“You get a car, and YOU get a car, and YOU GET A CARRRRR!” — Oprah Winfrey
If you watched any TV in the early 2000’s you likely witnessed one of Oprah Winfrey’s famous giveaways on her daily talk show. She would give away tens of thousands of dollars in prizes. On these episodes, every single member of her in-studio audience walked away with a prize, not just “one lucky winner.”
She gifted Volkswagen Beatles, Royal Caribbean Cruises, and even washing machines that magically melted grown adults into emotional mushes on live television.
These iconic giveaways seem to represent the ultimate level of SUCCESS.
I mean… can you imagine having enough money to give away these kinds of luxurious items without batting an eyelash?!
Oprah, for many of us, represented what it meant to “make it.”
Although you may realize now that you’re the only one who can define what “making it” looks like in YOUR business, it can be easy to fall into this somewhat outdated and limited notion of what success is when it comes to giving back as a business owner.
Have you ever caught yourself thinking or saying…
“I can’t wait to be successful so I can give [or do] XYZ…”
“ There are so many people in need. How can I possibly choose where to focus my efforts?!”
If you have, trust me, you’re not alone!
So often we feel we need to be able to give luxuriously and lavishly in order to give at all.
Or, we want to help everyone (in true Oprah style) and feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of organizations, people, and causes in need. It can be paralyzing.
I hope to encourage you to think of giving differently. Giving back can come in all ways, shapes, and sizes. I offer you this blog as a permission slip to show up for meaningful causes with whatever resources you have to offer, in a way that is sustainable for YOU. When you show up intentionally, you’ll be able to give back and make an impact while finding deeper fulfillment in your work throughout the many stages of your business.
And why it’s never too soon to start!
I wish I had started giving back sooner.
I waited far too long before I decided I was “ready” to give back in my business. I thought I had to achieve a specific milestone or reach a certain level of income to even consider giving to others.
I found myself thinking things like…
“I already have so much on my plate, how can I possibly give back as a new business owner?”
Or “$5 is all I can genuinely afford to give in my business…should I even bother?”
I filed these ambitions away for later…
…when I’m successful
…when I have more money
…when I hire a team
Let me offer you the Sparknotes version from experience: The “perfect time” is never actually perfect, and if you wait to be “ready” you’ll never be ready.
I share this message with my clients ALL the time around things like starting the business or hiring the team. It took me a while to realize that for some reason I wasn’t applying my own logic to giving back!
I honestly didn’t make the connection until I found myself surrounded by a community of like-minded entrepreneurs. As my business grew and my circle expanded, I was suddenly aware of more and more of my peers giving back in so many different ways and giving back well. I saw so many entrepreneurs who decided they wouldn’t wait around for “ready” and “perfect” when it came to giving back.
Witnessing this generosity in business, modeled for me what it looks like to show up for important causes as a CEO. I hope to accelerate that realization and model this practice for YOU!
I discovered I didn’t have to be Oprah-level to be generous. My eyes opened to ways that I could give back without overcommitting or spending the grocery bill on charitable donations (we have to put food on our OWN tables first!) I did this by thinking like other business owners I admire… by thinking like a CEO.
On top of my imposter syndrome, something else kept me from giving back in my business. It was the sheer overwhelm of need in our world. Countless organizations and causes warrant attention. My heart is big, and since you’re reading this blog I know yours is too!
So, how can we possibly choose?!
As big-hearted entrepreneurs, we can fall into the trap of analysis paralysis- trying to help everyone and do everything. It’s like generosity FOMO (fear of missing out). We attempt to do it all, but this leaves us feeling spread thin. Ultimately, we find we aren’t showing up the way we want to for the causes we care about. Or we don’t do anything because we feel totally paralyzed!
This is exactly what happened to me. I had fallen into a few different volunteer-based projects but hadn’t taken them on intentionally. Instead of feeling aligned and helpful, I felt exhausted and overwhelmed. Taking on too many causes (as good as they were) left me with less and less time for my business. I struggled with where to channel my energy and good intentions.
If you’re anything like me, it can feel impossible to pick just one good cause to support. And while you may want to find ways to contribute to all of these important causes personally, it is important to approach giving back more strategically as a business.
As with any decision in your business, when you put on your CEO hat, you need to choose wisely. Being strategic about giving will ensure that you can give back in a way that is both impactful to the community and sustainable for your business.
Good intentions are only a piece of the puzzle. Your good intentions need to be backed by an aligned vision and the resources to show up in a way that makes you proud and represents your business well.
You can do this by focusing on supporting causes that…
→ relate to your business, industry, or niche
→ you feel personally connected to
→ align with your core values
→ work within your capacity to give (time, money, platform)
In this blog, we’ll explore how to hone in on a meaningful cause and do it in a way that is genuine, authentic, and impactful. Set imposter syndrome and overwhelm to the side, and take aligned action.
