Working in the giving space every day over the last decade, the B1G1 team and I have learnt so much about giving, especially business giving.
From working with all kinds of charity organisations and NGOs, and through our interactions with thousands of business owners and their teams and customers, we’ve developed a deep understanding around a very important question:
How do we give most effectively?
I’ve collated some of the most important insights that can make your business giving truly effective.
I hope this list allows you to maximise the impact your business can have on the world.
1. Start Small
Some business owners tell themselves, “We will give back when we become more successful.”
It’s such a shame.
The world is full of well-meaning people who want to make a difference, when they have enough.
There are two challenges here. First, when we think this way, ‘enough’ never seems to be enough. Secondly, they completely miss out on experiencing the pure joy that giving brings.
This “I’ll wait until… ” mentality causes other issues too.
Right now, the percentage of businesses in the world actively contributing to causes is very small. Only 5-10% of charitable giving come from businesses. Small businesses are usually too busy to be thinking about CSR (I don’t blame them, the word stands for Corporate Social Responsibility).
But here’s the key point —
Giving doesn’t have to be BIG to be meaningful.
The true power of giving is only experienced when we do it.
Starting with small giving is important. Once you realise that even just one cent makes a very real difference (it can give a child access to live-saving water, for example), you’ll realise you can start giving right now. Giving can be part of your journey, not a destination.
2. Give Regularly
Many individuals and companies tend to give when they hear about a natural disaster or go to a charity fundraiser. Some give because they feel guilty saying no when asked to donate.
But this ad hoc giving leads to a greater need for more ad hoc giving later.
Many charity organisations struggle with an ongoing need for continuous flow of funds. The campaigns and events they run cost them a lot.
Giving regularly to causes even when we aren’t asked to can reduce the cost of overall fundraising.
Event-based giving is still important in certain situations. So you can implement regular giving in addition to your spontaneous giving. This way, you can regularly empower NGOs around the world to focus more on creating a positive impact in a sustainable way.
3. Feel Connected
Perhaps not surprisingly, we learnt that when people feel really ‘connected’ to their giving, it has tremendous power.
When you feel connected to your giving, you feel truly rewarded by your giving activities. It also makes your communication authentic and inspiring. You are more likely to spread positive energy and inspire others to feel more generous.
To feel connected, understanding the impact you create through your giving definitely helps.
Naturally, giving to empower one person in a specific way feels more meaningful than donating X dollars to a charity organisation without knowing where the support goes.
When you feel connected to your giving, your sense of care and generosity attracts like-minded people. It helps you create a business with a genuine giving culture.
Businesses with an empathic culture excel more because they can continue to create great value for their customers, they attract and retain great talents, and they stand out with a unique set of beliefs and values that their competitors cannot copy authentically.
4. Expect No Returns
Human nature demands you to expect returns for your actions and effort; returns for favours you give; returns on the investments you make…
Charity giving can give you some useful returns. In some countries, you can claim tax benefits. Some charity organisations might give you a specific title of recognition, or a foundation named after you. You might even have your name on a permanent plaque in your honour.
From our experience though, we’ve seen that expecting nothing in return for our positive actions has tremendous benefit.
If you are helping others so that they in turn will thank you, you might feel upset when you do not receive the acknowledgement.
On the other hand, if you give because of your own belief and joy, you are more likely to feel fulfilled. When you don’t expect any returns, you tend to receive pleasant surprises.
Additionally, when a person knowingly asks someone else for help, there is a higher chance of creating dependency later. You probably know of someone who gave or lent money to another only to encounter issues in the relationship later on.
When you choose to support a specific impact through an experienced charity organisation, rather than receiving personal recognition and helping specific individuals, your giving will have more sustainable impact.
Having clear structure by third-parties facilitating the support minimises the chances of creating dependency, and results in a statistically higher sustainable change.
5. Be Open to Hidden ‘Handing-Up’ Opportunities
Some people have formed opinions on what type of giving is better than others.
The saying “Do not give fish to a man. Teach a man to fish,” could be one way of saying that education is more important than giving food (or goods). In many ways, this can be true.
But we’ve seen many ingenious ways innovative grassroots organisations facilitate their programs.
For example, one organisation delivers nutritious meals to schools. Instead of aiming to just give food (handing-out), this organisation encourages more parents to send their children to school instead of making them work at home. And by reducing classroom hunger, the children are able to learn better too (handing-up).
Experienced organisations are deeply connected with the community. They have the ability to look into the root causes of local issues.
Being open to these opportunities gives you the opportunity to create great impact even with small amounts of contribution.
6. Be Humble
Just because you are able to give something doesn’t mean you are better than those you support.
The reason you can be on the giving end at the moment might just be because you happen to be luckier than some others in the world.
It is extremely important for you to know that your life is equally as valuable as everyone else’s.
We share this beautiful world with so many others who directly or indirectly benefit us. So, helping others whenever we can is our natural instinct to ensure we have a sustainable world where all our children and grandchildren can thrive.
Remembering this togetherness and equality is what makes our giving truly magical. Its in this way that we all receive so much more.
The gift keeps growing infinitely. And the recipients of your good deeds eventually become givers themselves too.
In a nutshell, effective giving is simply made possible by:
- Giving now (small is ok)
- Giving regularly
- Feeling connected
- Expecting no returns
- Being open-minded, and
- Being humble
I hope you and many more business people get to experience the real power and joy of giving.