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.

1 comment:

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