“Being a business for good, is good for business.”
The world is facing difficult challenges today and it can be tough to know where to even begin helping. As accountants you have the opportunity to make a massive impact because of the daily interactions you have with so many individuals and businesses.
I’ve been mulling over how people can contribute to social causes they care about by using their strengths and the resources they already have and how this applies to the amazing accountants we work with. We have several clients who are making amazing strides in helping causes they care about such as climate change, racial equality in business, LQBTQ+ equality in business, giving back to their local communities and helping those in need.
To help you consider how you’ll do this, I gathered insights from our clients who have been (or are going) through this. They generously shared their stories, feelings, thoughts and opinions on their unique journeys. Here’s what we learned.
You don’t have to be an expert on a social issue to make a difference and integrate it in your marketing
In order to make a difference you do first need to educate yourself on the social cause you care about. This helps make sure you will fully understand the complexities of the issue and the factors involved. You cannot truly make a difference unless you have the knowledge to know how you can help. Having a clear understanding on a topic can allow you to take action in the right way and build credibility with your prospects, clients and other people within the accounting industry. However, there is a balance to be had here. You’re an accountant first and foremost, not a charity or non-profit. You want to be educated in the subject enough to help; equally, you don’t have to know every single detail in order to help.
One of our clients, James Lizars, owner of Thrive Accounting, is extremely passionate about the climate emergency and taking action in sustainability to create a better world for his kids and future generations. James is B Corp certified and won the ACCA Sustainability Initiative of the Year Award this year for the work he has done to help fight climate change. Here’s what James shared: “Accountants are not sustainability experts, nor should they try to be. None of us are perfect. So it’s ludicrous to try and hold these organisations to even try to achieve perfection before you start marketing behind it.”
James brings up an extremely valid point here. You do not have to be perfect or be an expert in order to start making a difference. You can build a social cause into your marketing without knowing all of the answers. Everybody is a work in progress and if you are transparent about that your authenticity will shine through in the content you put out there. The important thing is you are doing your best to make a difference and trying to educate others so they can feel inspired to also make a difference. You need to mean what you say and follow up your statements with action.
Build the social mission into your business by partnering with organisations
Once you’ve decided you are going to help a social cause through your business you have to live into it wholeheartedly and take action. People will be able to tell if you’re supporting a cause because you feel you should and it’ll come across as ingenuine in your marketing which can damage your brand and relationships you have with clients. You have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
One of the best ways to integrate a social mission into your business is by partnering with or making a commitment to an organisation that is directly involved in helping. Make sure that these partnerships align with your brand and your values, and that the organisation directly makes an impact towards the cause you care about. You may even discover you want to partner with multiple organisations because there are several issues you care about. We’ve found this to be the case with many of our clients.
Alongside the amazing work they do to help fight the climate crisis Thrive also partners with B1G1, an organisation who help people in need get access to water and education and who enable you to weave giving into your business model. They allow you to directly give to charities across the world with every new client you bring on or sale you make. Organisations like B1G1 do their research and vet charities they work with to make sure your contribution is making an impact.
If you want to work more with supporting your local community you can partner with organisations who directly impact your local area. Gillian Caughey, owner of Fearless Financials, works with the Awesome Foundation who help fund projects in the local Glasgow community that help make people’s lives better. The Awesome Foundation is in multiple cities and allows people to give back to their local communities all around the world.
Partnering with organisations who are directly helping the social cause you care about can be an effective and simple way to give back through your business, because they’re experts in the field of giving and you can give back by relying on their expertise. Partnering with organisations has the potential to better connect with prospects, clients and can create important networking opportunities.
Make a pledge/commitment towards a social cause you believe in and follow through with it
Another way to make a big impact towards a social cause you believe in is by making a specific pledge or commitment to make a difference. This has to be something you make strides to follow through with it. You need to make progress towards the goal and to share your progress with the world.
James and his team at Thrive have also partnered with and committed to the Million Tree Pledge, which is a commitment they’ve made alongside other businesses that they will be responsible for the planting of 1 million trees by 2030. (Read about it here). This is a very ambitious goal for a small accounting firm but James believes in going big to make the most impact and they’re already 10% of the way there.
Fearless Financials has also made many commitments to contributing to their overall mission of people before profit and that businesses can be a force for good. They have signed up to the Scottish Real Living wage and encourage clients to do the same. Gillian believes the real Living Wage (currently £9.90 per hour) is good for business, good for workers and good for society.
