Buy1GIVE1: Making Every Transaction Make a Difference


Imagine if every purchase you made could help a hungry child eat or save a tree or bring clean drinking water to Africa. Now imagine if every purchase your customers made contributed to all of those causes, and reached a world — and a planet — in need on an daily hourly basis. With Buy1GIVE1, there’s no need to imagine. They have developed a program where every swipe of a credit card is an act of change. They call it transaction-based giving, and it gives businesses — and consumers — an opportunity to put their regular spending to good use. One of their key differentiators is that each transaction is linked to a tangible outcome instead of some indiscriminate percentage being arbitrarily tossed at a charity, so you know exactly where your dollars are going. And more importantly, who they’re helping. Through the collective purchasing power of thousands, Buy1GIVE1 is able to fund programs that make a significant impact, and turns the joy of buying into the joy of giving.

1. How do you define for-profit philanthropy?
A friend once told me ‘we cannot help the poor by being poor.’ So we have a unique model where 100 percent of contributions to the clients’ selected project or cause go directly to that cause, yet where B1G1 itself is ‘supported’ by our clients with Membership fees of just $1 a day, and through sponsorships. That’s the for-profit piece, which allows us to operate the B1G1 Foundation. We are a Social Enterprise and so naturally give back, too, and that would be impossible to do as a not-for-profit. We’re creating a world where EVERY business transaction gives back in a resonant and measurable way so all of our fee-based products and services also give back.
2. Please describe your philanthropic business plan and your current charitable activities.
We see that most CSR activities miss one vital ingredient; that of involving the customer in the business process. So we imagined, and have now created, a world of B1G1 transaction-based giving. And it’s so simple and automatic where buying TV helps a cataract blind person receive the gift of sight. Or by dining out, a child gets fed and educated. Or buying a cup of coffee and someone in Africa gets access to clean water as a direct result. Each purchase gives back in some way, simply by buying, and doing, things you would normally do.
So, businesses who become involved in this movement we’re creating together simply select one or more of their products or services and then decide how much of that sale (or transaction) they can afford to give. Through the B1G1 system, (some people call it a ‘perfect plumbing system’) they then select from up to 600 projects, to which they can link that sale, by automatically partnering with the Worthy Cause running that project. Those projects range from just 1 cent (to give someone access to water, for example) through to thousands of dollars so they’re easily matched to the size of the transaction.
The range of businesses and causes involved is vast – from authors who make sure that a tree is planted every time their books are sold, tattoo artists who feed and educate children every time they do a tattoo, people who market meditation programs who make sure treatments are given with each sale to kids rescued from the sex-trade in Cambodia to art dealers who give back sight with every painting sold, and just about everything in between. Through our model, every business in every possible industry can contribute to creating change.
So in B1G1, the business is able to develop a beautiful and memorable story around their giving with each transaction. In a B1G1 Business, it’s never ‘x percent of our profits go to such and such a cause’; it’s the much more effective, and resonant, ‘when you buy this, this happens.’
It’s that resonance of the story that creates a significant lift in brand affinity so that they create more customers and bind much more effectively with existing ones; something that goes way beyond traditional CSR.
And most significantly, in these new economic times, because B1G1 giving is totally transaction-based, the giving never stops – it matches the ebb and flow of the business activities.
Importantly too, it means that charities (or ‘Worthy Causes’ as we call them) get a sustainable flow of funds, and no longer have to rely on often very expensive fundraising efforts. And they know that fully 100 percent of those transaction-based funds flow directly to them. So we believe that the scenario we have created is truly a win-win for all involved.
3. How do you communicate the impact of these efforts to your customers?
Well, our ‘customers’ are, of course, the B1G1 businesses themselves and the impact is already created through the simple story surrounding each transaction. We’ve added to that now by creating the B1G1 Global Village where individuals can now give directly in a similar way, For example, they can now (in what we call the ‘Residential Area’) buy a virtual house and know that that is actually buying a home for a homeless person. Even better, they can get 11 others to join them and turn it into a home for an underprivileged family for life.
4. Why do you think it’s important for companies to adopt philanthropy as part of their revenue model?
Well, there are at least two parts to that. From a pure ‘does it make commercial sense’ perspective; of course it does. Every day we see companies having truly significant lifts in business simply because they’re giving in this resonant, effective, simple, automatic, attractive-to-the-customer and customer-involving B1G1 way.
Yet there’s a much more profound reason too. It’s this: We see giving as a natural part of who we are as human beings. I heard Lynne Twist (Soul of Money author) say today that everyone in their heart of hearts wants to make a difference in their life, everyone in their heart of hearts wants to leave this planet in a better shape than they found it and everyone in the heart of hearts wants to make a difference in the world with no one and nothing left out. Lynne expresses it perfectly. And we see giving NOT through guilt but giving as a way of sharing the joy of living.Through the B1G1 model we see that happening every second, every day and in every way. It just feels good to give, and we facilitate that.
5. What would you say is the most critical element in successfully implementing philanthropic endeavors?
It comes from having a purpose greater than ourselves, involving the end-user, or customer, in that process and doing that in a way that’s beautifully simple and resonant.
Name: Paul Dunn
Title: Chairman
Company: Buy1GIVE1 (B1G1)
Website: and

