When I first moved to Los Angeles from Paris, a dear friend suggested that I become involved on the boards of a few charities I felt passionate about. My first reaction was, as you would expect, I did not have the time, the money, or the energy as I was already consumed by building my business. But he explained to me the merits of being charitable and generous. There are many:
- It is the right thing to do
- You learn and grow
- You give back in meaningful ways
- You meet many people who also believe in doing the right thing
The first thing to do is to think about a cause you have deep convictions about. There are many charities in the US. I am certain there are charities and organizations that target your cause and passion. Once you have demonstrated your sincere intentions of giving, be it money, time, or what it is you can, you will begin your experience. “Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.” said Francis of Assisi.
You will feel deep gratification, purpose, and joy. I once spent a day as a teacher with Junior Achievement of Southern California. The school was in a low income community. After the day was done, I realized my issues were pity compared to those kids, many of whom did not have parents and did not know where their next meals would come from. I was able to explain a world to them that they did not know exits. The experienced has always remained with me.
Abraham Lincoln famously said, “With Malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds.” These are words to live by.
All that is good. But what does it have to do with building a company?
As Charles Dudley Warner said, “I am convinced that the majority of people would be generous from selfish motives, if they had the opportunity.” There is a lot of truth to that.
The best way to build anything is by getting help and support from like-minded people who have done it before. But how do you meet and build relationships with those people? Where are they? Would they take you call?
You will find that most charity boards and executive committees consist of people who are either leaders in their respective fields, or are on their way to becoming leaders. These are people you want to build relationships with, get advice from, and with time, call friends.
Many doors can open once such relationships are in place. It takes time, patience, and integrity, as no one like a leach. Many deep friendships have been through charitable organizations.
“True charity is the desire to be useful to others with no thought of recompense.” said Emanuel Swedenborg. You do not go into this expecting anything in return. You do it because it is the right thing to do. And when we do the right things with the right intentions, everything else follows.
As your career grows and you become more and more successful, you may chose to join more sophisticated or exclusive business or social organizations. The questions will always be asked, what charities are you passionate about, belong to, and have served.
Even the greatest minds and philanthropists have come to this conclusion. Bill Gates, who is not the most charitable person in the world originally said, “You see, antiquated ideas of kindness and generosity are simply bugs that must be programmed out of our world. And these cold, unfeeling machines will show us the way. “ He now is working to give away much of his wealth.
Most importantly, as John D. Rockefeller said, “Charity is injurious unless it helps the recipient to become independent of it. “ By showing others the way, we all benefit.
I always call on people I have met on the boards of charities and similar organizations to bounce ideas, get introductions, or simply ask for advice. It has been a tremendous resources, and experience. Remember as Kahlil Gibran famously said., “Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need. “