Fearless has also signed up for the Better Business Act, a campaign to ensure that every company in the UK puts balancing people, profit and planet at the heart of their purpose and the responsibility of their directors. The aim is to transform the way Britain does business so every single company takes ownership of its social and environmental impact.
These kinds of commitments allow you to make a statement and keep you accountable towards making a significant influence on the social mission you care about.
Help those in need directly through your business
There are ways for accountants to directly help by offering their services to businesses in need. You can build a scheme into your business where you can give back without relying on an outside organisation. Karen Kennedy, founder of Kennedy Accountancy has recently launched the Kennedy Accountancy Community Credits Scheme which lives up to her and her firm’s mission and values by helping businesses in her local community.
Here’s what Karen had to say about the scheme “Local business owners in certain industries who are overlooked by grant funding bodies can access part subsidised accountancy fees in the first 12 months of working with us. They can get the brilliant advice they need but at a lower cost to them – crucial in the start up phases of business. The Scheme is funded purely by my business – less profit for me in order to help my community. And it is just for local businesses, they have to be based within Lochalsh & Skye. I hope this will encourage other businesses around me to think about how they can support other local businesses.”
Karen plans to further develop the Community Credits Scheme over time and encourage other businesses in the community to give back. Karen is one of those people who lives and breathes her values. She sponsors and supports local communities and groups as much as possible. She promotes the causes consistently and shouts loudly through her social media.
Gillian from Fearless Financials has supported queer-led businesses and offered her expertise on the finances in the beginning stages of their business. Gillian is a member of the LQBTQ+ community herself and is a strong advocate for creating an environment where everyone can be themselves and thrive. This is where her Fearless tagline originated from “Be You. Be Brave. Build a Better Business”.
Karen and Gillian are both great examples of how you can help social initiatives directly through your business. Cutting out the middleman gives you the power to establish your own rules when giving back and see the impact you’re making first hand.
Volunteer your time and resources to help a non-profit/charity that contributes to the social mission
Volunteering with organisations who directly help the social cause you want to support is a great way to give back, if taking money directly out of your business isn’t an option for you at the moment.
Kenny Mason started Equibis Accounting because he wanted to help businesses in marginalised communities in his local Chicago area. In these areas business owners often lack the resources and knowledge to succeed due to being in a low income, underfunded area. Equibis exists to help create equity in the cannabis industry and positively change the perception around the legalisation of marijuana.
Outside of the wonderful work he does day to day at Equibis, Kenny is the treasurer for a non profit organisation, Chicago NORML. NORML is trying to reverse the harm marijuana has caused to People of Colour through the War on Drugs and other similar anti-working class programs. He donates his time, expertise and uses his skills as a business owner and accountant to help move the mission forward.
Volunteering your time and expertise to an organisation that directly helps with the social issue is a great way to have a positive influence. Doing work inside the organisation allows you to see directly the impact they are making and how you are contributing to making a difference.
Now you’re putting in the work behind your social mission, talk about it!
Making strides to helping a cause you are passionate about can be mutually beneficial to the cause and your firm. It can provide many marketing opportunities and support you in building connections around a cause.
It’s not about “look at me I’m a great person I support causes”, it’s about being your most authentic self in your marketing and that includes talking about causes which are important to you. It’s less about shouting about the things you’ve done, and more about spreading the message, sharing how it fits with your values, showing what you do in your firm on a day to day basis to support it.
Let’s talk about how you can start implementing the social mission you’re supporting into your marketing strategy in the right way.
Integrating a social mission into your marketing starts with your brand
When it comes to integrating anything in your marketing strategy it all comes back to your brand. Your brand can act like a compass when you’re not sure if something fits with your firm. Something at the heart of your brand is your values as a firm. When trying to integrate a social mission in your marketing it is likely that it is a natural fit with your values and your brand. If your brand doesn’t truly reflect who you are as a firm or who you want to be in the future there could be a misalignment with your marketing.
When people see it’s built into who you are as a firm it can be difficult to question your motives and whether or not you’re serious about it. Here’s what Gillian Caughey from Fearless Financials had to say about it: “Doing a branding exercise really helps you see what your values and the values of your business are. Especially with external help such as We Are PF – they go deep! This showed me how some of the things I supported and the business supported fitted together.”
