The Power Of Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Important In Business

07/11/2017 08:50 am ET Updated Jul 11, 2017

By Greg Mercer

I truly believe that successful businesses have a duty to give something back to society. Introducing philanthropic projects has been one of the most rewarding parts of building my company for me. More importantly, I have found that these charitable acts of kindness spread very quickly – a simple act of caring creates an endless ripple effect.

I started my entrepreneurial career by building my own e-commerce business and selling physical products on Amazon. This is where the idea for my current business was founded. Fast forward to the present: We have a suite of tools that help others achieve success in selling online. While this was pretty rewarding in itself, I wanted to stretch this further and do something useful to generate profits that could be donated directly to charity.

Our first case study was the first project of its kind. We gave an over-the-shoulder view of what it takes to find, source and sell a product on Amazon. We launched our first product, marshmallow skewers, and generated over $200,000 in one year. Of that, we donated over $50,000 of profits to Doctors Without Borders. This project was such a success, and the reasons for that are threefold:

  • Amazon sellers and aspiring entrepreneurs found the content of the case study useful
  • We created a successful branded product that generated a lot of profit for our chosen charity
  • People across the Amazon seller community and beyond were inspired by this act of kindness

We love a challenge, so our next project is to continue with a similar case study that goes into much more depth, with a grander target of selling $1M worth of product. Once again, all proceeds are being donated, this time to Pencils of Promise.

Spreading Kindness

Why does this have a ripple effect? Well, we’ve seen such an overwhelmingly positive response. Everything from people buying the products to support the cause, to e-commerce business owners writing in to say they felt so inspired they are going to donate 10 percent of their own profits to the same charity. Others are planning on following in our footsteps and generating income that can be donated to other charities, too. It’s very humbling to see so many generous people in the industry taking action and giving back.

Every business will have a variety of ways to develop a charitable mission. Whether you are trying to raise money for a good cause, do something positive for the environment or support local communities, no act of kindness is too small.

I want to share my top recommendations for building philanthropy into your business, with some learnings that I have picked up along the way:

  1. Be generous and others will be generous, too. Let’s be honest about this – you can’t expect others to be generous and invested in your cause if you don’t invest in it yourself. Part of the reason our projects have been successful is because they are transparent and people can see exactly what we are donating and how we got there.
  2. Build exciting projects that people can get involved in. Get creative and start something applicable to your business that will gain traction. One key element that helped us to do this was to be inclusive and build a community. This community has been engaged with content and invested in our mission. It’s also been an incredible opportunity for our team members, who have put a lot of time and effort into these projects. It’s something we are all very proud of!
  3. Don’t be afraid to spread the word. A cynic might presume that the only reason to shout about your philanthropic mission is for some good publicity. While this is undeniably a benefit, it should come more as a side effect. If you’re serious about your charitable mission, the most beneficial thing you can do to get people involved,  raise more funds and spread kindness is to shout about it.

All things considered, being in the position to give back is very fortunate. So if you are looking to build some charitable projects into your business, hats off to you. You won’t regret it.

Greg Mercer is the founder and CEO of Jungle Scout, a SaaS tool to show sellers profitable opportunities on Amazon.

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