Does Your Not-For-Profit Contribution Include Learning?

Several years ago I was addressing a group of students at a state university when one of the students stated that he thought it was immoral to work for a profit-making company.  Thus, upon graduation he would be seeking a job in the not-for-profit sector.

The student was seemingly unaware of the fact that for-profits donate billions of dollars each year to foundations and directly to not-for-profits. Additionally, many higher income individuals who make donations to not-for-profits earn their money from profitable business interests and not-for-profits may invest their endowment in for-profit business. While this student was extreme, other students also seemed unaware of the huge role that for-profit companies have in making our not-for-profits function. Based upon this experience and other similar experiences, I would encourage businesses to let your employees, customers and neighbors know specifically what you do to support not-for-profits in your community. Help them to learn how their dollars spent locally helps to support their community. Done effectively, this may even persuade more customers to buy locally.

In addition to contributing money and perhaps executive and employee time in supporting not-for-profits, help your not-for-profit organization learn about what you do, learn about how you do it, and learn some of your best techniques so that they can function more effectively. Two programs which I established and ran when I was at IBM Division Headquarters include Career Explorations and From College to Career. Career Explorations was a program for high school-aged sons and daughters of our employees and for students from local educational institutions to come to our facility one evening a month during the academic year to have dinner and learn about careers from our employees. College to Career was a similar program run during the summer months for college students. In both programs we shared our expertise with the community. While these programs might be a big undertaking for a very small business, groups of businesses or a local chamber can join together to make it possible for even the smallest of businesses to offer these programs. They would provide a great opportunity to educate students (and, potentially, some parents might decide to do business with you as a result of their listening in on these programs).  Alternatively, you might develop another type of learning opportunity, but do think of ways to educate your community and help your employees and yourself learn as part of your not-for-profit engagement.



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