A lot of companies engage in one form of philanthropy or another. The motivations for doing so are often as diverse as the companies themselves. Sometimes, a particularly engaged leader wants to solve a specific social challenge. Other times, companies are trying to connect with specific communities or raise brand awareness.
Whatever the motivation, one thing’s for certain: it’s important to be authentic. Consumers are smart, skeptical, and can sniff out fake do-gooders simply looking to make a buck. So let’s take a quick look at some ways you can use authentic philanthropy to boost your brand.
- Remind People Where You Came From
For business leaders themselves, one of the best ways to remain authentic is to reflect on the personal challenges you’ve had in your own life. Maybe you grew up in poverty or suffered from a learning disorder that nearly derailed your studies. Or perhaps you’ve always had a passion for the environment.
Leaning on personal experience and interests makes it easier to remain authentic. Some leaders even find their philanthropic work to be as important, if not more so, than their business activities.
Consider Alex Haditaghi, who founded Pacific Mortgage Company. In 2010 Pacific Mortgage Group was named the second fastest-growing company in Canada by Profit magazine, with revenues above $55 million and five-year growth of over 24,000%. Latest figures show that Pacific Mortgage Group has $2.8 billion assets under administration and annual revenues in excess of $100.0 million. An angel investor in several successful start-ups and an international real-estate developer — after selling a third company, Mortgage Architects — and a few very successful technology start-ups including MoPals (Nasdaq: MOMO), Haditaghi has a net worth north of $250 million. He certainly isn’t worried about putting food on the table — or at least not his own.
When it comes to making sure others have enough to eat, that’s a different story. These days, Haditaghi is known for handing out free turkeys through the Scott Mission so people can enjoy a good holiday meal Or providing free homes to families who lost their home in fire!
Why? Haditaghi is a former Scott Mission client himself. His family was poor growing up and they counted on the Scott Mission to keep the pantry full. Now that Haditaghi is in a position to give back, he wants to ensure that other people get to enjoy the same support he once relied on.
- Show You’re Willing to Get Your Hands Dirty
Haditaghi could have just cut a check to the Scott Mission and let them hand out the turkeys. Yet if you’re genuine about doing good, you shouldn’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. That’s why you can often find Haditaghi on the streets, handing out donated turkeys or food to the homeless and less fortunate.
This is a lesson every business leader should keep in mind. Don’t focus on causes that are good enough to write checks for, focus on causes that are important enough for you to put in your own elbow grease.
It’s not much of a personal sacrifice for a wealthy philanthropist to cut a check. Standing outside on a cold winter day handing out food or mucking through a river to pick up litter, however, is no one’s idea of pleasant. But there’s no better proof of authenticity than proving that you’re willing to make some genuine sacrifices.
- Line Your Values Up With Your Audience’s
While inner focus is great, you can’t ignore your audience or the larger world completely. You need to understand what your audience values. Take millennials, for example. Compared to past generations, millennials are more likely to spend more on sustainable brands. So if you want to appeal to millennials, being sustainable is vital.
Likewise, women consumers value different things than men. Women prefer brands that exhibit traits, such as empathy, openness, relevance, and emotion. Brands that embody these traits enjoy higher revenues.
Lana Pozhidaeva, the founder of entrepreneurial women’s organization, WeTalks, noted that differences are an opportunity to learn — rather than — distinguish. Among the women who attend her events, she found higher engagement and more interest in women-led brands that “do good.”
- “Doing Good” Can Become Part of Your Company’s DNA
Google once adhered to a “do no evil” mantra. Nowadays, some companies are going even further, with doing good being a part of their company culture and daily efforts. With careful planning and the right strategic implementation, it’s possible to generate good while your company pursues its own profitable goals.
Consider Jay Rosenzweig, founding partner at Rosenzweig & Company. Through his firm, Rosenzweig helps companies build effective teams and identify top talent leadership. However, Rosenzweig realized early on that women and minorities were often being passed over for top roles. As he notes:
“When I got into the business world, this inspired me to look at the status of women in leadership roles at the corporate level. In my first study, I was shocked to learn that only 4.6% of the top paying jobs were held by women. 14 years later the numbers have doubled. That’s the good news. The bad news is we are still at less than 10%.”
That’s why Rosenzweig & Company has made promoting equality a key part of its mission.