Social purpose is calling: find out how one of our staffers answered the call using her cell phone provider

by Apr 19, 2018

Editor’s note: At Shelton Group, we’ve been blogging, speaking and infographic-ing in a big way about our latest insight – that Americans are increasingly changing their buying behaviors to put their wallets where their values are. One of our Shelton Groupers embodies this notion perfectly … it’s worth reading her story.

In recent years, I’ve noticed a big change in my purchasing behavior. I believe it’s due to a few factors, including an increasing income, growing concern over the environment, a feeling of powerlessness to help the world be a better place, and the fact that companies are making it easier and easier for me to use my dollars for good.

These are dollars I’d be spending anyway, for the most part, although I do pay a premium for quite a few categories. But I do it happily, because that money has so much more value when I can put it to work.

When I was a young adult, I was just happy to be able to afford anything. Then, I worked on getting a lot of things secondhand, which not only saved money, but also kept new stuff from entering the world (I liked to think, anyway), and often supported the little guy who was selling it. Next, I started focusing on buying even new things locally, to support smaller businesses and/or to contribute to my local tax base.

And I realized something … when I thought a little more about a purchase, and made that purchase as productive as I could, I felt really good about it.

I started looking for more and more ways to get that happy feeling. Instead of a chain restaurant, I ate at a locally owned dive. Instead of buying a coffee mug at Target, I hit up the little pottery store in our town’s business district. Instead of getting a birthday gift for my sister off Amazon, I went to Etsy to find something unique, made by a real person practicing his or her art.

And now, it’s a way of life.

I don’t buy shoes from Zappos, I buy TOMS Shoes (one for one, baby!). I don’t buy my daughter the coveted sequined pillow from Bed, Bath and Beyond. I find a company that makes similar pillows and donates money to Autism awareness with some of the profits. I’m feeling good, and the world is becoming a better place, little by little, through the purchases I’d be making anyway.

But I felt like I could still do better …

As I did my budget each month (unnecessarily expensive coffee: $8/week), I noticed that a lot of my money was going somewhere I didn’t like. It was that darn cell phone bill. After my housing, it was the biggest bill I paid each month. It really started to bug me that I was spending all that money just so Sprint could make its shareholders happy. Then I realized the solution just might be right there in my inbox.

Because of some donation I made somewhere, a company called Credo Mobile had my email, and was occasionally sending me communiques. Finally I opened one and started getting more information. Just what exactly was this company about? The emails said they “support progressive causes.” Listed among their areas of focus were women’s rights, climate justice, animal rights, equality. Excellent. I found out they piggy-back off Verizon’s network, so the service itself would probably be comparable. I called to find out if they could help me switch from Sprint, and they had some great contract buy-out options. So far so good.

The moment that sealed the deal …

… was a subsequent phone call I made to ask some additional questions. It was on February 15, 2018. I was talking to a very nice representative of Credo, but I was distracted. All I could think about was Parkland, Florida, and the horror of what had happened there that day. The rep was listing some of the causes I could choose to support through my status as a Credo customer and I interrupted him with “GUN CONTROL,” a little too emphatically. And he didn’t blink. “Yes, exactly” he said. “This is so awful what’s happened. We HAVE to do something to fix our gun laws.” And I was in. A company that isn’t afraid for their employees to have these kinds of discussions with customers? Take all my money, please!! As it turns out, they are taking slightly less of my money each month than Sprint did, and I feel immeasurably better about where that money is going.

During my time at Shelton, I’ve learned that this is a very Millennial approach. Our proprietary research has shown us that the Millennial generation tends to look to companies to solve problems they feel they can’t solve on their own. I’m right on the cusp of Gen X and Millennial, so I exhibit qualities and behaviors of both generations, but this particular issue brings out the Millennial in me. Sometimes folks interpret this behavior I’ve just described as laziness (pushing the responsibility off on someone else). I don’t agree. I think about this issue constantly, every time I make a purchase. It takes effort, commitment, and often extra money. I still recycle, bring my own bags, and turn off the lights when I leave the room. But that $150 a month I’m sending to my cell phone company? I like to think that’s really doing some good, too.

Companies, take heed.

I’m out here, and I’m willing to spend more. And according to our Pulse research, there are many millions more of me. Give me ways I can make my dollar do some good, and you’re a lot more likely to get that dollar.

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About the Author

Virginia Vowell

Virginia designs, manages and analyzes primary and secondary research. Combining extensive research experience, sensitivity to client objectives and a passion for sustainability, she teases out the story of what the research means and provides actionable recommendations to clients. Before bringing her expertise to Shelton Group, she spent 12 years in a research agency environment. She also brings theater expertise – she recently starred in a regional theater production of Mame.

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