Having a strong brand and values helps to create a foundation to build off of when trying to make a contribution to a social cause and include it in your marketing. It helps establish credibility when people see that it’s at the core of who you are. It also helps you have cohesion across all of the content you are putting out as a firm. It can help give you clarity in how your personal values and your business values can integrate with one another.
Good marketing divides. You don’t want to work with people who don’t believe in a cause that you are passionate about. You want to find your people and collaborate with those who share similar values. It can also help you work with businesses and employees who wholeheartedly believe in the social mission and the efforts you are going to contribute towards it.
Regularly share content with the world about the social cause and what your firm is actively doing to help
You need to educate yourself on the subject and you need to actively make people aware of what is happening and how you are contributing to help. Make your audience aware of what the issue is, why you are passionate about it, what you are doing to help make an impact and what you plan to do in the future. Actively include this in the content you’re putting out so people see that you’re not all talk.
Blogs – Writing and sharing blog posts is a great way to introduce the social mission you care about to the world or to keep people updated on the progress you are making towards your goals in helping.
Social media posts – Social media allows you to introduce people to the wonderful work you’re doing and gives you a platform to show your support for the cause. It also gives you the opportunity to directly connect with people who believe in the cause and actively engage with them.
Talk about it on your website – share content on why it’s important to you. If you have a well established brand, representing how your social mission aligns with your values on your website is a great way to connect with clients and prospects. Here’s how Kenny has integrated his passion for the social mission into the “About us” page on Equibis website.
Create an impact page on your website to update people on the progress you’re making towards helping the social cause. You can see below how Thrive currently has a page on their website that is automatically updated by B1G1 to reflect the impact Thrive has had across the world and how close they are to reaching their giving target.
Talk about it in any interviews/podcasts/webinars – If you are being interviewed or invited to be a guest speaker in a podcast or webinar use the opportunity to share information about the cause you are passionate about. Let people know how you’re taking action and how they can too.
Talk about it at events at which you’re the speaker – Being asked to speak at events especially alongside industry experts is a massive opportunity and compliment. Use the chance you have to speak to spread awareness and educate people about why it’s important to take steps towards making a difference. Here is James Lizars speaking on a panel about sustainability in the accounting industry at Accountex 2022 below. James would like to write a book on the subject in the near future to help other accountants and their clients to become greener.
Talk to your clients about it – Don’t be complacent about your everyday interactions with your clients. Take it as an opportunity to connect with them on a deeper level and to show more of yourself and what you’re passionate about. Show up in person like you do in other areas of your marketing. Clients and prospects want to see you’re the same person in real life (IRL) and online.
With any one of these you can also turn them into “stackable content”: use the content you’ve created for one of these mediums and share it again in a different way for another. For example if you write a blog post on sustainability you can pull pieces of information mentioned in the blog post and turn those into individual social posts. You could use the images from your blog post in the social posts.
Advice from four other accountants on how you can best support your chosen social mission
As an accountant you have so much power to make an impact. Even if you feel like the contributions you’re making are minor, they are contributing to the bigger picture. What you choose to do with your firm makes a difference and can influence others because of your expertise and the close relationships you have with your clients.
We understand you want to help save the world in different ways and it can be hard to know where to start. Here’s some advice from the PF clients featured in this article that might help you on your journey:
“The main thing is to start on your own journey. If you’ve got this social mission then you have to start embracing it. What’s really important is to do it, but acknowledge that you’re not done yet.” – James Lizars
“Overall, bringing social mission(s) that you believe in, into your marketing helps you reach other kindred spirits who are likely to be the clients you want to work with; other professionals that you can learn with and maybe even encourage others to become supporters of your causes as well.” – Gillian Caughey
“Don’t just have your social mission as a statement on your website. You actually need to live and breathe it in some practical sense, so think about how you will do that.” – Karen Kennedy
“I think it always boils down to what value we can provide to others as accountants. We are good at providing value and giving of ourselves, but not necessarily recognising that and focusing on what that looks like. I’m a treasurer on this board for this not-for-profit focus on cannabis. So I’m using my experience as an accountant directly to help move their mission forward, which impacts the overall industry.” – Kenny Mason
The hardest thing to do is start. Let his amazing advice from our clients give you the inspiration you need to get going. We wish you all the best on your journey and would love it if you could connect with us on Instagram at @weare_pf so we can follow all your wonderful progress!