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Some Thoughts on Philanthropy

Tom Running.high res

Start-ups aren’t all the romantic fun that Hollywood makes them out to be.  We tend to see the drama and the excitement long after the company in question has succeeded.  We see Google or Apple or Microsoft with dramatic increases in shareholder value and we forget that the founders spent long sleepless nights wondering if they’d make payroll on Friday or if the money for the lease would come in.  We picture those wonderful “aha!” moments when everything falls into place and tend to forget that, for the most part, getting a business off the ground is just hard work, plain and simple hard work.

Once you launch the business and your shingle is on the front door, you’re going to get hit with requests for help from worthwhile and deserving causes.  That’s fine by me.  I think we all ought to do our best to contribute in any way we can.  Here are some thoughts on the subject.

Stay in Business

The first and most honorable thing you can do to help society is to stay in business!  How many employees rely on you to pay their bills and feed their families?  You’re obligated first to keep your business running, to avoid layoffs, and to provide an income for the employees relying on you.  You can directly benefit a great many people by providing training and opportunity to those working for you.

Help Others Stay in Business

What works for you works for other companies as well.  One of the clients who uses a product we developed was able to save three hours of work every single day by implementing our solutions.  The entire IT department at Purdue University saw their workload reduced by using the Adaptive Restore product.  What does that mean?  It means the department was able to save resources and provide better services.  The efficiency of the entire organization benefited.  Create and deliver products that do the same for your customers.

Encourage Participation

When possible, don’t just write checks.  Even if you have a few thousand dollars earmarked for a charity, it may be better to get your employees more involved.  Causes need more than money.  They also need engaged advocates.  Write a check and you’ve definitely helped, sure.  Encourage participation, and you’ve helped create advocates.  One of my favorite causes is Free Wheelchair Mission. In 2015 we set a goal to raise enough money to buy 200 wheel chairs and ran in the Surf City half marathon race in Huntington Beach California to collect donations to meet our objective. In this process we got some of our people very excited about the cause and were able to exceed our plan and provide 217 chairs to disadvantaged folks around the world.  The experience was great and provided more to all involved than could have possibly been expected from simply writing a check.

Look for Philanthropic Routines

There are a number of ways to help that will easily fit with what you do already.  What happens to your recyclables?  There are organizations that will pick them up on a regular basis.  The same goes for your empty ink cartridges.  What do you do with your obsolete technology?  Remember, to a tech company, obsolete means something entirely different than it does to a non-profit that really only needs to handle word processing and communications.  Actions that seem insignificant to you can be remarkably important to others.

Have a Heart

Remember that causes are important to those who champion them.  Do your best to help when you can.  When you can’t, make sure you treat the folks asking for help with respect.  Trying to be a part of something bigger than any individual ought to be respected.  If you send people on their way empty-handed, don’t send on their way empty-hearted.