Mahatma Ghandi said A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.
How companies treat employees, customers, and members of the community matters. But just checking it off the list is a recipe for disaster (Walmart employee food drive debacle). If you clutch at the idea of taking care of others, don’t do it. If you worry about being cheated, don’t do it. If you need convincing, don’t do it.
But, if you remember that (underpaid) teacher who forever connected you to the magic of math or the English language, then you’ve carried with you all these years the impact of someone else’s generosity. Enter the ecosystem of generosity and bring your business along for the experience (and marketing benefit). Generosity does fit into your business model, and there are creative ways you can take right now to step forward and change lives.
Ways to Help
Generosity can be helping a customer with a support issue for free, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or frankly, simply treating your employees with respect and kindness. Supporting an after school program can lift an entire community to a better place. And the financial impacts are real. Your employees and customers have causes close to their heart. Ask them for ideas – this gives you built-in buy-in.
Thankfulness, humility and goodwill towards others is a great way to be more connected with the community where you transact business. And since so much of the world is connected online, your efforts can be seen by anyone, anywhere. What you do reveals your priorities as a business leader, an employer, and participant in the community.
Volunteer Work Parties
Offer a half-day off on Thursday in exchange for having fun making immediate, positive and visible change in the community. Make some fun T-shirts, give them trash bags and go clean up a park or neighborhood or business area. Take pictures. Have fun. Then write about why it was important to your business and employees to volunteer. Don’t be afraid to knock on doors and get to know the neighbors. Ask for a quote on their thoughts, and permission to include their quote in your article. Pictures are also powerful. What a great way to get your brand out in the world in an unusual but positive way. Whether your group can help build houses or clean up streets, capture the spirit of the event in a story with pictures.
It’s shocking how many kids lack basics like toothpaste, soap or a wash cloth. If it’s financially feasible for your business to purchase these items (do not ask your staff to spend their money) prepare to spend $200 – $500), but first, call your local women’s shelter or reputable child-related services. Ask for a list of necessity items – many have your shopping list. Ask for staff volunteers to give the last hour of the work day and set up a kitting party for kids. The work goes quick and gives your employees to connect over something besides work. Silos melt. Indifference cedes to friendships. Set up an assembly line and in 60 minutes, you can have 30 Kid Kits put together, ready to go. Gather all the gifts piled high, gather your staff behind them and send an oversized color postcard to the shelter “with love from your neighbors at…”
Build Giving into Sales
If you simply can’t spare the time, another way to give is to setup your billing so that an automatic percentage is shaved off and redirected to a charity of your choice. As I gain headcount, I will be able to rally a group of people to pitch in and help out, but until that time, it’s the least I can do. And my customers know this up front before they subscribe – right under my services are the descriptions for each organization their subscriptions help support. So they can see that a portion of their dollars goes directly to the causes I support.
Arrest the Race to the Bottom
Getting out of the “race to the bottom” mentality is critical. There will always be deep pockets who can drive prices down, so what can small business owners do? Your biggest asset is your people and you. Be a positive influence on the community. When the customer has a choice between a perceived “stingy” company and a “generous” one, the generosity factor will lead the purchase decision. Or an employment choice. Or a partnership. Or positive word of mouth. Community generosity is relevant, so consider rolling it into your annual business plan.