In my cause marketing series, I
rant communicate often about the critical need for businesses to ensure their philanthropic efforts are strategically aligned with core values over using it as a sleazy marketing tactic to fake consciousness. And I am continually searching for clever analogies to drive this point home as I believe it is the foremost tenet that must be upheld in implementing successful – and sustainable – cause initiatives: Authenticity. So, you can imagine my excitement when I saw the below tweet by Jennifer Rice the other day.
Bingo! The perfect analogy. It reminded me of my childhood when my mother would snicker at those she called “once a week Catholics” as they filed into church like the picture of piety when “doing good” for them was making a pitstop at mass on the way to the IHOP. But it’s the same principle as touting social responsibility while you engage in unfair labor practices (rhymes with Schmalmart) or claiming to be an eco-friendly corporation while you destroy the earth one overpriced, unrecyclable coffee cup at a time (ok, that one’s blatantly obvious).
Needless to say, I sought Jennifer out to spotlight, and get her insights on philanthropy as part of her values-based business model at Fruitful Strategy, a consulting firm that creates corporate social opportunity by aligning business strategy with social impact. Through her responses, she articulates the importance of ensuring that CSR is part of the fabric of your company and outlines the brand, stakeholder and customer benefits achieved with a well integrated campaign that’s built on a mission, not a marketing ploy.
1. How do you define for-profit philanthropy?
To me, for-profit philanthropy simply means values-based business. I subscribe to Peter Drucker’s observation that “every single pressing social and global issue of our time is a business opportunity.” Profit is still important, but equally so is the awareness of where and how that business fits within the overall ecosystem, and what unique contribution that business can make in the world. It’s about humanizing brands and leveraging their power to make a real difference, not just to make more stuff.
2. Please describe your philanthropic business plan and your current charitable activities.
I created Fruitful Strategy to help businesses live and breathe their values in a way that can be experienced by all stakeholders. Values shouldn’t be relegated to signs on a wall; they should build and strengthen brands by guiding every aspect of the business including operations, customer experience and even product innovation. So my service itself is my “charitable activity,” as I feel that this is the best way for me to leverage my skills to help transform the world through business.
3. How do you communicate the impact of these efforts to your customers?
I enjoy writing, so my primary method of communication is through my blog, articles, white papers, and interviews like this one. I’m also on Twitter, which I’m finding to be a tremendous tool for connecting with like-minded people and spreading the word.
4. Why do you think it’s important for companies to adopt philanthropy as part of their revenue model?
I’m hard on companies who think of philanthropy (charitable giving) as a way to show that they’re a good corporate citizen. Corporate philanthropy is the moral equivalent of going to church on Sundays. If you’re expecting to earn your gold star and absolution so that you can act however you want the rest of the week, you need to think again. But if it’s part of who you are, then the rest of your actions speak for themselves. Within the context of a values-based business, philanthropy is transformed from a box to check to the natural outflow of a conscious mindset. And done in the right way, by strategically selecting non-profits or causes that are aligned with your brand and value proposition, everybody wins.
5. What would you say is the most critical element in successfully implementing philanthropic endeavors?
Align your cause with what makes your company unique. It should be an investment in brand-building, which then can attract employees and customers who share those values. And I’m not talking cause marketing; this is about baking that cause into your DNA and customer experience, which then gives your marketing department something more substantial to talk about. Don’t fall into commodity “me-too” status with your sustainability and CSR efforts; make it an extension of who you are. For a more thorough answer on this, you can refer to one of my recent posts on how to align CSR and philanthropy to drive your brand.
Name: Jennifer Rice
Company: Fruitful Strategy