What fuels a successful philanthropic program is not merely the alignment of a cause to core company values, but partnerships with organizations who help to deliver that giving experience for customers. By working with partners who can solidify the purpose behind the program, companies can benefit from increased brand loyalty, customer retention and sales, all centered upon making a tangible difference.
San Francisco-based JustGive.org, founded in 2000 by Harvard graduate Kendall Webb, was among the first nonprofit organizations to harness the power of the Web for online giving, and has developed a turnkey solution for companies to expand — and manage — their corporate giving efforts. JustGive is guided by its mission to connect people with the causes they care about most and driven by the desire to make charitable giving safe and easy for donors. In the past decade, JustGive has generated $80 million for tens of thousands of charities, and is recognized by Forbes as one of the Best of the Web for charitable giving.
Using their proprietary technology platform, JustGive can develop philanthropic programs that bring consumers and brands together toward a common goal through the following channels:
- Charity Giving Portals
: JustGive can develop a customized giving program that complements a company’s brand and is seamlessly integrated with their website.
- Charity Gift Cards
: JustGive charity gift cards are a meaningful and eco-friendly way to show a company’s commitment to social responsibility. This alternative to tangible trinkets never expires and are redeemable for any charity accessible through JustGive.org.
- Credit Card Reward Programs
: Within many reward redemption programs, JustGive enables users to give their rewards as direct cash to their favorite charity, and the selected charity receives 100% of the donation.
Together, JustGive and companies can create meaningful encounters for consumers designed to make social action simple, memorable and measurable. It also allows companies to demonstrate their commitment to social responsibility, and a vested interest in their cause, through ongoing efforts where they can ensure the greatest impact. In turn, consumers remain connected to brand and cause where all they have to do is just give.
1. How do you define for-profit philanthropy?
Businesses now realize that charitable endeavors are a very valuable and persuasive tool in gaining and retaining customers. When there is a choice among brands and two products are similar in price and quality, consumers will buy the product from a company with philanthropy as a part of its business. Philanthropy has been proven to directly and positively affect the bottom line.
Our giving programs are developed with, and paid through, the business side of corporations, not their foundations, because our partners see the direct impact and value in creating a charitable link with the sale of their products and services. It increases the volume of sales as well as the value proposition. It can also attract a wider audience to your product.
For example, Monster.com wanted to offer a more unique trinket at their largest tradeshow and decided to give $1 million worth of charity gift certificates in $5 and $10 denominations to attendees. It was a huge success and brought more engaged visitors to their booth as well as generating fantastic PR for the company.
2. Please describe your philanthropic business plan and your current charitable activities.
Our business plan targets developing strategic charitable programs for the customers of all fortune 500 companies. It can be as simple as the program we built for Marriott, asking each person who stays at a Marriott to consider a $10 donation to protect the rainforest in Brazil (offsetting the carbon footprint for a 10-night stay). Or it can be as involved as our Aveda project for Earth Month, which enables each salon around the world to collect and track donations for Clean Water organizations.
Our current charitable programs bring new donors and new dollars to charities across the country. We call this “new giving.”
We are constantly working with new partners to develop creative and timely ways to inspire, encourage and support charitable giving.
3. How do you communicate the impact of these efforts to your customers?
We communicate with our donors throughout the year with emails and newsletters that give them information about what their gifts can continue to accomplish. We thank them for their gifts immediately and with donors’ permission, we also provide their contact information to individual charities so they can receive direct updates on how a charity is making the most of donations.
Many of our programs are very interactive with the user, enabling them to directly see the results of their generous involvement. For example, when a user sets up a Charity Register, they can immediately see when a friend or family member gives a donation to their cause. Similarly, when a user buys a Charity Gift Card for someone, they get informed when the gift card is redeemed.
We provide reports for nonprofits and our corporate partners to inform them, in real time, about their impact through our giving programs, including total dollars generated for charitable causes and the number of charities receiving checks each month.
We also connect with the media to get the word out about how we’re helping charities and to reach new donors about all the ways they can make charitable giving more a part of their everyday life.
4. Why do you think it’s important for companies to adopt philanthropy as part of their revenue model?
Philanthropy has the ability to not only acquire new customers, but more importantly, to create long-term, loyal and value-driven customers. Consumers driven by the philanthropic appeal in a brand or product are more likely to return to become repeat customers.
While pricing and marketing strategies have more of a short-term effect (based on the incentive itself), philanthropy creates consumers that are loyal to your brand, not just a single product. Once they are loyal to a brand, they are more receptive to cross-selling and inclined to buy a variety of your products. Ultimately, this will give you a broader marketing/sales platform, greater market share, and higher revenue, since decisions will not be made on the basis of price alone.
5. What would you say is the most critical element in successfully implementing philanthropic endeavors?
It’s essential to build a philanthropic program that closely aligns with the product and/or company and is a natural reflection of values. Charitable efforts need to be a cohesive part of the brand and not just a one-off gimmick or project. Newman’s Own donating a percent of all products to charitable causes is an excellent example of this. Or Marriott offering their guests the chance to offset their carbon footprint with each hotel stay. These programs have a longer lasting and more influential effects on consumers.
An important structural change for companies is to integrate philanthropy efforts into the business side of their operations, and not isolate it within a foundation. This clearly demonstrates the strongest commitment to social responsibility and offers the greatest opportunity to accomplish the most with their impact.
Name: Kendall Webb
Title: Executive Director