Leaders such as Bill & Melinda Gates, Mark Cuban, and Barbara Corcoran, just to name a few, are well known for their various charities and causes as a part of their "give back" initiatives. Philanthropy is a part of a larger narrative about what you value as your company experiences growth. It is also a sign of gratitude for your customers as well.
I was touched by a video on Twitter of Austin Perine, a four-year-old who is using his weekly allowance to feed the homeless. As I watched the video numerous times, and with hundreds of people demanding Ellen DeGeneres to feature his story on her show, I realized that paying it forward can start with a small effort.
4-year-old Austin Perine is using his allowance to feed the homeless pic.twitter.com/y9uj9muygi
I reached out to Austin and his parents to learn more about what inspired him to be so courageous to sacrifice his allowance to feed the hungry. Austin told me "I was watching the Animal Planet and I did not want the mommy bear to leave her cubs to get food and so they would become homeless." As I continued our conversation, it became evident that creating global change was Austin's mission in life.
Ironically, I learned more from a four-year old about the importance of giving back than I have learned from large organizations over the years. According to Austin, he wants to grow up to be a superhero and the President of the United States of America. His passion and desire to create a platform for people to "show love" is admirable at is age and something we can all learn from.
Here are three takeaways that I learned about giving back from our conversation.
Never underestimate starting small.
Austin's father takes him to buy sandwiches and cold drinks with his weekly allowance, then distributes them to the homeless on the streets of Birmingham, Alabama. He stated that he feels proud to put a smile on the faces of the people while he is giving back.
Paying it forward can start with a small effort such as making a small monthly donation to your favorite organization or taking an hour to go and support an important cause. Throughout the years, I supported many causes, but until I met Austin, I did not realize how small contributions make a large impact, but you must be passionate about it.
You can start by partnering with a local or global foundation or charitable organization that is in alignment with your company. A few years ago, I hosted an event, where we disclosed that $1 of each ticket sold would be donated to a local charity for children. It is a great way to advocate for a cause on a small level by integrating your customers into the process. Before you start, check with Guide Star or Charity Watch for reviews and policies.
Austin's weekly commitment to community service at four-years old is a testament that giving back is not something to do occasionally, it requires consistency. He mentioned that "the man with the beard looks out for me every week," which is why consistency matters.
Today, our attention span is shorter than ever. I often have the most difficult time remembering if I ate dinner considering my travel itinerary and personal obligations. However, Austin reminded me that consistency is part of the sacrifice. If you make it part of your weekly or monthly agenda to set aside time for a little humanitarian work, the results are rewarding.
Make sure your company has a representative present at your preferred charity event(s) and causes. Your consistent support and presence is imperative to attract more donors to fund your cause.
It is your duty.
As busy leaders and entrepreneurs who are fixated on building the next multi-million dollar company and global brands, we forget it is our duty to pay it forward, especially for those who may not have the same access to resources. We think of our own struggles as difficult, until you look through the eyes of an innocent four-year old who could easily sit and watch cartoons, while enjoying life.
His optimism highlights why it is our duty to pay it forward and help others. I am always thankful for the many successful people who gave me a hand, invested in my company, brokered meetings and mentored me along the way. Your contribution could be your time or resources; but it will contribute to your legacy.