Watching the television news on any given evening, or even scanning the new websites online, it’s both amazing and gratifying to see how many people get involved in community and charitable projects. Corporate leaders create foundations to provide support on a large scale. Companies organize teams to participate in walkathons, runathons, bikeathons and other events. People build houses for others who need them.
Regardless of the size of the initiative or the level of support, the point is clear: people care about and want to help others. It’s in our nature as human beings to look out for and take care of each other. And for those of us who have enjoyed a great deal of business success, there’s no better way to invest our wealth than to address needs where they exist and provide help to those who are less fortunate.
It’s our responsibility and it’s a privilege, and I recommend that all business leaders develop either a personal or company mission that includes philanthropy.
So how can you, as a business leader, run a more philanthropic company?
Put your money where your mouth is.
Let’s be honest: we all know that there are tax incentives related to charitable giving. But far beyond that, people with disposable income are in the position to use their money to address needs where they exist. Maybe your local schools, universities, houses of worship, libraries, museums, or other institutions are in need of funding. Or, you might have a relationship with similar organizations in other countries. Perhaps there’s a scholarship you can establish for students who can’t afford education. Talk to your friends and business contacts and learn where such needs exist. Identify opportunities that are meaningful to you.
Lead by example.
Set the tone for your employees by emphasizing the importance of making the world a better place, and create a committee in-house to evaluate where the needs are and how your company can help. It doesn’t have to be on a huge scale. Create a fund and be the first to seed it with a substantial contribution. Maybe the senior high-rise or daycare center down the street needs something that you, as a team, have the power and financial capability to make happen. It’s been reported that group philanthropic or charity efforts can help build employee morale, so there’s an immediate benefit to your company. And believe me, the sincere thank you you’ll receive from the recipients of the gifts will be all you need to hear to know you did the right thing.
Get your business contacts involved.
Charity sports events do this all the time. Take golf, for example. Many if not most business people appreciate the opportunity to get out of the office on a spring or summer afternoon for a half-day on the golf course. It’s where relationships are forged and deals are made. So why not establish an event that provides participants with a good time while also raising money to benefit a community need or charity? For you, this gives you the chance to reconnect with people you might not have seen in some time while also helping a great cause.
Provide pro bono services that help others.
Being charitable doesn’t always involve financial donations. In fact, many companies provide free professional services to support charitable initiatives. For a single event, for example, in addition to paid sponsorships there are often opportunities to donate legal services, medical services, design, printing, refreshments, and more. Be creative. There are many doctors who organize mercy mission teams populated with a variety of volunteers, then travel to third-world countries to provide free medical care in underserved areas. In addition to financial support, in-kind services are often greatly needed and highly appreciated.
They don’t always teach us about philanthropy in school, but as we make our way through the world, see other cultures and learn more about humanity and the human condition, we realize the need -- and the responsibility we have -- to share what we have with others, and to help others improve their lives.