By Stan Craig
A recent full-page ad in the Sunday edition of The New York Times boldly stated that $60 million was received in 2012, more than $1 million a week for a variety of recognized charities and community causes. The ad was not from a charity or fundraising organization. It was from one of Americas largest retailers, with multiple stores all across America.
Why run a full-page ad announcing charitable giving? Why not a sales ad or holiday offers? Because statistics show customers, if given a choice, prefer to buy from companies that support charities and causes they see as valuable to their community.
More companies now understand the balance sheet is more than just numbers. Theyre developing values that are stated, respected and carried out. Generosity is one of those values. The buying public has made it clear that they prefer to buy from good corporate citizens. Generosity demonstrates a genuine corporate value that benefits the company, employees and community.
Generosity comes in all sizes. It will fit nearly every business. How is true generosity recognized? Its noticed if its goals are visible and more than a sales or a morale booster. If your self-storage business is looking for ways to give back, consider the following options.
One of the best ways to contribute to a cause is monetarily. In Louisville, Ky., the chairman of the United Way Campaign for 2012, Tom Monahan, wanted to encourage greater participation at all levels of business. But he also had another goal: to blow away the stereotype of greedy companies interested only in the bottom line." Cash gifts were recognized in a new fashion.
Monahan enlisted the help of other community leaders and organizations to create a Partners in Philanthropy publication, as well as an awards banquet to showcase funds for the United Way and demonstrate the many examples of community generosity. Both the publication and banquet recognized the corporations and businesses that gave the most in cash contributions to nonprofit organizations in the city.
Categories were designed to recognize large, medium and small corporations for their cash gifts. Nonprofits and the work they do were presented. Small businesses were also recognized for the difference they made in a category called partners in innovation. A number of family-owned business leaders were included in this new recognition program. A local design company won for its work in renovating dormitories at a youth-treatment center and for enlisting many others for gifts in kind to complete the project.
Businesses that encourage employee-volunteer days at a local nonprofit of their choice get a double bonus: Employees enjoy serving, and local nonprofits see your company in a very different light.
With employee verification, write a check to an organization representing the value of an employees work if a paid day off cant be granted. Schedule an employee-generosity day for all employees to sign up for a community or team project. Helping build a house for Habitat for Humanity, spending a day at a soup kitchen or shelter, or helping in a local school or community center are all team-building events as well as acts of generosity.
Here are just a few of the dividends corporate generosity creates, according to VolunteerMatch.org:
- Raises employee morale: Ninety-four percent of companies surveyed believed employee volunteering provides a way to raise employee morale.
- Boosts employee health: Ninety-two percent of people who volunteer through their workplace report higher rates of physical and emotional health.
- Provides skill development: Eighty-eight percent of employee volunteers report that volunteering provides networking/career development opportunities.
- Increases employee loyalty: Sixty-six percent of employees reported a greater commitment to the company as a result of their experience as volunteers.
There are many more examples of creative ways to be generous. Look around your neighborhood and community. How can what you do every day become more evident and beneficial to others?
Little Things Count
Giving actually multiplies what you are receiving. Walk into most Sams Clubs or Costcos at 1 p.m. on almost any weekday and you can basically have a free lunchand not by ordering at the counter. Just walk down the aisles, and youll find hot foods from pizza to burgers, cold beverages, hot beverages, sweets and treats of all sortsfreely and gladly handed out. Whole Foods and Trader Joes are doing the same for their customers.
Why this generosity? The truth is, even if the goal is not necessarily to be generous (as we think of it), generosity can build sales. Coupons for free items, free bonus gifts and prizes have always worked to gain attention and build sales for products from cereal and soap to jewelry and big-ticket items such as automobiles and even homes.
Generosity pays these dividends:
- Its attention-getting.
- Its cost-efficient.
- It builds top-of-mind awareness.
- It may increase sales.
- Customers or clients perceive a benefit.
- There is a spillover effect to other areas and products.
But how can you be generous when your cash is low, your business consists of products or services you cant give as samples, or you have few employees to volunteer? What then? Here are some ideas:
- Offer discounts to charitable organizations.
- Give time or funds to community projects.
- Participate in a community event thats not business-related.
- Offer your place of business for community use, seminars, calling-marathons, a meeting room, etc.
- Lead a class on your specialty for the chamber of commerce or any local organization or nonprofit.
- Speak to senior citizen clubs, retirement communities, schools and PTAs, and let the group charge participants for your valuable information and keep the revenue.
Customers and potential customers will take note. Positive publicity is generated. Commit to generosity in the true sense of the word, and it will make a difference that can pay dividends for years to come while building your balance sheet in ways that simply cant be quantified.
Remember, your bottom line may not only be measured by revenue received but by resources shared. Generosity is a business vitamin that will build a healthier bottom line.
Stan Craig, founder of the ForeTalk Seminar, is an accomplished financial planner, executive coach and keynote speaker. Hes the author of ForeTalk: Taking Care of Tomorrow Today. As a finance professional, hes enjoyed a 27-year career at Merrill Lynch, which included positions as national sales manager, first vice president and senior director of the office of investment performance. For more information, visit www.foretalkseminar.com.