Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Give and Get -Gives More At The Gap

Gap's Give and Get program is a shopping discount and charitable giving promotion available this weekend July 31st through August 2nd. For every purchase made with the Give and Get coupon at a Gap, Banana Republic, or Old Navy Store, the customer receives a discount of 30%, and Gap Inc. gives 5% of the sale amount to The Global Fund which fights AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. A copy of the coupon is on this link: http://www.gapinc.com/giveandget/globalfund/.The coupon can be reused throughout the four days promotion.

As I researched more about Gap's philanthropy, I learned that Gap participates in the RED Program, which supports the Global Fund, by selling specially designed t-shirts and other clothing of which 50% of the profits go to RED.
Gap's doubling up on their commitment to support the Global Fund through RED with their in-store promotion and by selling RED designated product has worked. Through their past efforts, by teaming up with Gap as part of this Gap Give & Get promotion, RED has been able to generate over $600k for the Global Fund. They are hoping that in the next few days they can reach their $1mm goal.

Struggling retail store of all sizes can adopt similar innovative promotion and cause marketing strategies that attracts customers with sales while supporting a cause. As a small business owner, you don't have to be big like Gap, you don't have to have a big cause like AIDS, your don't have to have big bucks in order to achieve your philanthropy goals. But you can make an impact for a cause you care about by developing your unique cause marketing and store promotion program.

For related posts read: Give a Little, Get a Lot Back, Why Giving Is Good For Business

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Get a Better Night’s Sleep While Doing Something Good for Your Community- Sleep Train

Listening to Sleep Train's jingle, with a little kid singing: "You get a better night's sleep at Sleep Train" followed by a choo-choo whistle sound, one wonders what little kids have to do with with falling asleep each night. But, you can rest assured that your Sleep Train mattress is doing more than giving you a good nights’ sleep.

At Sleep Train, everyone from the president of the company to the local employees is dedicated to giving back to their community and their primary focus for giving is kids. In May of this year, president Dale Carson received the Honorary Service Award from California State PTA for his outstanding service to children for the past 20 years.

Of all the many projects Sleep Train has become involved in, their dedication to foster children stands out. Every year Sleep Train organizes and runs many different drives to collect much needed supplies for California’s 80,000 foster kids. A school supply drive is currently in action as things gear up for the fall, with a coat drive prepared for November and a Secret Santa Toy Drive in December. Each Sleep Train store is set up as a collection site where employees and customers can conveniently drop off donations. In their last drive, Sleep Train collected thousands of clothes to help fill the need of many foster kids.

Sleep Train does more than organize these much needed drives. They also run different charity events to help raise both money and awareness for other causes. One very successfully event is Sleep Train’s Charity Golf Classic. In 2007, tickets were sold out and the event raised over $300,000. The Sleep Train Sleep Over is another important event that raises money while giving kids in need the opportunity of a lifetime. Teaming up with the Sacramento River Cats Baseball team, Sleep Train hosts a sleep over where kids in need get to spend the night out on the field after a game. Each child gets a mattress as part of Sleep Train’s “Mattresses 4 Kids” program.

Even the employees are encouraged to get involved in their community. Sleep Train provides a wide selection of local groups who need volunteers and expects their employees to support the company’s different charity events. Charities can request to be added to their list on Sleep Train's website.

By Lauren Partain and Lalia Helmer

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Buying Books To Support Literacy

