27 places to shop for good

More and more people are choosing to shop/engage with businesses that are socially responsible. In fact, 94% of consumers would switch brands to support a cause, showed the data from Cone LLC. People want to support good causes where they can, and if they cannot donate to a cause or take action, often times they look to support businesses that do.

There are a lot of businesses out there that support good causes, but there are also just nonprofits that have their own marketplaces. Check out these 27 Online Store That Benefit Nonprofits and buy something that matters.


Corporations can make nonprofits soar

I have been at my new job for just about four months, and in that time I have witnessed what amazing power volunteers have on the success of a nonprofit. While this is something I already knew, it has become more apparent to me than ever. I work with an organization that has amazing continuous (weekly, bi-weekly) volunteers, and a high number of large corporations and businesses that give their time and money towards the work that we do.

I see big companies like Banana Republic, Disney, and Universal, send groups of their staff to volunteer together all the time, and the amount of work they accomplish is invaluable. Some of these companies not only volunteer their time, they also give grants to the organizations that their staff members volunteer with to support them monetarily. We have great relationships with so many large businesses both financially and in volunteer time and in-kind donations.

The key to why we are successful comes down to one main thing- we understand that partnerships are just that, PARTNERships. We work with corporations in a collaborative way and help make sure their needs are met too. It is a multiple step process, you need to know how to reach out and obtain corporate sponsors, but you also need to cultivate and foster those relationships, all while brainstorming how you will continuously evolve them into something greater.

Every year billions and billions of dollars are donated through corporate giving in the U.S, clearly a benefit that nonprofits should be leveraging. Nonprofits should be strategically planning how they are engaging with donors, not just going at it willy nilly.

I’ll break it down into 3 (basic) steps:

#1. Get sponsors

If you think just any company should be supporting your organization, think again. Your search for corporate sponsors should have some sort of method to it’s madness. Find companies with like values and interests. In the end, they are going to be more dedicated and loyal to an organization they are aligned with over one they just decided to donate to because they asked. This will help you in determining how they can support you, be it monetary or in other ways. Don’t forget the value of in-kind sponsors and volunteer hours!

#2. Give don’t just take

I cannot stress enough how important communication is with donors. They want transparency, and they aren’t going to remain a donor if they felt they were left in the dark at any point. Following-up, asking for feedback, and building a personal rapport are all key to sustaining a relationship.

#3. Grow together 

Companies aren’t just looking to give you money, they are looking for marketing opportunities, and they don’t want to market the exact same thing each year. It’s a fact, people are changing their consumer habits to support businesses that are doing social good, so this is a huge marketing strategy for big companies out there. Figuring out how your partnership can evolve each year is key to keeping companies engaged. What new initiatives/projects can they support? How can a program be expanded on with their dollars? You need to think about how they can give and have a different impact.

There is so much more to be learned, but that should get you started.

Now go out and build those relationships!



It is not that I don’t “get” social media…

A few months ago I took a job that required a lot of skills I did not have, so, I improvised.

Now, this sounds kind of negative, but it’s true. Overseeing communications and social media is not something I had experience with in the past, but I figured I could teach myself through the piles of resources online and by trial and error. I can safely say, it has been much harder than I assumed it would be. I didn’t go into it thinking just anyone could become a marketer, but I did go into it a lot less prepared than I should have. I had good intentions of taking online courses and reading through a lot of “how-to” guides before my start date, but those kind of got pushed to the side when I started watching Scandal (for that I blame my friend Danielle).

It is not that I don’t “get” social media…

I know that people respond better to pictures over text, that it should be a conversation not a monologue, that it is important to take the time to make photos the right sizes for different social media platforms. I understand how to use Constant Contact and make newsletters, how to post a picture on Instagram, how to write press releases and create flyers. I get that it’s important to be quick to respond to any comments/retweets, and that I should be telling a story.

It’s the execution that’s hard. 

What do people want to hear? What is going to make people stop to Like/Share/Tweet my post instead of continuing to scroll? Why does my story matter? Well, I haven’t figure it out yet.

