Philanthropy During the Olympics

Olympic RingsThere has been a large amount of controversy about having the Olympic games in Rio this summer, as many believed that holding the games in a place with such poverty and inner turmoil would backfire. However, the games went on as planned. Thankfully, they have inspired some high-profile people to start philanthropic ventures that helps Rio’s less fortunate. For example, the celebrity chef Massimo Bottura has become determined to not let the massive amounts of leftover food from the Olympic games go to waste.

Bottura owns an award-winning restaurant in Modena, which is not exactly close to Rio. Nevertheless, he made the trip to the games and started repurposing leftover food from the Olympics into gourmet meals for the homeless. He got together together a team of chefs and started creating meals right away in a quickly-put-together kitchen space. All of the chefs, who have traveled from all over the world, are donating their time, just as ingredients are donated to the kitchen. They all worked to not only feed the homeless, but to change a little of how Rio regards human dignity. They wanted to exhibit social inclusion and sprinkle a little bit of hope into the lives of those who have none.

This little eatery has provided something of a refuge in Rio, whose inhabitants have been overrun by Olympic commercialization. They are made five-star meals with donated food and served in the venue. Different chefs choose the menu for each night. Interestingly enough, this is not Bottura’s first kitchen to reduce food waste and feed the less fortunate. It turns out, he has some sprinkled in other places.

About a year ago, for example, he opened one out of an abandoned theater in Milan. The one in Rio, however, was constructed in an empty lot that Bottura had to persuade the mayor to allow him to use while he was raising $250,000 for its construction. Rio was not exactly a welcoming place for these chefs, due to the aforementioned turmoil, but Bottura was somehow able to secure all of the supplies he needed for a real commercial kitchen.

This is not just a project for the Olympics, either. Bottura has leased the land that the mayor allowed him to use for 10 years, and he is determined to keep it sustainable. The benefits of his labor show every day when people enter the kitchen to dine. He meets so many inhabitants of Rio that are living on the streets, and have been for years, and rarely have enough to eat. Not only are the diners fed, but they are treated with courtesy and respect, which is a rare experience.

This form of philanthropy is perhaps one of the highest there is. I am excited to see where such a venture will lead.  

When Fintech Means Charity

TechAll companies can reach success by adhering to the needs of their customers. Businesses that put customers first by listening to feedback tend to do better than others. It so happens that, currently, customer feedback has become focused on something more. More specifically, a recent study found that almost half of consumers globally look for the social value a company adds when deciding whether or not to make a purchase. Furthermore, another survey showed that, when given the chance, almost all consumers would switch from one company to another that is more involved in philanthropy.

Fintech companies have an interesting opportunity due to the above information. Several companies are adding social value directly into their business plan from the start, however technology companies have the unique chance to use digital platforms to incorporate giving into the daily lives of normal citizens. Instead of simply letting customers purchase their products, such companies can make customers a part of their social mission. Take AirBnb, for example. A huge part of AirBnb’s mission is to promote the trusting of strangers, and the company is doing quite well.

Companies in the Fintech sphere develop their social missions to be more straightforward by simply making it easier for people to give. Charitable giving is as easy as pressing a button on a phone screen now. Businesses such as Paypal have incorporated micro-giving programs straight into their applications and websites. It does not matter how much one gives, which encourages people at all levels of income to contribute to charity.

Some companies take Paypal’s approach while others, like Humble Bundle, build the option of charity into their purchases. Customers can choose a charitable organization to support with every item they buy. With this method of giving, customers are more likely to go back to Humble Bundle for their game and book-related needs. The fact that customers can now find their own social purpose through digital platforms means that they will be looking for said purpose in every digital platform they adopt. This is something businesses have to take into account moving forward.

Social impact has become almost as important to companies as having a good product. Customers are, more and more, looking to have an impact on the world and to give to the less fortunate. Fintech companies should embrace this unique opportunity and build social value into their digital platforms. This will not only retain customers and boost business, it will also help the world.

