Toyota is transforming their corporate philanthropy to be “by the people and for the people” with the advent of their 100 Cars for Good program. The company will donate 100 cars to charities across the United States. The winners will be determined by the voting public on a daily basis this summer, putting their philanthropy in the hands of the people. This is the newest trend in engagement campaigns by companies working to increase the validity of their corporate philanthropy in the eyes of the public.
The program will give out one car everyday this summer to a qualified 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Toyota is offering a chance to win a Prius, Tacoma, Tundra, Highlander Hybrid, Sienna, or Sienna Mobility with a 6 year 100,000 mile powertrain warranty.
Organizations can enter to win starting March 7th until March 21st, 2011. Organizations that become finalists are then responsible for creating momentum to help them win votes through multi-media campaigns and online profiles. Voting will begin May 9th and run until August 16th. Each day will feature 5 non-profits that have a chance to win, pending the most votes from the public on Toyota’s Facebook page.
This new approach to public involvement in corporate donations emphasizes a significant change in corporate attitudes. Considered a new level of transparency, these types of public engagement campaigns through philanthropic branches of a corporation can also significantly improve a company’s brand image. As social media sites garner more respect as hubs for consumer engagement, companies are scrambling to find outlets to expand their fan base and capitalize on the millions of networked individuals.
Public engagement is increasingly important to Toyota’s brand after the braking defects scandal. These public competitions, like the Pepsi Refresh program, are not without their hiccups.
Critics believe these efforts to be more self-serving than philanthropic in nature. As companies work to increase sales, effectively spread the word about their latest inventions, and stay in the public eye, interactive social media campaigns are a logical business investment. By tying corporate philanthropy with an interactive campaign where the public makes the decisions, companies have the opportunity to expand their reach exponentially. Given that social media campaigns, giveaways, and managing public engagement are costly investments, critics believe this strategic business advantage outweighs the philanthropic gesture.
One thing is for certain, for some well-networked non-profits that qualify for the finalists round, a new ride may be in their future, with a little help from their supporters.