Giving back as a company philosophy not a marketing campaign


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When you think of millennials, that vastly over-analyzed, over-dramatized, and over-strategized group of people, a couple of things might come to mind. First, that they are self-entitled and want everything right now. Whether that stereotype describes the cohort more or less than any other cohort, that mind-set is deep within each of us, at least to a small degree. Second, millennials want meaning in their lives and they want to make a difference in the world. This desire is the perfect complement to the first one, and nicely illustrates that perhaps what millennials really want is good things for everyone. I suspect that this second desire is present within each of us to a much greater extent, and it is one that deserves to be put into action.

Having meaning in your life and career is a philosophy that isn’t age or generation or culturally specific. And, it’s one that any company can embrace as part of a solid business strategy. The interesting thing about this philosophy is that it can be actioned in numerous ways.

1) Charitable Companies: Non-profit or not-for-profit companies have strategic goals whereby profits raised from marketing and advertising campaigns are put back into the business to keep it running and serving its clients. This would include organizations such as United Way and Feeding America.
2) Special Charitable Events: Many companies run special events or campaigns throughout the year to raise money for charitable causes. For instance, Sklar Wilton & Associates supports the Light the Night campaign run by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada. This organization was chosen as it served one of the company’s partners so well when she battled and conquered blood cancer.
3) Charitable Missions: Other companies build their entire mission and strategic goals around generating profits that can be used to support charitable causes. Whether the business sells tires, electrical wiring, or carpets, they don’t run periodic or annual campaigns to support charitable causes that might not even be connected with their products and services. The causes they support are an integral component of their business processes.

Let’s consider three examples of companies that prove a company with a Charitable Mission that provides meaning to employees and customers can also be a For-Profit company:

1) Audience Engagement: Karo Group, Inc is a customer engagement and creative agency committed to creating persuasive experiences for the digital age. Their strategic focus is to work for the betterment of “People and Planet” which means they actively seek out and focus on projects that contribute to the good of people and the community . For instance, one of their recent projects worked to encourage people to donate to The Calgary Drop-In Centre during a downturned economy. This project included creating a film to challenge and change the perception of homeless in Calgary, a film which used their own employees and current clients of the Calgary Drop-In Centre, in addition to career actors. Another project focused on Alberta’s commitment to recycling and educating a new generation of recyclers. Their research demonstrated that most Albertans may not know much about recycling, or the good that comes from recycling, so they showed Albertans the beauty of recycling by turning recycled goods into gorgeous artwork. They also reinvigorated the province’s school recycling program in a format just for kids using robots and comic books. Karo Group loves to choose clients and projects that work For-Good.

2) Market Research Providers: Founded by millennials Baillie Buchanan, Matt Ronco, and Sean Case, Research For Good is an online sample company that provides market and social researchers with access to opted-in research respondents. One of their founding principles was to make a donation to charity for every survey completed. They chose to work with Action Against Hunger to help end global hunger and now, every complete delivered by Research For Good helps to feed a hungry child somewhere in the world. Research for Good is proof that a profitable company can provide meaning to its employees and clients and work For Good.

3) Footwear: Founded by millennial Blake Mycoskie, TOMS is a much loved footwear company that helps provide shoes, sight, water, safe birth education, and bullying prevention services to people in need. You may know that for every pair of shoes purchased, they donate another brand new pair of shoes to kids from toddlers to teens. In addition, purchases of TOMS eyewear contribute to restoring sight to people whether through surgery, prescription glasses, or medical treatment. And, TOMS also helps to increase access to safe water, provide training for skilled birth attendants, and provide training to school staff and crisis counselors to help prevent and respond to instances of bullying. TOMS is a fabulous example of a for-profit company doing amazing work For Good and providing meaning to its employees and customers.

There are many more examples of companies that have chosen the third path of building their mission and strategic goals around generating profits that can be used to support charitable causes. Which ones have you encountered that are most meaningful to you?

Annie Pettit, Ph.D. FMRIA
Annie Pettit, PhD, FMRIA is a research methodologist who specializes in marketing and research design and strategy. She is an invited speaker at conferences around the world and has published refereed and industry articles. She won a Ginny Valentine Award, ESOMAR Excellence Award for the Best Paper, MRIA Award of Outstanding Merit, and ESOMAR Best Methodological Paper. Annie blogs at LoveStats, tweets at @LoveStats and is the author of "People Aren't Robots" and "7 Strategies and 10 Tactics to Become a Thought Leader" both available on Amazon.


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