For it is in giving that we receive. — Francis of Assisi
If you’re keeping up with my series on Social Entrepreneurship, then you know that my personal mission to find more meaning at work became the foundation of a powerful community within my company; but it took a leap of faith to get us where we are now. I want every leader to experience the transformational power of a purpose-driven team and the joy that comes when you put the needs of others above your own. So today, I’m going to take another leap of faith and share the formula behind our success and how it’s transformed the way we work.
I want every leader to experience the transformational power of a purpose-driven team and the joy that comes when you put the needs of others above your own.
Starting any company from the ground up is tough, but building our business for a cause was particularly challenging. We bootstrapped our business. It was hard. We didn’t have extra time or money or resources. We often asked ourselves how we could do more when we had nothing extra to give. Still, we were determined to make a positive impact with every dollar we earned. My professional experience taught me that success doesn’t guarantee significance. I knew that no matter how successful we would become, the pursuit of professional excellence alone would never be enough to satisfy me. So, how were we going to make our work more meaningful?
My professional experience taught me that success doesn’t guarantee significance.
One of the biggest dangers in any pursuit is analysis paralysis. So instead of being overwhelmed by what ifs, we put our trust in a simple, yet reliable principle — math. We committed a pre-defined portion of our annual profits toward our cause. This simple plan allowed us to steward the growth of our business while aggressively pursuing our mission. Instead of planning to give, we made a plan for giving. We committed 15% of our annual profits toward the United Nations’ goal of ending global poverty by 2030, and I’m proud to report that after a decade of consistent giving, we’ve officially generated over a million dollars of support for our cause.
As I reflect on all we’ve accomplished, I’m humbled. I recognize that I personally had very little to do with our success. It’s the people around me who are truly responsible for achieving our goals, supporting my numerous ideas, and sustaining our growth. Saint Francis of Assissi famously said, For it is in giving that we receive. Every leader has an opportunity to experience the transformational power of a purpose-driven team if they’re willing to take a leap of faith and make their giving a bottom-line priority. This step requires humility. It requires a plan for giving, and most importantly, a commitment that puts people over profits. As long as you’ve built a sustainable plan around your giving, you have little to lose and much to gain. If you don’t believe me, check out these 6 unexpected perks we gained from starting a social business.
Whether you like it or not, customers are no longer evaluating products and services on their merits alone. Customers want to know your story and why you exist. They want to see the impact you’re making, and they want your values to align with their values. And while it’s certainly true that people tend to do business with people they like, I think it’s time to add, and companies they trust.
People tend to do business with people they like and companies they trust.
People may like you if you make a good first impression, but trust is what encourages them to become loyal customers. Trust isn’t free — it is earned through relationship and reputation; it requires authenticity, consistency, and transparency. 81% of consumers say it’s a deal breaker if they can’t trust a brand to do what’s right. — 2019 Edelman Report 86% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support — Stackla, Consumer Content Report 66% of consumers think transparency is one of a brand’s most attractive qualities — Accenture’s The Rise of the Purpose-Led Brand 77% of consumers prefer to buy from companies who share their values. — 2019 Havas Group Report One of the unexpected perks of a well-established Social Mission is the instant trust it creates for your brand. Outsiders can quickly see the passion of your employees and the impact you’re making. Ironically, prior to 2014, we were reluctant to share our charitable ambitions out of fear that people would perceive our announcement as bragging or having ulterior motives. We were secretly running a social enterprise. Today, we discovered the opposite is true. Customers are motivated to do business with people they like and brands they trust, and our Social Mission helps us accomplish both.
One of the unexpected perks of a well-established Social Mission is the instant trust it creates for your brand.
<-- To see all that we’ve accomplished through our caused-based business, download a free copy of Abenity’s Impact Report.
#2. Meaningful Teamwork
I left my first real job and a six figure income to pursue more meaningful work. This pursuit inspired the Social Mission of my company, Abenity, and today it provides our employees with the opportunity to work for a cause that’s bigger than our product, bigger than our industry, and bigger than ourselves.
In 2017, BetterUp surveyed 2,200+ American workers and found that employees who find work meaningful:
Work an extra hour per week
Take two fewer days of paid leave per year
Are happier, more productive, and harder working
Generate an average of $9,078 in productivity gains for their company
Work 7.4 months longer for their respective company than employees in comparable positions elsewhere
Our Social Mission provides our employees with the opportunity to work for a cause that’s bigger than our product, bigger than our industry, and bigger than ourselves. For more on this, check out BetterUp’s Meaning and Purpose At Work report.
#3. Cultural Alignment
Purpose-driven people are attracted to purpose-driven places. So, when like-minded individuals align their professional ambition with meaningful work, you get a highly engaged workforce with a shared purpose. According to Gallup, that’s a great thing for your cause because highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability.
