Business leaders at all levels of numerous organizations are realizing the many benefits attached to taking part in charitable, community and philanthropic initiatives. From a personal standpoint, you experience the satisfaction that comes from helping others in need. It always feels good to extend a hand to help others get up and on their feet, and as human beings it’s our responsibility to do so.
From a business standpoint, it demonstrates that your company is one that cares, so you’re not only using your resources — financial, human or both — to offer help where it’s needed, but you’re also demonstrating your company’s commitment to making the community, and even the world, a better place.
Getting involved also provides you with opportunities to expand your professional network, create awareness about what your company does and apply your leadership skills in different and beneficial ways.
The good thing about providing this type of help is that it’s something everything can do. There’s no minimum or maximum attached to the funding or volunteer help you donate. You can do what you’re capable of doing, whether as a corporate leader, company, small business, or solo practitioner. And the opportunities to provide support are endless.
Thomas Kane, a Chicago wealth manager at a major financial corporation, has been involved in philanthropic initiatives since childhood, when his parents impressed upon him the importance of giving back and set examples for him to follow when they sent donations to organizations like the Salvation Army and the Jewish United Fund.
Like them, he’s continued the family philosophy of helping others by supporting a wide variety of organizations including Friends of the IDF, the 100 Club of Chicago, Jewish Federation of Chicago, and the Western Golf Association Evan’s Scholars program, among others. He says he feels a personal responsibility to give back, both as a business leader and as a private individual.
Thomas Kane notes that in the past, there were a lot of companies that would set aside a few weeks or a month each year to devote to philanthropic activity, but today, everyone realizes that the need is year-round.
There are also far more opportunities today for giving back. While a few years ago an annual appeal was supported by some companies and executives, technology and social media has made it both possible and convenient to donate at any time. This can help a company provide support in myriad ways.
“I gave every employee a small quarterly allowance to back Kickstarter Projects they thought could impact hundreds, if not thousands, of people,” said Scott Ferreira of MySocialCloud. We gave each employee about $150 to spend on these projects, and it was awesome to see where they would allocate the funds.”
One easy way that anyone can help their community is by organizing a charity drive. “If money and scheduled time are in short supply, you can still be charitable by starting a clothing, book, or food drive,” writes entrepreneur John Rampton, founder of Calendar. “Homeless shelters and food banks always need help and supplies. Helping local drives for charity can be an extremely cost effective option. You can help in small ways throughout the year. Your employees may have some great ideas for you. Consider such options as a coat drive in the fall or a fan and air conditioner drive in the summer.”
One obvious way a company can support its community is by sponsoring local programs and events. Many business leaders love the opportunity to be a part of something that involves their neighbors. It might be sponsoring a hole at a charity golf outing or a pumpkin patch at a fall festival. It’s always easy to find local needs that appreciate your support.
“Does your municipality have youth sports leagues? Consider sponsoring a team,” writes Boston-area entrepreneur and blogger Bev Feldman. “As the National Alliance for Youth Sports shares, there are many benefits for businesses sponsoring youth teams. These include keeping the cost of these programs down for the kids, and building goodwill by showing that your business understands the positive impact of youth sports.”
Many business leaders also note the importance of getting their employees involved in such activities by fielding teams and walking, running or biking to support a specific community cause. Many communities host a wide variety of events, often on weekends, and organizers always welcome participation. Such events not only serve community needs, but they also build rapport among members of the team.
How can you pursue philanthropic opportunities? It’s as simple as going online and searching for charity initiatives and needs in your city, town or community.