Giving back has always been a big part of my life. My family and I regularly give back to our community and causes that are close to our hearts. From the moment I started my business, I knew I wanted to connect my professional work with my charitable nature.
Once I realized I didn’t have to wait for a certain threshold of success, I took tiny steps to give back as an entrepreneur. I decided to take intentional, aligned action to show up for the causes I love both authentically and responsibly.
When I allowed myself to get creative, I found ways to give back through things like small but heartfelt donations or hosting free workshops to communities I care about. I give when I can and how I can through each phase and season of my business.
This past year, however, I decided I was in a position to show up and give back in a bigger way. My business has grown and my capacity to give has expanded. It was time to re-evaluate my options.
Before choosing a cause, I assessed ways I was already giving back in my personal life. Every year my family and I raise money for lung cancer research by walking in Free to Breathe, to honor my grandparents who both died of the disease. I also donate money every year to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Alex’s Lemonade Stand among other organizations near and dear to my heart.
I absolutely could have focused my business-giving efforts on these causes. But, I knew I wanted to approach giving back and serving differently as the CEO of my business.
I wanted to give back in a way that was sustainable, meaningful to my industry, and truly impactful in the community. Instead of immediately leaping into misdirected action, I took the time to explore my options, reflect, strategize, and figure out how to show up consistently for the community I felt called to serve.
First I knew I needed to zoom in on a specific need that was relevant to me and/or my business. As I considered where to focus my efforts as a business coach, I came across some alarming statistics that pulled me in and prompted me to take big action.
As a designer first, I was disappointed to learn about the statistics around female representation in the creative industry. This quote from & Walsh sums it up:
“The numbers say it all: 70% of design students are women, but only 5-11% of creative director positions are held by women. Only .1% of creative agencies are women-owned. POINT. ONE. PERCENT. ”
I was struck by the data that pinpointed a huge gender disparity in our industry. While women dominate the industry, they are very rarely found in leadership positions.
As an outsourced COO and business coach whose main goal is to help creatives (very often women) create successful businesses out of their passions, this fueled my fire. It led me to take aligned action. I saw clearly how my skill-set and background could make a difference in this arena.
Now, I not only had a cause, but I also had a vision. This “why” supported how and where I would decide to give back in my business.
With my “why” in clear sight, I sat down to see how this problem could be connected to my values. I immediately focused on one of my core values: Empowerment.
In my work, I am on a mission to empower creatives to create sustainable, passion-led businesses. I believe that the world is a better place when people can share and live out their true calling.
I saw an area in my industry where people were NOT being empowered to reach their full potential and knew this was a community I could naturally serve with my unique skill-set and experience. I was determined to find opportunities to serve creative women by empowering them with business know-how.
Amazingly, a perfect opportunity actually found me! I was contacted by a friend involved with Selfmade | Online Business Course from Brit + Co. She felt this organization would align well with my values and skillset. Selfmade is on a mission to…
“Support the next generation of female business owners.”
I knew this was a cause I could stand behind. Now, I just had to decide how I would engage with their community.
The best way for me to support these female business owners wasn’t with a financial donation. Instead, I felt called to donate my time and expertise as a business coach. Volunteering as a mentor for Selfmade’s scholarship program was a perfect fit!
While I wanted to help immediately when they reached out, the CEO in me told me to wait. Not because I didn’t want to serve, but because I wanted to show up fully.
Before I jumped in as a knee-jerk reaction, I took a beat. I did a time capacity audit. I realized that the current season was a busy one for me. I knew that even though I could probably manage to squeeze an hour in for this cause each week, it would likely add stress to my plate and I wouldn’t be able to give back in a way that felt aligned and genuine.
These women deserved my full attention, focus, and energy. If I couldn’t show up in that way, I knew I would be doing a disservice to them and my own values.
So I postponed this mentorship opportunity to the next quarter. With some space to plan, I knew I would be able to create the time and space to pour my attention into this project.
This quarter, I am in a season where committing my time to this mentorship program is built into my schedule. I have prioritized an hour each week where I can set aside the time in my schedule to show up for these women. I chose to strategically and responsibly MAKE time for this cause. I got creative about how I could restructure my time so that I could participate in this opportunity. I now enjoy the process of supporting new entrepreneurs (something that truly lights me up!) and know I am being of service to my community without overloading my schedule.
The moral is: don’t wait for free time to just magically appear. If you want to find the time you can and you will!
My core values are in action in my business today: I serve as a mentor for Selfmade Online Business Course from Brit + Co. where I volunteer at least 1 hour of my time each week. I get to sit down with female entrepreneurs for free coaching sessions and help them build their businesses.
You have a unique voice and platform to make a difference in a way that no one else can. Most likely your industry needs thought leaders like you to take action and make waves as you work towards a better future.
Consider where people are underrepresented in your niche, community, or market. Are there any opportunities for you to bring attention, resources, or funds to those who are underrepresented? Let’s walk through the 4 steps every business owner can take to give back authentically and impactfully.
