Monday, May 30, 2011

GiveBackMail Launches First Email Service that Donates to Charity

GiveBackMail Donates to the causes users care about every time they use email

Los Angeles, CA – May 23, 2011 – Over the last decade, we have seen a dramatic change in philanthropy and today, with the launch of GiveBackMail, another significant milestone has been reached.

Let’s face it, almost everyone uses email. But that is all they are doing – sending, receiving and in turn creating a huge profit for services like AOL, Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo! Mail. Instead, what if you could use your email to providemeals for the hungry, clothes for the poor, shelter for the homeless or even funding for cancer research?

Philanthropy is no longer just for the super wealthy. While billionaires such as Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett along with Michael Bloomberg, Vinod Khosla and Mark Zuckerberg have brought philanthropy to the limelight recently with movements like The Giving Pledge, where close to 70 billionaires have committed to give away at least half oftheir wealth to charity, GiveBackMail has made it possible for us all, regardless of how much time or money we have, to get involved and give back.

Because billionaires represent less than .00000018% of the world population, GiveBackMail took a technology that the majority of us already use everyday and created a way for ordinary people to make a positive impact on the causes that matter most tothem.

“People are looking to make a difference and we have provided email users with a way to give back even if they don’t have the resources available. GiveBackMail empowers its users to make the world a better place by doing something they already do – using email,” Rambod Yadegar, Co-Founder of GiveBackMail said. “Email is the most active area of Internet usage and in 2010 alone there were over 2.96 billion active email accounts, so we knew that going in this was an area we could make thebiggest impact. What really separates us from other email service providers is allowing our users to give back to the causes they care about most. Together, we can absolutely make a measurable, positive impact on the world."

GiveBackMail is secure, easy-to-use and donates a quarter of its profits directly to the selected causes its users care about. Additionally, GiveBackMail is compatible with all major POP3/IMAP email providers and offers users advanced features not often found in free email platforms, such as:

Keep your current email address
Large file attachments up to 100MB
Unsend button
Social network and music feeds
Manage multiple accounts – works with AOL, Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail, Gmail and all other POP3/IMAP accounts
Preview attachments without downloading

Join the GiveBackMail movement by May 31, 2011 to nominate your favorite cause to be a recipient of GiveBackMail donations. Register at

About GiveBackMail
GiveBackMail is a free email service that creates positive change around the world by donating to the causes users care about every time they use their email. You can keep your current email address and still take advantage of impressive features including sharing large files – up to 100MB, managing multiple accounts, previewing attachments and viewing all your social media feeds within your email platform. GiveBackMail was developed to empower people who want to help charities, but don’t have enough time or money to do so. GiveBackMail launched in May 2011 and is compatible with all existing email platforms. For a superior, simple, secure and socially conscious email system, visit

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Vodacom Superstar: Fusing Entertainment With Global Social Good

Can entertainment be a vehicle for social good? I've written often on this blog about the emerging fourth sector of the economy, comprised of companies who allocate their capabilities and profits toward the benefit of their community and the world. Could such a model take root in the world of media as well?

Consider this intriguing philanthropic effort spearheaded by R&B superstar Akon and his partner Nickie Shapira, entrepreneur and CEO of Akonic Entertainment, their full-service entertainment company with a global focus. Together Akon, of Senegalese descent, and Shapira have created Vodacom Superstar, a sort of African answer to American Idol, all designed to support emerging singers and potential recording artists in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, traditionally a center for musical talent on the continent.

As Shapira told me, "The genesis of Vodacom Superstar was born out of our desire to develop and highlight the talented youth in DR Congo. We saw the attention that DRC was getting from the USA community. However, all of it was focused on showing the horrible effects of war, and we wanted to show another face of the country."

An energetic, youth-driven talent competition in the popular vein, Vodacom Superstar began its second season in March after a wildly popular first season during which episodes ran on five of the top television channels in the country, re-airing night after night until the next episode's premiere, captivating the nation all the while.

