I believe that, for the most part, human beings are amazing. That’s why I meet so many business owners who want to make sure they give back in some way. Unfortunately, when left unchecked this can lead to some major business problems.

The Wrong Way of Giving Back

While giving back is a beautiful thing, it needs to be done properly. What exactly do I mean by that? Mostly, that you cannot give from an empty cup. Unfortunately, I see business owners putting themselves last all the time in an effort to give back, which leads to financial struggle.

While their intentions are wonderful, business owners need to be mindful of a) not devaluing themselves and b) giving back when they truly can. Otherwise, you lose money and if you lose money you can’t really give back to your fullest capacity.

Here are some of the ways business owners can give back without devaluing their work, depleting themselves or burning out.

Decide how much pro bono work you can realistically do.

At the beginning of each year, clearly figure out how much pro bono work you can realistically do. The truth is, as much as we may want to help everyone, we can’t. We’re human, not machines. We also have real world things to deal with – like our own bills.

For example, I’m very clear on who I will do pro bono work for. In my case, it looks like giving a free financial workshop for teenagers once a year at a local business. As much as I’d love to do this all the time, I can’t. At least not for free.

Decide who you can collaborate with.

At this stage in my business, I get asked about potential collaborations quite a bit. As my business grows, my time has become less available. This means that, again, as much as I want to, I can’t do that many collaborations without getting paid.

This means I have a clear picture of who I would collaborate with and on what project. I decide this based on there being a fair exchange of value for the both of us as well as the audience we are trying to reach.

For instance, a friend and colleague has an excellent idea for a major event that will change many lives. I already know they are good for their word. I also already know this would be beneficial for all parties involved.

Give back privately.

Look, I’m not always shouting from the rooftops whenever I give back. In fact, I rarely do it unless I feel like my influence will help the situation somehow.

That’s because my giving back sometimes looks like giving a friend money to help pay for a surgery. Or helping someone with funeral costs. Or purchasing items that are sustainable and support local business. Or, volunteering after a hurricane.

As a business owner, you don’t always need to give back by doing cause marketing or going into social entrepreneurship. In fact, sometimes it takes a long time for you to determine what that even looks like. Sometimes giving back in the smallest of ways in your private life actually makes a huge difference.

Final Thoughts

Finding ways to give back to a business owner is a beautiful thing, but you need to make sure it’s not hurting your business or your finances. Remember, you can’t give from an empty cup.