Monday, June 27, 2011

Project Open Hand: The Peanut Story

Readers of this blog know that I tend to be a culinary adventurer, and one of my current obsessions is San Francisco ice cream parlor Humphrey Slocombe, the kind of innovative and very offbeat place where you're more likely to find foodies gobbling down flavors like Strawberry Black Olive, Sour Cream and Prosciutto than, say, your typical Chocolate, Vanilla or Rocky Road.

Earlier this week, a tweet from Humphrey Slocombe caught my eye. It seems that the business has become a supporter of Project Open Hand, a non-profit that provides groceries and hot meals to HIV/AIDS sufferers, seniors and others with homebound illnesses throughout San Francisco and Alameda.

Recently, the chefs and volunteers in the kitchens of Project Open Hand noticed that the recent spike in food prices - particularly for a staple of theirs, peanut butter - had taken a big bite out of their resources, so they decided to try grinding their own peanut butter.

The crunchy, and surprisingly healthy, result became such a hit that neighbors, friends and volunteers started asking to purchase containers for their own use. Whole Foods and several local markets soon began stocking it at their stores, and Humphrey Slocombe made it the preferred peanut butter for use in zany ice cream flavors like FlufferNutter and Peanut Butter Curry. Now Project Open Hand Peanut Butter has become a popular staple at stores and businesses throughout the Bay Area. As you might guess, the bulk of the proceeds go back into funding Project Open Hand's services. Not a bad way to turn generate revenue and grow the organization, right?

Check out this fantastic documentary short about the peanut butter innovation:

Friday, June 24, 2011

How Benevity's "Spark" Transforms Workplace Giving

More from my conversation with Jana Taylor of Benevity.www, This time we talked more specifically about their newest product Spark, an online platform for employee giving and volunteering.

Employee engagement is a big buzz world for companies in general. It takes time to build that kind of engagement, to give employees a voice  in a many areas of their worklife, but certainly not in workplace giving programs. Companies are asking employees to give and it is from their heart and yet they haven't been given the opportunity to express what it is they care about.

We have been around for three years now. Spark workplace giving has been around only for a short while. We are very interested in the whole concept of engaging employees in corporate philanthropy.

When we were talking to companies about how to engage their employees and consumers in giving Companies told us that they really like the idea of workplace giving and even told us what were the challenges.Some of the challenges that the companies have told us about is that they are struggling to deliver workplace programs that are truly engaging, that have broad adoption and generate interest with their employees.

Likewise on the employee side, there is quite a lot research that links giving with employee engagement. So they don't want to just give their money away to charity they want to engage their company employees in doing this. Employees have increasing expectations from their companies to help them give back and they also have increasing expectations that they live in a web based world . They want a seat at the table and they want to participate more proactively in giving back.
Unfortunately a lot of the programs that are in existence are really for status quo, check the box off kind of thing. But they are very top down, they don't even involve the passion of the employees. A lot of times they outsource programs to charity aggregators for the workplace giving programs, simply a digital touch form, That doesn't really align with the web based world their employees live in.

I think when companies look at their goals then,yes, they want to be good corporate citizens and they want to engage their employees, if they really want to boost their employee participation and engage their employees and move the needle on other employee related issues, When you look at the metrics on attracting, motivating and retaining of great talent, then they have to do workplace giving in a new way.

The tool that we built for employee giving and volunteering, it's called Spark. It allows the company a tool that is already built and it is a very engaging way to get employees involved with company volunteering and giving, and it can be done in a way that aligns with the companies charities that they support. Using Spark they can enable their employees to give to any registered charity and they can create any campaigns around individual charities or campaigns around funds. They can create the company fund, for whatever cause, a real time matching campaign where an employee can donate to any charity or to the company fund and the company can match that.

There is a reporting section within Spark that the administrators can see, where they can create reports on any different aspect of the programs and they can see the result of the campaigns so that they will be able to look at and track the metrics and success. And for employee giving a lot of companies have an internal or external employee engagement survey and where they can ask questions around how well they are we doing with employee engagement.

