The holiday season is over, but the spirit of giving remains. In fact, as evidenced by media mogul Ted Turner's recent $1 billion pledge to the United Nations, philanthropy is decidedly de rigueur these days. And despite the fact that not many business owners (or countries, for that matter) can afford to match Turner's generosity, that doesn't mean charitable works are the exclusive domain of the rich and famous.
Not that monetary contributions are the only--or even the best--way for entrepreneurs to do good. On the contrary, philanthropy in the 1990s can be as simple (and financially painless) as stocking T-shirts promoting breast cancer awareness. Don't own a clothing store? Then why not grant your employees time off to volunteer at a local nonprofit organization?
Needless to say, the greatest return on such investments in societal improvement is the improvement itself--and the way it makes you feel. Nonetheless, at the risk of sounding crass, there's a business upside as well: Nearly 80 percent of consumers claim a willingness to change company allegiances according to perceived involvement in social causes. It's called making a difference . . . in more ways than one.