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Philanthropy is good business

How contributing your time, talent, and treasure can benefit your bottom line

By Crystal and Michael Freed

No business can fulfill its potential without philanthropy. Philanthropy is not simply throwing change to a beggar or resources to a group or cause; that is charity—helping to support a temporary need.

Philanthropy, on the other hand, is a deliberate plan to address—through the contribution of time, talent, and treasure—specific societal needs in such a manner that the need will, over time, diminish and ultimately be eradicated. This article briefly identifies certain benefits of philanthropy.

Build better communities

Businesses benefit from the stability of the communities in which they do business and the quality of the available workforce. Given this, altruism aside, businesses have a fiscal responsibility to be good stewards of their communities. A defined plan for philanthropy is the most efficient manner to fulfill that responsibility.

Homelessness, for example, in addition to the dehumanizing impact it has on the homeless themselves, can be a genuine drain on the business community. Increased crime, concerns for safety, and the allocation of tax dollars to programs to triage the homeless problem, are just a few of the negative impacts.

That said, it makes good sense for businesses to devote some of their financial and people resources to plans and programs designed to eliminate homelessness and transform the homeless into contributing members of society.

Build brand identity

Philanthropic outreach also is an efficient mechanism to build and reinforce brand identity. Yoplait contributes to breast cancer research; Cheerios supports childhood reading; and your business can and should support causes that resonate with your customer-base and communicate how your business wants to be perceived.

Philanthropic giving is good news about your company and will often garner “earned media,” which is generally more effective than paid advertising. Philanthropic outreach also earns a company reputation for being a good and responsible corporate citizen. This type of goodwill results in a benefit of the doubt when bad news or company crises arise.

Boost employee morale

Philanthropy is also a powerful tool to boost employee morale. A great workplace creates a team atmosphere in which team members feel that they are a part of something bigger than being transaction costs on an assembly line of corporate profit.

In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “philanthropy is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself…”

Design a company philanthropy plan, and permit and encourage employees to support it with their time and talents and even treasure, and a bond and commitment will emerge that surpasses what can be accomplished with wages, hours, and working conditions.

The “feel good” factor

Philanthropy is a morale boost because, among other things, it feels good personally. It feels good to help people; it feels good to improve circumstances; it feels good to do something constructive about social ills.

The personal benefits are many, but may include confidence, attitudinal lift, and improved emotional and even physical health.

The bottom line is that philanthropy—in addition to being the right thing to do morally—when purposefully and effectively implemented, is good for your business and your personal bottom line.

Michael and Crystal Freed are attorneys in private practice in Jacksonville, Fla. Michael is the Florida Managing Partner of Brennan Manna & Diamond, and Crystal manages The Freed Firm. Michael and Crystal devote their time, talent, and treasure to, among other things, support education, creating opportunities for the economically disadvantaged, missionary advancement, and combating child exploitation and human trafficking. Michael can be reached at 904-366-1500 or mrfreed@bmdpl.com, and Crystal can be reached at 904-262-2193 or clfreed@thefreedfirm.com.


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