Founded by Clayton Christopher, Sweet Leaf Tea is a perfect example of a company rooted in giving back – not just through charitable efforts, but by creating a communi-tea (as they craftily term it) of customers who share the same values, and a culture that rewards and recognizes its employees for their contributions. With a strong focus on quality over cost, hand-selected ingredients and sustainable processes, they produce products that are as environmentally-friendly as they are tasty, and foster practical, ‘grandmotherly’ wisdom in the process.
1. How do you define for-profit philanthropy?
For-profit philanthropy is the effort in which for-profit companies give back to their communities through giving, co-promotions, or events. For Sweet Leaf Tea, it is the best way to connect ourselves to our target markets. Since we are still a small company and aren’t able to give cash to the charities we believe in, we help them out through in-kind donations. We have a product that most organizations have a need for (beverages for fundraisers, board meetings, sponsor dinners, etc), so we are able to help cut their costs on food/beverage expenses through product donations.
Please describe your philanthropic business plan and your current charitable activities.
In our marketing department, we try to continuously reach out and help credible organizations in our communities by donating product to their events. Most everything we do is through donations, but we do have a few initiatives that we execute every year that do include funds.
Each spring, we organize a fundraising event for Big Brothers Big Sisters in Austin called the “Austin Tea Party.” We recruit local quick-service restaurant chains to participate by handing out free Sweet Leaf Tea to anyone who makes a donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters for a one-week period. On the last Saturday of the event, we have Bigs and Littles visit each store to man our custom “Tea Stands.” During that time, they talk to customers about Big Brothers Big Sisters, collect donations, and hand out free tea. Past events have raised over $10,000 for the organization.
We also participate in the Houston Art Car Parade each May with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Houston. We provide one of our vehicles for the parade, and the Bigs and Littles from the organization get to paint it one week before the parade. We always get a ton of press to come out for the painting party, where BBBS reps get to talk on-air about their organization. A week later, the Littles get to ride in the vehicle during the parade. It is a fun and unique event for the Littles – after all, they don’t get to paint on cars everyday!
Finally, we do a national promotion for breast cancer awareness every October in which we turn our bottle caps pink. We give a portion of the proceeds for every pink-capped product sold to breast cancer awareness. Last year we donated $10,000 to the cause. We also support various Race for the Cure events by handing out loads of cold product to the participants. On average, we bring about 10,000 bottles of tea to each event and we’ve done this every year in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and Ft. Worth, and we’ve added Los Angeles to this year’s races.
3. How do you communicate the impact of these efforts to your customers?
The impact of our efforts is first and foremost communicated to those customers who are able to experience Sweet Leaf in the act, whether it is in-store, at events, or through the organization involved. Secondly, we promote every event that we are involved in through our website, newsletter, and various social networks.
4. Why do you think it’s important for companies to adopt philanthropy as part of their revenue model?
More than anything, companies should participate in philanthropy to become part of their community. Not only will those that benefit think more highly of your brand, thus increasing brand awareness, but your employees will also have a sense that what they are doing is giving back to their community, which will impact how hard they work. So, in conclusion, yes, all of these things in turn increase revenue, which is a great reason to participate, but more importantly, companies should adopt philanthropy in their business because they are committed to it, and it is the right thing to do.
5. What would you say is the most critical element in successfully implementing philanthropic endeavors?
The most critical element for successful implementation is to try to impact the organization as much as you can with what you have to give. If you do that, everything else will fall into place.
Name: Macy Shaver
Title: Communications Manager
Company: Sweet Leaf Tea