The concept of giving selflessly to your community and country isn’t new. As we all know, former President John F. Kennedy once famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” This personal mantra embodies the true spirit of community and is a defining attribute of many successful businessmen and women.
The topic of corporate philanthropy is recurring in the business world, and has become especially prevalent of late, in part due to Warren Buffett's highly publicized Giving Pledge. The successful investor and entrepreneur has enlisted multi-millionaires and billionaires from around the world to “dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.”
With a growing list of more than 135 Givers, Buffet’s Giving Pledge contributors lists boasts some of the world’s most successful business people including: Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard and Joan Branson, Michael Bloomberg, Diane Von Furstenberg and Barry Diller, to name a few.
Microsoft founder and CEO Bill Gates, alongside his wife Melinda, are also extremely philanthropic, and support charities, aid groups and technology initiatives in countries all around the world.
“We are dedicated to improving the quality of life for individuals around the world. From the education of students in Chicago, to the health of a young mother in Nigeria, we are catalysts of human promise everywhere,” states the official Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website.
Why is philanthropy so important to world’s elite business people?
When asked, most executives respond that giving back just feels right, and if you have it, then you should invest it in your community, country, and world. Aside from the karmic boost, giving back is also good for business. “Companies who have embraced philanthropy as a core business practice have found they reap rewards far beyond what they thought was possible,” notes Front Stream a corporate charitable consultancy company.
Facilitating a corporate culture based around philanthropy, corporate volunteering, and employee giving can help a company foster strong communal ties and business relationships that benefit the community and the bottom line.
Calgary-based real estate developer and entrepreneur, Riaz Mamdani, knows first-hand that active community involvement can lead to economic opportunity. Riaz Mamdani and his company Strategic Group are well-known in Alberta for their many philanthropic initiatives. Consider, for example, the Calgary Opera Centre, which was recently renamed after him to honour his contributions to the opera company and Calgary’s diverse arts scene.
Last year, when the Albertan economy began to feel a downturn due to low oil prices, Mamdani was able to realign his business focus, in part because he has been so intrinsically linked to the Calgary community.
“While office space leasing began to slow down, I became aware that the residential rental property activity was picking up, partly because of the relationships I have with different members of the community,” explained Riaz Mamdani.
“We currently have five new rental unit projects underway and expect to start another four soon,” Mamdani added.
Giving back to the community one lives in has rewards. Actively engaging with the community in meaningful ways is proven to build a business’ reputation, while also benefiting the community at large.
“Giving back improves a company's image in the eyes of community members and results in a better place to live and work for the company, its employees and the people who live there already,” says Forbes Magazine’s John Boitnott.
Corporate philanthropy can also lead to a more inspired and fulfilled employee workforce. Studies have indicated employees of businesses that are charitable in the community feel proud to work for an organization that values and gives back to the surrounding community.