Airbnb and Philanthropy

AirbnbEveryone knows about Mark Zuckerberg’s wealth, and that he has decided to give most of it away to charity. However, many people are not aware of how many founders of companies are following suit. One prominent example today is the founders of the popular lodging website, Airbnb. The three cofounders of this wildly successful company have pledged to give most of their wealth away to charity. They have, indeed, joined the Giving Pledge, and are some of the youngest individuals to do so.

Airbnb was founded in the year 2008 without any notion that it would make as much money as it has. The story of this company began in 2007, when two of its cofounders, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, did not have enough money to pay their San Francisco rent. Instead of resigning themselves to their fate, they set up a website for their home, offering an airbed stay, breakfast included, at eighty dollars a night. They received three guests, and decided that such an experience could lead to a viable business.

So, they called on their engineering friend Nathan Blecharczyk to join them in creating Airbnb. The three started fundraising in the summer of 2008, during the presidential election. They sold candidate-specific cereal boxes and managed to raise thirty thousand dollars. In the spring of 2009, Airbnb was officially launched, after receiving funding. It has now grown to be a company worth $25 billion. The Giving Pledge they signed will ensure that almost $5 billion of their worth will go to charity, at least.

The Giving Pledge was created in the year 2010 by the great philanthropists themselves, Bill and Melinda Gates, along with Warren Buffet. They wanted to give some of the richest people in the world accountability when it came to philanthropy. Of course, the Pledge cannot necessarily force the people who sign it to donate, but it makes sure that those on the list are educated in terms of ways to give and what makes an impact.

The founders of Airbnb signed the Pledge because they want more children around the world to have opportunities to follow their passions. The founders’ hope is that their donations spur children to pursue dreams, by helping eliminate financial obstacles. Airbnb has been involved in philanthropic efforts in the past, but this is its biggest one yet.

Airbnb is a unique company in the philanthropy sphere because it already services the community by fostering sharing of space and getting to know others from around the world. It wants to ‘rid the world of strangers,’ and it is now able to do that and so much more.

Creating a Corporate Culture of Caring

Firoz Patel Corporate GivingIt’s no secret that new and old companies alike are starting to invest in opportunities that allow the companies and their employees to give back or help charitable causes. The numbers don’t lie, giving back is important to professionals – particularly to younger members of the workforce, and a common value among many.

In constructing a company’s culture, knowledge of the employees is a key point in designing and implementing a company culture that allows its employees to flourish. Knowing that philanthropy and giving back is important to the employees is a leg up for a company’s culture architects, but in truth this information is only half  of the battle.

Companies large and small can struggle with integrating this information into tangible manifestations within the organization. However there are some steps to keep in mind when creating a culture of caring (and giving) within the context of a company.

Start Early

While this does not apply if we are talking about an established business, if your company is in the process of development, make sure to incorporate this into the central tenets of your company’s mission statement. Whether this means devoting a certain amount of the company’s equity to a charitable cause, or establishing clearly defined programming and opportunities around a philanthropic purpose, incorporate this into the company’s mission ASAP. This means that employees will understand philanthropy as a core value of the company whether it’s the first hire or the hundredth.

Don’t Just Talk the Talk

While it’s a great idea to incorporate this sort of language and focus into the company’s mission statement and core values, it’s more important to show this sort of attitude. It’s great to have this written down somewhere, but the only thing that will give these words meaning is the corresponding action.

Care to Scale:

Be realistic about what resources your company is able to allocate to a charitable cause. Don’t overpromise, only to find yourself and your employees unable to deliver on this promise. Whether this is a dollar amount, or the manpower delivered by your team, make sure that your team is able to follow through. This means that you need to take stock from the beginning. Set charitable goals that are reasonable within the framework of your company. Furthermore, if possible, make sure that you are choosing a cause that works with the mission, focus or skills of your company and its talented employees. It’s always a great idea to share what your company is great at, with those who can truly benefit from that expertise.

While there are more ways to integrate giving into the core of a company, the most important thing is to take a step back and evaluate where your company is, where you want it to go and how integrating charity as a core value can be an asset to both the recipients of the charity and to the company itself.