Entrepreneurs really shouldn't wait until they've attained the wealth and status of, say, Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg before they begin giving back. By giving back, I mean any sort of involvement witha charity or nonprofit, or a time or money contribution to such groups.
In fact, providing pro bono PR support and raising money for a host of charities has been part and parcel of my firm's strategic business plan from day one. And it's paid for itself many times over. Over the years, we've provided free counsel to organizations ranging from the Young Survival Coalition and the US Military Academy at West Point, and raised money for the likes of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Societyand the Iraqi and Afghanistan Veterans Association.
More recently, we've committed a full years' worth of free PR counseling to Youth About Business (YAB), an organization founded in 1992 by Sam Kirk. YAB's mission is to expose youth to the business world through an experiential learning model, fostering the development of business literacy and leadership skills necessary to be more successful in school and in life.
I recently spoke with Sam and three of his board members:
- Dan McKinney, a partner in Ernst & Young's Global Financial Services Risk Management Practice
- Marc Latman, a partner in the law firm of Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP
- Chandra Vasser, a senior procurement officer with Nissan Corporation.
I wanted to hear from them why entrepreneurs should become more socially responsible as well as the types of benefits they, and their organizations, have derived from the YAB partnership in particular. The YAB board helped me compile nine key reasons why youshould consider corporate social responsibilitya fundamental component of your overall business strategy from the get-go:
1. A partnership with a charity or nonprofit will increase awareness of your firm locally, nationally, and within your industry.
2. Perhaps more importantly, it will enhance your firm's credibility. Too many companies wait until they're in the midst of a crisis before they start doing good. By partnering with a charity or nonprofit from day one, you'll have demonstrable 'good' work to point to ifthe shit should ever hit the fan.
3. It will boost the morale of your staff and make them feel proud to work for your organization. "Helping others is the absolute high," says EY's McKinney. "Helping a nonprofit, especially one that helps guide young people onto successful careers, is a great thing. It's part of what makes EY employees proud."
4. It will help you network. I've met countless very well-connected private sector executives by serving on nonprofit boards.
5. It WILL produce bottom-line sales. We've landed several assignments with major organizations as a direct result of our pro bono work.
6. It will fill your employee pipeline with a diverse mix of qualified candidates. EY's McKinney says he's recruited a number of YAB participants who have helped him make a personal contribution to EY's corporate mission to build a more diverse employee population.
7. It can provide an instant return on investment. You'll not only meet prospective employees in your nonprofit work but, critically, you'll also rub shoulders with young people, veterans, and others who may become prospective customers down the road. "I get instant gratification when I see the YAB participants transform themselves during a one-week summer boot camp from high school sophomores to real-world businesspeople who understand and can discuss highly technical financial terms. It's unbelievably rewarding to think that I've helped them go so far so fast. Plus, I know they'll all be serious corporate players one day soon," says Latman. "As a value add, I learn as much from them as they do from me."
8. You can do award-winning work which, in turn, will enhance employee pride andattract paying customers. Our work for IAVA prompted the Siemens Corporation to hire us to launch a social media program on their behalf.
9. It can change your life. Nothing is quite as rewarding as watching deserving young people, veterans, and others benefit from your tutelage and/or fundraising. In my opinion, good mental health is a key aspect of being a successful entrepreneur. I, for one, can say thatnothing makes me happier than helping others. Nissan's Vasser agrees, adding, "I can't think of anything more rewarding than helping struggling, middle-of-the-road students and then seeing them turn out as successful entrepreneurs down the road. That should be the motivator for any reader of Inc.com."
So what's holding you back? I can tell you that Youth About Business needs corporate and entrepreneurial support in all of its key markets. This may sound like an infomercial, but the only thing keeping you from starting to do good is you.
If you'd like to help YAB in particular, you can reach Sam Kirk at email@example.com.