Rick Jackson

Personally, I’m not surprised by Georgia businesses’ incredible acts of generosity and innovative responses to the coronavirus crisis. This might be Business’ finest hour. In Albany alone, Georgia’s COVID-19 epicenter, I’m seeing scores of businesses and volunteers working to stand up new healthcare capabilities, sourcing PPE, feeding people and relentlessly fighting this pandemic.

New research shows that the generosity business leaders instinctively exhibit now will help their companies recover when the eventual “new normal” comes.

We at goBeyondProfit conducted statewide corporate generosity research in February, in what turned out to be invaluable timing. Consistency with our 2019 benchmark findings unveiled a deeply held mindset that can inform decision-making today.

Our questions, asked of 500 working adults and 244 senior business leaders, show that Georgians care deeply about how businesses support their communities.

Strong majorities of Georgians prefer to buy from (73%) and associate with (74%) brands and companies who are generous to the community. And 53% say they’ll even pay more for products from these companies. While retention doesn’t feel like the most burning issue now, half (49%) of the state’s working adults consider corporate generosity when deciding whether to work for or stay with an employer. The full report (www.gobeyondprofit.org/corporate-generosity-report/) also provides insights into how leaders can best create shared value with their own employees and customers.

How decisions are made and communicated about caring for staff, customers and neighbors during these dark days will have palpable business implications.

Granted, no two businesses are wrestling with the exact same decisions today. Many are struggling just to survive. Others are redeploying resources to meet customer needs. Some will do layoffs; others will hire up.

Regardless of what decisions business owners face, how they can conduct themselves becomes a clear demonstration of their values. Several constructive approaches really popped out at me from the research:

· We are wise to invite participation. Visible leaders drive loyalty and passion by involving employees and customers in outreach decisions and educating them about how and why community decisions are made. When we facilitate participation, like donating blood as Jackson Healthcare’s associates are this week, employees’ lives are enhanced, and their loyalty is deepened. There is no end to the ways employers can survey their teams, match their donations or offer volunteerism opportunities.

· We value visible leadership. A resounding 95% of senior executives believe it’s important that their employees see them involved in and supportive of community outreach and 67% of employees agree. But 35% of employees assert that they do not see their executives involved and supportive. And that was before COVID-19 dispersed us all to work from home.

· It’s not just about dollars. Georgians value companies that exhibit a full range of supportive behaviors. In moments of stress and upheaval, business innovation brings new ideas and resulting benefits when it comes to giving. Companies are finding ways to donate materials, share knowledge and connections with community partners, lend expertise to other businesses and reimagine the use of physical spaces.

Most Georgia executives (88%) confirm community outreach is “critical/important” to their businesses’ overall health. Every day, we at goBeyondProfit raise up examples of businesses extending themselves to help Georgia manage through this crisis.

I can assure readers that the goBeyondProfit founders are more committed than ever to helping our peers, business owners, Presidents and CEOs in this crisis. And going forward into the new normal, we’ll continue to learn from each other and inspire each other as we step up with generosity.

There will be no second chance to make today’s difficult decisions. Businesses’ long-term success may well depend on generous choices we make today.

Richard L. Jackson is Chairman & CEO of Jackson Healthcare and Founder of goBeyondProfit, a statewide alliance of business leaders created to spur corporate generosity.


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