Sunday, October 4, 2009

Business Giving and Growing- How a Business Group Came Up With New Inspiration

Last week I facilitated a workshop: "How Your Business Can Do Well By Doing Good", where I brought together small business owners, representatives from local businesses and non-profit organizations to share stories and examples about business philanthropy and to generate ideas about how business can give back to the community.

It never ceases to amaze the energy that is created around a good topic when people have a chance to interact, build a vision together, and exchange ideas for further action. Whilst I try to provide suggestions and ideas for business philanthropy on this blog, hearing directly from businesses about this subject-why they want to give back to their communities, what works and what doesn't work, and what they would like to see happen in the future- is of great value to me, other businesses and non-profits in promoting this mission.

We began the workshop with an introduction from each of participants about themselves, their involvement in philanthropy and what their goals were for coming to the workshop.Then participants interviewed each other about their positive experiences with business doing philanthropy and their personal contribution to the effort. As a group, we highlighted key ideas from the stories and merged them into major themes about successful business philanthropy projects and programs. From there we brainstormed how to create or expand individual and collaborative initiatives that would give back to the community.

One of the first introductions, was from Oscar Garcia, the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce in Mountain View, CA. He talked passionately about tying business and philanthropy together in ways that help both to grow. He preferred to think about business philanthropy as a way for business to achieve "Giving and Growing".

The group loved that phrase and so a new expression was born-one that creates a broader scope of the benefits of philanthropy for everyone involved. We adopted this small but powerful new concept, "Giving and Growing", which set the tone and the theme for the rest of the gathering.

The other themes that emerged within the workshop ranged from the personal values to the specific factors that made some of the philanthropy projects more successful. Here is a brief summary.

Personal Commitment:
Simply put, it feels good to see a need in the community and to help serve that need; the desire to give back in some way is the fundamental reason for creating business philanthropy project or program; giving back fulfills an individual sense of purpose and as one participant described a "sense of being".

Using Expertise:
Doing what one does best; matching the philanthropy objectives with the business's primary purpose, and using personal skills make the contribution to the philanthropy more valuable.

Partnerships and Collaboration:
Business with non-profits, business involving and engaging employees, business with other businesses, business with customers creates a multiplier effect that makes the benefits of the philanthropy go further.

Utilizing Other Resources Besides Monetary Donations: Space-for special events or for non-profit use- Communication Platforms that promote non-profits and causes in newsletters, websites and social media as well as sharing cause marketing and advertising -Volunteering and pro-bono services.

Why the Thumbs Up? So many workshops end with lots of inspiration-but this one ended with some real action plans. Several collaborative initiatives grew out of these discussions.
  • A business "Giving and Growing Networking Group" that would meet once a month to plan collaborative community giving programs.
  • A business philanthropy website database developed by the local community foundation that would serve as a clearing house for all the business philanthropy initiatives in the community.
  • A business mixer with a theme, where businesses could network with each other, as well as learn about business philanthropy that exists in their local business community.

What I loved about this event was that not only did people have a chance to talk and interact, but that they felt inspired into taking action steps that create real opportunities for businesses to "Give and Grow".

The workshop was held in a warm and welcoming space at Downtime Healing Arts, in Los Altos, CA.

Coming soon- a YouTube video with clips from this workshop for more inspiration.

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