3 Reasons Philanthropy Is Great for Business
September 8, 2016 | Business and Careers
Being a business owner is demanding. You’ve got profit margins, payroll and growth plans to worry about, all while keeping customers satisfied. To add something else to your plate can seem like a tall order. But more and more business are making time for philanthropy, finding that it not only does some good in their community but can also help build business. Here are three ways philanthropy can help your business grow.
1. Philanthropy grows your brand. Ameet Morjaria is a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He says, “More than ever before, businesses are realizing that they need to become a part of the organisms they are functioning in. It’s becoming a part of their core business.” Morjaria got to see the idea firsthand. A prior job had him working at a prominent bank. That organization allowed its workers to help spruce up a park in a low-income community near one of its branch locations. When community members began to see “outsiders” spending time and sweat equity to make their block look better, they began to ask who those volunteers were and why they were there. “Was there brand recognition? Yes, definitely. People could relate to what we were doing and felt the company cared about them,” says Morjaria.
When your company begins to be associated with something more or greater than just business, it can grow your brand in a new way. Philanthropy intrinsically does good things for others and the community, but it can also help you build emotional bonds with clients and neighbors who see you serving someone or something greater than the bottom line.
2. Philanthropy builds relationships. Doing good can break down barriers that clients or neighbors may see and feel during business-only meetings. “All things being equal, I think people want to do business with companies they feel are doing good in the community,” says Indianapolis-based Northwestern Mutual Managing Partner David Kiecker. His office holds several community events each year to promote efforts to search for a cure to childhood cancer and to support families battling the disease. Kiecker points out that when you focus on doing good, it starts a relationship in a different way. And without having any ulterior motives, those relationships can organically turn from philanthropic ones to business relationships.
Morjaria has found this to be true as well. He says consumers in the U.S. and Europe have made themselves more aware of how companies produce goods or conduct business. He says consumers are willing, in many cases, to pay premiums to do business with corporations that try to do good for others. Morjaria adds, “Philanthropy requires financial and other resources, but you don’t have to take on a project alone. The concepts can be handled by larger organizations, such as trade groups, industry groups or commercial chambers that a smaller business owner is a part of. The larger organizations can serve as a conduit to bring together people who have their hearts in the right place but who don’t have the resources to make a substantial difference on their own.”
3. Philanthropy impacts your culture. Carey Mountcastle is a financial representative in Kiecker’s office who knows how hard the fight against childhood cancer can be. His son Grant was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2010, and watching his son fight the disease stirred a passion in him. “The difficulty of treatment is a barrier that needs to be broken,” he says. So Mountcastle joined Northwestern Mutual’s fight to accelerate the search for cures to childhood cancer, but the momentum didn’t stop there. Mountcastle’s colleagues were aware of what his family had gone through, and it mobilized the team. Grant now attends many of the office’s charitable events to support the cause, and instead of fighting childhood cancer alone, the Mountcastle family has the support of a community. In addition, Mountcastle’s co-workers are motivated to help in any way they can because they have an emotional connection to the cause.
“People are willing to take on more when it happens to be for charity,” says Morjaria. “I think there’s a part of all of us that wants to contribute, and we find joy in giving. There’s a joy in seeing others’ lives improve, and it’s a different joy than what we get from seeing our individual successes.”
Kiecker says philanthropy can also be an aid in recruiting and retaining top talent. He argues it also helps to avoid turnover and to boost job satisfaction. “It’s been really neat to see employees be involved and join committees; and frankly, it’s helped them build close relationships with each other. It’s making a big organization smaller from a culture standpoint,” he says.
When a boss, a company or an employee takes on a passion for a philanthropic effort, it can add extra duties to a typical workload. The daily grind doesn’t go away. But there are benefits to building philanthropy into what you do. Morjaria summed it up this way: “The joy you get from giving without any agenda makes people willing to sacrifice for it, especially when they see benefits happening in concrete ways over time as the businesses stay involved.” So find your cause, and get started.