What role does philanthropy play in small business?

  • Updated: March 28, 2010 - 5:34 PM

Q What role does philanthropy play in small business, and how can entrepreneurs use their philanthropic efforts to advance their business?

CRYSTAL KENDRICK, PRESIDENT,

THE VOICE OF YOUR CUSTOMER

WWW.THEVOICEOFYOUR CUSTOMER.COM

A Philanthropy must be done for its own sake, but that is not to say that it cannot have positive personal consequences. However, small businesses need to take care. It serves no one to donate cash that damages your sustainability and forces layoffs.

Fortunately, there are many creative ways to contribute in lean times -- through donating time, skills and products. Employee volunteer days can support nonprofits and build morale. Product donations can serve the needy and build your brand.

Beyond donations, there are three ways a good small business contributes to the greater good.

• First, ask, "Are my products as good as they can be?" We often overlook that a primary way businesses contribute is through good products. Good mortgages enrich our community while deceptive ones destroy it. "Can I redesign to accentuate the positive benefits and minimize any potential negative consequence?"

• Second, "Do my business relationships encourage others to flourish and community to deepen?" Good training, enlightened employment practices and fair payment of suppliers each contribute to the strength of community while neglect, abuse and exploitation of the weak destroy it.

• Third, "Am I developing good character as an entrepreneur?" Leaders who publicly act on good principles contribute to our community; leaders who reinforce cynicism and selfishness diminish it.

Philanthropy is too often equated with cash donations. But there are four goods to good entrepreneurship. To be sure, juggling is hard and economic realities can constrain. But the more you use entrepreneurial creativity to integrate philanthropy into your "daily doings," the more likely you are to do good and do well.

JOHN MCVea

AssistaNt professor of entrepreneurship,

University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business

Answers are provided by the John M. Morrison Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas. E-mail questions to: consultant@startribune.com.

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