“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm”
These are the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American essayist, lecturer and poet. He is also the father of the Transcendentalist movement, a movement against the pressures of society and institutions. Emerson was advocating individualism, something that’s become an integral part of Western culture.
What Emerson calls “enthusiasm” is what we today call passion – that incredibly strong internal drive that makes you go through hoops to pursue and achieve what you feel passionate about. Indeed passion is the fuel to every success, whether personal or professional. It makes you overcome any setbacks and failures and go forward.
It’s no surprise then that when it comes to philanthropy, passion is just as crucial an element to succeeding in your endeavours. That being said, the first prerequisite to what we’ll call “the right philanthropic cause” for the purposes of this article (as clearly no cause is inherently right or wrong) is that you as a business owner feel passionate about it.
Now, that’s easier said than done as the truth of the matter is, very few of us know what causes we feel an emotional connection to and thus passionate about. You need to do some soul searching and thinking to figure that out. Passion is hard to identify and if you feel stuck and unable to determine what cause you might feel connected to, think about the following: experiences in your life that had an impact on you or what causes that you have contributed to (money or otherwise) in the past have made you feel extremely happy and excited.
The secret lies in that emotional connection without which you would never be truly dedicated to whatever social engagement initiative or cause you take on. If soul searching doesn’t seem to help you decide where your passion lies philanthropic wise, you might want to look into one of the below suggestions as a starting point and inspiration:
Ask your employees. No matter how small or large your organisation, surely at least some of your employees would have a good idea as to what causes are out there and what causes they themselves feel passionate about. With their ideas in front of you, you might find that you actually relate to one or another. Hopefully, you would relate to what the majority of your employees care about, as an internal buy in from your workforce is often crucial to giving 100% of you as a business to whatever cause you decide to choose.
Think about your business – what is it that you do. Are you a retailer, a manufacturer, a service company or a team of professionals? Surely when you started the company you started it because you had the expertise or resources to do what you do or even better – because you wanted to help a specific group of individuals or businesses. Think about who else, that is in need, that might make great use of what you have to offer – whether a service or a product.
As a business consultant, I work across various industries and with companies of all sizes. And I realise that having a mission and a vision statement is not something that all businesses have or really adhere to in the case they have one. However, if you do happen to have one of those statements and you live by them as a company, then look into them as a source of inspiration. Where does your business stand in your community, in society or even in the world? What is your company’s bigger purpose? Out of aspiration to help whom or to what problem did you start to solve in the first place? Answering these questions could lead you to the right philanthropic cause for you as a business.
Obviously you will be checking out the local non-profits and what problems they are trying to solve. But let me make this clear – I’m not suggesting that you partner with one of them or donate your money to one of them. There mightn’t be an organisation in your area that is dedicated to what you feel passionate about or there might not be one that you really trust. And engaging with one out of convenience is a poor choice. And if that’s the case, you might want to start an initiative on your own or with another business and that course of action will be much more meaningful and beneficial. All I’m saying is, look into the charities in your local community to find inspiration on problems that need solving. Whether you engage with a charity or you embark on your philanthropic journey on your own, that’s a whole different story.
In conclusion, and I can’t stress this enough – whatever philanthropic cause you come across and whatever charitable ideas you hear from employees, friends, family, etc. the most important element of “the right cause” is that it strikes you as a personal mission. You must relate to it, otherwise you won’t be passionate about it and dedicate to it. And it is your dedication and passion that translates into results. You can’t expect your employees to care about it and your customers to be excited in it if you yourself aren’t crazy about it. Tying your philanthropic cause with what you do as a business and with your business model is essential too, but ultimately passion is the very reason you should engage in a cause. And passion is contagious – don’t forget that.
If you find yourself also wondering about what philanthropic cause to take on, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. As a business consultant and philanthropic endeavours mentor, I can help you make a difference that is meaningful to the community, to you and to your business’ growth too. You can get in touch with me, Paul Davis, here.