Your business is likely very different from mine, so the way you choose to give back will not look the same. However, your process for deciding how to give back will follow a very similar template. Follow these steps to help navigate the best course of action so that your business can support the causes that need YOU, your talents, and your expertise most.
Look at the causes that mean the most to you. They may or may not relate directly to your business and that’s okay! Just allow yourself to explore where your energy, time, and money could serve your broader community.
Consider opportunities related to your industry, audience, or peers. Do any of these directly correlate to your skillset or niche? If not, you can also consider the neighborhood, city, or state where you conduct business. Is there a connection here that you’d like to foster?
Journal Prompt: What skills or resources do I have that others need?
Next, take some time to sit down with your business’s core values. Each business and each entrepreneur will prioritize something different. We all bring something distinctive to the table. When everyone shares their one-of-a-kind “spark” it ensures more communities are served well.
Above all, your core values should guide every action you take in your business. You’ll never be in alignment with your business if you are operating in a way that is out of alignment with your core values. This is important whether you are a solopreneur or running a team.
Decide how you would like to give back (could be one, all, or something I haven’t even thought of). Generosity takes many shapes and forms. The most common routes include giving back financially, with your time, or by leveraging your platform.
First, take a look at your books (something you should be doing on the reg). Anytime you make a business decision your finances should be your first pitstop. Whether you’re hiring a new team member, investing in education, deciding on a new vendor, or donating money to an important cause, the bottom-line should lead the way. When we use our numbers as a tool, we can make decisions that are sustainable and that don’t do more harm than good.
For some entrepreneurs, giving with money looks like donating to causes they care about – often a set amount or percentage of monthly/yearly profits. Be sure to have a strong understanding of your current cash flow as you make these financial decisions.
If you don’t have the cash handy to spend, you could consider a different option. Tie your monetary donation to a launch, initiative, or collaboration. One of my clients raised over $35k for St. Jude in one weekend through a collaboration she ran! Another client donates a percentage to her charity of choice each time she completes a launch. This way you can feel secure that the amount you give is conditional on your earnings so that you’ll never give more than is comfortable for your business.
Journal Prompt: How much money can I reasonably invest in my community while taking care of my business, team members, and myself first? Is money the only way I can give back to this cause?
After reflection on your financial options, you might be looking for other ways to give back instead of or in addition to financial contributions. You can give back your time by:
Giving back doesn’t have to involve money, it can also include your time. But, don’t mistake time as a “renewable resource.” Your time, just like your money, is limited. It is valuable as well. So before you sign up for a billion new volunteer opportunities (your heart is in the right place) make sure you have the capacity to add these to your plate FIRST!
I highly recommend you do a capacity assessment. Many businesses assess their capacity before hiring a new team member or outsourcing a project. But it can also be used to take inventory of your time and energy. Check out my previous post that dives into capacity assessments so you can get your time back in your business.
Once you understand how much time you have available to give, you can decide if and how you’d like to give your time. You might realize you aren’t in a season of your business where you can responsibly commit to donating your time (consider monetary donations or spreading awareness with your platform instead).
If you do have time or can create it, your capacity audit will help you decide between volunteering for a day or on a recurring basis. Volunteering for a specific event may be more manageable for you at first than committing to coaching or mentoring where you have a responsibility to show up consistently. These are important things to weigh when navigating your options.
COO Tip: When considering your capacity, it is also helpful to tune in to the seasons of your business. Some seasons will naturally be busier, while others will offer more time for planning and reflection. These “seasons of rest” are often best if you’re looking to donate your time.
Journal Prompt: Which season of my business will allow me to donate my time and energy? What is my current capacity (the minimum time needed to complete the essential tasks of my business before I put my energy into other projects)?
If time and money aren’t options at the moment, never fear! You can still find ways to contribute to the causes that matter most to you. As a business owner and CEO, you are in a unique position to elevate voices, shine the spotlight, and amplify messages. Using your platform for good is an excellent way to spread awareness about issues and inspire your audience to get involved and take action.
It’s time to get started! I believe in thoughtful planning, but the perfectionist in me can plan forever if I’m not careful! If this sounds familiar, here’s your permission slip to take messy action and give back with confidence, knowing you did your due diligence!
Once you’re able to get out of your own way and move past limiting beliefs in your business, it’s amazing the impact you can have! While you may not be dishing out diamond encrusted watches or leather duffel bags your intentional time and energy is equally (I’d argue more) valuable.
When you can give back in your business, just as in your life, it makes it fuller and more fulfilling. The drive to work for a cause greater than yourself will inspire you to work through the hard times (bonus points if you can bake your core values into your why!).
I’d love to hear from you. How are you choosing to give back in your business? Is this something you’re already doing? Or, has this post inspired you to reflect and take action in the near future? Sharing your ideas may help your fellow entrepreneurs discover ways that they can contribute to the communities and causes that matter most to them and their businesses.
Leave a reply below!
I can’t wait to connect with you. Together we can make an impact!