Aligning your business with a social cause and cause marketing builds goodwill and improves your image. Corporate philanthropy isn’t a new idea. It’s been going on since the late 1880s when titans of business such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller gave large donations to charity. And some of our terminology isn’t new, either. The term ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ was officially first used in 1953 in the book “Social Responsibilities of the Businessman” by Howard Bowen.
Cause marketing for small business
Being a good corporate citizen (or a caring small business) is a smart move. Because a significant number of consumers will choose to do business with a company over a similarly priced competitor largely because of their involvement in certain social causes.
Cause marketing as competitive advantage
In fact, 70 percent of consumers say they’re willing to pay more for products and services from businesses that support worthwhile social causes, according to research from the PR firm Edelman. And more than half would even help promote them through social media. You can also use a social cause as your company’s competitive advantage. Ideally, you want customers to think about your brand whenever they think about the social cause. And if that cause is something they strongly support and believe in. Provide them good value, and you may have a loyal customer for life.
Competing with causes
Here are some companies who are using causes as a competitive advantage:
It makes sense that a company that makes reliable batteries would support areas hit by floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Their social program is called Duracell PowerForward, which has trucks that can reach any U.S. destination within 24 hours. Duracell builds trust within communities by providing assistance in the face of events. Like the recent devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico. Now, when customers think of the Duracell, brand they think of them in a positive light. And they think of them as a durable battery.
Warby Parker isn’t just known as a company that sells fashionable glasses in an innovative way. They’re also known as a company that gives back, thanks to their buy-a-pair / give-a-pair program. Working with their non-profit partner, Vision Spring, they give away glasses to people in developing countries.
Up to 1.5% of Wells Fargo’s revenue each year goes to charitable causes such as food banks and startup incubators. They also give 2 paid days each year for their employees to volunteer for charities.
Like Warby Parker, TOMS shoe company is well known for their buy-a-pair / give-a-pair program. They also provide safe drinking water and medical treatments for people in third world countries.
Ben and Jerry’s
They’ve always incorporated a social cause into the culture of their business model. According to Ben Cohen, “Business has the responsibility to give back to its community”. He’s also used the phrase “caring capitalism” since the 1980’s. Like many companies today, Ben and Jerry’s started their own foundation which began with a commitment to give 7.5% of its annual pre-tax profits to community organizations across the US. Today, the foundation typically awards about 2.5 million dollars a year in grants. Do people buy Ben and Jerry’s because of their social causes? Or because they make really delicious ice cream? I’d imagine it’s both.
Seattle Kitchen is committed to giving something back to the community. And not just a little. According to owner Tom Douglas’s Seattle Kitchen website: “Tom has long maintained that, as food people, we need to feed people whether they can afford to eat in our restaurants or not. This principle has inspired his long-term leadership with organizations such as Share Our Strength and Food Lifeline, where Tom has dedicated over 30 years and millions of dollars towards ending hunger. Along with Tom, our family of coworkers also share in the priority towards giving back.
They do this by volunteering time and skillset to organizations such as Teen Feed, FareStart, Midsound Fisheries Enchancement Group, Mary’s Place and more. “We believe that a community is made richer by supporting the arts. We work closely with the Seattle Theater Group to help fund the programming at the Paramount and Moore theaters as well as music epicenters like KEXP and Seattle Opera. Our environmental work is focused on local wild salmon habitat preservation and raising awareness around the threat of Pebble Mine in Alaska.
The PCC Farmland Trust is another important beneficiary since without farmland, there is no food. Lastly, education and nutrition programs for K-12 public schools receive support from our teams. We continue to work closely with the Seattle Public School’s culinary programs and Career and Technical Education classes to inspire potential job paths within the restaurant industry.”
Charitable Agents is changing the real estate industry by donating a fixed commission to a charity of the pre-or-existing homeowner’s choice. Brothers David and Avi Tal founded MyAgentFinder.com back in 2011. It’s an online platform connecting home sellers with vetted real estate agents. Then they created “Charitable Agents” – something that sets those who participate apart from other realtors.
According to their online press release: “After three years of growing its database of REALTORS and reaching over $100 million in real estate transactions, the two designed the Charitable Agents model to extend their tried-and-tested system into the realm of social responsibility. In a typical real estate transaction, real estate agents are paid a commission for representing either the buyer or the seller.
Charitable Agents’ network of more than 20,000 top-rated REALTORS, from all major domestic brokerages, have pledged to give 10% of their commission on a transaction to non-profit organizations affiliated with the site, as part of the agreement. With Charitable Agents, REALTORS go through the same process as they would with any lead-generation system. But with the added benefit of offering their clients the opportunity to donate funds to a specific charitable organization, following the close of any deal.”
Businesses in Bismarck, North Dakota have gathered together for a charitable cause which helps the community and also promotes their businesses in a good light: Pride, Inc. Pride, Inc. provides quality services for adults and children with disabilities, and has helped thousands experience life to its fullest. In 2001 Pride started the Celebration of Trees event.
According to their website: “The trees are sponsored by local businesses and with the help of organizations that can connect us to members in the community. Such as: Burleigh and Morton County Social Services, Abused Adult Resource Center, Pride Youth Mentor Program, Bismarck- Mandan Public Schools, Community Action, Carrie’s Kids, Pride Manchester, and Make-A-Wish Foundation. The trees are donated to families who may not have a tree to decorate their home. All proceeds from the sponsorships of the Celebration of Trees are kept in the community. They’re used to help meet the needs of the individuals receiving services from Pride, Inc.”
Corporate social responsibility
Corporate social responsibility can help your business through customer and employee engagement. And by being a brand that your customers trust and remain loyal to. Even in the face of disruption.