Last week, I reported on Wharton University professor Adam Grant’s research validating the value of selfless generosity in marketing. His (and other) social science research backs up the assertion that many successful business leaders and organizations have always appreciated: When you master the skills of sharing and generosity, you undoubtedly will achieve much more satisfactory business results than when you focus on the bottom line “what we have to sell” proposition.
These values underlie this blog and much of my work this week, as I prepare for a local event as incoming chair of the Ottawa Construction Specifications Canada chapter. This morning, on my computer, I’ve been reviewing the budget, schedule, and speaking arrangements for the Connections Cafe, featuring a discussion on the city’s multi-billion dollar Light Rail Transit project. Right now, we’re projecting about 60 people will gather in an Algonquin College meeting room, and the chapter will achieve a modest surplus. Of course, if anyone had to pay for professional time or leadership from our voluntary committee, we would not be making any money.
I can’t tell (and at this point) don’t care whether any business will arise from our participation in this event. But, intuitively, I know it is the right thing to do. Sure there are some costs — in time, effort, and the modest $350 sponsorship fees. But this is all about relationship and trust building, and every cent of cash and every hour of voluntary time is well worth spending.
Here are some things to consider in evaluating your community contributions and involvement:
Relevance to your market/clients is important but not crucial
In the CSC event, we obviously can do business with many of the people attending the event, and a major construction project is of obvious interest to Ottawa Construction News readers and advertisers. However, I’ve seen plenty of generosity for community groups and health organizations that have only relatively limited relationship to the architecture, engineering and construction community. (Of course, most major community organizations at some point need to build something — and here, the relevance is quite clear.)
Relevance to your employees and your personal interests is vital
Perhaps in a paradoxical twist of selfishness and selflessness, you will always achieve the most effective community service and generosity by participating in activities that are important to you and your employees. Here, you can share, reflect and express your own passions.
Money is less important than time and skills; but money still helps
No one minds a large cash contribution, but you’ll achieve the highest voluntary results by direct participation in the initiative. Sure, you can provide a cheque — but also provide some voluntary hours if you want to achieve the fullest benefit from your generosity
Your own interests must truly be subordinate to the community service
This is the most important aspect of the whole thing. You really need to put the community service ahead of your own interests. I can tell when some people get this wrong when I speak with leaders of community organizations and they describe how “contributors” want to make a big deal about a contribution-in-kind offer, without appreciating that that, while the contribution is certainly welcome, the recognition should come from the heart of the association, not from the contributor’s expectations.
Our business seeks to put the community service philosophy into practice in several ways. We’ll ignore whether a business is an advertiser or not, in recognizing community support, we’ll provide extensive free advertising and publicity in our publications for worthy projects and (most importantly), we’ll spend our own time and resources to help out. If you are in Ottawa, and wish to register for the Connections Cafe, please respond quickly — we’re approaching the catering deadline. You can register here.