There are many ways the platform can be used and we continue to spark their imagination in terms of how it can be used. But there are specific opportunities and whenever a company uses the Benevity platform, so that is why we developed Spark on top of the Benevity platform, in a sense we built our own car on top of the engine.

Giving is personal, it is from the heart. People need a way to tap into supporting the causes that resonate with them personally. At the same time it gives companies the software that's their own brand. They can roll out their own program and at the same time have the ability to create the cause funds. They have the ability to create campaigns that align company giving with employee giving. It is an easy way to communicate with employees what causes the company supports.

It really inspires employees. One person told me recently that when she saw Spark it had shifted her thinking. She said the way that they had been doing it it was a chore and a process. Spark makes it more of an experience.

We are building a volunteering model that will give companies' opportunities to communicate internal or external volunteering opportunities and will be able to create campaigns around volunteering, where employees can then select the opportunities that resonate with them, create accounts and then track them. And for employee giving a lot of companies have an internal or external employee engagement survey and where they can ask questions around how well they are we doing with employee engagement.

Development team is working on right now the ability for companies to reward for volunteerism, with donor dollars in an employees account.

We are very passionate about helping companies with their corporate giving programs.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Benevity Helping Create Customer and Employee Giving Programs That Really Engage

I had the pleasure of talking with Jana Taylor, marketing manager for Benevity, a certified BCorp, that has developed a software platform that helps businesses better engage their customers, employees and corporate partners in cause marketing and charitable giving. More recently, Benevity has also built another product, Spark which actively engages and tracks employee giving programs. Jana and all of the Benevity employees are passionate about how Benevity can help businesses achieve newer and more effective corporate giving and cause marketing programs.
Part I is a transcript of my interview with Jana which describes Benevity, its beginnings, and the vision for what it can do for the world of corporate giving and philanthropy. We will continue in Part II about the newer product, Spark, aimed at improving employee giving.

We do a lot of things at Benevity helping businesses with corporate philanthropy, cause marketing initiatives, as well as employee volunteering initiatives where we have built a particular product called Spark. We are very interested in the whole concept of engaging employees in corporate philanthropy. We have been around for three years now. We are very passionate about helping companies with their corporate giving programs and helping them to do things differently.
We represent ourselves as a hybrid company in that we are a software company and a for profit company, but we have a social mission to help philanthropy and to give businesses a new perspective from the technology perspective to be shown how to implement their corporate giving programs in new and innovative ways.

This is not just for the purpose of being new but also for the purpose of to be able to generate better returns both for the social impact and enabling greater contributions to the communities so that when they what to give back. But also from a business perspective, whether it is cause marketing or a giving initiative or an employee giving program, to really have a new technology to better help them measure the impact of that as well. Initially it has been an area that is becoming more important but also an area that as has been getting more scrutiny and we see it as having importance, because people are caring about giving back more and if you look at the research that we got from the Cone and the Edelman reports, whether it is on the consumer side or the employee side, people are thinking more than ever about giving back. So that is a change and the change in the companies in how they have to give back.

The founder is Bryan de Lottinville .He was not an original IT person but a lawyer. He basically was involved in a growth company as an executive. What prompted him was that he really wanted not to leave a legacy of just fixing companies , he was motivated to do more and when he was working as an advisor for a company that was looking at turning consumer loyalty programs into donor programs that's when he started thinking about cause marketing and philanthropy. He was looking at the perspective from his experience at IStock Photo, which was a company that had a very strong online community and really revolutionized and democratized that industry.

Soon when he was looking at corporate philanthropy he was looking at it from that lens. When he looked at the philanthropic landscape he saw so many problems such as the duplication in not for profit and the high cost of fund raising and the small percentage of donations that come from companies. As for democratizing philanthropy, it's great that there are giving plans and high net-worth individuals , but what about the person who can give only twenty dollars or two dollars and they don't the opportunity to make them feel that they've made a difference and how to build giving into the business.

