Aligning values and the importance of strategic generosity
Elizabeth Burdette, JD
Director of Client Engagement
Giving can be, and is best experienced, when it is a joyful exercise and a fulfilling experience. And, just like all things that matter in life, it is best served with intention. This is called strategic generosity. In this way, generosity moves from being a transaction to a purposeful action that positively impacts both the giver and the recipient.
So how can businesses practice intentional generosity?
In short, by approaching your giving no differently than you approach any other element of your business:
- Identify and define your objectives
- Create a strategy
- Measure outcomes
Of course this can seem easier said than done in a world where the need in our communities seems overwhelming. From the global pandemic to climate change, race relations to economic inequality, food insecurity to the crisis at our border, the list of problems that could potentially be addressed by corporate philanthropy can appear endless. Simultaneously, clients and employees look to companies as the thought leaders to set the example for community engagement and creating real change. At the end of the day, most business leaders understand that you cannot have a healthy company if your communities aren’t healthy.
Let’s just start with the first step: identifying and defining your objectives. In my work with clients as individuals and families our very first conversation in creating personalized giving plans centers around their values and passions. Until you identify your objectives for giving, you simply cannot form a meaningful strategy to help create the change you want to see in your community.
Values, especially, are the North Star
when it comes to intentional generosity.
It is no different for a business. I had the privilege of speaking with Ann Cramer, IBM’s retired Director of Corporate Citizenship for the Americas, for an episode of our Net Worthwhile podcast on this topic of strategic generosity. Ann shared some excellent insights around the importance of identifying a company’s values. As she said, “aligning and linking your values as a company to whatever your product and people are with the needs of the community…is the best strategic way to think about effectively stewarding the resources that a company has for impact and making a difference in the community.”
Ann encourages business leaders to look to their clients and employees to identify the unique values of their organization. Take IBM, for example. It is a technology and solutions company. At its heart, those are its strengths. So during Ann’s 46 years, IBM focused its efforts on working with community non-profits on strategies and solutions through technology. Additionally, the company invested in educational opportunities to develop the talent pipeline. IBM made strategic decisions on where to focus its resources based on the values and skills of its own community. As Ann reflected “as a company, you feel like you ought to be doing everything, but it is OK to be strategic.”
“As a company, you feel like you ought to be doing everything,Ann Cramer, Director of Corporate Citizenship for the Americas, IBM
but it is OK to be strategic.”
Once you have objectives for giving, which align with your values, then it’s easier to create a generosity strategy that will mean something to and for you Again, while the process of embracing strategic generosity for your business in today’s world may seem overwhelming, it truly just begins by asking yourself, your clients and your team: what are our values? Who are we? What are our strengths, and what can we uniquely offer to our community? Once you have identified your values, you can take the next steps in creating a strategy for giving back in ways that will transform not just those who receive but your organization as well. We will explore this concept more in upcoming articles with goBeyondProfit.
You can listen to my entire conversation with Ann Cramer on SignatureFD’s Net Worthwhile Podcast here.
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