In business, profit is usually the primary goal, and for good reason. A company that doesn’t make money won’t last long. But over the last decade, more businesses have reached beyond the bottomline to find ways to give back to the communities they serve. From charitable foundations to eco-friendly initiatives, businesses big and small are committing to corporate social responsibility (CSR).
It’s a change that’s seeing businesses positively impact the social and environmental issues in the world around them, something Ivy McGregor understands very well. McGregor is a global philanthropist; working as the Director of Social Responsibility at Parkwood Entertainment (the philanthropic arm also known as BeyGOOD) and the CEO and Chief Architect of her firm, IVY Inc. where she consults with corporations nationwide to ideate, strategize, and execute corporate social responsibility initiatives.
McGregor first discovered her passion for philanthropy early in her career when she’d spend her off-hours volunteering at nursing homes and gathering neighbourhood kids to discuss their entrepreneurial visions. While McGregor put her all into her day jobs, those evenings and weekends spent serving her community brought her fulfillment.
“That is when I felt my heart jump,” McGregor explained. “I had no idea this would be a pathway to a career, but what I did know was that it was important for my brain to work and for my heart to beat in tandem.”
But paving the path from the days of volunteering to what McGregor does now took a lot of gumption and a willingness to be an answer to the problems she saw. That tenacity is what allowed her to create a career that didn’t exist before her. “Sometimes [getting started] is hand-raising and sometimes it’s pushing the door down, [which] means coming up with a solution where you see it is a need.”
So, McGregor began creating solutions for organizations in a space she was immersed in – the faith-based community. She reached out to pastors struggling to engage their dwindling memberships and offered strategies that resolved the problem.
For years, she did this work for free, even as friends encouraged her to charge for it. Instead, McGregor found value in the experience and the list of people who now endorse her as an effective and talented strategist.
“I couldn’t talk about philanthropy if I wasn’t a philanthropist. I could have charged [money] for these strategies, absolutely, but now I have people all over the world who market for me because I gave my advice for free,” McGregor said.
The strategy paid off, and McGregor is now widely recognized for her expertise in the world of corporate social responsibility. In addition to her experience, McGregor credits her success to the values that shape her approach to business.
McGregor’s mother, whose diligence and dedication as a single mother of five inspired her daughter’s work ethic, also taught her that ‘love is the most important thing.’ McGregor said this belief has allowed her to extend non-judgmental support to the communities and individuals her business and clients support and to give without any expectation in return.
“I encourage people to realize that you can’t control the outcome, but we can control what we start with. So, starting with a zero-judgment zone and pure heart so that we don’t discriminate against the people we help,” McGregor advised.
McGregor also recognized the value of connecting with people outside of her typical circles. Early in her career, she was inspired by a homeless woman named Anne who she met in a department store bathroom. McGregor said executives would benefit from interacting with staff from departments they might not otherwise share space with and volunteering in vulnerable communities.
“Hearing their stories and conversations makes us sensitive to other people, so we’re not just locked in our own cycle of understanding,” McGregor said.
Service is another of McGregor’s key values. Twenty years ago, she created the tagline, “Service is sustainability,” and she stands by it to this day, crediting service and its ability to positively impact consumers for businesses that have stood the test of time.
“They understand that it’s not so much what you say, but how you make people feel—empowered, inspired, helped. Service is a soft skill and a true power,” she said.
For corporations that don’t yet have a corporate social responsibility strategy or want to strengthen the work they’re already doing, McGregor suggested that they consider the many options—donations, volunteer efforts, internships, job opportunities for vulnerable communities, etc.—and engage their stakeholders to determine what works best. Once they know what their staff and stakeholders are invested in, they can take action and engage the community.
Photo Source: Ravon B. Varona