That was the idea behind the Benevity platform. basically it is an engine that is embedded into individual transactions so that from a company's perspective they can engage consumers or employees in optimal charity of choice giving that under their brand.

Everyone here is very passionate about the idea of helping companies do this better, putting an 'x' through "that is how we have always done this " corporate giving programs and that includes cause marketing and employee giving programs. And giving them a way to do this differently and specially giving them a way to support charities and at the same to engage their employees and consumers in giving. Because one of the things that we also feel is needed is that, is in addition to where people are caring more about giving back , they are living in a world where personalization and empowerment and customization. Everyone has a profile in Facebook and Linked in and everyone knows that they can go online and order a custom made shoes from, people are used to this world of personal empowerment. In addition to the fact that they lived in this web based world, they want to give back more and the ways that companies have been traditionally been them ways to give back,they are not really engaging them anymore. From the company's perspective, in addition to wanting to be a good corporate citizen, it is not completely altruistic. They also, with cause marketing, are also doing this because they want to engage their customers. They know they can create a brand halo effect.

What we are seeing is that there are so many ways for companies to do things better. The traditional cause marketing program where you have one company and one it really isn't engaging anymore.

 I noticed in a consumer article that on the consumer side there is almost a skepticism, you see that increase prevalent in cause marketing. Yet you see the Cone and the Edelman reports that people want more cause marketing offers that are not satisfying. For example I went into a drugstore and they asked me if I wanted to donate to AIDS and I asked if the company was matching the donations and the employee didn't know. Which is too bad for her but which is also bad for the company.

We look at programs like that and we say, what if you gave your customers the ability to donate to their cause of choice, so if you want to donate to retailers X charity of one type or another charity they will match your donation.

And what if you could create your own personal foundation where these are the five charity that you or someone else cares about, instead of loyalty points you could redeem them for a donation to your charity. Those are the kinds of things that you could do from a cause marketing front with the Benevity platform.

Those are the kinds of things we are trying to help companies to do things differently.
Our platform is used in a number of different ways. It can be used in cause marketing initiatives, with e-commerce initiatives, with web based initiatives. Then we are starting to build products on top of our platform, specifically for workplace giving.
So when we went to companies to ask them about building the platform when it came to employee giving they told us that they want a pleasant solution. They didn't just want us to build the engine for the car they want us to build the engine.
So from the consumer side, if the company is using our platform they have a way to embed cause marketing into offers in a more flexible way. It enables them to embed a cause element into a product price, you buy this particular product x percentage goes to a particular charity of choice and by the way if you donate to a certain fund we will match that.Because it enables you to add optional charitable giving into your business model, you can then measure the impact of that . You can also track this and do an AB test, you can offer this product with a caused offer over a product without a cause offer you can then do a test. Or what if you do a cause with the company choosing cause versus the consumer choosing the cause.

What companies have told us is that it gets the community investment or their corporate philanthropy closer to their target. In the past the CEO is standing there with the big check and hoping that the word will get out. If you are doing cause marketing and if you are doing community investment, and you can get your customer involved in a matching program, then basically know whether it is effective or not. As a company we support, as an example let's say the environment, you can see whether it is compelling or not . Likewise instead if writing a big check to an environmental charity you can have a web based offer that if the consumer gives to that fund we will match that. You get the evidence whether one campaign is more compelling than the other.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Panera Cares: Paving the Way for "Pay What You Can"

A good while back, I wrote a series of pieces on the emerging "pay what you can" business model, giving special attention to Panera Bread's first such restaurant, opened in early 2010 in a suburb of St. Louis. Then called St. Louis Bread Company Cares, now re-dubbed Panera Cares, the prototype cafe offered the popular chain's full menu of soups, coffees and sandwiches but encouraged customers to pay whatever they could afford for the meal. It seemed an ideal fit for these economically distressed times, and the past year has only further borne that out.

