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If I told you that mobility industry companies could make $3 for every $1 dollar that they spent, would you think that was outrageous? Would you think that mobility industry companies making 300% profits was obscene?

Of course you would. However, what if I told you that while this business potential is substantiated by the most esteemed economists, many mobility industry companies are largely ignoring the opportunity, would you then think that some mobility industry companies are acting foolishly?

Indeed, 300% profits are possible in the mobility industry in one specific area, and it's being underestimated by many: Charitable Giving.

That's right, charitable giving creates huge economic returns for all involved, ultimately resulting in empowering the community and literally fueling business growth, thereby allowing more charitable giving – and so the cycle continues, where everyone wins. It's the “Economic Cycle of Giving,” as I've coined it, and it should be used more by mobility industry companies to directly spur economic growth, especially in these tough times.

See, Baruch Lev, of New York University's Stern School of business, and his colleagues from the University of Texas Dallas School of Management found that for every tax-deductible dollar that a company gives to charity, it can expect a sales return of $2 to $3 dollars. But, how can giving away money actually generate greater revenue, by multi-folds even?

As economist, Gene Epstein, notes, “That corporate charity has the potential to boost a company's bottom line makes perfect sense.” For example, if sports apparel maker, Under Armor, supports various sports programs, what brand do you suppose those athletes will know and feel loyalty toward? Of course, Under Armor. The athletes will ultimately buy it, wear it, and indirectly promote it. It's a win-win situation, where the sports programs receive charitable funding, and Under Armor sees sales increase due to reputation and brand recognition.

What's more, professor Lev's study compared the return on charitable giving to that of traditional marketing, finding that charitable giving came to an expense of only 0.1% of average sales revenue, whereas the surveyed 251 companies each spent over 50 times more on traditional advertising. Put simply, every $1 donated to charity has the same statistical return, based on the study, as $50 spent on traditional marketing. That's a staggering cost savings on “advertising” – simply by giving to others.

Companies like Sears have been leveraging this strategy of charitable giving as a way to both help others, reduce advertising costs, and boost its bottom line. Sears donates its Kenmore brand appliances to the television show, “Extreme Home Makeover,” which helps needy families by renovating their homes. Throughout each episode, there's no shortage of Kenmore appliance shots, from refrigerator badges to logo boxes, all on camera. The result is that by donating, say, $20,000 in appliances, Sears' Kenmore brand receives far more air time than a 30-second, $200,000 commercial. Sears helps families, and gets a budgetary boost in the process. It's a quantifiable revenue return on a charitable contribution – and a huge one, at that.

Of course, such charitable donations must be done with some savvy to produce returns – that is, the more related the charity is to the donating company's mission or products, the greater the return. Under Armor donating cash to a soup kitchen is a good deed, but wouldn't have the same branding impact as donating to a triathlon benefiting the family of an injured veteran. What's more, it simply makes sense that companies donate to the individuals and organizations that their business model directly serves.

All of this bring us back to the mobility industry, and a vast gap – and the importance of resolving it – in charitable giving. Make no mistake, much of the mobility industry is in tough times, from consumer funding constraints to manufacturer profitability. A seven-year barrage of various forms of funding cuts have left consumers with less mobility, and providers and manufactures with less sales. The result is a health and social toll on consumers, and an economic down turn in the industry. At this writing, a trade publication estimates that another 300 providers are on the verge of closing, and it all trickles up to job losses at most manufacturers due to decreased sales. Everyone in the flow of product seems to be hitting an economic bottle neck, from consumers to providers to manufacturers.

And, that makes this the ideal time for mobility industry companies to prioritize charitable giving in their business models. I know, it sounds counter-intuitive – that is, when there's less, give more. But, let's go back to professor Lev's economics study on how charitable giving pays out a staggering return on “investment” – and see how such proven strategies benefit all in the mobility marketplace.

We know that disability-related consumers and organizations are heavily in need these days, with funding at arguably the lowest levels in decades. Therefore, the direct need is there. Likewise, with the funded consumer pool smaller, providers and manufacturers are individually vying for market share, where new business must be attracted to compensate for lost business (in addition to heeding cost efficiencies, as well). Charitable giving then becomes an ideal for all – that is, a solution for consumers most in need, and a competitive advantage for individual providers and manufacturers. Here's an example of how charitable giving proves itself as an economic boost for all in the mobility industry delivery chain:

A rehab clinic that routinely specs wheelchairs has a client, without insurance, in desperate need of a rehab wheelchair. A local provider and national manufacturer team up and donate a custom-fitted wheelchair. What's the result?

Firstly, and most importantly, the client received needed mobility, and can pursue education, employment, and community – ultimately creating a socioeconomic ripple that will benefit all who he or she comes in contact with.

Secondly, rehab clinics rightfully prefer working with responsive, supportive vendors. So, if a provider and manufacturer support the rehab clinic, of course the rehab clinic will send more business their way because they're companies of integrity.

Lastly, the media loves such stories, so the rehab clinic, provider, and manufacturer all get great exposure. Again, everyone wins – the rehab clinic may generate additional community and financial support, and the provider and manufacturer experience increased brand recognition and customer base growth.

To summarize this scenario according to economists, donating one wheelchair will result in the sale of several. And, on an even larger scale, when the mobility industry donates to mobility advocacy groups – as with those striving to sustain mobility funding via lobbying Capitol Hill – the return is exponential, where preserving funding ensures access to mobility products for consumers, and thereby generates industry revenue.

Now, a cynic may say, Isn't using charitable giving as a way to increase business revenue morally wrong?

Not at all – and, in fact, it's morally the right approach on every level. The first interest is, of course, the individual or organization in need. However, if in meeting that charitable need, a company increases its revenue, then it can continue the “Economic Cycle of Giving,” helping more individuals and organizations in need. That is, if by giving, you can increase revenue, you then have even more revenue to apply toward charity. Charitable contributions should be a fixed percentage of a company's annual revenue, built into the business model, so as revenue increases, so do charitable contributions. I can't say it enough: Everyone wins, and everyone grows as the “Economic Cycle of Giving” repeats itself.

It is vital to note that charity can only be a part of a business' model (otherwise it would be a non-profit). And, in fact, in the mobility industry – or, more aptly, within the disability-related community – charitable need is so great that there's not enough revenue to address it. Therefore, companies can – and should – only allocate a portion of annual revenue toward charitable contributions (there is a point of diminishing returns, where if a company gave too much, it would adversely effect its bottom line, decreasing not just the ability for future charitable contributions, but potentially devastating the company, where everyone would lose).

Therefore, with all points considered, unquestionably a key component to rebounding the mobility market – from consumers' needs to provider and manufacturer revenue – is found within a dedication toward charitable giving. We know the direct impact that charitable contributions have on individuals and organizations. And, now we know the direct impact that charitable contributions have on those companies that give – a proven 200% to 300% return on the contribution, according to leading economists. With those facts, it's easily seen how charitable contributions by companies within the mobility industry can help the recovery from its current downturn: Supporting individuals and related organizations fosters support and revenue for the industry itself, and the more the industry rebounds, the greater charitable contributions it can make – and so the “Economic Cycle of Giving” flourishes, elevating all.

As Epstein put it, “[Such] findings might spur investors, fund managers and corporate CEOs to ask not whether a company is doing too much in the way of philanthropy, but whether it is doing enough.”

Published 6/2012, Copyright 2012,