I usually laugh while reading The Onion, but when I read the following headline on Jan. 25, “Massive Earthquake Reveals Entire Island Civilization Called ‘Haiti,’” I didn’t. Instead I thought they nailed it in more ways than one.
Then: January 2009
As a business owner, January 2009 was a particularly scary time. The last thing I was thinking about was how I could contribute to a charitable cause. Although we had talked about it in the past as an important value of our agency, we never acted on our intentions. Given the current economic environment, I was more focused on staying in business, conserving my cash, and shoring up my client relationships in anticipation of a long and draining recession. It appears I was not alone.
In a study by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University in the fall of 2009, 86 percent of nonprofits reported that charitable giving had continued to decline. At the time, the “Present Situation Index” for charitable giving had fallen 28.9 percent from the previous year to its lowest level since the center began the study in 1998. It comes as no surprise that the economy was cited as the driving force behind the decline.
Update: January 2010
The earthquake that hit Haiti on Jan. 12 was a wake-up call for charitable giving. The enormous outpouring of money and aid at every level to support the people of Haiti was unprecedented. The role of technology as a conduit and facilitator of that giving was particularly riveting. It promises to play a prominent role in future charitable-giving efforts. At our agency, we got involved in a charitable effort for the first time when we partnered with our nonprofit client, GoodAdds, to create a Red Cross banner campaign for Haiti relief. Interestingly enough, the campaign performed quite well while the news media continued to roll the cameras but dropped off sharply once coverage began to wane.
Implications and Opportunities
What does this mean going forward? I think it’s an opportunity for everyone, but especially corporations, to re-dedicate themselves to the business of service and charitable giving, to reverse the trend documented by the Center for Philanthropy last fall, and to remember that charity shouldn’t stop when the media stops covering the need for it.
Here are four reasons why it’s more important than ever for your business to make charitable contributions:
- Connectedness: No better way exists to feel more connected as a company than by doing community service or charity work together. It makes the team stronger. It gives meaning to the work that is produced. It feels and is important, and that feeling can rub off on everything else happening within the company -- meetings, presentations, reports, insights, etc.
- Vitality: A company that actively engages in community service and charitable giving is a vital, growing company. It sends the right message about who you are and what you’re capable of to your employees, your clients, and your investors. It affirms strength of purpose and communicates abundance.
- Intention: I refer to intention here as an active force of will that promotes a positive outcome. Positivity breeds more positivity. Putting something good out there suggests that something good will come in return -- whether it’s new business opportunities, new talent, or something else entirely that will benefit you in ways you can’t even imagine.
Finally, cognitive research suggests that once we identify ourselves as people who donate money, organize charity events, promote community service, etc., it’s easier to say yes the next time because of our instinctive need to maintain consistency in thought and action. In other words, we unconsciously program our brains for charitable giving in the future, so just start and let your brain do the rest. It doesn’t matter how small your effort, how much you give, or how many people you mobilize the first time around.
Just get involved, and you’re on the path to a lifelong habit of giving and the joy and abundance that comes with it.