Giving and Getting

By Hannah Wallace April 30, 2008

I recently read a penetrating essay by Booker High School junior Brittney Cannon, who was competing for the Boys & Girls Clubs national Youth of the Year. “I want to thank the Boys & Girls Club for encouraging me, helping me and giving me a second chance at life,” she wrote. “I have the capability of being the Brittney I have always wanted to be, but never really knew how. I have been given the most amazing gifts, some of which I would not have asked for, such as support, love and friendship.”

As a B&G Clubs board member, I was asked along with Barbara Portanova to judge the local competition. After meeting with Brittney and then seeing her heartfelt reaction to being selected our local winner, I went back to the office touched, inspired and with a sense of new fulfillment and optimism. I felt like I had won something.

The businesspeople I’ve most admired are total people. They’re interesting and multidimensional. While successful in their respective industries, they aren’t obsessed workaholics. They have diverse interests and many are engaged in philanthropy by giving their time and/or donations. I believe that the enhanced humanity they derive from charitable involvement make them and their companies more successful.

Corporate giving is both virtuous and intelligent. Its goodness is deep-rooted in our value systems and highly palpable; its wisdom is more complex. Whether motivated by altruism or self-interest or both, it’s smart to get involved in philanthropy. Projecting a benevolent image and making valuable contacts are surface benefits. The most profound benefit, however, is less apparent. It involves the executive’s increased sense of compassion and, yes, achievement. Perhaps there’s transference from the gratification derived from doing good to the empowerment to succeed in business. Fulfillment in one area may in fact affect others, and is not limited to top executives. Corporate cultures of philanthropic companies are permeated by the sense that good things come from contributing, instilling employees with positive attitudes and high purpose. Heightened morale, commitment and productivity are logical products of this corporate sensibility.

Supporting this notion is a 2007 Dover Management study reported in The Wall Street Journal that states that companies that nurture a culture of philanthropy are more profitable. The data from that study is upheld by a similar one produced in 2006 by New York University and University of Texas. It’s a classic win-win: doing the right thing and succeeding in business.

Brittney went on to Tallahassee to compete statewide and succeeded in making the final four and winning a scholarship. And I acquired a bit more humanity, which I hope is making me better at what I do.

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