In the News

The Business Case for Philanthropy

Most of us probably give back to our communities in one way or another. Whatever our reasons—we care about the cause, it makes us feel good, it connects us to our community, or even the tax advantages of larger or planned gifts—we benefit from our charitable activities.

Giving back through your business can be just as rewarding. In fact, a strategic corporate philanthropy program can benefit not just your community, but your bottom line.

What is corporate philanthropy?

Corporate philanthropy is an intimidating phrase that simply means you are using your company’s assets to support a charitable cause. In 2019, US companies gave $21.09 billion through grants, gifts, sponsorships and other giving programs.

Some companies have made a name for themselves with their giving programs, including large, multi-national businesses like Wells Fargo, Google, and Goldman Sachs. Others, such as Des Moines-based Raygun or Gillette, use their brand to raise awareness about issues in their communities. And still others like Cisco donate their product and expertise to help causes closely affiliated with their brands.

As a small business, your giving program can be as small or as large as you want it to be. And, you do not need to have a highly organized philanthropy department to make a difference. Grants and sponsorships, donating a portion of sales, employee-driven campaigns, gift matching and paid volunteer time off are just some of the many ways to support charitable organizations and causes in your community.

Why is it a good idea?

Corporate giving is not just good for your community, it is good for business. Supporting a charitable cause signals to customers that you are part of their community and creates customer loyalty. This is especially true of cause-related marketing—a specific type of corporate giving in which you work alongside an organization to raise money or awareness. In addition, giving programs are associated with better employee engagement and retention.

How do I get started?

If you are ready to start a business giving program, you will need to consider how it will be funded and what you want to achieve. Ensure you have a budget, strategy and ideally a designated person to manage it. You should also make sure that the program has guidelines that tie to your company’s values, brand and image in the marketplace. There can certainly be tax benefits, but there are also limitations, so make sure you have spoken to your tax advisor before making any decisions.

The most important thing to consider about corporate giving is what is the difference you want your business to make in the world. Just like your personal giving, corporate giving strengthens the community in which you do business. Ensuring your customers and their families have safe places to call home, food on the table, arts to inspire or thriving schools is not just good for sales, it is good—period.

Investing in Yourself as a Business Asset

As a business owner, your time is precious. It is very easy to put yourself near the bottom of your priorities when there are so many other pressing needs. Or, to deal with your stresses only when they threaten to boil over and you can’t ignore them any longer.

But would you treat any other business decision like this? Would you pay your bills only when the collector is knocking on your door? Wait to resupply inventory until your very last item has sold? Repair the leaking roof as soon as it caves in and no sooner?

As the owner of your business, you are one of its greatest assets, and a Healthy You is worthy of investment. Indeed, self-care is as critical to your business as selling your product and paying bills. Self-care keeps you going so you can keep your business going.

Put yourself on the list

It is easy to say you will make time for yourself (or for someone else to tell you to do so), but it is hard to actually do it. In the case of self-care, it is far more efficient to spend a little time now than burn yourself out and make up the neglected time.

Think of this as feeding your internal parking meter with intentional, self-focused energy so you can keep doing what you need to do. Regular refills are far less expensive than letting it run over.

First, create a schedule and stick to it as closely as possible. Establishing a routine takes some of the chaos out of your workday. It also highlights your regular ups and downs in activity and energy. Then, treat yourself like a valued client—set a regular appointment to check in with yourself. Avoid the temptation to cancel it, and schedule it offsite so you are not tempted to work through it.

The meeting agenda should focus on you. Go on a walk while listening to your favorite music or (not work-related) podcast. Use this time for some mindfulness and meditation practice, which can help to manage stress and strengthen focus. You can use the time to connect with a friend or to catch up on a book. As long as it recharges you, it is fair game.

Take note: this is not the time to catch up on emails or write your to-do lists. Also, avoid the temptation to scroll on social media or engage in “doom scrolling.”

Keep your body—and mind—right

You don’t have to be training for a marathon to reap the benefits of movement. When it comes to self-care, exercise is less about activating your body than burning calories or building muscle. If breaking into a sweat and pushing your body is rewarding, go for it! However, a walk around the block, light yoga and playing with the kids also get the endorphins flowing.

A similar principle applies to eating. Certainly, consuming healthy foods is good for keeping your body and mind fueled. But eating and preparing food can be a form of self-care and mindfulness all on its own.

Finally, get curious and keep your mind fit. Curiosity improves memory and learning, strengthens relationships and is positively correlated with overall health and happiness. Tap into your own curiosity with a TED Talk or online class, read an interesting article, learn a new language or take up that hobby you have always wanted to try. Flexing your curiosity keeps you open to new angles and possibilities in your personal and business life.

Give yourself permission

As business owners, we are often pulled in many different directions, and it can feel like there is never enough of us to go around. Taking time for ourselves can seem indulgent—irresponsible, even—when there is just so much else that needs our attention.

But taking time for yourself is giving yourself permission to break out of the scarcity mindset that says you are not enough and will never be enough. If you declare to the world and to yourself that you are enough, you are declaring that you are a valuable resource and worthy of investment. You are also giving yourself permission to be imperfect, to quit the comparison game and to set and respect your own boundaries.

In addition, give yourself permission to care for your mental health. It is normal and valid to feel overwhelmed sometimes. To get through this, mental health professionals recommend techniques such as focusing on what you can control, grounding, strategic ball-dropping and mindful meditation.

Finally, if it all becomes too much, give yourself permission to ask for help from colleagues, family and friends, staff or health professionals.

However you practice self-care, give it the attention and energy an invaluable business asset deserves. Investing in yourself means you are investing in what makes your business special—a Healthy You.