The basic tenet of "giving back" should be core to the way every person and business lives and operates. I'm not that naïve -- and neither are you. Sadly, corporate philanthropy is a controversial issue (of all the issues we have to debate). But the reality is, money makes the world go round, and as the theory goes, if corporations have "extra" lying around, it should be reinvested or paid out as dividends to shareholders. I'm not all doom and gloom either. There are many businesses that invest in pro-bono work or other philanthropic initiatives because it's good for business and simply the right thing to do. More than half of these businesses are led by women and/or have more female senior managers (Center for Women's Business Research). Surprised? Nope.
It's just one more way women-run businesses are vastly different from their male-run counterparts. In fact, I've yet to find any woman who doesn't focus some piece of her business on philanthropy. Colleen Molter, founder and president of IT solutions company QED National, reinforces my hypothesis. In a recent conversation, she commented: "You asked what makes my business, as a woman-led firm, stand apart. What I believe makes us unique is our dedication to philanthropy. You ask if this philosophy has worked for me, and I say, of course, my firm has 20 years of success. Besides, I wouldn't know how to operate a business any other way."
Colleen added, "We have, as a business model, strategic initiatives that are community focused. It's all pro bono, but inter-related with our daily business operations." Clearly, her business strategy is working. QED was just named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing private companies for the fourth year in a row.
"While quality and price are key factors in determining what services to buy, I firmly believe that it also matters to businesses that we give back to the community. They respect this facet of our operations, and want to work with companies that value philanthropy so highly."
It also matters that Colleen practices what she preaches -- to her and to those she works with and for. Recognized as one of the Top 50 Woman-Owned Business in New York by Diversity Business, QED stands firm on its policy for subcontracting with other Minority and Women Business Enterprises (MWBE). "We offer these firms terms and conditions that are more incentivizing and enabling than our competition. From actively advocating and listening to their stories, I truly empathize and understand what is most difficult for these firms -- things as crucial as being paid on time." And getting a higher percentage cut.
QED's goal is to allocate 50 percent of its potential spend in anyone area that uses outsourced vendors on MWBEs. "We hit 58 percent last year," Colleen told me -- proud, yet matter-of-fact.
Those are exactly the emotions "giving back" should elicit. It shouldn't be about whether an organization is headed by a man or woman. But, as another study from Catalyst shows, companies with more women in leadership roles generate higher levels of philanthropic activities, and such strategies position organizations for more sustained growth. And that's a fact I'm pretty proud of.
This article first appeared on Forbes.com.