Now Panera Cares has proven such a success that the company has opened two more locations, one in Detroit and another in Portland, Oregon. All three cafes, run by a non-profit arm of Panera, turn a modest profit, which is donated to an employment program for at-risk youth. Earlier this week, Lucas Kavner over at the Huffington Post branded Panera Bread founder and chairman Ron Shaich their "Greatest Person of the Day" for spearheading the innovative and timely corporate effort.

As Kavner writes:

Panera plans to open a Panera Cares location every four months in the next year, and the company will serve at least half a million meals through the program. Ron says more locations will be established as long as his model continues to work.

"Imagine a world in which WalMart did all the distribution for food shelters," Ron said. "Or where Gap ran thrift stores or where Home Depot was involved more intimately in rebuilding communities. It all comes back to defining responsibility in corporations. We have to demand this of them."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Ahold USA's Cause Marketing Hits Triple Winner

Ahold Hits Another 'Triple'

By Maggie Shea

Ahold USA's Stop & Shop and Giant-Landover chains kicked off their annual "Triple Winner" cause marketing program in April.
The campaign, which raises funds for pediatric cancer research, enlists the participation of numerous brands and is promoted extensively in stores. (See "Ahold Chains Spring ..." in Related Articles.) The program benefits The Jimmy Fund/Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Johns Hopkins Sidney Cancer Center, the Children's Cancer Foundation and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
This year's effort again leverages Stop & Shop's sponsorship of Major League Baseball's Boston Red Sox and Giant's similar pact with the Baltimore Orioles, while adding the New York Yankees to the mix for Stop & Shop's Metro New York stores. From April 15 through July 14, shoppers who donate $1 at checkout receive a scratch-off game ticket awarding instant prizes ranging from $10,000 (to two winners) to $2 (to 12,000); store gift cards in denominations of $20, $10 and $5 (9,125 in total); and free product from more than 200 participating brands.
The participating brands are identified at-shelf with special tags bearing the "Triple Winner" logo. The lengthy lineup includes Procter & Gamble's Olay; Kimberly-Clark's Kotex; Clorox Co.'s Glad; Campbell Soup Co.'s Campbell's; Nestlé's Edy's and Purina; ConAgra Foods' Marie Callender's; Boehringer Ingelheim's Zantac; PepsiCo's Gatorade and Lipton; and Johnson & Johnson's Aveeno.
For at least the sixth straight year, Nestlé's Edy's Grand provided a special overlay to the program. The ice cream brand joined with Stop & Shop in the New York area for a day of in-store product sampling, and also pledged five cents from each sale of three select SKUs from April 15 through June 9 to Memorial Sloan-Kettering.
In addition to ceiling banners, stanchion signs and other P-O-P materials, promotion for the campaign includes circular features and home-page leaderboard ads.
Stop & Shop has been staging the "Triple Winner" program since 1991. (See "Stop & Shop Stages Jimmy Fund Drive.") Giant-Landover adopted it in 1995.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Key Travel Teams Up With Action Against Hunger

Key Travel, a leading supplier of travel to the not-for-profit sector, is delighted to announce that humanitarian organisation Action Against Hunger has been chosen as its Charity of the Year. 

Key Travel staff voted for one of three shortlisted charities to become their Charity of the Year. Action Against Hunger, an international humanitarian organisation with life-saving programmes in over 40 countries, came out top as the employees’ chosen charity.

Key Travel staff across the country will take part in various activities throughout the year to raise vital funds for Action Against Hunger. Money raised by Key Travel staff will help the organisation to save the lives of malnourished children around the world and provide communities with safe drinking water and sustainable solutions to hunger.

Steve Summers, Chief Executive of Key Travel, says: “Key Travel is delighted to be able to support Action Against Hunger in its global fight against malnutrition. Our staff have an excellent track record for raising money for charity and I am sure that they are looking forward to applying themselves in support of this very worthy cause.”

Jean-Michel Grand, Executive Director of Action Against Hunger, says: “We are delighted to have been chosen by Key Travel staff as their Charity of the Year. Our teams are working tirelessly to save the lives of malnourished children around the world and we are helping five million people every year.  Our partnership with Key Travel is a great opportunity for us to work together to fight child malnutrition and help to put an end to world hunger.”

