Martin Luther King Day is a national day of citizen action volunteer service in honor of Dr. King. I can think of no more appropriate topic than to highlight the truly inspiring community contributions of many entrepreneurs.
For years I have had the privilege of hearing the quiet stories of entrepreneurs who live a cycle of passion fueling giving — which in turn fuels their passion. Some entrepreneurs have charities or non-profit entities linked to their businesses. Some give of their deep knowledge and experience to lobby for changes that affect those unable to afford big corporate lobbyists. Many forego revenue from sponsorships or clients that are not in alignment with their values. Some deliberately seek out suppliers that may be more expensive but benefit disadvantaged groups. Almost all freely give of their personal and company time, talents and treasure.
My personal anecdotal impressions are born out by research. A few years ago the Fidelity® Charitable Gift Fund and Ernst & Young conducted a study on the ways in which entrepreneurs apply their personal passion for giving to their corporate philanthropy. Here are some of the highlights:
- Entrepreneurs share their money. The survey of nearly 150 CEOs and founders, revealed that nine in ten entrepreneurs donated money, both personally and through their companies, to support charitable causes. And they allocated more than twice the percentage of their profits to charity than many of America’s largest companies. And this is not just true of successful, growing small businesses — nearly 70 percent started supporting charities from the very start.
- Entrepreneurs share their time. According to the survey, most entrepreneurs (70 percent) donated their time with 61 percent currently serving on the board of a non-profit.
- Giving back is integrated into the business model. The majority of respondents in this study believed that being an entrepreneur makes them more inclined to give to charity. They viewed “giving back” as driver for long-term company success and 26 percent incorporated corporate philanthropy into their companies’ original business plans. Nearly three in 10 entrepreneurs were actively seeking partnerships with causes that align with their company’s core mission. More than four in 10 entrepreneurs (43 percent) have formed their own charities.
- Entrepreneurs support a culture of service. Many entrepreneurs (73 percent in this study) openly encouraged employees to volunteer their time to charitable causes and over half offered formal programs to support employee charitable contributions.
- Entrepreneurs give from the heart. Topping business benefits, entrepreneurs stated their No. 1 reason for supporting corporate giving is the ability to directly integrate their personal values into their corporate culture. While stating their giving as a key part of their personal and business plans, most entrepreneurs prefer to stay out of the limelight, describing their giving style as “quiet/passive.” The owners surveyed tied their giving to three key factors: gratitude for help received, empathy for those less fortunate and the financial resources and freedom to make a difference.
Do you have a story you would like to share? Let us know in the comments below. Happy MLK Day!