Our brains are hardwired to serve. Here is why businesses and their employees benefit from embracing meaningful causes.
By Susan SteinbrecherCEO, Steinbrecher and Associates@SteinbrecherInc
Published by Inc. Magazine, May 31, 2019
At a recent celebration for Harvard Business School's Class Day, speaker Michael R. Bloomberg, extolled the value of graduates aligning themselves with companies that were deeply committed to philanthropic efforts, stating that at Bloomberg, "...philanthropy gives us a competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining talent -- and it's as good for the bottom line as anything a company can do."
Literally translated, the word philanthropy means "love of humanity." By very definition, philanthropy is only philanthropy when it stems from giving without personal gain. It begins and ends with a selfless motive -- that of helping one's fellow man without seeking recognition or reward.
Most of us know that charity is its own reward. The true wealth of charity is measured by good deeds, not ego and material gain. That's why many affirm that they get back far more than they give. In other words, what they receive is the joy of love in action, the manifestation of their gift of time or money in such a way as to make a visible difference.
Interestingly, good people doing good work experience benefits that go beyond just their contentment in the knowledge that they are advancing the well-being of humanity. A well-known study examined the brain activity of a group of people, each of whom was given money ($128) and asked to make choices about whether to keep the money for themselves or to give some or all of it to charity anonymously. The outcome was fascinating. The participants who gave the money to charity experienced an extremely high level of pleasure. The researchers concluded that, "The warm glow that many donors get from giving to charity involves the same brain mechanisms that evoke pleasurable sensations after sex, eating good food, and using heroin or other drugs."
Companies that embrace philanthropic efforts enjoy significant advantages that contribute to the mutual benefit of both management and employees on every level such as:
Loyalty and morale rise.
This occurs in direct correlation to the enhanced sense of personal engagement and connectedness of the employees since they are proud to be associated with a company that cares and does good for others.
Employees experience an increased sense of personal satisfaction.
The reward that goes with being part of a meaningful community effort is something bigger than themselves that makes a difference in the lives of others.
This happens at a higher level since all employees are working side by side together towards a common goal.
A sense of accomplishment.
The collective group can work together to achieve something for the community while serving as a profound team-building event for the employees.
We've been taught since we were children that it is better to give than to receive. This Chinese proverb illustrates the intrinsic worth of charitable works:
"If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody."
If you give money to charities and encourage your employees to volunteer, then you should be holding that money accountable. You can start simple to set goals and monitor your impact on the community and your company by starting to track these five measures right away.
Want to go a few steps further?
Learn more about the LBG measurement tool.
By using the LBG model, measuring your impact from year to year is pretty easy. You track INPUTS (what's contributed), OUTPUTS (what happens), and IMPACTS (what changes).
Yes, this takes some work but it's worth it. Why are you are investing thousands of dollars into but not measuring where it's going or what impact you're really making? Think strategically with every gift -- ask yourself why questions and how it will add value to your company and the people who make up your company.
Planned Corporate Community Investment programs has many clear benefits.
BLACKBIRD PHILANTHROPY ADVISORS:
We are here so you can be certain you're making an undeniable impact on the world around you. Our main services center on starting or perfecting corporate philanthropic giving programs (for both corporate giving newbies and veterans). We work smart and use data to determine trends and impact to help set you on a more strategic path in philanthropy. We also provide public relations, special events work, and corporate communications services so you can make sure the good you're doing is recognized.
Our Philanthropy Management option is perfect for companies who dream of having in-house philanthropy experts but who aren't quite large enough to hire a full time community affairs staff member. Philanthropy management can also be a good addition to your existing marketing teams and can add an expert layer of hands on deck without having to add a full or even part-time position.
Should your company publish a community philanthropy investment / Corporate Social Responsibility annual report?
What do Exxon Mobile, Toyota, Coca Cola Berkshire Hathaway, and Apple all have in common? In addition to being some of the most successful companies in world history, they are all also leaders in Corporate Social Responsibility. Entire teams are deployed to build strategic implementation plans to invest in the communities they serve. They develop their community investment plans and corporate philanthropy alongside the highest levels of leadership and produce annual reports to measure, monitor, and report on their social impacts just as they would report on financial returns to investors.
93 percent of the world's largest companies publish an annual report that details community investment and social responsibility initiatives.
You may already guess we absolutely think every company should have a community investment plan -- but should you also plan to publish an impact report? Don't overthink it. A community impact report could be a small as a quick letter to stakeholders with some facts and figures about philanthropy and volunteerism for year. Or, on the complete other end of the spectrum, you could publish a full multi-page, professionally produced report that holds your company accountable to your commitment to the communities you serve year to year.
Key questions to consider when building out a Philanthropy / CSR / Impact / Community Investment annual report:
Read more about what an annual report could include in Boston College's helpful "How to Read a Corporate Social Responsbility Report" guide.
Don't know where to start?
Take a cue from American Express, CISCO, Blue Cross Blue Shield and others in the sample reports we've compiled for you below. When you take a look at the reports, consider all the different ways companies can measure impact, philanthropy, and achieve their financial goals while doing it.
Written by Julia M. Profeta Johansson for the Twenty Thirty Blog: 7 Ways to Rethink Your Business through an impact lens.
There are three big questions that you can ask yourself to kick-start the process to become an Impact Business:
If your operation somehow already relates to one of the topics, the first step is to identify a specific target within that topic that you can intentionally improve through your business. The next step is to create a strategy with defined indicators, so you can measure your progress towards that target.
Please note – simply working in an industry related to these topics does not guarantee that you are generating positive social/environmental impact. Unfortunately, this is something that we see happening more and more: people claiming to be impact businesses just because the business is in education or healthcare, for instance. We saw a lot of “green washing” back in the 2000s, when the topic of environmental sustainability became trendy. Now, we are at risk of seeing more “social washing.” That’s why in my previous article I recommend starting slowly and not getting attached to labels.
It can be a long way to really become an impact business, especially if you are not a start-up, but it can be done. And you have to start somewhere.
Going back to our process then, the following workflow may help to guide you through this thinking process of understanding where you are now and what are the first steps you can take.
After thinking about all these questions, there is a tool that can be helpful in framing the impact vision of the business and figuring out which KPIs, on an operational and impact level, will help move the business towards that vision.
This tool is the Theory of Change.
Theory of Change is a framework to define the impact vision of a business. It considers 3 different layers: inputs, outputs, and outcomes. Analyzing its inputs (products, services, etc.), it is possible to understand the outputs and design the desirable outcomes of the operation. Simply put, determine operational indicators in relation to what’s core in your operation (outputs) that in turn will lead to more in depth indicators, the outcomes, which should be the true impact generated, reflecting the impact vision of the business.
The questions to ask when rethinking and repositioning a business, through the impact lens, are practically endless, but I hope this article has provided a starting point if you are interested in the topic.
Julia M. Profeta Johansson is an impact investing and venture capital specialist based in Berlin, Germany. Julia was previously a partner at Vox Capital, the first impact investing fund manager in Brazil. Before that she also worked with Yunus Social Business, Rocket Internet, Itaú BBA, and Mundo InNova. She is more than happy to continue this conversation and help your business start this journey of more intentional impact.
Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors is a social enterprise devoted to Driving impactful and innovative change through philanthropy. Based in South Bend, Indiana, USA.