There is good and bad of working in marketing in the nonprofit sector. On the one hand, it is much easier to tell a story because you are cause-focused. There is a need you are trying to fill and people can relate to that. On the other hand, it is so hard to sell and recruit for a non-tangible product or something that doesn’t instantly gratify the customer.

It might seems common sense to some people, but here are 3 small tid bits of what I have learned so far in selling your nonprofit on social media. It’s not necessarily rocket science, they are just things you don’t think of until you have to do it, and it takes time to learn how to do it right.

  1. People like numbers (at least when it comes to nonprofits). When I post something that shows quantifiable measures of what we accomplished or a donation we received, it has much higher engagement. It’s about outcomes and specifics.
  2. People like compliments. Things that make people feel good about themselves, their profession, or something they did for you, goes a long way. I use #gratitudetuesday to highlight a volunteer, a donor or a company that is a close sponsor. I give shout outs to teachers (our main stakeholder) to let them know just how great we think they are.
  3. People like pictures. Don’t waste time with words because you already used 1,000 in 1 picture (hah!). Sometimes it doesn’t even matter what the picture is, it could be a picture that tugs on the heart strings or it could be a GIF of Will Ferrell doing something ridiculous, pictures work. It appeals to a different sense of emotion than words do.

I am still trying to figure it all out. Story telling isn’t easy, and it’s even harder when you only have a small amount of time to dedicate to it because it’s not your only job, as I know is a common struggle in the nonprofit sector. Marketing is something that takes practice and heavily relies on analytics to really see what your stakeholders want and are engaging in. If you don’t know anything about using Google Analytics and Facebook insights, you better get to it.

I have always been a very organized and well-planned out individual, but I have learned the importance of that even moreso over the last few months. You have to plan! Creating content day by day is not only a waste of time, it is also very ineffective. If you are really going to do it well, you need strategy.

Here are some resources I’ve found, hopefully they are helpful to you.

In addition to just reading toolkits, there are also plenty of free courses you can take online that will help too. Look into UdemyCoursera or NovoEd.

Social media and marketing, just like anything else, takes time to learn and get good at. My goal is to spend the next few months really focusing on how to improve engagement with our stakeholders, and really connect with the community. You should do the same.


Turn your business into one that supports and engages the community

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Seeing businesses doing awesome things for their communities is AWESOME, and we should totally convince everyone to do it. So I always wonder why aren’t they giving back? Some just might not want to, some might feel they don’t have the resources, and some might be intimidated on how to start and need some help to get it going.

There is a lot of material out there on how to build successful CSR programs, but a lot of it can be daunting. If you have limited resources you might not feel like a long-term partnership with a charity might be possible due to financial or people power resources, but there are many ways besides that where you are given the opportunity to do good. In my last post I talked about ways companies are giving back. If you don’t have the financial resources, there are still opportunities for your business to engage.

Supporting the community as a business owner is hard work, so let’s figure out how to make it simple. Here are some basic things to consider when deciding what efforts to support and how:

  1. Start with “why” (if you haven’t read Simon Sinek’s book, do it) doesn’t just refer to your business being successful, it is a mindset that translates well to any situation. Keep why you are doing what you are doing at the forefront of everything. So when choosing a cause or charity to support, start with your why. Why is your company in existence and how does that relate? why do you want to give back? why are you passionate about certain causes? The best causes to support are ones that you, as an owner or manager, are personally connected to, or one that really resonates with the mission of your company. The closer it is to you, the easier it is to support.
  2. Determine resources that your company can give (time, money, in-kind donations, etc.). If you try to give before you know your limits, you can end up in bad shape. Figure out what you can give, and what value your business can add to the community. You have great assets, so determine what those are and how you can be of best use to the nonprofit.
  3. Assessing need is key to having the greatest impact. If you are choosing an organization to donate to, look into their financials and their strategic plan. Make sure what you can/are willing to offer is a good fit. You also want to be sure that you are attaching your name to a cause/organization that you are proud of and will happily stand by. Determine whether your plan is to stay local or expand. My vote is always for local!
  4. Managing partnerships is not as simple as writing a check or sponsoring a charitable event. There is more to it than that. Once you have determined what you can give and who you plan to give it to, creating a partnership with them is key to really contributing to the community. If you are a small business with limited resources, it might be the owner or a staff member who volunteers their time to build these relationships. Often times in large corporations, they will have a whole department or staff person dedicated just to CSR. Creating solid relationships will help both you and them in the long run. Don’t just give your money and run, work to understand their mission and how you can support it.
  5. Follow-through on what you commit to, for their sake and yours. Whether you know it or not, nonprofits you reach out to are depending on you. From the minute you commit to a donation, they have already factored that into their costs and allocated it to where it will be best put to use. A business never wants to get a bad rap because they promised things and didn’t deliver, especially when it is to a charitable cause that speaks to people. Word travels fast.

