The mission is to own the market, beat competitors and generate revenue.
Nothing wrong with that. Shareholders, business owners and employees are the benefactors. But there’s another asset of “business life,” which may be ignored or forgotten. It’s really just as valuable as sales orders and revenue. It’s giving back to customers and community.
The buzzword is corporate social responsibility (CSR). I like to call it The Great Giveback. CSR sounds sterile; it feels like a duty not a conviction. Helping others comes from the heart, not a corporate edict.
The Great Giveback comes in many forms. Amazon frequently gives back. It recently distributed 1.5 million diapers and 1.5 million wipes to needy families. It provides funding for American war veterans, schoolchildren and global relief organizations (Note, we won’t talk about the disappointing demise of the Amazon Smile program.)
Amazon sellers are givers as well. An April 2023 report says third-party sellers donated nearly 100 million products in 2022 through Amazon’s FBA Donations program. That’s a small fraction of what sellers give and do for various communities and causes. For example, here at Riverbend Consulting, we give time and money to A Wish With Wings™, a 40-year-old wish-granting agency that helps Texas children fight life-threatening medical conditions.
Why the Great Giveback is good business
Engaging in the giveback of time, talent and money
Cynics will say corporate “community service” is little more than a societal “must do” to keep the peace, or that it’s nothing more than a tax write-off. Giving back does have corporate benefits. The most common ones are tax write-offs, the value in recruiting top community-conscious talent, improved brand loyalty, and even increased sales.
Giving time, talent and money means much more. Here’s proof:
- Three children, all under the age of 10, find themselves orphaned. A tragic car accident kills the parents. One older sibling, age 23, is now “mom and dad.” A team of employees from a small local company learned what happened and rallied to support the children. Food, clothes, school supplies – -and having the kids play with their kids, go swimming, have BBQs and more. The team helped the new family move into a larger, permanent residence.
- A 10-year-old girl fights for her life. Cancer. One company executive commits to an organization, then rallies others, including employees, to serve the circle of people that help these children, from physicians and nurses to parents and siblings of the child struck with terminal illness.
- The founder and CEO of a $100 million financial advisory firm shuts down the office one day every month. Employees have bought into “charity day.” They spend hours building and repairing homes for the elderly and poor. The CEO is smack in the middle with his cowboy hat and overalls, and tools in hand. Such service has continued since the mid-1980s.
These stories alone make me wonder.
Whose lives are changing the most: those being served or those giving and serving? I know the answer.
Getting started with the company giveback
- Start small
- Know what you want to accomplish
- Get executive commitment and buy-in
- Appoint a primary “organizer.”
- Make it informal (at the start anyway)
- Ask employees. They are “feet on the street” who know the pulse of the community and what’s important to them. Ask and communicate.
- Assess giving opportunities, their types, the organizations, their leadership and their commitments. For example, are you looking for a small, community commitment or working with a national or international organization?
- Carefully choose a nonprofit. How does it fit into your company’s mission, values and culture? Will it perpetuate excitement and engagement, or drive division?
- Be smart and know the people and purpose of a nonprofit. Make sure it is legitimate. DonorBox shares valuable insights on how to check a nonprofit.
- Assess and reassess company participation, employee engagement and results of the give-back. Did employees participate? Was there excitement, enthusiasm and commitment? Did your company make a difference? And yes, ask employees what did and did work and how to improve. Finally, ask those you served. What difference did you make?
Is it time?
Of course it is. Read the headlines. Walk the aisles of your grocery store or drive through “downtown.”
The needs are overwhelming. Community and caring from people to people is the cure. Whether efforts are big or small, corporate or individual, isn’t all that relevant. Getting started and getting involved–one person at a time–is a great beginning.
For me, it’s about re-discovering my heart. My mission. My ability to step out of myself to help others and reach out. To care and be part of a team. It’s time.