Brand Consultant & Coach, Published Business Writer, Brand Author & Speaker, Harpist, Composer, Mom & Wife, Spiritual Student, Educator ... and that's just on Monday. A blog about brand leadership, innovation and anything else I want to write about.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Social Responsibility in 2008: Little Gifts, Big Impact

Being a socially responsible brand has several layers of meaning these days – from green business practices to supporting a worthy cause. But not all socially responsible practices are about being a large multi-national company or spending large amounts of cash. Most entrepreneurs know the value of the dollar and the challenges in accumulating and keeping it for long periods of time.

Back in the dotcom heydays of the 90’s when Internet millionaires were minted on paper every few minutes (it seemed), I would hear story after story of these same people creating non-profits, foundations and trusts in order to funnel their new-found riches into altruistic (not to mention tax-exempt) interests. Everyone seemed to be doing well and the money was flowing. But fast-forward to 2008 and the economy? Not so great as we all know. And as always in downtimes, it’s the little guys who feel the largest impacts – from the local libraries and arts groups to the elementary teachers and high school band group.

As I sit in my desert cloister, the state of Arizona is facing some of its largest deficits lending to the incredible challenges of funding public schools, city governments trying to keep up with law enforcement funding and public roads kept up to par. The quality of many of the basic amenities we all take for granted as citizens are threatened.

Librarians are being booted from elementary schools across the state; arts groups seem to be dropping like flies and to my own personal horror, local community symphonies are dropping from existence as well. Overwhelming it is, and the overall picture is far from how I would design it.

So what’s a socially conscious person to do? Give. I know, I hear your protests already: “But I don’t have the extra money!” “We’re not that big a company.” “We have to watch every dime as it is!”

The reality is there are a myriad of ways to give:

Small gifts of money: Can you honestly say you can’t afford $10, $20, $30? Even the smallest sum of cash donations goes a long way. The cost of a moderate dinner out can pay a community musician, neuter a cat, or buy books for a public school student.

Gifts of time: Can you listen to a child read for 30 minutes to help with reading? Foster care a kitten? Spend a couple of hours at the holidays reading to the elderly? Spend an hour consoling a crime victim in conjunction with your police department? The volunteer opps are endless, and I don’t know of any organization who does not appreciate even 30 minutes of your time.

Gifts of supplies: Sometimes even the most mundane items make a huge impact – a few extra office supplies donated to an arts group; an old cell phone donated to be refurbished for a domestic violence victim; magazines of interest to a nursing home or health practioner’s office who assists low-income populations; an unwanted gift card donated to an overworked, underpaid teacher just because. I just started donating my own read Wall Street Journals to the local high school down the street for their AP government and economics classes. Their response? Thrilled! Better than going straight to the recycling bin!

Take a brief moment to think. How do you make a difference? What are more ideas to give?

It doesn’t take a web mega-millionaire to have impact. There is power in numbers and a little goes a long way. Just start in your own backyard. Someone will thank you for it.
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