4 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Pay It Forward

Charitable giving, whether time or money or both, energizes employees and gives businesses a greater purpose.

learn more about Zeynep Ilgaz

By Zeynep Ilgaz

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For me, doing business means more than just getting a job done. Giving back is a key component of my company's culture, and I'm not alone. According to Giving USA, charitable giving in the U.S. reached an estimated $335 billion in 2013.

This isn't just good for charities, though. Whether you donate your money or your time, giving back is beneficial for you and your company. Volunteering helps boost morale, increase retention and even create life-changing experiences for your employees. Gallup found that people who serve their communities have lower stress levels and a better sense of well-being.

Warren Buffett, legendary investor and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., founded The Giving Pledge along with Bill and Melinda Gates. The group encourages billionaires to give more than half their wealth to charitable organizations. Buffett has pledged to give away nearly all of his massive fortune.

"Were we to use more than 1 percent of my claim checks on ourselves, neither our happiness nor our well-being would be enhanced," Buffett wrote. "In contrast, that remaining 99 percent can have a huge effect on the health and welfare of others."

Paying it forward creates a cycle of caring for one another that benefits everyone. Whether you give back in your hometown or somewhere else, use these four tips to get started:

Related: This Startup Veteran Is Paying it Forward With a Free Boot Camp for Entrepreneurs

1. Align your giving with your core values.

When you establish your company's foundation, consider including corporate giving that's in line with your mission.

For example, I'm passionate about a drug-free world, so I built my company around the idea of fighting substance abuse. Therefore, the giving focus of my company is on causes that promote a drug-free lifestyle. Not only does this make my employees more likely to care about the cause, but it also helps our brand image in our target area.

2. Improve your surroundings.

When you improve your local community, you'll improve the lives of your employees, too. Michael Bloomberg, former New York City mayor and Bloomberg founder, improved his surroundings by establishing Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2006. To date, the organization has given $3.8 billion to the improvement of five main areas: the arts, the environment, education, public health and government innovation.

You don't have to have Bloomberg's billions to make a difference. Donate time at a local homeless shelter, or participate in a food drive. Look for a wish list on a local organization's website, and buy some of the items listed.

Related: Why Philanthropy Is Good Business

3. Remember your roots.

Thinking back to my start in Turkey, it's overwhelming and emotional to consider all the people who have impacted me. I feel grateful for the many experiences that shaped my entrepreneurial journey. To honor this, I find ways to give back to organizations from my home country with money, time or expertise.

4. Involve your team and beyond.

Getting your employees involved is crucial for boosting morale. Gather your team to prepare a meal, serve food, hold a food drive or donate used clothes.

One of my favorite holiday activities was a toy drive my company recently held. After securing children's wish lists from a rescue mission, my company donated all of the gifts. To make it even more special, my fifth-grader's class wrapped the gifts and wrote personalized notes. It was a great learning experience and bonding activity for my team as well as the school kids.

Make giving a priority when you start your company. That will spark a cycle of benefits for you and your team. Giving back doesn't mean just giving money. If you're on a tight budget, there are many organizations that just need your time.

Giving back is the only way I feel like I can repay the enormous amount of love and support I've received throughout my entrepreneurial journey. To me, that's what "getting the job done" really means.

Related: 4 Ways Your Company Benefits From Giving Back

Zeynep Ilgaz

Entrepreneur, Co-Founder and President of Confirm Biosciences and TestCountry

Originally from Turkey, Zeynep Ilgaz and her husband immigrated to the United States with two suitcases and the drive to dive into entrepreneurship. They co-founded Confirm BioSciences and TestCountry in San Diego. Ilgaz serves as president of both. Confirm BioSciences offers service-oriented drug-testing technologies.

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