As a business owner or manager, you have an opportunity to make a difference for the community around you. Altruistic behaviour, practices and choices have a positive effect on more than just the beneficiaries. On a personal level, you can actually experience reduced stress, and improved mental, emotional and even physical wellbeing by doing good for others.
As it turns out, giving back as a business can also result in significant positive returns, depending on the form that your altruism takes. Businesses can benefit from tax deductions on charitable giving, networking opportunities, greater employee satisfaction and increased exposure within the community, including improvements to customer awareness, attitudes and trust towards your brand, services or products.
Finding the right opportunity for giving back can take many forms. Take a look at your personal or professional background and interests for an inspiring, worthy cause, as well as at current events and needs. There may be something unique that only your business can provide, or a cause that is inspiring and meaningful to you because of your own experience.
For instance, although engaged in a number of local and international altruistic endeavours, Olympiacos FC President Vangelis Marinakis saw an opportunity help nearby refugees at the Port of Piraeus. In addition to providing meals, clothing and other resources for the refugees, high-profile football team members personally served at the refugee camp and played with the children, using their fame and positions to give back to nearby children and families in need.
In another example from the world of football, Mats Hummels of Bayern Munich and Juan Mata of Manchester United pledged one per cent of their salaries to a charity that uses football as a way to address social issues and help disadvantaged children around the world. In this case, both the high profile of the donors and their professional field contributed to the effectiveness of this strategy.
While your business may or may not come with the degree of fame or financing of the above examples, there are many ways to use what you do have to make a difference in your community:
- Offer opportunities
Your business has expertise to share. Make a difference for someone by offering mentorship to young people or people struggling to rejoin the workforce. Consider apprenticeships, internships or other skill-building training programs.
- Encourage volunteerism
This is best modelled from the top-down rather than mandated, but encouraging all staff to engage in meaningful volunteerism is an excellent way to give back to the community and raise the profile and positive outlook of your business. You may find that donating to employee-driven causes, allotting time for employees to volunteer, or volunteering relevant services of the business itself can benefit the community.
- Start small
Giving back can take many forms. For some businesses, placing coin donation boxes at a front desk or till, running seasonal food drives or selling tickets to a community event can be a good way to dip your toes into the water and help make a difference. If you’re just getting started with giving back, you may want to experiment with limited-term efforts such as supporting a children’s sports team for a season, participating in a community event, or donating the use of business-owned premises for a worthy cause.
- Get on a schedule
Charities and community needs tend to get a lot of attention around the holidays and neglected the rest of the year. If making financial or other resource-based donations, consider a regular schedule of giving that allots a percentage or set amount. This helps whatever cause you choose to support while raising your business’s profile as a dedicated giver that stands out from the crowd and helps spread the cost out over a period of time.
- Embed giving into your business
Strategize a giving plan that links into your business style, type and goals. Maybe you’re known as the sponsor of children’s initiatives in your community. Maybe you have a presence at every community event. You can be transparent about promoting volunteerism and altruism among employees or build giving back into your business cycle as a percentage of profit or sales, or as part of a referral program.
Giving back is good for your community, great for you as a leader, and excellent for your business success. Consider your business skills and resources, your background and interests, and the needs around you in order to find the right match between what your business can offer and what the community needs.