In this episode, Alisoun Mackenzie shares her Top 10 Business Giving Insights from 2017.
In this audio/post she shares the most common response she gets when delivering Give-to-Profit talks, stats that show doing good is good for business, and how focusing social impact can help you be more effective in business. She also explains how the scope of Give-to-Profit is greater than she first thought and what’s in store for Give-to-Profit in 2018.
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My Top 10 Business Giving Insights from 2017
When I started out on my quest exploring how business could become a force for good there didn’t seem to be many people speaking about this topic. Or at least not many others that I’d met.
I was aware of some larger organisations adopting CSR (corporate social responsibility) for years but my experience of this appeared more of a tick box exercise embraced by only a few within an organisation, rather than being put at the core of business activities.
Most sole traders, small businesses, and entrepreneurs I’ve spoken to have heard of businesses donating a percentage of sales or profits to causes but few are aware of the many other ways we can support causes. Very rarely do I meet people who realise how to incorporate charitable giving into their marketing and brand message, with even fewer putting charitable giving or social impact at the heart of their business.
It was only when I was writing my Give-to-Profit book that I started to discover the increasing body of research, and the library of resources that support and evidence how focusing on impact is good for business. There is so much research available on this topic, some of which I discuss in my book but I needed to stop consuming it all so I could get the book out there – or there was a danger it would never have been published!
The purpose of today’s episode is to share some of the key observations and insights I’ve learnt about business giving through 2017 – some of these I’ve gathered from reading articles and books and watching Youtube videos although much of my experience has come from speaking to lots of interesting people in the field of charitable giving and social impact, including the wonderful guests I’ve had on the Give-to-Profit Podcast Show. Interviewing my guests is one of the things I love the most about my work.
So let’s just get straight into sharing my top 10 insights:
ONE: That’s so obvious
The first thing that most people say to me after they hear me speak or finish reading my book is that the concept of Give-to-Profit is so obvious. Why hadn’t they thought of it before? I tend to agree with this sentiment and that’s why I almost didn’t write the book. Because what I’d been doing for years just seemed like the simplest way to run a business and do good in the world. I didn’t have time to keep it separate and so brought my desire to make a real difference into the heart of my business. I really wasn’t sure there would be enough interest in this topic to warrant it becoming the main focus of my business. But thanks to feedback readers of my book and responses I’ve had from audiences when I’m speaking or being interviewed, I realise what was natural to me isn’t to others. I’m absolutely delighted to now be expanding the Give-to-Profit product/service range with more workshops, talks and an online community about to be launched. If you’ve been part of my journey, thanks for your support!
TWO: Research shows doing good, is good for business
I mentioned earlier that research consistently shows doing good is good for business and there is new research published most months. I’ve also discovered more interesting studies through speaking to the wonderful guests I’ve interviewed for this podcast and others I’ve met through the course of the year. Some of my favourite stats are:
- Meaningful brands outperformed the stock market by a staggering 206% over ten years to 2016 (Havas Meaningful Brands 2017 Report). This is just one of the key findings their study that links brand performance to our quality of life and wellbeing. The largest global study of its kind (spanning 33 countries, 300,000 people and 1,500 brands).
- 57% UK consumers said companies should be actively involved in solving social or environmental problems (Havas)
- 91% of global consumers expect companies to do more than make a profit with 84% seeking out responsible products (Cone 2015 Report).
- Fortune Change the World List – top 100 companies that have positive social impact through core business activities. They seek nominations of businesses with revenues of over $1 billion, from businesses, academia and non-profit groups from around the world. These are then accessed by non-profit social impact consulting firm FSG, the Shared Values initiative (a global platform for organisations seeking business solutions to social challenges) and by Michael E. Porter of the Harvard Business Schools. Fortune writers and editors then evaluate and rank the companies by three factors: measurable social impact, business results and degree of innovation. In 2017 they also mentioned six up-and-coming companies to which and I was delighted to have interviewed the VP in charge of CSR at one of these, Rachel Hutchisson from Blackbaud in Episode E013 on the Era of CSR Ending.
- Businesses are supporting the 17 UN Global Sustainability Development Goals – in 2015 business leaders from around the world, including Richard Branson came together to launch the 17 UN Global Sustainability Development Goals. What we can all work towards to tackle and solve many of the world’s problems. I’ve found it really helpful to align my business to the sustainability goals that resonate most with my values: poverty, education and social justice. I’ll share a link to these in the show notes so you can find out more.
Not all these stats relate to businesses that focus specifically on social impact or are supporting social causes but they are indication of consumer trends and preferences.
There are many companies doing good around the world and I’m sure if you set the intention to notice what’s happening around you, you’ll start noticing them in your local community and online. Three that capture my heart include: Patagonia, Innocent Drinks, and Virgin Money.
Caroline Butler-Madden who I interviewed in episode E004 shares lots of great stats and examples of businesses doing good.
THREE: Most people still don’t realise there is legislation that governs Cause Marketing in many countries around the world
Put simply cause marketing is where a business incorporates fundraising into their marketing or sales campaigns e.g. mentioning you’ll donate a percentage of sales or profits to charity. If you’re doing this, please do make sure you check out legislation that could apply as I discuss in my book and in vidoes on my Youtube channel.
