THE BLOG
03/26/2014 09:00 am ET

How to Create a Culture of Giving

Doing good makes people happy. We've known this since the first caveman shared his last handful of foraged berries with fellow cavefriends. More recently, research has suggested that acts of goodness have an even greater "happiness effect" when they facilitate social connections, too -- for example, mentoring a coworker or donating to a non-profit where a friend works (as opposed to sponsoring a mentorship, or donating anonymously to a worthy cause). This makes intuitive sense: the closer the connection, the warmer the afterglow.

When we started Warby Parker, we were searching for a way to inject our everyday work lives with that feeling. We wanted to build an organization that made us excited to come to work every day, and we knew that feeling would relate directly to the impact our organization could have on the world. Along with the emotional rationale, there was a business rationale too: the prospect of doing good is a powerful motivating force -- for us, and, more important, for the people we hoped to hire. An often-cited Pew study found that Millennials prioritize helping people in need over raking in a huge paycheck. We knew that if we were going to entice young people to join our team, we needed to offer what they valued most.

The most concrete example of this ethos is our Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program, where a pair of glasses is distributed to someone in need for every pair sold. It's been at the core of our company since day one. But programs like this can too easily fade into an abstraction as day-to-day office life embroils our attention, so we also put a focus on creating everyday opportunities to give. Our designers collaborate with organizations like RxArt and DonorsChoose.org; our product strategy team works with the Children's Museum of the Arts New York; and employees from all departments work with high-schoolers through the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship. It's our expectation that everybody at Warby Parker give to each other daily, create learning opportunities, and hold each other accountable. This extends from formal mentorships to coding classes to informal discussions in the hallways.

In Arianna Huffington's book Thrive, she talks about her hope that volunteering become as routine a practice as drinking water and brushing our teeth: "Not something exceptional or something that makes us feel particularly noble. Just something that we do." We couldn't agree more. The most reliable way to encourage behavior is to make it habitual. We're lucky enough to attract employees who put stock in giving, and we see it as a responsibility to support and further that value.

Read more posts about Thrive from featured HuffPost contributors here.

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