The simple truth is that giving back to our communities has always been important, yet it feels more glaring with the economic and social impact dealt by COVID-19. It’s hard to ignore more than 20 million jobs lost in a single month.
But where do you start? Even the word “philanthropy” sounds overwhelming, let alone the massive responsibility it represents. Despite news headlines, the philanthropy needle is moved just as much by local acts than charity balls and six-figure checks.
For example, an accountant could provide pro bono services during tax season. A small day care owner could sponsor a child whose parents need the day hours to look for work. Whether you’re a solopreneur who just committed to growing your side hustle full-time or a serial entrepreneur with seven-figure businesses on your resume, there are myriad ways to become philanthropic. The bottom line is that there is never a better time to start.
Not every charitable cause fits the nature and background of your company. That’s not a bad thing. Find the ones that match your values, capabilities and skill sets. The process can feel overwhelming, so start in your local community and see what opportunities arise there.
Create a plan
Giving back shouldn’t be a reactionary or random response, but a dedicated aspect of your core business. Write it into your business plan. Share it publicly for transparency and accountability. Enlist your network to join you.
Grow your numbers
Sure, this could be dollar amounts, but it also means the other resources available to you: hours in your day to volunteer; people in your network who can join in on a fundraising event; local issues your particular skill set could help solve.
Maybe you’re able to increase your donations on a quarterly basis. Maybe you want to add in a new charity on a rotation. Revisit your plan regularly.
Your business doesn’t have to reinvent the entrepreneurial wheel. Likewise, neither does your plan to make philanthropy a foundation of your company. Keep it simple and learn from others, such as the entrepreneurs we talked with.
Jennifer and Farzen Dehmoubed
Co-founders of Lotus Sustainables
There is a great opportunity to use business as a force for good. With record levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, more natural disasters and fires, along with plastic pollution affecting all parts of our planet, philanthropy and protecting our environment is crucial. If you own a business, you have an even bigger responsibility to lead by example by influencing the change you’d like to see in the world.
Our company is on a mission to eliminate plastic from shopping. But knowing that our success also contributes to huge wins beyond our company gives us an overarching feeling of gratitude and achievement. I’ve never had such a sense of accomplishment. As business owners we have been able to donate much more than we could ever do on a personal level. It has been very powerful for both of us and definitely has a lasting effect.
Get your team excited and involved with the plan from the start. Make it a group exercise to pick your beneficiaries. Let them know what you picked and create partnerships. It will motivate your employees, help you hire better people and give purpose to the work you do.
Speaker, CEO of Apex Tutors and president of Sailfish Swim Club LLC
Anyone can be philanthropic, whether it be buying a burrito for the homeless man on the street or donating $1 million to a notable cause. With wealth comes responsibility. As entrepreneurs, we have the power to help others and create a society in which all people can get help. Private enterprise is the fuel that allows us to make the money necessary to effect change in the world.
I am on the ground floor of instituting a new philanthropic portion of our business: Partnering with juvenile detention centers to allow us to tutor children who have so far been neglected and overlooked. This is the largest scale endeavor we have ever tried to do.
Many people try to bite off more than they can chew or feel bad if they don’t help a particular cause, so they say yes to anything. Remember that no single business can help every person. Find areas in which you have an innate knowledge and give to those areas.
If you want to be more philanthropic, be more philanthropic. You don’t have to be a millionaire to give back. It could be as simple as offering free services or helping a struggling employee. There is no such thing as too little. Don’t wait until you have a billion-dollar company. Act now and when you have the billion-dollar company, you will be positioned to make an even bigger difference.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Feature Image by suriya yapin/Shutterstock