The Entrepreneurial Benefits of Being Selfless

Businesses often get badmouthed for being selfish and cold. However, if you look at some of today's most successful entrepreneurs - and their businesses - it's clear that this is nothing more than an overly exaggerated cliché. There are plenty of businesses doing the right things - and they often get rewarded as a result.

The Greed Fallacy

Corporate greed is a real thing - and it's recently been brought into the spotlight by presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders - but it's important that people stop lumping all businesses together under one label. While large organizations and Fortune 500 companies do sometimes live up to the label of "greedy," entrepreneurs and their small businesses don't deserve to be placed in this category.

According to a study compiled by Harris Interactive in cooperation with Ernst & Young, entrepreneurs and small businesses are much more likely to give back to charitable organizations. In fact, of the 146 entrepreneurs surveyed, 61 percent say that they're (a) more inclined to give back and (b) more likely to allocate more than twice the percentage of profits to charity than larger organizations.

Furthermore, 90 percent of entrepreneurs donate money (both personally and through their businesses), while 70 percent also donate their time. Other interesting takeaways include:

  • 26 percent of respondents say that corporate philanthropy was purposefully built into the original business plan.

  • 73 percent of respondents encourage employees to volunteer, while 53 percent offer programs specifically designed to encourage donating.
  • 62 percent of respondents believe that giving back makes their companies stronger in the long run.
  • Say what you want about Wall Street, but it's time to reevaluate the popular opinion in regards to entrepreneurship and small business. In this case, greed is a fallacy.

    Three Benefits of Giving Back

    For entrepreneurs and their businesses, giving back comes with a number of advantages. Let's take a look at some of these in order to get a better idea of why so many are committed to charitable giving.

    1. Better Connection to the Community

    If your business is closed off in an imaginary bubble, it's hard to gain any traction in the community. There's very little interaction with customers, and you're probably out of touch with the things that they really want.

    By giving back to charities and getting involved with causes, you can forge a much stronger connection with the community. You'll begin to understand who your customers are, why they do the things that they do, and what pain points they have. Aside from serving them through charitable giving, this also allows you to serve your customers and clients better in the future.

    2. Employee Engagement

    Charitable giving is about more than just writing a check and sending it off to an organization. Even more meaningful than donating money is sacrificing your time. When you align your business with a good cause, you'll be able to engage your employees and to give them a greater sense of purpose. In a competitive job market where employees want more than a paycheck, this is a wonderful way to set your organization apart from the competition.

    3. Positive Publicity

    "Sponsoring a charitable program and volunteering your business' time are great ways to raise awareness about a specific cause and also promote your business in partnership with the organization or event," says business expert Ben Gran.

    In addition to creating your own content and sharing it on your website and social platforms, you'll also gain traction in other places. For example, the charity or organization that you're working with will probably promote your business on their own website with logos and write-ups. If you have the connections, you can also reach out to members of the local media to get a spotlight article or news segment. There are endless possibilities.

    How to Get Involved with Charities

    If your small business isn't currently involved with charitable work, it's probably because you aren't aware of the opportunities that exist right in front of you. Here are a few different ways that you can get involved.

    1. Find a Related Cause

    In many cases, there are extremely obvious and natural ways to give back. Take Albert Scaglione of Park West Gallery as an example. He and his wife are deeply committed to serving their community by giving monetary gifts and art collections to specific organizations. They've had the opportunity to work with renowned artists such as Guy Harvey and Romero Britto, among others.

    For Scaglione and his business, this is a natural fit. It isn't forced or uncomfortable. Park West Gallery is in the business of selling art, so providing art collections to local organizations is a seamless extension of what the business does.

    Can you find related causes that would work well with your business? Think about the products you sell, and then seek out charitable organizations and need-based opportunities that could use your expertise. Believe it or not, there are probably a handful of them in your area.

    2. Donate a Portion of Sales

    Another popular strategy is to donate a portion of your company's sales to a specific cause, charity, or need. This is essentially what entrepreneur Blake Mycosckie does with TOMS Shoes. He noticed a need, started a business, and now gives a portion of sales (in the form of a pair of shoes) directly to a pressing need.

    While you don't have to develop a "buy one give one" strategy, you can commit to giving a small percentage of your profits to charity. This is an easy way to build goodwill with customers and to do something worthwhile.

    3. Establish Your Own Fund

    If you can't find a suitable or relevant charitable cause, why not start your own? Plenty of entrepreneurs have done it, and it can be incredibly meaningful to your organization and to the people whom you serve.

    Take Rich Schaden, founder of hit restaurants such as Smashburger and Tom's Urban, as an example. He and his wife, Cheryl, founded America's Road Home in 2008. The foundation, which works closely with Urban Peak and Nexus C.A.R.E.S., raises awareness for family homelessness in Denver and other cities around the country. It's a wonderful organization that's serving a huge societal issue.

    Think of things about which you're passionate. They don't even have to be related to your business. Sometimes, it's good if the cause isn't related to your business, as it shows that you're doing it for the right reasons. Regardless, launching your own charity or fund is a fantastic way to give back.

    Giving Back is Good for Everyone

    Entrepreneurs and small business owners shouldn't feel bad about being successful. That's the beauty of the country we live in: anyone can launch a business and pursue financial freedom. However, it's also important to recognize the value of giving back to others.

    Thankfully, a large percentage of today's small businesses are already giving back (though you wouldn't know it from listening to the way the media talks about selfish organizations and greedy business owners).

    Think about the benefits and examples referenced in this article, and actively seek out ways to give back to charities, causes, and organizations around you. Those in need will benefit, your business will thrive, and you'll feel like you're actually making a difference. It's a win-win situation for everyone involved.