Exercising Philanthropy

Part of our entrepreneur-focus here at Fundamental includes spotlighting various businesses and all they ways the can thrive. Meeting an unmet need, filling a niche, and serving a unique customer base are all obvious parts of a business plan. Those fundamentals of business are no less true in the nonprofit world, which is why we’re excited to profile an Austin nonprofit that’s doing powerfully beneficial things for women in the community. Carolyn Haney realized the need for inclusive fitness programs in low-income communities and embraced the entrepreneurial spirit to start WeViva in 2011. Growing fast, WeViva actively improves lives thanks in large part to donations by individuals and businesses in the communities it serves. That harmony is a perfect example of another opportunity for companies to thrive while giving back to the community where they do business: philanthropy.

“No man becomes rich unless he enriches others,” said legendary industrialist turned legendary philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. He literally wrote the book on the importance of philanthropy. But philanthropy isn’t just for billionaires. Since Carnegie’s day, it’s become increasingly common for companies large and small reinvest profits in causes that benefit the greater good. When they do, the goodwill often is often reciprocated. Indeed, philanthropy, volunteerism, and fund-raising by businesses of all sizes have demonstrated positive impacts on company culture and business success.  Networking and marketing, for example, are necessary evils of business, but when done as part of giving or volunteering, the resulting exposure and connections are so much more meaningful. In the process, lives are changed for the better.    

“I realized there was a gap in providing affordable and accessible fitness and nutrition programs to people (mainly female adults) in low-income neighborhoods,” Haney told Austin Fit Magazine. After receiving her licensed master social worker certification from the University of Texas in 2006, Haney worked in the nonprofit world until 2010. A mother, veteran runner, and fitness enthusiast herself, her expertise in social work and love of wellness inspired her to create WeViva whose a mission is “to provide accessible and affordable fitness and nutrition programs to individuals and families in low-income communities,” according to Austin Fit. What set’s WeViva apart, Haney told Austin Fit, is its open-mindedness regarding class content and ability to provide on-site childcare, which gives moms important time to themselves they may not have otherwise been able to find.

To provide such dynamic programs, WeViva built a sophisticated development program to seek donations and volunteer partnerships from individuals and businesses in the community. In return, contributors get more than good vibes. Supporters can interact directly as volunteers or enjoy the multiple networking and recognition opportunities WeViva has created. That savvy has allowed the company to grow from to just one location 18 today, with nearly 30 Zumba, yoga, nutrition, and fitness classes weekly. Annual fundraising events, casual informational meet-ups, and participation in citywide charity efforts like Amplify Austin's 'I Live Here I Give Here' to bring supporters together and offer contributors big exposure.

According to a recent Entrepreneur Magazine article, there are even more unparalleled benefits to philanthropically associating with nonprofits like WeViva. We’ve paraphrased them below for quick reading so you can get right down to the business of finding the best way for you or your company to exercise philanthropy.

4 Ways Your Company Benefits From Giving Back, according to Entrepreneur Magazine

1. Building respect and a good reputation in the community - A company's leaders can identify needs within the community or ask prominent local organizations what they need help with, and make targeted efforts to contribute. The relationships formed with prominent community members can be of great value to the company in the future. When businesses help other people, those people tend to want to support the company in return. Building a reserve of goodwill in your community means there will be people there to back you up and speak up on your behalf in the future.

2. Making your community a better place to live - Giving back improves a company's image in the eyes of community members and results in a better place to live and work. Donating to schools gives children better and safer places to learn and play. Improving local nature parks gives everyone a relaxing, enjoyable area for camping or hiking. Also, companies that give to ecological or green initiatives are associated with a healthier and more beautiful environment. Ocean Conservancy is a good example, partnering with companies on cause-related marketing agreements to help build awareness and raise funds for their work to protect the ocean. The American Forest Foundation partnered with a company called HardWood Bargains, along with hundreds of others, to create a program with a goal to plant 50 million trees in the US alone.

3. Employees respect leaders who do good - If you make your company a positive force in the community, it can improve employees' regard for their corporate leaders, which can only help you. It's also simply a nice feeling and can make you more motivated to work there. The daily grind is difficult. Employees need all the motivation they can get. Good morale is essential to a successful business, and this is one of the best ways to bolster it.

4. Connections and networking - In the hit TV series Mad Men, a highly successful character once said, "Philanthropy is the gateway to power." Philanthropic organizations are often a who's who of the world's most powerful individuals. Entry into these organizations brings one into contact with these people. For an entrepreneur or businessperson, these connections are an invaluable resource. The people you know determine what you can get done and what opportunities you can take advantage of. People in these organizations tend to develop a mutual trust and respect for one another, which are essential factors in doing business. Successful corporate leaders understand promoting public opinions that are favorable to your company.

For more information about WeViva, including opportunities to donate or volunteer, visit http://weviva.org/.