In March of 2020, amid widespread business closures and economic turmoil, I decided to take action to help my community. By using the same principals we all must practice to run a successful business, I was able to turn fifty dollars into fifteen thousand dollars in just eight weeks for others in need. This was done through a gift card raffle campaign in which I purchased $50 worth of gift cards from locally-owned small businesses and raffled them off to community members, then used those proceeds to purchase more gift cards, and so on. During this process, I learned many lessons about giving and the running of a business.
Lesson #1: Importance of Giving Back
When we selflessly give to others, we not only help those in need, but also reap the physical and mental benefits of doing so. Studies have shown that generosity improves our mental and physical well-being and even correlates with living a longer, happier life. It also helps build a stronger community when focused locally. Just as one instructor can help countless individual appraisers, community members become energized when given an opportunity to help. Selfless generosity also sets a meaningful example for our children as they watch us help others with no expectation of personal benefit.
Lesson #2: Multiply Your Efforts
What I learned through this campaign is that selfless acts encourage others to move. From wanting to help to actually taking action, a single person’s efforts can easily be multiplied many times over when others get involved. We often rely on technology and social media to promote our businesses because it’s more efficient than going door-to-door. I applied the same strategy to my efforts by sharing through social media and granting interviews for local media outlets. We must also be open to suggestions, seek guidance from others, and check our ego at the door. Being open-minded allows for new ideas which could benefit our business and our charitable efforts.
Lesson #3: Stay on Task
Clearly, the intent of being in business is to remain profitable, however, there should be no expectation of such when truly acting in a charitable capacity. I often see others blur this line by self-promoting while seeking help for others. It usually sounds something like, “Us at John’s Widget Company are helping those in need by asking for donations.” These tactics can cheapen the effort and lead some to believe that John is only helping others to promote his own business. I succeeded despite never mentioning my business name. If you truly want to make a difference for those in need, there must be a commitment with no ulterior motive. By having pure intentions, you will be recognized as a leader, which may help your business. If your primary focus is to generate business revenue, then maybe just consider some Google Ads instead.
Lesson #4: Go All-In
One cannot simply dabble in a profession and expect clients to seek you out. We need to dedicate the time, effort, and resources required to build a business, then produce a quality good or service lest we risk fading into irrelevance. The same is true of a charitable effort, and in my experience, it must be treated the same as a startup business to be successful. Small business owners and entrepreneurs often make for the most effective leaders of charitable events as they understand the importance of networking, being creative, and using technology to reach a wider audience. Without true commitment, however, these efforts can produce minimal results. Whether it’s in business or in a charitable endeavor, we must commit to being all-in with our time and our efforts to reach success.
Lesson #5: It’s Not Easy
One of the greatest lessons I learned throughout this process is that it is not easy. I found myself sacrificing personal and business time as the needs of helping others grew. The commitment of time, effort, and expense nearly overwhelmed me at times. If it weren’t for the help of my amazing wife, I’m not sure it would have reached the same level of success. There were several things that kept me on track and focused, including my empathy for others, the understanding of what it would take to be successful, and the commitment to see it through. Running a business requires the same commitment and understanding that it’s not easy at times, but if the reward is worth the effort, then accepting those commitments becomes an easy choice.
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