The winner of season one, Innocent, claimed a $25,000 prize, plus the chance to record a single with Akon. The track is expected to drop in Congo on June 11th when a second season champion is crowned. You can check out Innocent's finale performance right over here.

Ultimately, though, the show is about exposure, not just for the winner but for all of the contestants, and even the judges and vocal coaches, several of whom have landed their own recording opportunities.

As you might imagine, the rigors of such a production are many. The show is shot entirely on location in DR Congo, a country with little television production infrastructure, where the American crew must cope with electrical outages, transportation problems and a host of other logistical challenges.

But the presence of the show in that nation has been a boon not just for the artists beamed onto television screens around the country, but also for a whole host of ancillary retailers and local businesses, makeup artists, hair stylists getting a chance to develop their skills and grow their own ventures.

Most striking, the venture is solely focused on its agenda of social good. Says Shapira, "In its entirety, the show is a philanthropic endeavor. Akon doesn't make money on the show. We don't turn a profit from the show as a production company. The idea is to develop the musical talent in Congo. Just as philanthropists in our country's history thought it important to foster the arts, it is important for us to help this country that had its first democratic election in 2006 and is emerging after years of war. We are cultivating a new generation of stars."

Monday, May 23, 2011

Subway Restaurants Take a Bite Out of Hunger

The Subway restaurants chain's community project has taken on the cause of two social issues: hunger and obesity, with  a unique marketing campaign Fit to Fight Hunger. Nearly 1600 restaurants in California, Hawaii and Utah will be participating in this piggyback type campaign, hoping to raise awareness for the rising needs of local food banks, while also promoting their low fat Subway Fresh Fit sandwiches and encouraging customers to make healthier eating choices.

This marketing campaign will be run in these three states with advertising in broadcast and print media and on their website, You Tube and Facebook. Fit to Fight Hunger provides information with some of the harsh statistics of hunger in the communities along with a listing of the food banks that they are supporting with their donation of over $100,000.00. There is an invitation to customers to join Subway in fighting hunger by supporting any of the 20 local food banks listed with donations of food, money, and time.

Here's what I liked about this campaign-

Subway does not tie-in buying their sandwiches with their donations to the cause. This makes their donation to the food banks philanthropic and not based on any surge of customer spending.

While their intentions are to market their healthy line of sandwiches, they are piggybacking their advertising dollars to spread the word about the cause and to create awareness for the food banks.

There purpose seems truly to be to educate and inspire customers to join them in helping the
cause by providing information about locations of local food banks.

There is no mention of which Subways are participating and which are not, so there is no perceived self interest of tying-in sales to their giving.

On the other hand- I have been to several of the restaurants this last week and have seen no mention of the Fit to Fight Hunger campaign, which means they are not directly reaching the customers. I wonder whether Subway could do more to help to promote this cause within their restaurants. While on the website they invite others to join them in fighting hunger, they do not provide any additional support for the customer to become involved other than their invitation. Finally, there is no way to assess the impact of the campaign on increasing donations to food banks. Ads are great but often forgotten.

Subway seems to be trying to makes this as clean cut a cause marketing program as possible
without mingling motives, an often problematic issue in cause marketing.

Besides, just the fight against obesity by providing low fat, yet delicious fast food is to be applauded.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

National Small Business Week and Small Business CSR

Well -I didn't get my wish. Last year I wrote about my hope, (I hope you read this one, as it's one of my favorites,) that this year's National Small Business Week conference would include something about Social Responsibility and/or philanthropy in their agenda as important contributions to small business growth. This year there will be two presenters who come from the social venture and non-profit sectors: Seth Goldman of Honest Tea and Steve Case from the Case Foundation. Otherwise no mention in the schedule of the burgeoning trends of social ventures, cause marketing, and strategic philanthropy.