Who knew buying books online could do so much good for both education and the environment? Founders of Better World Books saw the potential in their piles of textbooks and paperbacks when their started this online bookselling business back in 2002. Now 9 years later, what started as a small textbook-selling site has turned into a profitable triple bottom-line company. Their mission to “harness the power of capitalism to bring literacy and opportunity to people around the world” has allowed for 25 million books to be turned into $6.5 million donated to help fund education and literacy programs and 13,000 tons of books saved from landfills. Better World Books works with 5 main literacy organizations- Books for Africa, Room to Read, Worldfund, the National Center for Family Literacy, and Invisible Children, as well as over 80 other smaller literacy partners to help increase literacy and promote their belief in people’s right to education.
The story behind this great company has a sweet start. Students and Ultimate Frisbee teammates, Xavier and Kreece found themselves at a loss after graduation. What were they to do next, they wondered. With jobs scarce and the economy down, they were left tutoring the Notre Dame football team. The job put little money in their pockets and lots of textbooks on their shelves. As the books accumulated, the two friends began to see the potential dollar signs in each Intro Chemistry and Calculus BC book left behind. Once they saw the success of reselling used textbooks to students, Xavier and Kreece branched into book drives and the local community center and eventually drew up a business plan with the help of their new team member Jeff who was familiar with the world of investment banking.
Better World Books does more than sell the newest picks on Oprah’s Book List; they also network with over 1,600 college campuses and partner with 1,000 libraries to organize book drives. These book-drives help save books that would be thrown away get to readers who want them at prices they can afford. Even their shipping methods are set up to help. Each order is not only mailed for free in the United States to help your wallet, but it is shipped carbon neutral with offsets, ways to reduce emissions elsewhere to counteract other emissions that cannot be eliminated, from Carbonfund.org.
At the core of their company, Better World Books is proud to say that being socially and environmentally aware is part of their business’ DNA. Their triple bottom line organization is a direct reflection of their conscious choices to give back while reducing their impact on the environment. They acknowledge that profit should not be the only driving force, but the people and the environment must factor in as well. As a business, Better World Books answers to their stakeholders and not just their shareholders. It is the employees, customers, investors, literacy partners, and environment that makes companies like Better World Books possible, and they understand that.

by Lauren Partain

Monday, July 20, 2009

Give a Little, Get a Lot: Why Giving Is Good For Business and Patriotic

In an article by Toby Brink, the president and CEO of the Tri-Valley Business Council, suggests that giving back to the community is an act of patriotism. In his article; "My Word: Focus on triple bottom line is good business" for Bayarea.com, he cites the statistic that there are 17,000 businesses in Tri-Valley, an area on the east bay of San Francisco, composed of small communities like Livermore, Pleasanton and others-and that statistic does not even include the bigger cities like Oakland, San Jose, or San Francisco. There is a tremendous opportunity to leverage the giving power of the business community to help out the desperate local charities.

Toby Brink also asks the question: “ Is giving good for business?” As one reads on, it’s obvious that he very much thinks so.

There are thousands of businesses within thousands of communities across this country that can help support their local communities by giving back. By making them aware that not only is it patriotic, but good business, this can can really change the picture for non-profits.

My recent article in the July e-newsletter: “Give a Little, Get a Lot: Why Giving is Good for Business” published in the Business News for Chamber of Commerce Mountain View, in Mountain View CA, addresses this very topic. www.chambermv.org. Here is an excerpt.

"As a business owner, it’s easy to let giving slip off your list of priorities: when times are good, you may be too busy to notice the needs of the community; when times turn tough, giving back to your community isn’t your foremost concern. This is too bad, because businesses of every size have unique resources when it comes to solving local problems and in the process may solve some of your problems too.

Opportunities to give to the community are all around you, but what are the potential benefits on your end? It’s a reasonable question. Here are some answers:

Attract new customers and boost consumer loyalty

Giving back to the community provides an investment in its economic growth. After all, you’re helping to fortify your customer base. As former President Bill Clinton said at the recent Global Initiative: ‘Strong communities are good for business.’ Truly, as community members prosper, they quickly develop into new customers for local businesses.
Studies have shown that philanthropy influences consumer buying behavior. Just look at beloved brands like Ben & Jerry’s or Whole Foods. Customers will choose your business because they respect its values and wish to contribute their support to a worthy cause.

Enhance marketing and publicity

Philanthropic initiatives help your marketing dollars go further, creating a win-win for both you and your charity. Tying your advertising efforts to a cause of choice bolsters goodwill toward your business, while still bringing awareness to the cause. While you’re at it, why not Tweet about your experience? The Internet abounds with fresh marketing opportunities. In the world of social networking media alone, marketing techniques like blogging and posting links on a charity’s homepage can help drive Internet traffic to your site.
And don’t forget, word of mouth is the best advertising of all. All those enthusiastic new customers will be motivated to spread the word about your business. They’ll tell their friends and family, who in turn tell their friends and family. That sort of ‘viral’ goodwill goes a long way.
What’s more, businesses can build relationships with other businesses while working together for a cause. These relationships create valuable networking opportunities, generate leads and referrals, and yield valuable partnerships.

Create a better and happier work environment

Employees prefer to work for businesses that have a culture of caring and good citizenship. Attracting people of conscience and nourishing their lives through rewarding charitable projects can only contribute to your success.
You’ll also develop greater teamwork when employees volunteer for the effort. By working together in a fun and unique context, employees break loose of routine and learn about each other in new and different ways. Building better rapport helps you improve morale and create a more cooperative work environment. And employees gain opportunities for leadership development by honing new skills. They learn to take greater pride in their work by utilizing their existing base of knowledge in rewarding ways.”