Turning your business into one that supports and engages the community can be simple, but should still be well-thought out and strategically done. If you are small (but mighty) and need some help, look to those large corporations that might have it down. If you are a big business, sometimes it’s good to look to the smaller fish and get back to your “why”, and support local efforts.

Check out CSRwire for news and report updates on CSR, and theguardian for other news on environmental CSR.

Corporate Social Responsibility: What is it and why does it matter?

As I briefly mentioned in my last post, more and more corporations are vamping up their social responsibility efforts, and more and more individuals are choosing to shop, eat, and work at companies that have a strong tie to community efforts.

So what is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? 

Nicole Fallon, contributor to Business News Daily breaks it down for us. “Corporate social responsibility (CSR) refers to a business practice that involves participating in initiatives that benefit society. Liz Maw, CEO of nonprofit organization Net Impact, noted that CSR is becoming more mainstream as forward-thinking companies embed sustainability into the core of their business operations to create shared value for business and society.”

CSR can take many forms; it might be monetary, volunteer time, advocacy, or sustainability efforts that a company is making. It can come from a large corporation, small local businesses, or a social venture who’s core mission is community based. Some businesses engage in one or the other, some engage in all aspects. Here are a few ways we see businesses giving back.

  • Donations/Advocacy- For-profit companies make money, so why not put some of that back into the community you live in? Companies all over the world are donating locally, nationally or globally, towards causes that resonate with their company’s vision. You see Wells Fargo supporting financial literacy education, Disney engaging youth and young leaders, Microsoft working towards computer science education, and countless others. They are not only giving away their money and encouraging employees to do the same, they are also getting the word out and standing behind causes they believe in. Hanes is an advocate for the homeless, Nike supports Planned Parenthood, and Avon speaks out on violence against women.
  • Volunteering- Many corporations have very strong employee volunteer time contributions. That may mean that they give paid time off to employees to volunteer on their own, or host team volunteer days for the company. Xerox scientists participate in youth consulting, U.S Bank does weekly employee volunteering, Deloitte offers PTO to volunteer, etc. 
  • Sustainability- Businesses are watching their carbon footprint, and going green. Google has been carbon neutral since 2007, Marriott is reducing consumption and building LEED hotels, Intuit reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and that is just the start.

Engaging in CSR is a win-win for corporations and for the non-profits and causes they support. Nonprofits get grant funding, volunteer hands, and exposure to millions of people through the CSR efforts worldwide. They receive funding through company donations, matching programs, and employee donations. Not to mention, they are given the opportunity to get thousands of long-term donors by engaging first with their employers. Agencies are also receiving potential skill-based volunteers to move closer to their mission. Nonprofits and the communities they serve can drastically benefit from a company having a strong CSR program.

Businesses with STRONG CSR initiatives are given the chance to use their power for social good. Through it they grow a positive public image, grow their consumers/constituents, and create a positive work environment for their employees. People want to see positive change in their communities, and they are willing to support businesses who make that happen. It makes them look good in the eyes of others, and is worth more than just a regular ol’ marketing campaign. It’s simple, employees like working for companies who are doing awesome things, and who are highly regarded in their communities, so give them something to be excited about and make them want to talk about the values of the company they work for.

CSR. Do it.