The United States has been the world’s leading economy for a long time. It also leads the world in terms of giving, whether that comes in the form of charitable donations, philanthropy, or more recently, the rise of social capitalism and the “buy one, give one” movement as modeled by Toms Shoes (shoes) and Warby Parker (eyeglasses).
Make no mistake, these are for-profit enterprises. Yet they have embraced a cause as part of their mission and are doing very well. As described by cultural writer Virginia Postrel, today’s consumer has shifted purchase decisions from, “I like that” to an increasingly value-driven, “I am like that.”
A new favorite “cause marketer” sells socks. Just socks. The company, Bombas, was started in 2013 and did $800K in sales. The next year their founders appeared on the show Shark Tank and sales exploded. They are on pace to do $60 million this year. Yes, they too give away a pair with each pair sold, and the giveaway socks actually cost more to make as they were designed more robustly to meet the needs of the homeless.
What about the rest of us? What can each of one us do as an individual or as an entity to make our giving back have more impact? We each have time, talent and treasure in varying combinations. Here are three suggestions that I hope inspire you to be bold in this area, each coming from a client I’ve known along the way.
Replace the free mug with a gift card.
Instead of giving out a coffee mug, t-shirt, or similar logoed item, try giving a $25 gift certificate that allows clients or customers to provide a micro-loan to a third-world entrepreneur. www.opportunity.org or www.kiva.org
Have a volunteer party rather than a holiday party.
Take the entire staff and work together on a community project for an entire day. Help build a house, clean a creek, or something else that will make you feel good and create a new level of team bonding. www.habitat.org
Block a regular part of the schedule for gratis work.
Whether weekly, monthly, or quarterly, find a block of time dedicated to helping a non-profit partner or customer. Have the entire staff and even interested volunteers involved so that this becomes “standard” rather than “above and beyond.”
Capitalism and cause are not mutually exclusive but rather intertwined, and I am just scratching the surface of creativity that is out there to combine these two foundations of a free society. With just a bit of applied energy and effort, the ability to give back– and the reward that comes with it – just gets better and better.
Guest Post By Shareef Mahdavi, Founder, SM2 Strategic
Shareef Mahdavi has been helping doctors and medical device marketers
for years through technology, patient experience, and better economics.
SM2 Strategic is a medical device consulting company. SM2 Strategic
provides expert counsel to those seeking to increase demand for their
new medical technologies and procedures. Shareef publishes a helpful
newsletter, Tee Time, from which this article was excerpted with permission.