What do a nonprofit hospital in Indiana, an evangelistic Christian ministry in Central America, and a legal team trying to root out the sex trade in Thailand all have in common? More than you think.
A few years ago, I wrote a short book titled: The Business of Generosity: How Companies, Nonprofits, and Churches are Working Together to Deliver Remarkable Good. One of the things I learned was that generosity can be both an individual attribute and an organizational value, and it can thrive in just about any channel with the help of certain insights, guidelines, and collective right practices.
Here are three common best practices I discovered that are galvanizing the world of generosity, and they’re still true today.
1. Who’s the hero?
It’s easy for big donors, celebrity spokespeople, or the leaders of businesses and nonprofits to attract the spotlight of attention toward themselves. Look at me! Look at what we’re doing!
But the hero isn’t the do-gooder; the hero is the one who is the object of the good that is being done.
Smart leaders shape the narrative of their organizations so that the focus isn’t on an organization doing good but on the recipient of that good. If an organization tries to make itself the protagonist of the narrative, they will lose their generosity cred.
Of course, if yours is a company engaging in generosity marketing, or a nonprofit hoping to raise your profile, you want some attention for yourself. And here’s where it gets dicey. You’ll need to tread carefully. It is hard to have two people on the stage in the spotlight at the same time.
Remember how AT&T handled the original TOMS Shoes commercial a decade ago? I loved those original commercials. Did you realize you don’t hear the AT&T company name mentioned until twenty-eight seconds into the thirty-second commercial?
You should not be the center of the stage in the story of generosity.
2. Organic tastes better.
Every generous organization should make sure that the generosity fits comfortably with the organization’s ID.
Attempts to do good that are ill-fitting or self-serving create a bad taste in the public’s mouth. But if a generosity program is organic to the organization, it is more likely to survive and thrive. The issue is not is it real but is it core? In other words, the generosity work needs to be core to the organization’s mission, model, product lines, or service. Vaseline, Brita, Dove, Clorox, and many other companies have figured out that organic good works best.
Established companies that genuinely want to do good, as opposed to just looking good, can do it, but it may require some retooling of their ways. For every Warby Parker who has generosity as part of their startup DNA, there’s a Mars Candy that has put greater and greater emphasis on generosity as the years go by. It took transformation, time, and effort, but they’re doing it.
Don’t just make generosity an artificial add-on to your company service and products. Make it a part of your reason for being.
Some institutional leaders are little more than business bullies. Some organizations are battlefields for turf wars fought both inside and outside the walls of the company.
Internally, the spirit of competition can be a good thing. But it can also be a devil of division. In some companies, promotion comes through a kind of social Darwinism where predator vanquishes prey—I win, you lose.
I firmly believe we have lost the symphonic tone of collaboration today in most workspaces. The pursuit of competitive advantage has replaced working with others to accomplish a greater good. Eventually, an unhealthy independence can eat through a company’s culture. But just as truly, rebuilding a collaborative strategy can make a company succeed while contributing to God’s process of social renewal.
Collaboration is a big idea to help solve many of the ills of our globe. For example, the African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships bring together the government of Botswana, the Gates Foundation, and pharmaceutical giant Merck to enhance Botswana’s national response to AIDS.
Collaboration doesn’t cost much. It’s usually not hard to do. Just about any organization of any size, with any type of social focus, can do it.
An African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.”
If there is ever a time of the year that pulls our attention to generosity, it is the holiday season. This time of the year is one extended manifestation of generosity. Since we are all recipients of generosity, we should also be the givers of generosity. Don’t let tight-fisted Scrooge take over your heart and mind during this holiday. Let generosity flow.