#RetailPhilanthropy – How Businesses Shake-Up the Charitable Space

Today is #GivingTuesday and charities are out in full-force, cap-in-hand. Place2Give has been a part of GivingTuesday for the past number of years.  In fact, one year we lead a Calgary-based initiative along with 10 other organizations including AFP Calgary.  I quickly became challenged with this model of fundraising, not because I don’t believe that charities should fundraise, but because this time of year people, while they are thinking of giving, are really focused on buying. 

So why not tap into that mindset? 

Philanthropy is big business… Billions of dollars big. From the business’ perspective, companies realized the money that could be generated through overt charitable affiliations. In the 90’s there was the rise of Cause Marketing (think all the Pink Ribbon branded products for Breast Cancer, or the Little Red Dress for Heart Disease), in the early 2000’s we called it Corporate Social Responsibility where companies began to integrate community engagement strategies with their overall business practises.  A few years ago we moved into the Blended and Shared Value in Collective Impact space where companies and charities began working together to solve some of the social issues by embedding the solutions within the overall businesses.  In all of these models the customer was at the end of the value chain. 

#RetailPhilanthropy puts the customer at the centre. 

Instead of businesses pushing products on to consumers, and charities going out asking for funds from businesses who generate the ability to give through the sale of their other products and services, #RetailPhilanthropy harnesses the consumer’s desire to buy stuff ALONGSIDE the profit motive of the company.

This GivingTuesday and throughout the holiday buying season think about how you are buying stuff.  What is the connection between the bracelet you just purchased for your mom and the artisan who created it?  In what way is the Big Box Store that you just spent 100’s of dollars in, giving back to your community?  There are ways to give the “Gift of Giving” and you don’t have to buy a goat, or make a donation to a charity on behalf of someone else.  You can buy your holiday presents and know that there is a direct connection between your purchase and your community.  You can power your Christmas lights and power a local charity at the same time.  Now, more than ever before, it is easy to have your dollar go further through a single purchase.

Organizations to check out:

  • FairTrade groups in your local city
  • Main Street or BuyLocal business associations
  • GoodMobs

Here are just a few of the businesses and associations that are engaging in the #RetailPhilanthropy movement through pro-bono work, their product and service offerings and their own business models:

For a more comprehensive list check out the BCorp, REAP and SEOntario listings.