Why charity should be something you do, not just promote — Justin Hanson

I came to this country nearly four decades ago and have enjoyed success as a family man and entrepreneur. I appreciate all the opportunities Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and this country provides.

In appreciation, I make it a point to pay it forward. I feel that with success comes a responsibility to give back. We live in a nation that works best when we lift each other up to provide the same — if not more — chances for others to exceed their potential. I relish in the ability to serve.

I firmly believe that performing charity work should occur within the spirit of fostering selfless acts of service without fanfare. So, when I see other individuals and organizations promote their volunteer initiatives, I always ask the question, what is their motivation?

Often, companies advertise their one-off contributions primarily for their own betterment. I understand why this occurs. Customers, investors, and business partners appreciate hearing when the organizations that they support perform good deeds in the community. Broadcasting the service can add value to a company’s bottom line. I get it.

All that said, charity work should, first and foremost, put others first. Real acts of kindness occur every day by ordinary and extraordinary people who neither seek nor expect acknowledgment for their efforts. Those who regularly give back do so because it aligns with their core values. They feel it’s simply the right thing to do.

In saying this, I don’t mean to discredit all promotion of charity work. Several companies undertake it to encourage their customers, partners, investors, and even competitors to follow suit. A prime example is organizations that announce a matching grant program for COVID-19 relief support. Take Petco’s charity arm. Earlier this year, the nationwide pet supplies chain’s foundation offered to match donations up to $25,000 that were made to the Wisconsin Humane Society’s Virtual Pet Walk. The June 2020 event came together to save the lives of animals whose owners face economic, food, or shelter insecurity in the COVID-19 crisis. In this case, promoting the initiative added significant benefit to the cause.

For me, determining whether to promote charity efforts comes down to answering one simple question; what is their motivation? If the answer has more to do with one’s self or company fortunes than those the initiative serves, I would strongly argue not to do it.