality, and it’s time for us all to pitch in.
On a more local level, try lending a hand to people who live near you in disadvantaged areas – they all could use a boost.
“After the events of 2020, there are so many ways to get involved on the front lines in your own community,” said Aylon Steinhart, CEO and Founder of Eclipse Foods. “Now is the time to really double down on your efforts to give back and make a difference. A quick local search online is all you need to get started, so what are you waiting for?”
Donating masks, food, clean water – it’s all good, just get going.
Think Beyond Yourself
Scroll for a few seconds on social media, and it’s nothing but narcissism on full display. Some influencers might say that they care about certain issues, but are they really making an effort beyond a post or video?
Nobody is perfect, but we can all do better.
“We live in a pretty self-centered culture, and most of us are just trying to advance our own positions in the world,” said Alex Keyan, CEO of Founder of GoPure Beauty. “I want to see the pendulum swing in the other direction and place way more value on helping others. It’s not all about money, but time, effort, and energy as well.”
In a social media-driven world, we are the culture, and it starts with you.
If you live in the western world, you’re probably doing pretty well, even if you’ve just got basic living conditions and a regular old car.
Rather than comparing yourself to the upper-crust celebs and business magnates, make a shift of focus and you’ll realize how lucky you really are!
“Once you start getting involved with a certain cause, your entire life will start taking on more meaning and you’ll be more appreciative of everything around you,” said Jason Wong, CEO of Founder of Doe Lashes. “Giving back is a very therapeutic experience, in my opinion. Everyone should take part.”
Do Your Part
When you open your eyes to social responsibility, you start to look at money and time in a new light.
Instead of buying the latest gadgets or sneakers from 1% of companies, you might choose to donate to a cause or support a small local business.
These might feel like insignificant efforts, but over many years, you make a big change in the flow of money and energy worldwide.
“One of the biggest misconceptions about philanthropy is that you need to be a multi-bazillionaire to get started,” saidDerin Oyekan, Co-Founder of Reel Paper. “That couldn’t be further from the truth. Just donate a little bit of cash or spend a few hours a month volunteering – that has a substantial impact for positive change.”
While most of the world is preoccupied with bad news, you can change your focus on actually making a change for the better.
From your everyday spending to your involvement at work and in the community, learn to make philanthropy a part of your identity – and others will start to walk in your footsteps.