Most companies who engage in for-profit philanthropy add that element in later as a reaction to consumer demand or to remain viable in a a market that’s shifting toward corporate consciousness and social responsibility. Few are created with the sole intent of giving back. And fewer still forge a personal connection with consumers and causes, which is essential for building brand loyalty and making a sustainable impact. But Peters Path, an online clothing and accessory store, was built primarily as a vehicle for doing good — not only through monetary donations, but with a staff who is dedicated to committing time and resources to help nonprofits advance their missions.
Founded by Christine Peters, the goal of Peters Path is to promote conscious consumerism by transforming retail purchases that consumers already make into ongoing charitable activities. In addition to their efforts to support organic products and reduce their carbon footprint by running an eco-friendly business, they give consumers a choice as to where the proceeds of their purchase will go, creating a personal tie to the cause, and a reason to return to keep their selected charity thriving. In an oversaturated space where retail shopping is a primary activity, Peters Path has found a way to rise above the clutter and make meaningful connections with users, proving that doing good is always in fashion.
1. How do you define for-profit philanthropy?
For-profit philanthropy can be defined various ways for every company. In Peters Path’s case, we entered into the for-profit philanthropy business for a few reasons. Our President, Christine Peters, started the company as a tool for her to stay involved in community service and become even more involved in it by creating a business around it. The company was started as a way for her to be able to stay involved in mission trips, but not be penalized at work for taking the time to do so. This way, work would not be an obstacle in becoming involved and participating in these projects — it is actually part of the job. We feel very lucky to be able to love our job and our mission; not everyone can say that. We now realize the ongoing potential for charitable giving with a company that offers customers a way to give through compassionate consumerism. We knew we wanted to help various charities more immediately than we could do through sometimes tedious grant applications or donor solicitation,which usually result in small, one-time donations. By opting for a for-profit approach, we were able to combine our love for fashion and retail with an opportunity to contribute immediate funds for the charities we support, believe in, and for which we want to help generate awareness. Our hope is that, even if a customer doesn’t purchase from us, they might read about one of the charities we support, or click on the links to learn more, and perhaps become involved with it. There are so many ways you can help those in need, even without spending money. Your time, experience and wisdom can help greatly as well.
2. Please describe your philanthropic business plan and your current charitable activities.
Peters Path donates a portion of all online proceeds to charity. At checkout, customers select their charity of choice and we will donate directly to that organization. At trunk shows, we offer the same program to the host’s charity of choice (which may not be one we have listed on our website). We also participate in various fundraisers, where we either donate items from our store or portions of the proceeds from our sales.
Charitable activities have included designing an exclusive t-shirt for a fashion show, and then selling those shirts to benefit a burn foundation in Augusta, GA, in which 100% of proceeds were donated to the foundation. We also donate clothing and gift certificates to various organizations, including Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta; FOCUS, a group that helps Families of Children Under Stress or children with special needs; Ian’s Friends Foundation, a pediatric brain cancer research foundation; Safe House of Atlanta, which aids those who are homeless or in dire need of food, shelter, and guidance; and Housing Works in NYC, who addresses the needs of people living with AIDS that other organizations deem “to challenging to serve.” By offering a comprehensive array of health, housing, AIDS prevention, and legal and case management services, they help clients to empower themselves and actively manage their HIV. We are able to make an impact on all of these organizations simply by incorporating giving into our revenue model, and all of our business practices.
3. How do you communicate the impact of these efforts to your customers?
We communicate our efforts towards social consciousness and charitable activities via our blog, our website and email communications. We also engage in social media, including Facebook and Twitter, as well as other viral and word-of-mouth marketing to get the word out about our efforts. In addition, all of our charities are linked from our site, so site visitors can learn about their worthy causes and needs, as well as their progress, while shopping.
4. Why do you think it’s important for companies to adopt philanthropy as part of their revenue model?
We believe it is important for everyone, not just companies, to adopt philanthropy as part of their life model. We all know that we are all created equally, but unfortunately, not necessarily treated equally or given the same advantages. We believe those who have should give — whether in time, money, or talent. It is just the right thing to do. As far as shopping is concerned, we believe consumers will adopt a sense of “conscious consumerism,” not only by purchasing sustainable products, but by shopping with companies that support a commitment to service and giving back. Another significant reason is due in part to the economy. While we certainly hope people give from their hearts, we understand it can help “justify” personal purchases in a tight economy. Every little bit helps.
5. What would you say is the most critical element in successfully implementing philanthropic endeavors?
Passion is the most critical element in successfully implementing philanthropic endeavors. You have to want it, and believe in its importance, in order to have the drive to be involved, stay involved, and motivate others to be involved. That’s what we are all about. . . Passion Fueled Fashion.
Name: Christine Peters and Karen Turner
Title: President and VP of Marketing
Company: Peters Path
Contact: Karen@peterspathstore.com, Christine@peterspathstore.com