When I graduated with my bachelors degree in the 1990’s, I had the privilege of working for a resort in Northern Minnesota. It was a great experience for a few reasons, but one of the biggest lessons we could have learned was how much we would grow through helping non-profits.
I don’t know what comes first, a heart for helping others, or a willingness to help non-profits, but I do know that these two things are symbiotic and contagious and there is something to be gained by every company willing to start.
One challenge for the resort was using its extra capacity in the off-season. We began to work with non-profits, sourcing funds through a very interesting yield management program. This program was a win for the non-profits because they had the use of new resources, and it was a win for our organization because at the very least we got free advertising, grew our reach, and the property presents better to large clients when it is full. But most importantly, we were developing relationships and learning how to find new ways of serving people. It was through these new types of service that we began to see new ways we could serve our customers; which ultimately would turn into additional profits for our business.
Now, a decade later, I noticed other important elements about what we were doing with that program. We were helping to launch non-profits that would make a real impact in real peoples lives. By utilizing what would have been wasted capacity, we were changing peoples lives. Today, at least one of the non-profits we helped back then is taking their organization to a national level. Through our program, we were developing as a company and became more relevant to our customers. A culture of service and hospitality blossomed and put our customers at the center of everything we did. By focusing on customers rather than processes, we began to see individuals rather than functions of people, and began to recognize and bring out the talents, skills and strengths within our staff. Not only did the company change, we as individuals changed too. It made us more aware of our own biases, of our own models of how to operate a company, and through the humility of giving we simply grew as humans.
When I talk to people about giving, I often hear “We can’t afford anything” or “We don’t have the time.” These are words of someone who’s organization is slowly dying. Do you know what the message to a customer service rep is when the leadership of the company has this attitude? That the company does not have the energy, time, resources or willingness to serve people. Do you know what the message is when that customer service rep is active in company funded events where they collaborate with non-profits? That people matter. And if people who are not customers matter, than how much more important is it to engage and serve our customers! This keeps customers, and it keeps profits from going to your competitors.
When we as individuals or organizations interact transactionally, there is something of value traded for another. Usually some good or service for money. When our leaders fail to see beyond the short term rewards of our efforts, they fail the organizations as leaders. Do we really want leaders who fail to have a vision of our company that include enough success for philanthropic efforts?
Some leaders have the courage to give simply, or in other words give with no strings attached. They find that when they are willing to stand up in support of non-profits that volunteers start to come out of the woodwork from within to help. Other times, there are vendors or customers willing to help if they just simply ask. But whatever the commitment to giving to non-profits may be, it causes a process of deep change to start. While we often give little in the beginning it pays dividends back to us for a long time. These are not often cash dividends (they could be though), but dividends that come through the change and improvement of us as individuals and organizations and these dividends ultimately make us better and make our companies more profitable.
The lesson learned: As we let go of our own control and as we change our focus from ourselves to others, we begin to influence others with more than our positional power. This influence will create synergies, draw out talents, and develop relationships. The culture of our organizations will become servant-based and our companies will be more able to serve customers making the organization more effective and more profitable. What non-profit can you start to help this year?
This is part of a series written by Chris Ashbach, MA, and Chris Armstrong, PhD for LiveDan330 on Non-Profits, Leadership, and Social Media. If you are interested in learning more about this series or about speaking and consulting opportunities, please contact Chris Ashbach at 651-492-7092, or Chris@dan330.com.