Philanthropy has long been a difficult subject for businesses. While corporations donated more than $25 billion in cash and in-kind giving in 2013, there is still a lot of debate over how businesses should give, the efficacy of donations and even whether they should give at all.
When the Collection Auto Group was first starting, we had a rather scattershot approach to corporate philanthropy. We were new to Greater Cleveland and wanted to give back to the community that welcomed us. We were in a position to help and there certainly was no shortage of worthy causes.
But after 10 years, we’ve grown to a point where we needed a strategy for our corporate philanthropy, not only for consistency’s sake, but to deliver the maximum benefit for the community and ourselves.
It’s more than profits
Economist Milton Friedman famously argued that the only social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. With all due respect to the late economist, we reject that argument, as most Northeast Ohio corporations do. Here, business owners and leaders do know they have a responsibility to give back to their communities.
But the decision to give is followed quickly by the questions of how, how much and to whom. Every business has to decide this for itself based on its means, interests and community needs.
The Collection Auto Group has looked at the most pressing needs of the communities and decided to focus its giving in those areas. Foremost of these is education. Community prosperity depends on having an educated and informed populace, one that can thrive in today’s fast-changing workplace and be productively engaged in civic activities.
We also will support those organizations that improve our communities through health care, youth development and mentoring, the training of future leaders and feeding the hungry.
Economic development is crucial, and that is why it is beneficial to partner with groups and initiatives that retain and attract businesses to our region.
What goes around …
Any company benefits when it helps others. We’ve found that giving back to the community makes it easier to recruit and keep good employees who value community service and engagement. In return, customers like to do business with companies they know are improving their communities.
In addition to giving employees up to 1½ days off a year for volunteer work and matching their charitable donations, we also challenge them to donate 10 days of their own time to a variety of civic and nonprofit organizations.
Ultimately, a healthier, better-educated and more prosperous populace will buy products in the community. But even if it doesn’t, our communities will benefit and, as members of those communities, so will our business and employees.
Businesses and communities rise and fall together. Neither can succeed without the other’s help.
Collection Auto Group
Bernie purchased his first auto dealership in 2005 and now has 25 dealerships in the Collection Auto Group.