It was last Fall and I was sitting in a meeting with a representative from a well-respected financial institution, at a conference I had tried for years to score an invite to. I had set up meetings with a variety of people from a range of companies, some with a goal of potentially partnering with, others to hear how they would value my business.
For this specific meeting, the goal was the latter. I thought the meeting was going really well – the gentleman was very impressed with the financials of the business, the growth year over year and the industries we were focused on. Just before we were wrapping up, he turns to me and says, "so what's the deal with all of this money I hear you donate to charity?" I explained to him that philanthropy has always been a core tenet of EvolveMKD, and for me personally, I've always felt that when you are lucky enough to have success, it is your responsibility to make the world around you a better place. The meeting then took a quick turn towards negative town – he immediately started lecturing me about how I was impacting the long-term value and potential sale price of EvolveMKD – saying that any investor, private equity company or services network would immediately look at that as a waste of revenue. I politely thanked him for his perspective and ended the meeting.
Let's start with the obvious falsehoods around his point of view. Good karma and doing the right thing aside, EvolveMKD specifically focuses on charities that empower women and children in the U.S., working with organizations ranging from Safe Horizon, a shelter for domestic violence victims, MaxInMotion, founded by our longtime client, Jonah Shacknai and DREAM, an after-school athletics program and charter school located in Harlem. These organizations provide the participants access to resources and programs that they didn't have before – for example, many of the kids that participate in DREAM are the first in their families to go to college. From my perspective, those are all future well-educated consumers of many of the clients my company represents. More consumers equal more business, which helps fuel my agency's future growth. We also have hosted many events for DREAM students in our offices, which has resulted in us finding talented and hardworking long-term interns. Most recently, we hosted a group of high-school and college-aged students from the DREAM organization, educating them on the public relations industry and offering career advice. To see our very own senior intern, who we discovered through DREAM, lead a presentation about PR and Digital marketing to a group of students her own age was truly a rewarding moment.
The other business angle that was never considered by the gentleman I met with is how amazing of a business development and recruiting tool a commitment to philanthropy can be for a company. While we don't go overboard promoting our philanthropic efforts, we do highlight our commitment as a core principle of the agency in every new business presentation we do, as having values that match, is an important component of a successful agency/client partnership.
More often than not, when we sign on a new client, our agency's commitment to philanthropy comes up as one of the top five reasons EvolveMKD stood out from the competition. In our recruiting, the candidates will often come to interviews, asking about the opportunity to involve causes that are near and dear to their hearts and how they can potentially work them into EvolveMKD's programming. It's also been a huge part of our company culture – between donating our time, meeting new people and the financial support we provide, it's given the team a chance to bond and see one another in a different light. Plus, it never hurts to be reminded how much we have to be grateful for, especially on tough days, when nothing seems to go right with clients.
As I reflected more on that meeting, and the gentleman's reaction, I really felt that he was missing the big picture. Not only are we redirecting dollars to those most in need and providing our employees with something bigger than themselves to believe in, we are building our bottom line through philanthropy. That meeting helped to cement to me that if I ever do decide to take on outside investment, a partner, and/or sell business, an important part of my vetting process will be to determine how the company across the negotiating table views philanthropy. Philanthropy should be seen as a 5-letter word and that is "smart".
WRITTEN BYMegan Driscoll