Financial representatives (F.R.) have a range of reactions to the idea of integrating philanthropy and volunteerism into their businesses. To some, it feels like two worlds that should remain separate — the collision of private and professional lives. To others, it’s a question of resources. It’s tough enough to operate a practice with limited staff, time and money; adding something un-related to work is counter-intuitive, even if well-intentioned.
At Northwestern Mutual, we view community contribution as good in its own right and good for business. We invite everyone in the industry, from the top down and regardless of affiliation, to do the same.
My goal with this article is to encourage you to see charitable initiatives less as an obligation, and more of an opportunity to achieve a win-win for your community and your business. To make a philanthropic or volunteer effort truly work, I offer these guiding principles:
Make it genuine. Whatever you do, authenticity is critical. The truth of your initiative will be reflected in your words and actions. If you see community contribution as an obligation, it is likely to show. Worse, if you use a charitable cause for completely self-serving purposes, people will see through it. When identifying where you should make your contribution, start by looking inside yourself and finding something that genuinely matters to you. Once you do that, the rest will follow naturally.
Passion pays dividends. Writing a check is great, but it doesn’t compare to rolling up your sleeves and getting involved. I know of an F.R. in Indianapolis who for the past eight years has donated 35 hours a month to working with burn victims. She raises money, works with survivors of fires and recruits other volunteers. She also created the nation’s first camp for children who are burn survivors.
The camp has become a model for rehabilitative services across the nation. What she didn’t expect, but was happy to discover, is that her clients have been impressed by her volunteer work. It has come to stand for something to them: it has instilled a level of trust that she couldn’t have built up as quickly in other ways; and it has set a high water mark for the level of dedication she puts into her work.
Consider applying the skills you already have, rather than having to learn as you go. Some people are put off by getting involved in a cause because it lies so far outside of the lines they’re used to operating within. If that’s the case, consider affiliating with a cause that will allow you to apply the skills you already have.
There’s an F.R. in Nashville who has done just that by dedicating his time to financial literacy education. He has partnered with the local YMCA to conduct financial literacy workshops for children (K-4) at after-school programs scattered around his community. The work has been gratifying for him personally, but has also helped his business because his colleagues ended up following his example.
The impact on the F.R.’s practice has been significant. It built morale, improved team-work, fostered loyalty and infused the office with the sense that there was a greater cause that they were all working toward together.