Besides, you can wave the flag in front of your business with pride.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

How To Get Your Kid's Room Clean and Donate To Charity

I never would have thought that cleaning my son's room could help charity and the environment, but now there is a business, Lamb Awards and Engravings a full service and awards company in Westminster, MD that can help me do precisely that.
My youngest child is off to college and it's time to bring out the trash cans, recycling bins and now postage boxes and stamps. All the old textbooks, notebooks, broken pencils and even the old trophies-you know the ones from the Little League or soccer teams from when he was five or six, have got to go.
After receiving phone calls year after year from customers asking about what to do with their old trophies, Lamb Awards came up with a recycling solution and charity program that gives these unwanted trophies a new home and a new purpose.
After stripping down the old trophies, they turn them into new ones and create sets that can be donated to non-profits that cannot afford to buy new ones.
Oh yes,they except plaques, medals.
We have plenty of those too.

I hope someday Lamb Awards and Engravings receives a trophy for innovative solutions in business philanthropy and helping the environment!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Store Next Door: Volunteer Service and the Small Business

Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama addressed the National Volunteer and Community Service Conference at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, there kicking off the President’s ambitious new service program, United We Serve. The initiative, conceived as a grassroots antidote to the devastating effects of the economic downturn, is a twelve-week long nationwide enterprise designed to muster support for existing volunteer organizations, and assist in the creation of new ones.

In a modern touch, conference organizers in San Francisco launched a tech-savvy effort to transmit the proceedings to the public via Twitter feeds, webcasts and site links. As a result, I received live, real-time web updates, enabling me to follow the event, even stream Michelle’s remarks and various other presentations at the conference.

Prior to her keynote address, however, the First Lady - joined by Maria Shriver and a host of other generous volunteers - spent much of the morning assisting the construction of a new playground at nearby Bret Harte Elementary School in Bayview-Hunters Point, a historically underprivileged neighborhood of San Francisco.

And the effort didn’t end with that playground, or even the completion of the conference. Reports pouring out from the event have kept myself and a motivated web community appraised of the evolving impact of the President’s initiative. The most recent dispatch came from MyImpact.org, whose blog outlined the major themes of the conference. One in particular caught my attention: the notion that service is not only the domain of government and non-profits, rather a product of cross-pollination with the private sector.

To be certain, the vast majority of last week’s conference participants came from the ranks of government sectors and non-profits, but the conference also featured a CEO roundtable in which corporate businesses expressed the value of employee volunteerism in their philanthropy strategies. And it’s easy to understand why organizers invited these high-profile CEOs to participate: they lend a splash of heightened visibility to the event. It’s also simple to see why corporations might find the opportunity attractive: the investment of time and energy pays a sunny PR dividend.

Yet to my eye, one question remains – why weren’t small business leaders included?

Indeed, businesses of every size have unique resources when it comes to solving local problems. Small businesses account for 70% of the work force, providing the largest pool of volunteers for just this sort of community-level initiative. To boot, they often possess a more direct connection to their employees, more easily engaging a greater percentage of them in the volunteer effort. They are more versed in and more impacted by local needs, and can better identify and tackle urgent causes. Most importantly, small businesses are… well, small, and often steered by a tighter, more compact and unilateral management structure. As a result, they are more nimble, quicker to allocate resources and manpower.

And yet this group has not been utilized as a potent force for social change. Still, if the program was conceived as a dynamic, constantly evolving effort, predicated on individual and local involvement, why not encourage your neighboring small businesses to dig in?

Chris Golden of MyImpact.Org has the details:

“Service got a lot of attention this week, but it is an imperative that the news and attention does not stop now. There are just over 11 weeks remaining in the United We Serve initiative. Organizations can register their projects at Serve.gov. Volunteers can search for opportunities there, on a database powered by allforgood.org. And those wanting to connect with others, share stories and best practices, and inspire others to become involved can create a profile at United.MyImpact.org.

It’s time to widen the effort to include small business. As leading entrepreneurs, they can provide unique innovation not just to local economic growth, but also toward community projects. Michelle Obama and Maria Shriver can’t publicize every playground construction project, so all across America, non-profits and corporate volunteers are chipping in to build up empty sand lots like the one in San Francisco. They should rightly be recognized. But let’s not forget the nearest neighbor, the small business right next door.

by Lalia Helmer and Blair Kroeber