As I write this, I have a stack of handmade items that I need to complete today because I have promised them to a certain non-profit group.
Donating items from my store is tricky. I will get some good promotion out of my donation. I am well aware of this. However, It is a cause that is near and dear to my heart, carried out in a way I think is particularly cool.
I might have donated these items even if I didn’t have a business to promote. Nonetheless, my business certainly drove me to seek the opportunity.
You’ve probably noticed that many businesses these days are eager to tell you about how some of their profits go to help some cause, feed or clothe the hungry, create jobs, fund research, etc. Not only that, but I’ve read that businesses these days are expected to have a social conscience. It’s on your checklist for creating a successful business. The public, your customers, want to know that you care.
I think this is great. It’s certainly better than the ‘traditional’ model of business: taking all you can out of people for profits, profits, profits, without regard to any harm left. I feel as individuals we should give what we can. Extending giving through your business makes sense. I believe many of these businesses have a sincere concern for people and for the environment. I also think it’s awesome people are looking for real character in the companies they support.
Still, human nature being what it is, the huge opportunity for exploitation alarms me. I can’t tell if a given company is helping the poor or the environment because they really care or because they need to get those bonus points to stay competitive.
If good is done, does the motive really matter?
Personally, I think it does. Plenty of supposed charities have done more harm than good in the final analysis. It takes a lot of thought, research, and genuine compassion to make decisions that actually help people. A simple handout can cause cultural problems that might not be superficially understood. The idea that these ‘good works’ are done first of all for commercial reasons makes me squeamish.
I’m never going to be in a position to decide the motives of most of the companies I buy from. If they enthusiastically support something I don’t believe in, that might turn me off. On the flip side if they give to a cause that is a particular burden of mine, it might lead me to choose them over others. On the whole, though, I see these things with a vague ‘that’s nice’ and am not all that influenced by them. My real concern is what I do.
If I do anything good for the world, I would feel better about doing it in secret. Does modern commerce really demand that I make a show of it? If I announce a donation on my business Facebook page, does that mean I am being exploitative? Do I need to “do good” publicly as a good example?
I don’t really know what to think about this issue, and this is such a small scratch on the surface of it, without diving into the depths of all the ideas behind my position and that of others.
I’d love to hear what others think about it. What do you do with your business when it comes to supporting charities and ’causes’?