By: Puseletso Modimogale – The Hope Factory – I am a firm believer in the Pay-it-Forward concept. It means doing something good for someone else without expecting a return for oneself. The concept was popularised a few years ago by the 2000 movie Pay It Forward, starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt. In this movie, a young boy, played by Haley Joel Osment is given a school assignment that requires him to find some way to change the world. He develops the Pay-it-Forward concept, setting forth a chain reaction of good deeds.
However, most businesses around the world want a return on investment (ROI) on any funds they expend. And, their involvement in Corporate Social Investment (CSI) projects is one of the best investments they can make. Not only do CSI projects give companies a chance to do something meaningful in the community, but they are also able to benefit from positive publicity.
Companies spend a lot of money trying to convey the right image of their brand. But advertising is costly and not as powerful or as effective as the positive press that the association with a worthwhile cause creates. Small businesses who don’t have huge funds at their disposal can quickly gain fans and potential customers in their local community because most people like to do business with an organisation who ‘really cares’.
Today consumers expect businesses to be focused not on “what’s in for me”, but in what the business is “doing for others”.
One good example is Colgate. This company has such a strong brand that in many parts of the world the generic term for toothpaste is indeed, Colgate. The company sends nurses to schools to teach children how to brush their teeth and about dental hygiene and they leave toothpaste samples and tooth brushes for home use behind that results in good PR, brand awareness and ultimately an increase in sales.
I have witnessed the same sorts of results in my business. I ran my company Therapeutic Touch Studio for 13 years and in 2010 we started a movement called W.E.Y Foundation (Woman Emancipate Yourself Foundation) as part of our CSI initiative. Our brand awareness increased, sales went up from a turnover of R350 000 to R890 000 per annum over a period of three years and we were able to generate new business leads with a 53% client conversion. To date, we have over 890 active members on our blog on Facebook that act as word-of-mouth advertisers due to the lives we have touched and the impact we are having in our community.
I also saw the transformation it brought about in my team morale. The team was more cohesive and delivered better results as communication channels within the business improved. We worked together on a common charitable cause to help build a stronger unit and we used it as our team building strategy and to help highlight talent. During charity type initiatives, there is a real opportunity to identify valuable skills and personality traits that can benefit your organisation. For example, you may see a staff member shine as a leader or see the organisational talents of another person.
People often don’t remember what you said, but they always remember how you made them feel. By encouraging entrepreneurs to Pay-it-Forward, they’ll create a positive energy in their businesses and create a wonderful ripple effect out into the community. Imagine if every business did some form of Pay-it-Forward activity each year. The difference it would make in the community would be priceless and we could assist our government for the betterment of our country’s future.