Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), or donations, can often be seen as window-dressing, but when done right corporate responsibility can bring personal fulfillment through the act of giving. Earning my living helping corporations (and individuals) utilize the media and public forums to build their brand, I am often asked if certain charitable initiatives will help companies make more, or be portrayed better and my professional answer is always: Only if you are dedicated to it and really believe in it.
Besides divine blessings, we merit many business realizations from giving to charity. In former President Bill Clinton’s book, “Giving,” he speaks of an African tribe he encountered as a result of his Clinton Foundation that had a unique way of greeting each other. When someone says, “Hello,” the other person responds with, “I see you.” It’s a powerful message in a world where differences are usually quite visible. Clinton testifies to his amazement with the amount of individuals and business alike that share so many causes and are actively contributing to organizations, NGOs, and charities.
To “win” at corporate responsibility it requires tremendous dedication. Celebrities who walk around hospitals once, attend fundraising events for NGOs or make a public donation without sincerity can often be seen, with good reason, as insincere. I don’t rule out the possibility that some turn donations and giving into a strategic business approach, but it shouldn’t undermine the rest of the individuals, businesses and even corporations who are devoted to a goal larger than their own sales and profits.
I was raised in a home where giving wasn’t an option; it was a requirement. Whether it was money, time, attention, or thoughts it was an expectation in my mother’s household. From my teenage years I was a member of Betar, an international youth movement founded by Ze’ev Jabotinsky. For me, those acts are a part of a holy, higher value and all people should give, regardless of how much or how little they have. The almighty rests his blessing on those who give.
Charitable donations raise a company (and individual’s) image and improve self-awareness. Helping and giving makes you feel good. It allows organizations (and people) to be balanced and focused, and lessens jealousy, allowing you to feel accomplished and focused on earning even more.
Yet another business benefit to donations is the amazing people you meet at non-profit organizations that you care about – you meet people who care about the same issues that you do and, as you develop a bond over time, you will naturally make life-long friends and beneficial business relationships. Some of these people are hardly accessible in the ‘real world,’ but very available when reached through a good cause.
Such people as you meet at these events can even evolve into your biggest clients, as they did for me. I am certainly not saying to join, or get involved in CSR, for business relationships: join if you believe in and want to help the cause. Expanding your business contacts is just a small perk from your contributions.
Here are some initiatives to consider:
Social Responsibility acts: Whether an individual or major corporation engages in corporate good. Your employees may identify with a list of causes and issues which you can expand upon. Match donations or offer time to pursue such causes. You can even allow corporations to be rallied as a team around a cause, which becomes useful for corporate morale.
Role models like real estate mogul Elie Hirschfeld abound – with a selection of programs ranging from education, healthcare, athletics, and Jewish causes.
NGOs and Dinners: Aside from the important goals you meet when attending a dinner and the objectives fulfilled by your contribution, you also get to meet very interesting people who share the notion that our common humanity is vital. That dinner is an opportunity to mingle, bond and make new connections. The cause is the basis for self-reflection, and the event is further encouragement to continue supporting the benefit that you attended.
NY Nightlife King Mark Birnbaum is known for throwing the industry’s lavish parties with venues like Catch, Abe & Arthur’s and SL – yet this week alone he raised over 6 figures working with the “Haiti Empowerment Mission”.
Programs: This is where unique resources and their benefits can come to fruition. Participate in programs where you can make a difference. PR firms, of course, can assist in media work, restaurants, shelters, and the like. Promote the cause in the same way that you would help a loved one.
Quadriga Art led by Mark Schulhof offers not-for-profit organizations countless campaigns to choose from.
There are many ways and means to give – whether its like Elie Hirschfeld, Mark Birnbaum or Mark Schulhof. The initial act is the most important and ultimate fulfillment that you will gain, and remember that it is never too late to start – just do it. Give the money away; the blessings of every kind will be returned to you in many multiples.