Business giving is more than the “Donations” line item in your budget.
I started my journey in service in high school when I joined the youth mission programs at my church. At the time, I didn’t think much of giving my time to helping others. It seemed like the right thing to do. Plus, before smartphones, it wasn’t like I had much else to do during my weekends and summers!
But what started as “the right thing to do” quickly turned into a life-changing experience and a lifelong value. So much so that I wrote my college essay about my experience volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in Baltimore and I believe strongly in that essay’s impact in cementing my acceptance into my dream school.
I continued my commitment to service after college, spending a year with an Americorps program teaching math and science to underprivileged youth in downtown Los Angeles.
Through my years of helping others and experiencing their struggles firsthand, I got to witness the impact that individuals like me can have. That every minute spent and every dollar donated to the service of others truly does matter.
I regret that I haven’t made as much time as I could in my current role to volunteer as I used to. But I have always strived to focus on what I can do, as an entrepreneur, to give back in one way or another.
And as I evaluate my role in our current society with its rising needs, I’ve decided to do more than simply increase our monthly recurring monetary donations to organizations that align with Don’t Panic’s core values and mission.
I’ve decided to focus on the things I can give to my team, my business, and my industry.
This way, my team, business, and industry can be empowered to turn around and give, too.
Why business giving?
The reason to give is simple: When we do our small part, we touch an individual for the better. When individuals are better, communities are better. When communities are better, the world becomes better, and when the world becomes better, we can do even more good.
Of course, there’s more to this than the general idea of business giving, and the wakeup call to the injustices that we are experiencing (and should have been aware of and correcting long before now) demands and deserves more.
It deserves a clear stance and actionable antiracist policies that prove whatever soundbite a company releases to its employees, stakeholders, and partners is not an empty PR move. It deserves accountability from businesses, their leadership, and their employees to honor these antiracist policies. And, it deserves to be more than monetary giving.
As a business owner, it’s all too easy to budget a certain amount to a certain organization, set up the automated giving, dust your hands off, clap yourself on a back, and call it a job well done. Don’t get me wrong, monetary giving is a vitally important piece of the puzzle – but that’s exactly what it is: one piece of business giving.
Here are some others:
- Enacting policy changes at the organizational level that focus on giving time and space to do the work is another piece.
- Creating spaces of discussion, equity, and safety to give a place for voice is another.
- Publicly releasing (with permission) diversity and inclusion statistics, statements, and strategies to give a means of accountability.
In addition to our regular monetary giving, these are three things Don’t Panic is actively working on and through as a collective.
This year, we added Juneteenth as a company holiday and encouraged those on our team who to can spend the time off educating themselves on the history of the holiday.
We also joined the Open to All campaign, pledging to the public that we are, and will continue to be, a place that welcomes all people, no matter what.
We are exploring and expanding our understanding of how to support each other in the face of racial injustices, and we are, with permission, collecting information about our team to release and hold us accountable as we plan our growth for this year, next year, and beyond.
These are just a few small things that should have been done long ago. As the saying goes, the best time to start was yesterday. The next best time to start is today.
I share this as an example as one of many businesses that are standing up instead of shutting up when it comes to their business giving approaches and plans. My team and I are looking forward to seeing even more businesses continue to join in similar action—action that points toward the same direction of progress and equality.
The truth is, business giving isn’t about feeling good about yourself as a business owner (though it absolutely adds to your overall life satisfaction and happiness).
It’s about becoming a catalyst for change, no matter how difficult that may be or how long it may take.
It’s about committing to building a better place for humans forever, not just when there’s civil unrest.
It’s about trusting your team, stakeholders, and business partners to hold you accountable to your promises. And, in turn, holding your team, stakeholders, and business partners accountable in their giving, too.
Finally, it’s about empowering others to be able to do the work the world so desperately needs, whatever form that may take.