Looking for a way to be a force for good? Here are some ideas for business owners who want to do more than just be successful with money.
One of the things I've thought about lately is how I can make a positive difference in my community — and maybe the world. Successful business owners often look for the next challenge, or look for ways to improve and grow.
There are a number of ways you can make a positive difference in your community, and perhaps even help someone on the other side of the world. It's even possible to take your business to the next level or reap some other benefit while you are doing good.
Here are some ways that business owners can make a positive difference, and even profit along the way:
Join Community Service Groups
Community service groups like the Kiwanis and Rotary International exist all over the country. Joining these groups can involve you in community projects and even provide you with the chance to meet other business owners who might make good partners or open up other opportunities.
“Giving back to the community is an important part of being a good citizen, especially if you have had success as a business owner,” says Matthew Sullivan, a serial entrepreneur and the founder and president of collaborative real estate investing platform CrowdVenture. “You might not see a direct benefit to your business, but a better community and good relationships with others creates a better overall environment for everyone, and that helps your business.”
Become a Mentor
Help the next generation by becoming a mentor. Not only can you help someone else advance, whether your mentee is a teenager or a young professional in his or her 20s, but you receive benefits as well. “You can hone leadership and management skills by becoming a mentor,” Sullivan points out. “On top of that, if you mentor multiple young people, there is a chance that some of them will come work for you later. You'll gain valuable talent for your business.”
Even if you don't mentor in order to receive a profit for your business in some way, it is still a good way to give back. The rising generation can benefit from your experience and knowledge, and influencing the future has its own reward.
Sit on a Board of Directors
Many community organizations and charities have boards of directors. You can start out as a volunteer and work your way up. Or, in some cases, making a large donation to a charity or foundation can entitle you to a place on the board. “This is a chance for you to be directly involved in the mission of an organization that you support,” says Sullivan. “You might be surprised at the difference you can make when you are helping make the decisions.”
You can accomplish this through alumni organizations with your past education institutions, by volunteering for your child's PTA, or even helping with a political party you believe in. I derived great satisfaction from sitting my my child's PTA board and being instrumental in securing the funding for a summer reading program for underserved children at the school.
Invest in Worthwhile Causes
Decide what matters to you and consider putting your profits to work by investing in worthwhile causes. This is one of the easiest ways to make money while doing good. Many business owners look around for causes to support once they have the means available to them.
You can invest in socially responsible companies that reflect your values. If you believe that renewable energy should be supported, you can invest in companies related to the sector. Or, if you support the values of a specific company, you can invest. When these investments rise in value, you profit — on top of feeling as though you are supporting something worthwhile.
Sullivan's company, CrowdVenture, includes real estate offerings that restructure loans for those facing hardship. It's a way for residents to keep their homes while at the same time offering investors a chance to earn a good return. “I believe this is a social good, since it promotes stability in these communities,” says Sullivan.
It's also possible to use microloans to those in developing nations to help other entrepreneurs get started. Microloans can provide the basis for someone on the other side of the world to feed his or her family, and rise out of poverty.
When you invest in this manner, though, you have to be prepared for the possibility of loss. You could see improved return, but you might also lose your investment.
Start a Foundation
Finally, you can start your own foundation. Decide what mission you want to fulfill, and then start a foundation and put some money behind it. One of my friends has turned his passion for the personal finance community into a foundation aimed at improving financial literacy and capacity. I accepted an invitation to sit on the board of the Plutus Foundation, and am excited to see where it goes. You can put your money and time into your passion for positivity and, as Gandhi once said, “be the change you wish to see in the world.”