Do you think you give enough? More than how much you give, the question of appropriate “enoughness” is what stirs the pot, particularly Alexandre Mars’ pot. Mars, a serial entrepreneur who has been dubbed the “French Bill Gates,” is on a mission to merge philanthropy with business savvy, transforming how we give.
On the website of Epic Foundation, a non-profit he runs that aims to ensure 100 percent of philanthropists’ money reaches their charity of choice, he answers the enough question himself: “We all give to charities and we know we could give more.” The deficiency, according to Mars, is due to threefold factors: “a lack of knowledge (about where to give), a lack of trust (that the money would be put to good use), and a lack of time (to figure it all out).”
Mars wants to remove those barriers and make it meaningful, painless—dare he add joyful—to hand over your hard-earned cash.Mars is the author of the recently published book Giving: Purpose is the new currency, whose tagline is “we can now change the world one donation at a time.” Through his foundation, Mars wants to encourage businesses to donate 1 percent of their profits to charity as well as encourage non-wealthy donors to give to good causes.
According to Mars, the newest generation to join the workforce is not the selfish, capitalist- driven generation of old. This emerging generation clamors to hear more about purpose than perks, more investment in corporate social responsibility and less investment in corporate stock options. “The me generation has stepped outside for the we generation,” he writes in his book. He cites a study that a whopping 20 percent of Stanford undergrads want to work for a social enterprise.
As the paradigm of giving shifts globally, Mars wants to transform our society into one in which giving is the new normal. In 2014, India became the first country to enshrine corporate giving into law, mandating companies give 2 percent of their profits to charity. Even Nike, notorious for the poor conditions in its subcontracted factories, in response to pressure—and protests—introduced more ethical work practices.
Although we are not quite at the tipping point, Mars’ book optimistically challenges us to expedite the momentum toward a more generous future, one based on the principles of sharing rather than greed.
Here are three ways Mars suggests for giving better.
1. Payroll giving
Payroll giving means employees donate a portion of their paychecks—even just the cents tacked onto the dollar amount. Mars likes to encourage employers to match that amount.
2. Transactional giving
Businesses can also offer transactional giving, in which clients have the option to add a donation to their transaction sale as a round-up or a specific amount. It can be round up to the dollar of your grocery bill for a specific cause, a minimal fifty cents or so. “It’s nothing,” says Mars. “But the nothing added to the nothing will become big.”
3. Epic pledge
Mars’s Sharing Pledge comes in two versions: one for investors that asks financiers to pledge a percentage of their carry earnings (a share of any profits that the general partners of private equity and hedge funds receive as compensation), and another for entrepreneurs in which they pledge a percentage of the shares they hold in their companies.
The Sharing Pledge is a way to embed social responsibility in a business from the ground up. Entrepreneurs can also pledge a fraction of their proceeds should their company ever be acquired or floated.
Whether you are an entrepreneur, hedge fund investor, influencer, CEO, finance director, the Epic foundation has painless, elegant options to make giving systemic to your operations. Epic Foundation removes the resistance to giving, so there are fewer and fewer reasons not to give. It’s not enough anymore for businesses to be profitable. At some point the question will be how did you share your profits? How did you make the world a better place? By institutionalizing giving, embedding it in our culture and finances, we can all have a good answer at the ready.