I was thrilled to interview one of the world’s leaders in cause marketing: Joe Waters from Selfish Giving who shares some great examples of cause marketing in episode E003. And my friend Kim Macleod shares the surprising positive side affects of fundraising in honour of her late son in episode E012.
Incorporating fundraising is a fantastic way to grow your business and do good at the same time but please do make sure you’re aware of any relevant legislation before doing this.
FOUR: Incorporating giving into events and conferences can be a brilliant way to connect with audiences
This is something I’ve been doing for a few years now and I’ve always got good results from doing this in terms of engaging audiences, raising funds and getting more leads and customers. But It’s also something I see people doing terribly too e.g. making requests for donations that fall on deaf ears or people missing incredible opportunities to raise funds for causes close to their hearts.
Last year I helped conference organisers in Australia raise over 20,000 AUD in only a few hours because we incorporated a range of fundraising ideas into the event that were inspiring, engaged many attendees, speakers and sponsors. And gave people the opportunity to give in a way that was fun but with absolutely no pressure to give. It was an incredible experience and as one of the organisers said afterward:
“Deepest heartfelt gratitude for all you created Alisoun. The weekend feedback has been phenomenal and this element of giving I feel was the piece that connected all hearts.”
Personally, it was AMAZING to see Give-to-Profit come to life at this event and to have been able to contribute to funding a project for indigenous people, and refugees in Australia. I felt so encouraged by this experience and can’t wait to work with more conference organisers around the world.
This is something you can easily do for yourself too. I share some ideas in my Give-to-Profit book. I also intend to do an episode on this topic soon.
FIVE: The scope of Give-to-Profit as a concept is bigger than I thought
The focus of my book is how to grow a small business by supporting charities and social causes i.e. by strategically personal giving, business activities and the desire to help a cause.
However, as others have shared how they are implementing what I teach and through many conversations over the last year I’ve since realised this model can be used in other ways:
- Larger businesses – while most of the businesses I’ve supported in the past have been solo business owners and entrepreneurs, the same model can apply to larger businesses and organisations. To apply the model to larger organisations replace ‘personal’ with the values you’d like your people to embrace and incorporate this into all people, marketing and CSR activities. Putting charitable giving or social impact at the core of your business.
- Different types of organisation – where relevant change the word business to school, university or type of organisation you are.
- Wider scope than just charitable giving – while my book focuses on supporting charities and social causes, this scope could be extended to causes becomes impact.
SIX: The power of clarifying your social impact mission statement
In response to requests for help from people who had read my books, I ran a Give-to-Profit Strategy Workshop last month – helping business owners and leaders get clear on the social impact they wanted to have through their business, and helping them define a concise Social Impact Mission Statement that reflected this.
I touch on this topic my book when talking about the first step to Growing Your Business by Supporting Charities or Social Causes: getting clear on your ‘why’.
A social impact mission statement is a statement that conveys the impacts you want to have in the world. Why you’re in business. Having a concise Social Impact Mission Statement not only helps you focus business activities towards what’s important to you, it can also help communicate your mission to customers and external stakeholders.
For example, the mission statement of the health food company KIND is ‘to make the world a kinder place’. My mission statement is “to make a difference to a million people – by making it easier for businesses to become a force for good.”
These may seem like simple statements but the process you go through to come up with your social impact mission statement is enlightening. Mine has given me more a lot more clarity and focus and is influencing the products, services and marketing strategies I’ll be adopting in the future. It helps me say ‘no’ to work that’s not aligned to the difference I want to make in the world and also helps me prioritise how I spend my time and money.
If this is something you’d like to do, please do get in touch. I’m planning to run more workshops in Edinburgh, London and online this year.
SEVEN: Focusing on your impact does good, feels good and attracts clients
We’re constantly having an impact on others as we dance through life, whether or not we are aware of the type of impact we’re having. The same is true when we’re in business. Yet, being aware of our social impact is often an evolution for many business owners.
Most business owners and entrepreneurs start up in business with the key goal to earn money for themselves or to set up a social enterprise to solve a particular social problem.
If I’m honest the latter was me – yes I’m driven by my desire to make a difference but my first business goal was to support myself financially in a similar way to what I’d become accustomed to in the investment industry. Like many others my focus was on income generation and getting clients first because I didn’t know at that time that focusing on impact is actually a better way to build a business for those of us who are motivated to make a difference.
- Why is focusing on impact important?
- How do you know what impact you’re having?
I discuss some of this in my book and was over the moon to also interview someone who has been a great influence to me over the last few years – Wendy Lipton-Dibner who is an expert on the benefits of focusing on impact. It’s well worth checking out episode E005 to hear what she shares. Plus it’s worth checking out episode E011 where I interview Phil Haid on the topic of Profit with Purpose who shares a great 3-step framework for measuring your business impact.