Small businesses have been hit hard by the recession and many of them are looking for more ways to survive and to be profitable. The conference is providing small businesses with wonderful learning opportunities and the support to help build their small businesses. Businesses may feel they have little to give when they are struggling to survive, so it makes sense for the conference to focus on topics about how to build small businesses.

In spite of the downturn, many small businesses have continued their support of their communities and have adopted more sustainable green practices and have engaged in small business cause marketing. see Why Giving is Good For Business and Patriotic . In addition, an ever increasing number of the hybrid social ventures, many of which we have written about, are popping up and have started up in this last year or two.

These businesses need business advice too, some of which could be general to all start ups and some of which need to be addressed the the specific hybrid form they take if they are supporting charities. As for marketing, while many large companies are dedicating their marketing dollars to go directly to cause marketing ,as they know that customers are seeking to support companies that give back.

This kind of knowledge and advice would be useful for small businesses to have so they too can take advantage of  the cost savings as a result of their green practices, can reap the many benefits of giving back to the community, and can experience the rewards from partnering with a cause as part of their marketing strategy. Maybe all of this will make it on the agenda in 2012.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Happiness,Wellbeing,and Flourishing in the CSR Workplace

Studies have shown that personal happiness increases with personal philanthropy and volunteerism. If so, then that logic can be extended to corporate giving, meaning that employees could experience an increase in well-being from their company's giving and volunteer programs as part of their involvement in CSR.

The latest trend in studies and books on happiness has come from the new field of positive psychology founded by Martin Seligman, of The University of Pennsylvania. Martin Seligman first came out with his landmark book "Learned Optimism" followed by several others including "Authentic Happiness". As president of the American Psychological Association in 1998, he initiated a whole movement in looking at and studying human behavior by focusing on positives with the goal of increasing them, rather than focusing on correcting the negatives.

 Martin Seligman has more recently rejected the word “happiness” for the broader term, well-being or “flourish" with his new book: Flourish: A New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being and How to Achieve Them.

Various organizations most notably the Gallup organization, have been measuring wellbeing in different levels of societies for countries, state and cities. Positive Organizational Studies have cropped up in graduate schools to address the impact of a variety of organization behaviors on well-being in the workplace. No one, as yet, to my knowledge, has measured the effect of CSR and employee volunteerism on employee well-being, with the exception of one area. We have noted several reports and studies on the positive effects of CSR on employee in regards to hiring and retention.

Could that mean that employees that are involved with their company’s CSR in the form of workplace giving programs or volunteering also experience well-being and flourish within their jobs?

The answer to that is worth exploring further and is to be continued….

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Hybrid of Business and Philanthropy

Now there are more and more businesses in their own right that have sprung up out of the need for funding a specific non-profit which Inc.Com  recently defined as a "hybrid social venture business model." I used to walk by thrift shops like Goodwill and others like it that support their non-profit, without my giving much thought to the business model and how well it works. These types of businesses, like the Goodwill Stores which are part of the autonomous non-profit entity,Goodwill Industries, are as hybrid sounding an entity as possible, in my mind.

Inc.Com also used another classic example, Mozilla Firefox, which was created to help fund the Mozilla Foundation, as well as some more examples of recent hybrid startups of this type, Story Pirates and Parent Earth. These hybrids are truly that in that they take a variety of organizational structures, some legally more linked to the non-profit than others.

We have featured several of these "hybrids" here too, such as: the SF clothing store, A Miner Miracle, that supports the non-profit of the same name -and the gift card company, Charity Choice Gift Card, that supports the Special Kids Fund.  rightly describes the many challenges that these hybrids face mainly separating the financial and tax structures.

What we have seen in these hybrid social ventures is that there are many other challenges, the biggest one being that the business must be in the business of making profits first. This means that they must meet the payroll, pay the vendors, meet their rent, manage their employees, market their service or product and many other aspects of starting and running good business. Hopefully what is left over from their revenues then goes to the charity.

There are rewards too, as the article pointed out: "You can have cake and save whales."The most important one being that the business has been started with a purpose and those working at the company have meaning built into the job description.

