Here is how I imagine most corporate donation programs get their start.
The CFO says, “We need to donate some money to a charity to lower our total tax rate.”
The VP of Marketing then chimes in with, “What charity would give us the most publicity for our donation?”
“I don’t know,” the CEO says, “but make sure that the burden on the cost comes from our customers and not out of the bottom line.”
“We need to make sure that we reduce the cost of our product in line with the portion that we are donating to charity, the cost to change the labeling, and any marketing that is associated with this campaign,” the COO reminds the stuffy old codgers around the table.
“Agreed,” the CFO retorts, “make sure the total donation doesn’t exceed $500,000 or it will kill our run rate savings for this fiscal year and has no additional tax benefit.”
The VP of marketing ponders aloud, “What charity are we supporting?”
“I don’t care,” the CEO says, “just make sure that it is one that makes me look good. Git ‘er done. Meeting adjourned, because I need to make my next tee time and the corporate jet (which costs more in a month to run then we are donating) is waiting.”
Is This How a Business Helps Their Community?
In my experience, most corporations donate to causes in order to reduce their tax exposure, gain reduced cost publicity, and make their CEO look like he supports the less fortunate. The donations either come from a tiny fraction of the sales or through the consumer buying a certain product during a limited time period. The worst are the campaigns where the consumer has to collect and mail box tops, UPCs, or lids in order for the company to make a donation to a cause. That puts the burden of responsibility on the customer and not the company that wants to look like it is trying to do well in the first place.
Most Corporate Giving Doesn’t Engage Your Customers
Campaigns like the one above do nothing to get your customer interested in a cause, motivate them to select your product, or make them feel like they are making a difference in the world. What truly motivates your customers is your ability to make them feel really good about buying your product. Your customers want to know that every purchase they make from you might change someone’s life.
The Tom’s Shoes Example
An example of this concept in action is Tom’s Shoes. The idea that Tom’s uses is simple; for every pair of shoes you buy, they donate a pair to a child in need. Doesn’t buying a product with the knowledge that someone in need gets one of the products make you feel better? Doesn’t it make you want to talk about and write blog posts about this idea?
What is Your Motivation?
When companies are donating to causes, are they doing it just to look good or are they doing it because they can, and it is the right thing to do? Companies that are passionate about helping people with every product they sell are doing the right thing. Companies that are trying to reduce their tax rate or get cheap publicity by limiting how much help they provide are not doing the right thing.
Yeah, but I don’t Sell Shoes
You don’t have to sell shoes to make a difference in the world. There are other ways that you can help the world with your product or service. For example:
- A restaurant can feed two people at a homeless shelter for every meal sold.
- Barbers and stylists can donate a haircut to someone that is unemployed for every haircut they sell.
- A publisher can plant a tree for every book sold.
- Chair manufacturers can donate a new desk to a school for every chair they sell.
- Football teams can buy pads for at risk students for every season pass sold.
- A bike manufacturer can give a bike to a needy child for every bike sold.
There are Many Ways to Help
There are an endless number of ways that businesses can help people and engage their customers in the process of helping. Don’t be like the business that does it for their benefit. Be the business that does it to help people, engage your customers in the process, and be a good thriving business. Are your customers going to have to pay more for your product? Hell yes! But they will pay for it because it is the right thing to do and not just a marketing and tax gimmick.
What ways can the companies you buy from truly help people with your purchase?
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