Mel Zuckerman is the founder of Canyon Ranch, a nationwide chain of health resorts, spas, and residences based in Tucson. Here, he answers an entrepreneur's question about philanthropy.

Q. When should my young company start getting involved in philanthropy? What's the best way to figure how to give back and to whom?

Matt Bevin
Integrity Asset Management

Mel Zuckerman responds:

It's never too early to start giving back. As soon as you do, you'll begin a wonderful cycle of giving that can continue to grow along with your business.

My first piece of advice would be to give from the heart and remember the people who supported you during the early stages of your company. When my wife, Enid, and I started Canyon Ranch in Tucson in 1979, health resorts were a new concept that, frankly, many people said would never be successful. We relied heavily on the community to provide support, in terms of employees, resources, and even expertise from the University of Arizona. In turn, as soon as we could afford it--right around the time our company turned a profit--we repaid that generosity in a number of ways, from funding health studies to, more recently, establishing the College of Public Health and the Center for Prevention and Health Promotion at the University of Arizona.

It's important to note that giving back doesn't have to involve a monetary donation. Donating time and resources is a great way to make a difference when your company is just getting started or the books are tight. For example, we understand that not everyone can afford several days at a health resort, so we open our doors to people in our community by giving them annual scholarships to our wellness programs.

Finally, remember to lead through example. It's up to you to convey the importance of giving back to your employees. Choose charities and initiatives that reflect your company's philosophies or benefit the most from your resources and skills. Inspire your employees to share your philanthropic goals. In the end, your company will be healthier because employees who feel like they're making a valuable contribution to others are generally happier employees. And happy employees are the foundation of a strong, productive company.


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