Council Post: Building A Business Culture That Prioritizes Philanthropy
Desiree Perez is a co-founder and CEO of Roc Nation, a full-service entertainment company founded in 2008 with Jay-Z.
The last several years have seen a groundswell of activism, an increase in social justice discussions, growing awareness for issues related to diversity and inclusion, and highly publicized cases of injustice.
For corporations, this mainstream public awareness has thrust forward the importance of philanthropy and humanitarianism. Yet for many businesses, this area of work is new, their responses seen as reactionary and genuine, long-term commitment to change is still to be seen.
At my company, Roc Nation, we have always focused on creating a corporate culture where philanthropy and the support of social justice initiatives are woven into the fabric of our business. From our very beginnings to our work today, we have always believed that creating a work environment that supports these important causes, and puts financial resources towards them, is the only way to enact societal change and lead responsibly.
1. Attract employees with similar values.
Here’s a look at three ways to build a business culture of philanthropy and humanitarianism.
When companies make humanitarianism a core value, they can attract like-minded people who help further that mission organically. This can lead to more success overall. Attracting the right people is key to building the most productive company culture. One way to ensure you attract the right employees is to ask the right questions during the interview process. Asking prospective employees about what kind of work they are passionate about, what they do in their personal lives with regard to philanthropy and community volunteering and how they feel about the company’s work in those spaces can help narrow the applicant pool to those with shared values.
Creating and maintaining a company culture centered on philanthropy is ultimately a team effort. We value employee input and engage the company as we venture into new projects, asking employees how they feel about certain causes or volunteer activities and then encouraging participation. For example, my company formalized our commitment to our values by creating a philanthropy division that seeks out cases of injustice, provides pro bono legal services and develops media campaigns. We also engage our roster of talent to amplify voices and stories.
2. Build a community invested in your business’ mission.
Whether formal or informal, that commitment has helped attract extraordinary talent. I am proud of the commitment and support our employees have for humanitarian causes, for lending new perspectives and voices to that work, and for seeing it as a crucial part of their day-to-day work. It has become an ingrained part of our corporate culture and helps us attract and retain talented people for whom our mission runs deep.
With philanthropy a core part of business culture, companies can build a strong community of clients and customers who are invested in the success of the company and brand beyond just the products or services offered. When a company is seen as socially responsible, I’ve found it can attract long-term customer and client loyalty. Aim to partner with organizations that are similarly committed to humanitarian work and community activism.
3. Create tangible change.
Scaling philanthropic work can be challenging. However, shared expertise can be helpful as you pursue this important work. To build a strong sense of community around your company’s shared mission, it’s important to engage with staff. Ask employees to provide input and participate in projects and initiatives, and engage with those helped by the work. When considering community partners to work with, look for evidence of their participation in the work. To scale philanthropic initiatives, find what works, and once that formula is established it will be easier to seamlessly replicate.
This work cannot be a one-and-done effort. It needs to lead to sustainable, transformative and actionable impact. For instance, my company works to create lasting change with a newly formed non-profit and a national database project for causes we support.
Creating lasting change and impact is possible, but it requires effort and a willingness to invest in the work. Develop a team with shared values, ask for staff feedback and input along the way and foster a company culture with humanitarianism at its core. Business leaders can create initiatives, programs, think tanks and action items that support their philanthropic aspirations and projects when they have the right people at the helm.
I believe deeply that our commitment to philanthropy and humanitarianism at my company is one of the drivers of our success and that it can be a driver of success to all companies that redirect efforts to these values.