Generosity comes in all forms — the giving of time, expertise, knowledge, being open and vulnerable about hard lessons learned, making connections, and the list goes on. And when it comes to generosity, there’s no one-size-fits-all. What makes sense for one, may not for another.
For any act of generosity to be sustainable, you have to find what works best for you and your current resources — and that’s not always just in the form of giving money or time. The fact of the matter is, sometimes neither of those works. But the beautiful thing is, there are so many other ways to contribute to the generosity flywheel. There may even be some you haven’t yet considered.
Funding the flywheel
Naturally, making monetary investments in the community is absolutely essential to supporting a thriving ecosystem. And in just the past year alone, there have been countless acts of monetary generosity from organizations in our community. From Local First Arizona’s Small Business Relief Fund to the EmergeAZ Fast Grant, a partnership between the Arizona governor’s office, InvisionAZ, and StartupAZ, these grants helped a number of businesses get through one of the most challenging years we’ve experienced in a while.
There have also been a number of individuals — successful entrepreneurs, and community and business leaders — who’ve committed grants, funds, and scholarships to help fuel our community’s growth and vitality. Pledges like Hamid Shojaee’s commitment to giving $10 million to 100 Arizona startups and Justin Gray’s commitment of $50,000 through the AZ Local Impact Fund are contributing to the flywheel of generosity + performance in our local entrepreneurial community.
But, making monetary commitments is not always feasible, particularly for cash-strapped startups that need to focus on refunneling profits back into the company.
Giving time to seed the ecosystem
Another common way to contribute to generosity is by giving time — time in the form of mentorship, volunteering or even participating in community events.
Mentorship, whether it’s in a more formal structure or impromptu, has the power to change the trajectory of a career, life path or startup’s growth. And there are countless organizations with formal mentorship programs like SEED Spot and the StartupAZ Collective’s Founders In Residence, but some successful founders and community leaders have simply blocked out “office hours” on their calendars to make themselves available to those seeking their advice. It’s about finding what works for you.
Volunteering with, or even simply attending, events like PHX Startup Week, Startup Grind, #yesphx socials, or 1 Million Cups are equally as important investments in our ecosystem. These events are the backbone of the collaborative spirit that has manifested in our local community and they have been instrumental in facilitating “collisions” and connections between individuals who’ve gone on to become co-founders of startups or investors in an entrepreneurial endeavor.
If you’re at a stage in which you’re heads down growing your business, however, giving your time may come in the form of time dedicated to your team or developing the necessary partnerships or infrastructure that will help take your organization to the next stage. And that contributes to our ecosystem in more ways than one.
Sharing knowledge and content
At first blush, it may not look like an act of generosity, but platforms like AZ TechBeat, Greg’s List, the AZ Tech Podcast, and others, contribute to our community in myriad ways. Greg Head is helping to put a national spotlight on our local software startup ecosystem and bridge potential connections. Similarly, Hamid Shojaee is doing the same through AZ TechBeat and his recently launched podcast.
These platforms and content help enrich and strengthen the Arizona tech, business and startup community by not just putting a spotlight on the local companies doing big things, but also sharing their stories — stories that can help other founders overcome challenges or rethink their model or spark an idea that becomes the next big AZ success.
Of course, building these platforms and content is a commitment of time. So maybe your knowledge sharing comes in the form of being interviewed on other podcasts or contributing to blogs and articles.
Creating a culture of generosity
Even if you think you don’t have the time, funds or talent to give right now, committing to building a culture of generosity within your startup also helps to fuel the flywheel of generosity + performance in our community at large.
This can come in the form of Taking the Generosity Pledge through StartupAZ as a way of establishing a set of values that promote generosity within your company. Or it can be creating a
people-first culture like WebPT, Virtuous, and Postscript, to name a few, have done. These successful startups have engrained a culture of generosity by putting individuals at the heart of everything they do. The internal focus on the well-being of employees and teams, manifests itself through employees’ commitment to customers, each other, and the community.
They’ve also extended that generosity beyond their four walls, providing opportunities for their team to volunteer in the community in ways that matter to them and on company time. Virtuous, for instance, created “Virtuous Volunteers” in which employees get to use a minimum of two hours per month of company time to volunteer with an organization or mission of their choosing. This program has generated countless stories of team members playing music for hospitalized children, serving in rescue missions, mentoring teens, distributing hamburgers and water to homeless individuals in downtown Phoenix, and the list goes on.
The bottom line is, for an act of generosity to be sustainable, you have to consider what is realistically feasible for you at that time. For startup founders attempting to scale, that may mean the best way for you to contribute to the community is by focusing on your company’s performance. That not only has the potential to create more jobs locally but also put you in a position to be able to give in other ways down the road.
So, when it comes to generosity, get creative. There are so many ways we can all add value to our community that don’t involve the exchange of money or time.