Engaged employees are more present and productive; they are more attuned to the needs of customers; and they are more observant of processes, standards and systems. — Gallup
#4. Shared Purpose
As more purpose-driven people joined our team, our company’s culture began to take shape around our cause. The combination of cultural alignment with a shared purpose produced a cause-centered culture with committed team members. We’ve found that when times get tough (during a pandemic, for example), we have the fortitude and desire to stay the course and fight for the success of a common mission that’s bigger than ourselves. We’ve found that when times get tough (during a pandemic, for example), we have the fortitude and desire to stay the course and fight for the success of a common mission that’s bigger than ourselves.
#5. Purpose-Driven Metrics
Let’s be honest — successfully executing a strategy is much harder than coming up with a strategy to execute. In my experience, it’s almost impossible to achieve your goals without the right KPI’s (key performance indicators). So when it comes to our Social Mission, we measure the following achievements to make sure we reach our impact goals.
Recurring Revenue: As a SAAS platform, client subscriptions play a major role in the number of children we are able to sponsor. So, instead of basing our revenue goals on the number of clients we’d like to acquire, we focus our efforts around the number of children we’d like to sponsor. Our V.P. of Sales even converts her key metrics into sponsorship goals within her personal office.
Abenity’s V.P. of Sales converts her sales targets into sponsorship goals. Cash Positive Day: We celebrate cash positive day (when revenue received exceeds expenses out) with an internal trivia question where the winner gets to select a cause from World Vision for us to support that month.
Year-End Gifts: Instead of sending out gift cards, or swag, we celebrate year-end by letting each of our employees, their families, our clients and suppliers select a hand-crafted gift of their choice or a donation in their name to a special cause. Every gift supports the artisan selected as well as children and families within the communities World Vision serves. These gifts provide our stakeholders with a personal and annual reminder of our Social Mission. It’s not unusual to see our gift recipients pay it forward by creating a cause-based campaign of their own.
Peter Drucker famously said Culture eats strategy for breakfast —but how does a fast-growing company maintain a consistent set of positive values and a healthy culture with an increasingly diverse workforce? Matt Cronin opens his Enterpreneur.com article, Community Is the Best Company Culture, with a statement I completely support, Entrepreneurs love to talk about how great their company cultures are, but the best businesses don’t push culture — they build communities.
Entrepreneurs love to talk about how great their company cultures are, but the best businesses don’t push culture — they build communities.
So, how do you achieve this level of community at work, especially if your team is remote like ours? For us, the recipe for a flourishing professional community started with meaningful work and purpose-driven people, which, with consistency and transparency, developed cultural alignment and shared purpose. Looking back, I’m amazed by the many unexpected ways our community has expanded the scope and impact of our cause. Here are just a few examples of the initiatives our team independently created over the years under the banner of our Social Mission: Letter sent by my 6 year old daughter welcoming a new child we sponsored.
Family Involvement: One of my favorite initiatives that our team independently developed around our Social Mission is a pen pal program with the 231+ kids we sponsor at World Vision. Many of our team members have both their spouses and children writing letters back and forth with the kids we sponsor.
Special Projects: We come together annually to pack Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes and we provide each employee with a couple dozen $5.00 McDonalds Gift Cards to keep in their car so they’re able to quickly provide a meal to people they encounter in need.
Prayer: Company-wide prayer requests are one of the most unexpected perks of the community we built. In fact, it’s not uncommon for us to receive prayer requests during a sales presentation or routine support call. We take these requests seriously and it’s an honor to pray for the needs of our community. Comp Programs: Our team loves to support great causes, and one of their new ideas in 2020 is to annually give-away four perks programs ($6,000+ value) to deserving non-profits. This program brings our entire community together to nominate and select high performance non-profits who can use our gift to further the impact of their individual cause. External Partnerships: When we selected World Vision, we expected them to fulfill our giving goals, but we didn’t anticipate the impact they’d make in our lives. Over the years, my family and I have had the opportunity to serve with them as volunteers at concerts, attend their conferences, speak at their corporate office, meet other like-minded donors, and develop authentic relationships with their local and senior-level leadership.
What started out as a personal journey for more meaningful work, became a mission supported by a team of purpose-driven leaders and believers in our cause. As time went on, the teamwork we fostered developed an aligned culture with shared purpose. As we collectively built our business for a greater cause, we found our commitment to Perks With Purpose gave us a competitive-edge in our industry, which prompted a greater focus on our cause, including intentional goal setting with purpose-driven KPI’s. Instead of simply developing a healthy team culture, we found ourselves surrounded by an unshakeable community of believers in our business and supporters of our cause.
Let’s Talk! I have two questions for you... 1) Have you made a plan for giving, or are you just planning to give? 2) What holds you back from taking the leap of faith that’s required to put the needs of others above your own?
About the Author: Brian Roland is a social entrepreneur and Founder of Abenity, the 6x Inc. 5000 company that’s powering corporate perks for top brands like U.S. Bank and Mastercard. While Abenity provides millions of subscribers with private discounts, the company’s social mission is fighting extreme poverty with every program they deliver. Abenity recently exceeded $1 million dollars of total giving and hired a CEO to accelerate growth with their fully remote team. Brian lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with his family and enjoys roasting coffee, flying drones, and helping impact-driven entrepreneurs establish a social mission of their own.