Leadership Development

The Business of…improving others

Whether it’s volunteering, mentoring or helping the small business down the street the next “Value Proposition” for global success is lifting others. It’s no longer just being a stalwart for social responsibility it’s understanding what’s “good for business”, and the most successful and yes devious companies today understand that giving back is bringing in $$$$. Certainly, the argument to this perceived quid pro quo of giving back and expecting a return of some sort has validity but let’s face it charity has become big business. Currently, working as a board chair myself for an upcoming nonprofit I certainly didn’t realize the amount of energy spent on developing a business case to receive funding versus driving our story on helping the community. The nonprofit industry has become the “Red Ocean” of business and each one of us startup nonprofits is trying to identify that “Blue Ocean”. The competitive landscape of improving the lives of others has taken on a new tenor, which is ironic because you don’t normally equate “competition”, “business”, and “value proposition” in the same breath as the “Salvation Army”. We’re moving into the time of year where giving back takes center stage, during this holiday season check out the number of nonprofit organizations seen on TV or present at your local grocery store. Retailers are looking for another shopping bonanza this holiday season…the nonprofits are looking for the bleeding hearts to empty their wallets. The line between the “profit industry” & “nonprofit industry” is becoming increasingly blurred with regards to how it handles its business. Both industries need capital to exist and how the two obtain capital…well, you may find there’s not much difference. I often say to others who ask me about my association with nonprofits that I’ve never worked harder in trying to drive business. It truly is a battle each and every day. I’ve been in corporate America for close to 30 years primarily in the sales & marketing space where the focus is to increase profits, since participating in the nonprofit sector where fundraising is KING I can humbly say fundraising is a BEAST.

Pollyanna doesn’t equal $$$

Each and every good cause is so vitally needed in our society. The disadvantaged and down trodden need all of our help and to those of you who feel immune to suffering I can only say to make sure you get your flu shots…because none of us are immune to misfortune. Organizations both profit or nonprofit who give back to the community whether it’s coming from the heart or profit & loss statement still provide a critical service to the community. So, I want to be clear that any activity that improves the quality of life of others has my unwavering support regardless of the possible intention. With that being said there are many organizations on the profit and yes nonprofit side that use the social responsibility flag as a marketing tool. Unfortunately, we’re seeing the growing sentiment of “Corporate Giving” being more of a business transaction rather than a good “Corporate Deed”. This is causing some havoc among the smaller nonprofit organizations that look to fundraising as a means of survival, and many times just providing the nice Pollyanna story…doesn’t equate to donor dollars. Has the giving back industry become jaded? Some are saying it’s getting close. In an article by Small Biz Connect it speaks to the growing cynicism felt by those who normally participate with charitable causes and why the apprehension is growing:

There is much debate and criticism surrounding the concept of corporate social responsibility. Some people believe that the actual responsibility of a business is only to its owners and shareholders. Others believe that a business should be held accountable for all of its actions (past, present and future) that impact the environment and community. One of the common criticisms of corporate social responsibility is that there is a conflict between the purpose of business and the concept of social responsibility. It is argued by many businesspeople and economists that the true purpose of business is to make a profit for the benefit of shareholders. Doing anything outside of this purpose undermines this fundamental business principle. If an organization has a responsibility to its shareholders to make as much profit as possible, how can it justify spending some of those profits on socially responsible projects or making decisions that will negatively affect the bottom line? One of the serious challenges that businesses face when becoming involved in corporate social responsibility is growing consumer cynicism. Consumers now recognize that for many organizations, social responsibility is simply a public relations campaign in disguise. They are skeptical about the true motivation behind corporate social responsibility and are not easily convinced that a business is acting in the best interests of the community and environment. Even businesses that are genuine in their commitment to social responsibility face the challenge of winning over customers. Businesses need to be careful to not be seen boasting about their socially responsible endeavors. Basically, consumers view this as a marketing ploy and often disregard what is being said as you simply trying to drum up good public relations. This is especially apparent when business has made profits from irresponsible behavior of many years and then expects praise from consumers when they suddenly start to make small changes to their practices.

To read the rest of the article click on the link: http://toolkit.smallbiz.nsw.gov.au/part/17/84/364


Now, you understand why it’s becoming a blurred line between a profit and nonprofit personality in the eyes of a potential donor. What’s more is that organizations who rely on patron funding are finding the terrain getting tougher and simply providing the touching message is not enough. As I work to help build the nonprofits I’m affiliated with it’s going to be absolutely critical that I keep sincerity, trustworthiness, passion, and message value in mind. The “Giving Industry” is becoming a shark infested Red Ocean…the Blue Ocean strategy will be to sell SINCERITY.

The Business of…improving others

Thank you so much!


Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting


One thought on “The Business of…improving others

  1. Hey Andre’ Harrell,

    That was an interesting article and thanks for sharing. This article is just what I needed to read. I’ve never imagined anything on this level of magnitude between both the “nonprofit industry” and “profit industry”…

    Why do you consider fundraising as being a BEAST ?


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