Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cause for New Money

I am a giver. And am criticized from time to time because of it. Not because I don't give enough, or because I give to the wrong folks or send the wrong message. But because sometimes it makes no sense to those trying to figure it out. I choose to live up to this standard-- that which I thought relevant early on in my budding entrepreneurial career. And, I continue on.

I think giving is part of good citizenship--seems to be my duty if I continue to maintain a business over any length of time. I have an understanding that, while growing my business, the fortifying of non-profit causes should be a part of my advancement strategy, both for the business and for personal reasons. By the way, non-profit entrepreneurs are some of the greatest hero's of our time and often the most forgotten--some of which hold the secret to the real spirit of entrepreneurship. Think Lindenwood University here, Dennis Spellmann and his staff of loyal folks. I am convinced that it is possible to have a strategy for giving as part of any financial statement and embarked on this as part of Pfoodman's emergence strategy. For anyone wanting examples of how this was the case at Lindenwood, please contact me.

It was a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, that got me thinking about this. Winding through the streets of the densely populated city, an economy with very little middle class and and exchange rate equaling 1-3 of US currency. We were kings while visiting on business, setting up retail coffee house restaurants in malls and retail centers. There is irony in this, seven years later we are doing the same in the states. Anyway, every time my host stopped at a stop light, dozens of homeless and unfortunates came running to the cars, always, ALWAYS getting something from whomever in the cars. When I asked my host what the deal was, I was told how the Argentinians held a very high ethical social responsibility...very high on their priorities--it was their moral responsibility to give to those in need and it was not governed over by an authority. And in that city of 10 million people, there were plenty of folks in need. I was intrigued.

Now, I don't often dole out pocket change to folks with their hands out in my town, not in the old US and A. Especially not while my business has oodles of jobs available, lots. And it is indeed a little different here. There is an entitlement here that is not as present there-- lots of resources for the down and out here, albeit, if they are smart and supported enough to find them. It is not as acceptable in my community to pan-handle, pilfer and squat, not near our West County Manse's. So we turn the other cheek when seeing this, looking away from what often ends up being our responsibility by way of politics or additional taxation, if the despair becomes great enough to warrant our attention and if the government continues to amp up the magnitude of social support. Blah, blah, blah...

But that is not where I am going with this. The real essence of my giving is that it is part of the fabric and mission of our business, part of an action plan and strategy--that which defines our culture and personifies our position in the business world and moral acceptance. I find it important to present myself as someone who has the necessary resources to create strategies and innovative processes that can uniquely draw attention to a need or a cause. In fact, it is my mission to perfect this strategy to share with others--to get others on board so that we may make a difference someday for crying out loud. It ain't about the money. So even though I turn my cheek to the sign holding freeway exit folks with their pathetic little dogs, I rarely turn anyone down when they have their hand out in the bigger picture, even though their clothes are clean and their cars are full of gas, the stomachs full, their children healthy. I suppose this is big picture giving.

I have a couple of conditions when giving. And this is where it gets interesting. I want to know what's in it for me (the business). Think about it. How in the hell is it appropriate for me to have conditions prior to giving. How much say should I have in it?-- and what do I get in return? Is it immoral or unethical to have this expectation? How can one haggle over stuff like this? Is giving not enough to satisfy the ego, the martyr in us? Is that what the true essence of giving is? Should we all donate anonymously and/or without recognition or acknowledgement? Look at our brothers and sisters in Argentina, emptying out their parking meter money daily without an expectation of something in return, but significant nonetheless. Do we need something in return?

Let's face it, in the states, its all about capitalism. New money and giving is a strategic marketing strategy and it can be functional and extremely rewarding to the one giving, not to mention the cause on the receiving end. I call this cultural cause marketing; the use of new money or "small business money" as a strategic development method for charities wanting to seek alternatives to the conventional cause marketing paradigm. Lets face it, there is only so much old money laying around. And the numbers are not as many. The "long tail" of small business is significant. Lets go after them! There is power in rallying those businesses capable of giving while sustaining their margins. This while equipping them with the tools for cultivating others to do the same and providing value to their organizations by way of networking, events and camaraderie. Toss in my personal agenda, active living sustainability and wellness, and by Gawd we have some change headed our way. There is an audience, an entire culture and/or tribe of entrepreneurs. We should get others to join the band wagon, have a big party while changing our social condition. Brilliant.

I suppose there is a political message in all this. Not my point. My point is that there is always an expectation on behalf of those giving and it is generally within moral or ethical standard in our culture, here in the states. And new money wants exposure like old money. We want a leg up, strategic alliance, brand placement, shout outs, community awareness, popularity to sell our goods and services. And, we want to have a good time! This is why we do this. "Strategic philanthropy" is now not at all just an old money reference. Lets embrace this in our own way to change the world--that which sets a path to a better social responsibility, not necessarily doled out by our government.

I think social responsibility fits comfortably in the glove of capitalism with the synergy and support of our government in the way of incentives. We must have this to provide our causes with what they need. Take a minute to evaluate your giving and better yet, what you or others whom you might know who stand to gain should a cause be affected by the enhancement and/or reduction of resources mandated by government . Regardless of that, don't be ashamed if you have an expectation. The Churches have been doing it for years.

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