How to pay it forward as a business – and reap the rewards

Find out why paying it forward is so important. And how you can reap the benefits of doing good in your business.

The idea of paying it forward is not new. It’s simply doing a good deed and expecting nothing in return except for the nice feeling of doing something kind. (If someone asks what they can do to return your favour, you should suggest that they they do a good deed for someone else, and repay the favour forward.)

We’re often presented with opportunities to do favours for others in life – from passing on outgrown baby clothes and toys to friends and family (or donating them to charities), to brilliant schemes like Share the warmth, where you ‘pre-purchase’ a cup of coffee or tea in a cafe, and leave as a credit for someone in need to use another time.

But how often have you considered paying it forward in business? Rachael Dines from Shake It Up Creative explains why paying it forward can help businesses – and how you can practise it (and reap the rewards) in your own.

Seven good reasons why you should pay it forward

There are plenty of altruistic reasons why you should pay it forward when you can. But, as the Mental Health Foundation notes, altruism also has a few selfish benefits too:

  1. It promotes positive physiological brain changes that are associated with happiness.
  2. It gives you a sense of belonging and reduces isolation.
  3. It helps you to keep things in perspective.
  4. It can improve your confidence, control, happiness and optimism.
  5. The more you do for others, the more you do for (and better you feel about) yourself.
  6. It reduces stress.
  7. Engaging in random acts of kindness can help to decrease negative feelings and stabilise your overall health.

Businesses can benefit from paying it forward too

It’s not just individuals who have a lot to gain (and give) by paying it forward. The principle works just as well for businesses. Here are five reasons why you should consider becoming a kinder company:

  1. It’s been shown to boost staff morale, teamwork, communication and loyalty.
  2. You’ll get great positive publicity for your business – and boost your reputation.
  3. You could attract more customers (who prefer to patronise an ethical business).
  4. It can help you spot and nurture otherwise hidden talents in your team.
  5. You and your employees will benefit from the physical and mental health benefits listed above.

How are other businesses paying it forward?

The idea of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is similar to paying it forward as a business, and has been around since at least the 1950s when business started looking for ways to live up to their responsibilities and do good deeds for society.

By the 1990s the idea of CSR became universally recognised, but it wasn’t until the 2000s that it was an important strategic issue for businesses.

So how are businesses acting on the CSR and paying it forward? Some corporations in the USA have started mixing responsible tourism with corporate travel. This means that their executives spend time supporting entrepreneurs in the country they are visiting for work purposes. Essentially it is an extension of their business trip for the sole purpose of making a meaningful contribution to another society.

Others strongly align themselves with charities, or even go as far as donating a percentage of their profits to them. A business I know donates a set portion of one particular service fee to a local charity that is close to their heart.

Women are more likely than men to pay it forward

If you’re a female business owner, the good news is that paying to forward should come more naturally to you. The Catalyst Leaders Pay It Forward report found that women are even more likely than men to develop other talent:

“Sixty-five percent of women who received career development support are now developing new talent, compared to 56 percent of men, and 73 percent of the women developing new talent are developing women, compared to only 30 percent of men.”

As a business leader, you can extend this inclination to help others both to your own employees and society as a whole by looking for opportunities to do good.

Five five key things to strive for when paying it forward

Your company CSR initiative doesn’t have to be huge – every little helps! So what should you look for when paying it forward as a business? Her are five key things:

  1. Align your giving efforts with your core company values and mission.
  2. Make the acts fun and engaging for your team so that they want to be involved and are proud to play a part.
  3. Contribute to your local business community – charity begins at home, as the saying goes.
  4. Think back to your beginnings; personal or business beginnings – what would have helped you when you were just starting out?
  5. Utilise your existing skill set.

Some ideas to help you pay it forward as a business

If you’re really stuck for ideas of ways you can pay it forward as a business, here are some popular ones to get you started:

  • Choose a company charity and encourage your employees to help you fund raise for it, for example by doing a sponsored 10k run together.
  • Have an annual pay it forward day when you and your employees help out the local community. Ideas can include litter picking, gardening for the elderly, or hosting a free picnic in the park.
  • Challenge employees or departments to see who can raise the most money for charity or make the biggest positive impact locally in a set period of time.
  • Incentivise or fund local pay it forward initiatives led by your employees.
  • Donate a percentage of your profits to a charity.
  • Actively support and encourage your employees in their personal and professional growth.
  • Get involved in Pay It Forward Day.

How I try to pay it forward through my work

I truly believe in the concept of paying to forward, and look for ways I can use my professional skills and business to do good.

I don’t have employees yet but I do mentor marketers studying with the Chartered Institute of Marketing which can often involve evening Skype calls. I also provide free consultation calls via Enterprise Nation to start-ups seeking advice from a marketing and PR consultant.

I enjoy doing both and I’m not bragging here, simply demonstrating other examples of how you can share your personal knowledge bank with other people in a constructive way!

You can find out more about Shake It Up Creative on their website.