The Season for Giving

The Season for Giving

‘Tis the season when you get asked a lot, “So, what do you want for Christmas?” And this year, much like last year, there’s really nothing I want. Okay, that’s not entirely true. It’s just that the things I really want are well above anyone’s gift budget – like the BMWi8 electric concept car.

So, I’m directing people toward some charitable organizations that promote sustainability. For years, I’ve supported Heifer International – buying livestock, bees, trees and once, even a pig for my parents. If you’re not familiar with Heifer’s work, here’s how they work: You “buy” a cow (or other animal) through their gift catalog and that cow goes to a needy family who will use it to provide milk and income for their family. And here’s the really cool part, when that cow has its first calf, the family is obligated to give that cow to another needy family in their community so they can help lift themselves out of poverty as well.

This pay it forward model, much like Toms Shoes’ buy one give one, is a new way of doing business. But how can it apply to companies who didn’t start that way – and don’t have BOGO as their model? Can a “traditional” consumer products company figure out how to pay it forward in new and innovative ways? Is it time for a cause marketing makeover?

I’d suggest that maybe it is. And here are some thoughts …

  • Figure out how to get consumers involved more. This is the opposite of slacktivism or checkbook activism – this is about people getting right in the thick of the problem, using their time and talents to help America’s brands and companies fix social ills. Toms Shoes had so much interest in handing out their shoes that they now have a lottery system. What are some of the ways you can harness enthusiasm and talents outside your company – but within your brand halo – to make a difference?
  • Report on results. Seems like many cause marketing programs spend the bulk of their time and money on the launch, but these days, people are looking for how their actions made a difference.
  • Thank people for their involvement. The transaction isn’t the end. How can you acknowledge people’s generosity and involvement in a tangible way? It’s great to feel good about a purchase, but for some people it’s not enough. They want that external recognition – and let’s face it, no one’s gonna get mad about being thanked.
  • Make your cause have a local angle. Tell me how this will make an impact in my community. Show me faces and tell me stories from people I might one day run into.

In this season of giving, let’s give some thought on how to make 2012 a defining year in terms of how we give back. And let’s start by rethinking business models and giving cause marketing programs an injection of fresh ideas.

About the Author

Karen Barnes

Karen is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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