“Giving to charity is a tax write-off,” announced one of my friends over dinner on Sunday. “It’s just to make your company look good.”
I knew immediately that trying to explain the value of “corporate social responsibility” in this setting was a losing battle. I’ve heard the arguments before, that any good in the world comes from selfish intent. This idea is one of the most troubling that I face, especially with a passion for public relations. Sometimes battling to improve the reputation of PR practices seems like more of a battle then the reputations of the companies we work with.
From his highly corporate viewpoint in the bank industry, it’s easy for him to see the method behind every action. Today at work, I received an email with a press release from Southwest Airlines about our new partnership with Project for Public Spaces. It’s fair to say that we didn’t just selflessly decide to donate time and effort to a cause, as we are informing our stakeholders about this initiative.
I just believe that this point of view, that people are inherently selfish, is far too negative.
In less than two months I am going to Ecuador for six weeks to participate in a volunteer program. This has always been a bucket list item for me, and I am thrilled to have the time and resources to go there. The other day I was asked why I wanted to do this.
“I’m selfish,” I replied after a few moments. “I’ve always wanted to feel like I’m doing something to help people as much as I can, and this is a good opportunity.” Yes, this volunteer program is going to benefit me. It’s going to make me feel like a good person, fulfill me, help me grow.
Her response summed up my feelings perfectly: “If your selfish actions have a positive impact on the world, you’re doing life correctly.”
So, to the public population, PR professionals, and companies everywhere… Stop pointing fingers. I think if you truly focus on the culture of a company, it is clear whether or not they care about these things; their employees, their customers, and the world around them. Try approaching a Southwest ticket counter with kindness and respect when you need help, and you will see our culture shine through. This guy did. Many, many other companies are the same way.
The point isn’t to evaluate the true “selflessness” of every action you make. So what if I do something because it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling? The point is to do our best to have a positive impact on the world around us. Thought of the day i guess…
**Side note, the boy with the opening quote does give money to charities as well. Even though he does it as a tax write-off, he has taken the time to select the charities that he personally feels are best… mainly children’s hospitals. Good for him and his positive impact. 🙂