For many of us, December marks the beginning of the annual season of giving. It’s also a time for planning the year ahead. Yet giving and planning are seldom integrated in our world.
Businesses have traditionally seen charity as something they do to help the less fortunate, most always treating philanthropy as an afterthought. Today, expectations are changing fast because clients have access to a lot more information. When they learn, for example, that the resources of some charitable organizations are strained when inundated with donations during the Holidays, they may ask questions about your giving choices. Entrepreneurs who strategically build their businesses should also be strategic in their giving. At the very least, giving shouldn’t create a strain on the very organizations we seek to help.
For the past two years, I have been part of an educational journey with the Toronto Foundation called VISION 2020. At one of the events, we were told that, in Canada, 66% of giving goes to just 1% of charities.
Toronto Foundation produces a Good to Give Guide to help philanthropists strategize about how and where they give. This is something I have known for years, but it wasn’t until I joined this group on a learning journey that I began to think about how I was using this knowledge in my daily life.
Entrepreneurs who strategically build their businesses should also be strategic in their giving.
At The Covenant Group, we work with entrepreneurs to help them strategically build their businesses. Just as we teach that business building should be strategic, so too should giving be strategic. Strategic giving is not only good for your business, it also increases the impact of your gifts. Giving is very much an afterthought for most entrepreneurs. The general thinking has been that entrepreneurs can give back after they have amassed wealth. The line between business and ‘doing good’ has blurred.
Today, many companies are taking on challenges we used to think of as charity work. These companies are creating business models to address social issues. CoPower, for example, helps Canadians invest in clean energy. The company was recently acquired by a credit union called VanCity—not the kind of financial institution usually associated with mergers and acquisitions. When a credit union buys what is essentially a wealth creation company, it is a clear signal that things are changing. VanCity nonetheless acquired a company whose focus is on helping Canadians create wealth by investing in clean technology.
Dot Health is a Toronto-based technology company that puts Canadians’ health data in one, easily accessible place. Dot Health founder Huda Idrees told me one of the reasons she has been able to recruit top talent is the fact that people believe in the mission of her company. People are willing to forego or even give up roles at more prestigious, higher paying tech firms simply because they believe in Dot Health’s vision.
Purpose is no longer an afterthought for companies. It’s becoming part of their strategy. Many companies are becoming Certified B Corporations. The certification recognizes businesses meeting the highest standards of verifiable social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. These companies are choosing to integrate social responsibility and accountability into their business structures. They are becoming socially responsible companies. There are many advantages to this, but one of the most important is that when people believe in your mission, they bring their whole selves to the work they do. Our research has found that in high performing organizations, the mission is widely shared, widely known, and widely believed.
Strategic giving is not only good for your business, it also increases the impact of your gifts.
Every day that people come to work for you they can choose to bring with them their energy, creativity and intelligence. Some, of course, may give their time, but not their energy, creativity, and intelligence.
To stay relevant, doing good can no longer be an afterthought in your business. Clients and the talent you seek to attract now expect you to be making the world a better place. Gone are the days where giving back can be an afterthought. In part, social media has raised the transparency stakes. After all, ours is now a world where any employee, customer or supplier can sound the alarm on unscrupulous business practices with one photo, some text, and a share button.
We have entered a world where you need to show you have been living an ethical life before your name goes on a building. And the work you do needs to demonstrably improve the lives of others. In traditional terms, your organization needs to be mission-driven, what some today might call purpose-drive.
If your mission and actions don’t align, you risk your reputation and loss of talent. When your mission is integrated into your company’s culture, you will most likely create a high-performing one.
To stay relevant, doing good can no longer be an afterthought in your business. Clients and the talent you seek to attract now expect you to be making the world a better place.
Each day that people come to work for you, they bring you their time. It’s up to them to decide if they’ll also bring their energy, creativity, and intelligence. Strategically integrating the ideals of philanthropy into your company’s day to day activities helps to improve the integrity of your organization. As you think about the year ahead and how you are going to build your business, take this time to think about how you are going to align all that you do with the mission and vision of your organization. Think about how everything you do can become strategically aligned.