Philanthropy has become part and parcel of the business world. Theories abound as to why, but it mainly boils down to a healthy desire to give back.
As an entrepreneur, your dedication to growing your business envelops you. The dog-eat-dog world of business rewards a certain kind of aggressiveness, but that can’t define your existence.
For the sake of achieving your internal goals (balance and spiritual satisfaction) while hitting external ones (improving the world around us), giving back and helping others is what makes an entrepreneur’s life complete.
It’s a well-documented fact that when you help others, you’re helping yourself as well. Studies have shown that philanthropic acts can reduce stress, chronic pain, and even risk of heart attack. These are all great, to be sure, but the real benefit comes from knowing that you’re making the world a better place. All the business success in the world doesn’t meet that need.
Taking a look at some of the biggest philanthropists in the world will show you that. We’ve all heard about the charitable initiatives from big names like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett as well as lesser-known billionaires like Chuck Feeney. Their example shows just how much philanthropy is etched into the successful person’s DNA.
While you might not be able to set aside tens of millions of dollars for your favorite cause, giving is still essentially a matter of duty for anyone who’s fortunate enough to be able to do so.
The word philanthropreneur is a mouthful, but it is pretty illustrative of what’s expected of successful entrepreneurs. The word was created around a decade ago to refer to those who bring the spirit of entrepreneurship to philanthropy, essentially, using their creative business minds to serve those in need rather than raise capital for themselves. The fact that such a term even exists should show you how important philanthropy has become in the business world.
The undeniable truth is that your success is hollow if you’re not spreading the wealth after you hit it big.
Real philanthropy isn’t strictly about writing a check. Just as you use your connections to get ahead in business, your connections can put you in touch with those in need that might have otherwise been outside of your purview. Another example ended up being another hugely rewarding experience for me and my family.
Watching the aftermath of Katrina, my wife and I knew that there had to be some way to help. After reaching out to a local community center, a place that has been a part of our lives for years, we found out that a great number of displaced families were being placed in temporary homes in the area.
They put us in touch with a single mother from Biloxi, Mississippi who had lost it all. Our help meant that she and her family would have a place to stay until their home was livable again, which ended up taking the better part of a year.
It was a powerful lesson in resilience. This was a woman with three daughters—I’ve got three of my own—forced to leave everything they knew behind. I can only hope that if I was in her shoes, I would have a fraction of her strength and poise. I’m glad that I’ll always be able to look back on this experience and say I had a part in ensuring her daughters had some kind of normalcy during an incredibly trying time in their lives.
Giving back doesn’t only refer to helping the needy. It can happen when you lend a hand to anyone who could use one, especially an up-and-coming peer who might not be experienced as you are. Let me give you an example.
A good friend of mine, Marco Battaglia, had a 7-year career in the NFL that included a Super Bowl championship. Once it was time to hang up his cleats, he decided to enter the business world. We met through mutual friends, and his drive to reach similar heights in business reminded me of my own passion back when I was getting my start.
After spending his entire adult life trading on his athletic ability, he’s taken to the suit-and-tie world like an All-Star. I’m glad to say I had a part in helping him build his expertise in the corporate world. Navigating the pro sports arena has its own pitfalls, but the business world requires an entirely different nature and a different set of skills. I’ve been able to share what I’ve learned with him, and it’s been incredibly rewarding to see how much he’s grown in his second career.
Giving back, whether in charity or in mentorship, has truly been the most rewarding part of my career. Besides being able to provide for my family, the chance to help others is the most gratifying result of my success in business. When it’s all said and done, I can proudly say that I spread the wealth.
Success is certainly something you earn, but the ability to share it is the greatest gift you’ll get. It’s not about burnishing your reputation or looking good for anyone who’s watching. It’s about making sure your success isn’t wasted on you. Every thriving entrepreneur has money. What you do with it is what will define you.