Action Against Hunger is currently responding to the humanitarian emergency at the Libya - Tunisia border as well as supporting families in Ivory Coast as they rebuild their lives following the recent crisis.  For more information about Action Against Hunger visit

Key Travel is the UK’s leading Travel Management Company (TMC) dedicated to the not-for-profit sector and specialises in getting charity and humanitarian workers to difficult places in a safe and cost-effective way. For more information about Key Travel visit

Friday, June 3, 2011

ING and MTM Technologies Partner to Donate Computers to Common Pantry in New York City

ING Financial Services, Inc. and MTM Technologies presented the Yorkville Common Pantry (YCP) with $150,000 of new computer equipment and services, providing New York City’s largest community-based food pantry with technology upgrades to help strengthen its mission of reducing hunger.

The donated equipment includes 28 computer workstations, three network printers and two computer servers. The comprehensive system overhaul will make the YCP more technologically advanced than many large and medium-sized corporations, enabling staff to more efficiently perform tasks such as business accounting, ordering supplies and inventory control.

Elaine Clark, Managing Director of Corporate Communications for ING, and who also serves on the Board of Directors for YCP, said, “The Yorkville Common Pantry serves a vitally important function for thousands of New Yorkers and ING is extremely pleased to have been able to facilitate MTM’s generous donation of computer equipment and services that will help to enhance the organization’s operational efficiency.”

“MTM’s donation is reflective of our goal to be responsible corporate citizens and supportive of important charitable causes,” said Steven Stringer, President and CEO of MTM Technologies. “The Yorkville Common Pantry is dedicated to improving the lives of New Yorkers and we are proud that our technology and services will help further this important goal. MTM’s suppliers, including Cisco, Citrix, NetApp, Ingram Micro, Wyse, Microsoft, Appsense and Trend Micro, helped make this initiative possible through donations of time and equipment and we greatly appreciate their assistance and support.”

Stephen Grimaldi, Executive Director of the YCP, said, “We are extremely thankful to MTM for providing us with this substantial donation, which will greatly improve our efficiencies and ultimately help us provide more assistance to New Yorkers in need. We serve more than two million meals annually and offer a range of educational programs and homeless services, highlighting the importance of this substantial technology package. The YCP is also grateful to ING for connecting our organization with MTM and helping to make this donation a reality.”

MTM Technologies serves as an Information Technology vendor to ING. Through its relationship with the company MTM learned of the technology needs of the YCP. MTM visited the YCP and has subsequently committed to not only updating the organization’s equipment, but also to performing a revamp of its entire information technology system.

About ING Group
ING is s a global financial institution of Dutch origin offering banking, investments, life insurance and retirement services. As of 31 March 2011, ING served more than 85 million private, corporate and institutional clients in more than 40 countries. With a diverse workforce of about 105,000 people, ING is dedicated to setting the standard in helping our clients manage their financial future.

About ING Commercial Americas
ING Commercial Americas, a division of global financial services company ING Group, conducts a wide range of international financial services, offering corporate finance, financial markets, debt capital markets, corporate and structured lending, and M&A advisory services. ING Commercial Americas provides in-depth client coverage, local knowledge and product expertise in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and the USA.

About MTM Technologies
MTM Technologies is a leading national provider of innovative IT solutions and services to Global 2000 and mid-size companies. Partnered with the top-tier technology providers and with offices from coast to coast, our unique solution-based methodology, combined with our experience and expertise, has enabled thousands of industry-leading organizations to effectively address their business needs, optimize the returns on their IT investments, mitigate risk, and focus on growth and profitability. Additional information is available at

About the Yorkville Common Pantry

The Yorkville Common Pantry (YCP) is dedicated to reducing hunger while promoting dignity and self-sufficiency. YCP champions the cause of the hungry through food pantry and meal distribution programs, nutrition education, basic hygiene services, homeless support, and related services. YCP’s community based programs focus on East Harlem and other underserved communities throughout New York City. More information is available at