We’re back with our first blog of 2020! Thanks for sticking with us during a brief hiatus – we’ll do our best to keep these coming!
We recently attended a Baltimore Metro Business Development event all about corporate social responsibility from the corporation perspective. While the conversation was geared towards companies, there were takeaways and lessons that apply to anyone looking to make community impact.
Lesson 1: The “How” is more important than just giving back.
We say this a lot, but it bears repeating. Giving back to the community just because you think you should or you are supposed to does not create much impact. Dr. John Brothers, President of the T. Rowe Price Foundation hit home that their organization’s goal is to do no harm. “Corporate philanthropy can do more harm than good if it’s not planned well and you aren’t focused on how you are giving back,” he told the audience.
It’s more important to give back in a small but very intentional way than to give back in a big way without any plan. There are so many opportunities to get involved in the community, but that great work can get lost if it’s not done right. It’s key to make sure you are passionate about the work, it’s the right job for you/your brand, AND you have the right contacts in the communities you’re serving to make it impactful. That means you need to understand who you are, who you are serving and what they need.
Lesson 2: Be a good listener.
This was our favorite takeaway from the night because of how important it is. How better can you find out what your community needs than to ask them directly? A lot of planning requires you to think about why you are getting involved and how you want to get involved. But if you don’t consider the needs of the people or communities you are serving, then it all means nothing.
Dr. Brothers told the audience, “The community you serve should lead you”. That’s a critical part of giving back in any shape or form. Dr. Brothers and the T. Rowe Price team attended dozens of local community meetings all over West Baltimore to hear directly from their residents. They heard that a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables was a huge problem in the neighborhood. So the company was able to send resources to organizations who could get fresh produce into West Baltimore.
Had Dr. Brothers and his team not attended the meetings, they may have decided to set up an education program or scholarship that may have benefitted in some way, but wasn’t meeting a direct need of the residents to improve their lives.
Who are you serving and where are they? You need to know the answer to this question so you can go find them and listen to what they need. You may have a great idea to do a camp or clinic in a community to give out sports equipment and gear. Once you talk to the people you are serving, you might come to find out they really need access to reliable laundry machines to clean their uniforms, or safe and reliable transportation to practices and games.
You can now focus your efforts from your camp or clinic to raise money to support those initiatives. Your purpose is clear – you want to help this community, and they need laundry machines. People can get behind that kind of authentic philanthropy because they see the need you are trying to fill.
Lesson 3: Use the resources you already have to create social good.
This was another theme of the evening. Businesses are looking more and more at how they can use their already existing corporate talent to plug into local nonprofits and share resources.
Do they have a graphic designer who can spend a day creating materials for the nonprofit to share with potential donors or sponsors? How about an IT staffer who can set up important security software or systems for the nonprofit’s data and online files? Is there vacancy in their building that they can offer to nonprofits to work out of? The opportunities are endless.
You should strive to do the same thing as these businesses. Think about the assets you have simply from being an athlete. Do you have a sponsor you are working with who may be able to support a cause you care about? Can you share and spread the word on your social media about a campaign or event? Do you and your teammates have a couple hours to come out and volunteer?
The goal is collaboration. These organizations already have the internal infrastructure and the connections in the community. By plugging in the resources that you have, the nonprofit can come closer to reaching their goals, and you can build some valuable brand awareness in the community.
Lesson 4: Lead with purpose first, value will follow.
The final lesson of the night was all about value and how that has changed over time. Jeff Cherry, Founder of the Conscious Venture Lab, said today’s value was all about purpose. “Purpose and leadership are the value drivers of the future,” he said. “It’s all about what do the entrepreneurs believe about the world.”
He pointed out how companies that have purpose and purposeful leadership outperform their counterparts. One of the reasons he listed was that people see the value and impact the company is making, so stakeholders work just as hard to keep them around and support them in their success.
Athletes should use this as a mantra in all things that they do, but especially in philanthropy. Purpose, intention and authenticity are all powerful words to show the importance of having a clear vision for your philanthropic work. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the opportunities to make a difference in the world. If you focus on what drives you, why you want to help and how you can best support the cause you love, you have found the purpose, and thus, the value.