Gennefer Gross is a writer, producer and co-founder of Gross Factor Productions, an independent film and television company focused on scripted comedy. An avid writer, author and idea cultivator, Gennefer thrives on creativity and contributes regularly to Triple Pundit on a variety of sustainable business topics. She also pens the popular series Hollywood & Green, exploring socially responsible cinema that helps connect consumers with important causes and environmental issues. And somehow she finds the time to write for her own blog, Tasty Beautiful, covering food and fashion in and around Los Angeles. Gennefer will also be launching Philanthrofoodie(TM), a charitable venture designed to spark social change through shared food experiences. An eternal student of life with an eclectic background, Gennefer brings unique insights on everything from breakthroughs in renewable energy to the latest dish in celebrity consciousness.

2 responses

  1. Thanks Gennefer! This is a really fascinating example of a company doing well by doing good.
    I wonder how they would answer the charge that this charity model encourages consumerism?
    Another challenge must be choosing which companies to work with. Do they have any limits on which companies they will offer their services to? If Haliburton wants to offer to plant a tree for every missile sold (to use an extreme example of when this type of model would be problematic) can they work with Buy1Give1? There must be times when companies want to work with B1G1 purely to greenwash themselves, and it seems like B1G1 is putting itself at risk of diluting their own brand if they don’t place limits on the types of transactions they’ll support.

  2. Thank you for an insightful comment, Jen.
    Sometimes people do raise the ‘consumerism’ point. We’re very clear about that inasmuch as our total focus is to turn our world into a giving world. So we’re not about encouraging consumers to buy, we’re encouraging all of us to give.
    You’ll see that very clearly in Masami Sato’s ONE book. She’s the founder of B1G1. Let me encourage you to take a look at that by following this link:
    Here’s a small extract:
    Can you see the picture? All of a sudden, we’re playing a very different game now. And we’re doing it by simply doing the things we normally do!
    Contrast that with the game we have played. Let’s call it ‚ÄòGET MORE’. All of us have played that game at some point. We sought all the solutions and rewards in material possessions at some point in our life. And we played the game because we translated what we saw as the lack of something into the need to have more – more ‚Äòthings’.
    But then something interesting happened. We realised that the more we had, the more we had to have to feel satisfied. Then, the harder we had to work and the more we had to sacrifice – health, happiness and the environment. Some activists started to criticise the consumers and corporations. The governments realised that our environment needed more respect and care. So they created rules and regulations. We started recycling everything. Companies started giving back. They even gave it a name, ‚ÄòCorporate Social Responsibility’. The media talked about it a lot. And we started giving because we ‚Äòhad to’.
    Yet we already know that giving out of guilt is simply not sustainable. Just like we can’t achieve long-term weight loss while feeling guilty and negative about our own body. There is always a rebound effect with this type of dieting. Our effort coming from guilt can never be a long-term thing. And giving out of guilt surely is NOT natural. It can’t be what life is actually about.
    We all like to have fun and joy in our lives. We all like to have more abundance naturally. And we actually want to feel good both short- and long-term. Because if we did something only for short-term happiness, it would eventually create that feeling of emptiness again. And we would eventually feel we needed something else to feel more complete.
    So let’s turn on our imagination again – now our imagination can be even more vivid, alive and convincing. We now only imagine amazing things because we now know it is possible to do that.
    And let’s see if we can play a different game now.
    Oh, you should also check out the B1G1 Global Village at to see how giving does not have to linked to actual buying as well (check out the Residential Area and the Habitat residence for example,
    On the subject of Haliburton and its missiles, every business has to apply to join B1G1 so I think we’d look at that one closely!
    Love on a Saturday.

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