On this show today what I’d like to share is how focusing on my impact over the last year has helped me feel a much deeper sense of connection and satisfaction to all aspects of my business:
- As I’ve already mentioned, having my social impact statement helps me be more focused and determine bright shiny things it would be good to ignore. Before jumping into the next ‘exciting’ opportunity I ask myself “will this take me further or nearer my ultimate goal i.e. the impact I want to have in the world?” If not, I now don’t do it. It feels much better to be spending my time doing more of what makes my heart sing.
- By measuring my impact I know and feel like I’m making the difference I want to make in the world. I’m still in the early stages of doing this myself and I’m still working out how to share this better externally, but I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made. You can see more on the impact page of my website that I’ll share in the show notes.
- Thanks to being a member of B1G1 (set up by the inspiring Masami Sato who I interviewed in episode E001) it now feels great to do my accounts on time every month.
- Doing my accounts is one of my least favourite activities of being in business (even with the support of a virtual assistant, bookkeeper and accountant). While I don’t enjoy the process of pulling everything together I’m motivated to do them on time and reviewing various business stats, because these help me calculate my charitable donations for the month. What I donate each month is connected to the number of books and online courses I’ve sold, client meetings I’ve had and various other business activities. So the act of having up-to-date accounts and management information helps me make a difference to more people.
- Having got clear on what I’m about and the impact I want to make in the world, I seem to be attracting all sorts of interesting clients, partners, and opportunities to collaborate, which are aligned to what I want to go in the future. A great reminder that when we have the courage to focus on what makes our heart sing and making a difference to others, different doors, the right doors will open. Having shifted my attention to focus on impact I feel my business has ‘grown’ up and is now an even better reflection of who I am. I’m no longer leaving a part of me outside.
EIGHT:The need to develop meaningful brand
I mentioned the business case for this earlier.
What I also sense is that there’s a trend of more businesses supporting causes, and focusing on impact which is great for causes that receive this much-needed support. But a side effect of this trend continuing is that just simply supporting causes may soon no longer make you stand out as a business.
A brand is what others think and say about you or your business – especially when you’re not in the room! A meaningful brand is one that makes a positive difference in peoples’ lives. In other words, a business or brand that would be missed if it no longer existed.
We can add value to others in many ways e.g. through products and services we provide, our level of customer service, the way we treat our staff, the way we support causes or contribute to local communities.
If you want to be perceived as a business that does good, this needs to be reflected in all areas of your business. Any misalignment or incongruency will send potential customers to your competitors. There is no point in doing good if you don’t offer great products and services people want to buy. Likewise, doing good outside your business e.g. in your community will not help your brand if you’re known for also mistreating your staff.
As more businesses align their business activities to solving social problems, including through supporting causes, this raises the bar. There will also be increasing need for businesses to adopt best practices when supporting causes as I discuss in my book, and to consider how they can incorporate their social good practices into their core message and brand. As Caroline McKenna shared in her incredibly insightful interview (episode E009 on Transparency and Why it Matter), I do also believe there will be a shift towards greater transparency.
If you follow what I teach in my Give-to-Profit book and workshops this will really help you do this.
NINE: I’ve missed doing humanitarian work
Personally, I’ve really missed being overseas doing humanitarian work. Volunteering overseas something I really enjoy doing (even when it’s really hard work in terrible conditions). It’s now been a few years since my last trip to help genocide survivors in Rwanda and I’m really feeling I need to do some more humanitarian work soon. This desire has certainly also been fuelled by conversations with a few of my guests who have also spent time overseas in a humanitarian capacity including Kim Carpenter, Ursula Jorch and Akshay Nanavanti – we discuss some of our travels in episodes E007, E010 and E014.
TEN: It’s important to give to ourselves too!
Interesting how this is the last thing that came to mind when planning for this podcast – I like to think I’m better at looking after myself than putting myself last!
The Giving Spectrum is something I discuss in my first book Heartatude, and reflecting on that last year I realise I’m much better at finding a balance between giving to others and giving to myself.
The last year has been an incredibly rewarding and interesting time. I’ve said to friends that it still feels like early days for Give-to-Profit as I dance with what my dreams and aspirations are and blend these into what others seem to be interested in. I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent speaking to lots of people around the world and growing my knowledge in the area of business giving and social impact. It’s been important to give myself this time to expand my knowledge and to invest my time pulling together this podcast show.
Yes it means that some of my goals for Give-to-Profit have been put back e.g. the launch of the online Give-to-Profit Community and my online Fundraising Challenges. But I’m totally fine with that. Having a healthy work-life balance is so important to me and I trust that whatever the future holds for Give-to-Profit it will
I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode and all other episodes you’ve listened to – thanks so much for tuning in. Please do get in touch and let me know. Or leave a review on itunes so others can hear what you think too. And remember to check out the show notes where for this episode you’ll find a full transcript of this show.
I will be launching the Give-to-Profit Community and Fundraising Challenges over the next couple of months and will be delivering my Give-to-Profit Impact Workshops again in the spring. If you’re interested in any of these please let me know and I’ll keep you posted.
As always remember, business in a great opportunity to be kind.
Until next time,
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