The business of philanthropy

The season for giving is 12 months long

John McDonagh is the publisher of the Vancouver Business Journal.
Business and philanthropy. Some would say they are at opposite ends of the continuum, the business end clearly focused on creating value and fortune for owners, and the other end, philanthropy, dependent on the generosity of those whose fortunes have already been made.

We’re proud to feature in today’s edition profiles of companies who make a conscious, above the line decision to support and contribute to the efforts of non-profits throughout our area. While some businesses focus their giving and philanthropy on their own industry or employees, those featured in this issue take a broader approach supporting events, programs and initiatives which collectively make for a more connected and robust community.

Most faith communities have annual stewardship campaigns focused on the time, talent and treasures of their members and congregants. The business community has essentially the same set of resources from which to draw but the labels we use are referred to as time, cash and in-kind product or service. Regardless of which label is used when businesses make a decision to divert resources to the needs of a non-profit, it is with the understanding that those resources could be directed at the core business eventually resulting in increased business. So why divert those resources when they could be used to build the company?

As you will read, those who make the decision to invest their resources philanthropically measure the return on that investment from the perspective of the community. They look for the dimension it adds to the community; the needed services it maintains or provides and to the opportunities it provides for their own employees as well as to those less advantaged in the community.

These decisions are not without their very real return to the bottom line of the business as well, it is simply seen more as a bi-product of the decision rather than the goal. For most of these business owners, the reward is in the contribution to the community’s vitality. For these businesspeople, success is both corporate citizenship and profitability. Doing business without one or the other of these would not be acceptable, sustainable or worthwhile.

We frequently talk about the blessings of living in this community and we are most often about the natural beauty, the temperate climate and the relatively sparse population. I suggest there is another blessing for which we ought to be thankful. That blessing comes from the companies highlighted in today’s Vancouver Business Journal and the hundreds like them who, without fanfare or recognition, make contributions year round to children’s programs, educational foundations, medical foundations, homeless shelters, food banks, scholarships, training programs, rehabilitation facilities – the list goes on. These are the services that, in the end, distinguish our community from so many others and for which we should not only be thankful but should be supporting ourselves.

The Vancouver Business Journal strongly supports businesses modeling philanthropic behavior and organizations that help businesses get a solid start and stay strong. That is why we are dedicating 10 percent of the sales proceeds of today’s special section on philanthropy to SCORE, the Vancouver Service Corps of Retired Executives.