Some people wonder why a successful business would give away a large portion of their profits. Sure, being a philanthropist sounds like a good thing, but isn’t it reserved for rich companies? 

Corporate philanthropy is a great way for all types of businesses to contribute to their communities and build their brand reputation at the same time. Being a philanthropist doesn’t require having millions of dollars, although some philanthropists do have that kind of money to fund their philanthropic pursuits.

Richard Branson is one of those philanthropists. Branson created his Virgin Group empire, totaling more than 200 companies worldwide. Although his companies exist in a variety of industries, society’s wellbeing is the common thread throughout all of them. He’s a businessman and an avid philanthropist. He launched a non-profit called Virgin Unite in 2004 and pledged to give away half of his fortune to charity.

As an entrepreneur, Branson is a master brand builder, and his ventures aim to address global problems. For instance, Branson has a plan to dedicate billions of dollars in profits to investments in renewable energy initiatives, research, and development. He’s also created the Virgin Earth Challenge, which promises a $25 million prize to anyone who can demonstrate a commercially viable way to remove greenhouse gases from our atmosphere.

While Branson has become a household name, and his efforts are immense, smaller businesses are making a difference in their local communities as well.

Scholarships that encourage innovation

Historically, scholarships have been awarded as a basic form of financial aid to people who can prove they deserve it the most. Today, corporate entities are creating scholarship opportunities to get people thinking about how to solve real-world problems. For example, Corpus Christi law firm Hermann and Hermann sponsors a yearly innovation scholarship for students. The topic for 2019? What safety measures can schools implement, nationwide, to reduce the number of shootings that occur within schools?

The topic is poignant, and ideas for solving this problem are valuable, considering school violence has, unfortunately, become commonplace.

Donations that create social change

Sometimes, it’s the small things in life that are most important – like socks.

You might not think socks are a big deal, but to those who are homeless, socks are difficult to get. Most states don’t allow used socks to be donated to homeless shelters, and few people donate new socks. Bombas decided to change that.

Co-founders Randy Goldberg and David Health created Bombas when they learned that socks are the most requested item in homeless shelters. They went into business to provide high-quality socks to the world, and for every pair bought, a pair is donated to a homeless shelter. As of November 2016, they had been donating 1,000 pairs of socks each day. Six months after reaching their goal of giving away one million socks, they hit the two million mark. In 2018, they reached seven million.

Goldberg has some solid advice for other businesses that want to create social change. “Make sure you know why you’re doing what you’re doing, and make sure you know who you’re supporting and what they really need. No matter what happens in your business, don’t sacrifice the impact you’re making – it has to stay the primary driver.”

Investments that go to non-profits working on big issues

TOMS gives away one pair of shoes for every pair purchased, but also invests millions of dollars in non-profit organizations to prevent gun violence. However, the company doesn’t just give money. They sent employees on a cross-country road trip to connect with communities affected by gun violence to deliver 700,000 postcards to members of Congress.

Any business can practice corporate philanthropy

Any business can get involved in corporate philanthropy. You don’t need to donate large sums of money to your cause. You just need to focus your energy on a cause and find creative ways to support that cause. 

It takes more than money to change the world. If you want to make a difference without having to spend money, partner with existing organizations already doing work in the area you want to support. Sometimes a community needs a helping hand, a platform, or a voice.