The $40 Glass of Lemonade
I will never forget the most expensive glass of lemonade that I ever purchased. You might think that it was at a beautiful resort on some tropical island, but it wasn’t. It was on the tenth hole at a Make-a-Wish Foundation golf tournament in 1995. A young boy named Danny sold me the lemonade. Danny wasn’t raising money so that his wish could be granted; his had already occurred (he went to Disney World with his family). No, Danny was raising money so that other kids could have the same experience he did. That was the day that I spent US$40 on a glass of lemonade. That was also the day that I knew I wanted to give back to my community.
I remember thinking, if this 8-year-old boy with a life-threatening illness could give back, why couldn’t I? Today, you see more and more kids like Danny. They are forgoing birthday parties and presents, and are having friends bring items for food banks or other items for donation. Kids are organizing walks, food drives and bake sales to raise money for a charity of their choice. These kids can be role models for us as business leaders in our respective communities.
One of my favorite quotes is by Danny Thomas, founder of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital: “Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It’s what you do for others.” I love this quote because it really should be about how we define ourselves as entrepreneurs. I have always tried to incorporate giving back to the community by interweaving that goal in my business practices, while including my clients and friends in the process. Here are some ways you can make a meaningful impact with a local charity:
Organize an employee-giving and corporate-matching program. This is commonplace at Fortune 500 companies, but it’s easy to do in any size company. Allow your employees to give back through payroll deductions to a charity of their choice. The United Way has a great program for workplace giving, and they also allow your employees to choose where the money goes. If an employee makes a donation outside your corporate giving program, match it up to a certain amount.
Turn your holiday parties and celebrations into a philanthropic team-building project. Celebrations and parties are great, but how much better would your employees feel and how much more fulfilling would it be if you spent the same time and money cleaning up a park, building a home with Habitat for Humanity or donating food to Second Harvest Food Bank?
Instead of birthday or holiday gifts for clients, make a donation to a charity in their honor. Most holiday or “thank you” gifts get lost in the shuffle of the season. A handwritten note and a donation in the clients’ honor will go a long way. This can be done for birthdays, anniversaries and also in sympathy. Most charities will even send a formal recognition for gifts of more than $25.
Incorporate charitable giving as part of your company’s recognition program. If you have an “Employee of the Month” program or offer service awards based on tenure, incorporate a donation to a charity of their choice. It’s a great way to recognize a valued employee and team member.
Organize teams to participate in local walks, races or sporting events. A fun way to incorporate corporate giving and wellness is to challenge your employees to enter teams in local 5k races, charity walks or softball tournaments. Most events now have corporate team categories and challenges. Remember, it’s easy to give back to the community while you run a successful business. A good friend of mine always says, “It is amazing what you can accomplish when you get a group of people that truly care.” Does this define you, your employees and your business? It should.