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."
Many people wonder if their volunteer time at a charity completing professional tasks can be deducted on their taxes. You cannot deduct the value of services rendered in volunteer service to a nonprofit. You can, however, deduct the expenses you incurred while volunteering or traveling to and from the volunteer assignment.
Example 1 - The Artist:
An artist who paints a mural on the wall of her local local Boys & Girls Club can deduct the cost of paint, paint brushes, and other supplies needed to complete the mural. She can also deduct the gas mileage it took to get to and from the charity to complete the volunteer service. She cannot deduct for the time it spent her.
Example 2 - The Nurse:
A Red Cross volunteer who is a Registered Nurse travels to Florida to help with hurricane disaster relief recovery. He can save the receipts for his airfare, lodging, and meals while on assignment. He cannot calculate the hours he spent working as a nurse for Red Cross and deduct the pay he would have been paid in his workplace.
Always consult with your tax advisor to be certain.
Volunteering is a great way for teens to explore higher education and career options while forming their identities as individuals. Through volunteer work, teens can build confidence, independence, leadership, and social skills that will catapult their lives into adulthood. In addition to building soft skills, teens can gain valuable hard skills related to computer systems, basic financial transactions, care taking, etc. that will show future employers and college admissions teams that they are responsible, reliable, and self-directed.
In general, volunteer jobs involve more scheduling flexibility than paid youth jobs and could be ideal for youth who are interested in holding a job but who cannot due to sports, extracurricular, and other academic commitments.
How to Find the Right Cause
Teens are often so curious about many different things in life. Volunteering on day projects for organizations is a great way to narrow down your interests to make a fuller weekly commitment to a cause you care about. Many communities have a local United Way who can serve as a liaison to match a teen volunteer with a cause of which they find to be interesting. There is no shortage of fantastic nonprofit organizations who rely on volunteer labor to fulfill their mission.
Different Ways to Help
Nonprofit organizations are always looking for bright, dependable, hard working young people who are committed to making a difference in the world. Once you narrow down the cause you are most passion about, write an email to the nonprofit’s volunteer coordinator or administration and make your case. You may start off working on menial or repetitive volunteer tasks but if you prove yourself to be committed and reliable, a volunteer position could turn into something even more valuable and rewarding. If you’re a budding writer, instead of stuffing hundreds of envelopes with a newsletter insert, they may eventually rely on you to write a feature or two in the newsletter. If you’re a basketball star and want to be a coach one day, you may go from cleaning the gym after youth practices to coaching one of the teams.
Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors is a social enterprise devoted to Driving impactful and innovative change through philanthropy. Based in South Bend, Indiana, USA.