But that comes with a caveat, I think, You have to make the cake and sell it first.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tēvolution Partners Up

On Monday, I introduced you to Tēvolution, a beverage company that donates one quarter of each iced tea sale, letting the consumer "track the impact" of the contribution via a personalized dashboard on their website. As you'll also notice on their site, the Tēvolution team keeps their nonprofit partners front and center.

I recently asked Tēvolution co-founder Ian Simpson about the selection process he and partner Gerard Artavia used in choosing recipient organizations. He was quick to credit Tēvolution's strategic adviser for nonprofit relations, Lisa O'Brien, who helped design the nonprofit strategy and establish key early relationships with nonprofits.

They built their donation structure around a three-tiered model of "Food & Shelter," "Education" and "Health & Wellness." Says Simpson, "We arrived at those categories because they were the ones that meant the most to us. We wanted to go with strong, growing nonprofits with a national footprint but local impact. We were looking for partners with causes we got excited about, and that were looking to grow as we grew."

Having just launched earlier this year, Tēvolution is currently working with four organizations. First, they have partnered with Jumpstart, a national organization dedicated to early-childhood education, which trains volunteers and students to tutor and mentor children in low-income communities. Also, there's Project Night Night, which provides emotional support to homeless families by delivering "childhood essentials" like books, toys and blankets to homeless children, as well as Bear Necessities, a pediatric cancer foundation that offers an array of support services and financial grants to families of seriously ill children. Finally, there is the National Brain Tumor Society, one of the nation's leading research and patient services organizations, supporting victims of brain cancer and their families.

As Ian Simpson recently told me, Tēvolution this week made its very first round of donations to each of these four organizations, these contributions being for Q1 2011. Now he and his partners are looking forward to seeing those numbers grow in the coming months. Think on that as you twist the cap.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tēvolution: Tracking the Impact

As attitudes toward giving continue to evolve, plenty of businesses claim to support charities or non-profits with a chunk of their proceeds, but do you ever find yourself wondering how those dollars and cents get spent? How often are you able to follow up, to really learn the details? A new beverage company, Tēvolution, has addressed just that problem by allowing customers to trace the path of their contribution straight to the cause it's helping to fund.

As Ian Simpson, who co-founded Tēvolution with Gerard Artavia, described it to me, "Customers want to know where their dollars are going. For so long we've heard things like, 'a portion of the proceeds go to charity,' and we thought, 'What portion? How much? What if people knew exactly what their purchase led to?'"

And so they conceived of a concept to do exactly that, dubbing it "Track Your Impact." For every bottle of their four flavors of iced tea sold, Tēvolution donates a quarter to one of its non-profit partners, encouraging the customer to take part in the process by peeling the label off the bottle to reveal a unique four-digit numerical code, which allows them to follow their donation at

As we've seen with many socially conscious businesses, Tēvolution uses social networking to augment the process in some really fun and innovative ways. Customers can create an account to track the charitable proceeds of their purchases. Says Simpson, "Now we give customers a dashboard on our website, and they can link their Facebook and Twitter accounts to share their giving with their friends. So it's not just personal - it's social, and that's great for our nonprofit partners as well. The upside for customers is an added layer of authenticity: by drinking and posting, they tell their friends that they believe in what we do, are proud to be a part of it, and want others to see and know about it. We're cultivating a community of supporters and advocates, which grows as we expand to new stores and locations."

Encouraging that level on involvement on the part of the customer is a smart move. The Tēvolution network informs them where and how their donations are being spent, building awareness for the nonprofits, but also leveraging social media to spread the message of the core brand, which is beneficial to their causes, and heck, a clever way to sell more iced tea. It's another reminder that what is good for the community can still, at the end of the day, be good for the bottom line as well.

Hop over to their site and have a look around. The concept is novel and the tea is delicious. On Wednesday I'll be back to take a closer look at a few of Tēvolution's nonprofit partners.