Friday, July 22, 2011

Exploring Expertise: Verizon & Groupon Leverage their Competencies for Good

In my conversations with the leaders of businesses large and small, I have been intrigued by a motif I see running through effective philanthropic endeavors, and it's a pretty basic one. I'm starting to realize that any organization is at its best when it relies on its core competencies to drive not just its bottom line, but its good works. In other words, what are the capabilities or routines that propel the success of your business? How can you spin those to promote a nonprofit or help a cause?

Let me offer a couple examples that caught my attention. I recently upgraded my phone with Verizon Wireless, and received a postage-paid envelope in the mail along with my new cell. The envelope encouraged me donate my old phone to HopeLine, a program that collects old mobile devices and repurposes them, keeping batteries and electronic waste out of landfills, but also donating thousands of the devices to victims of domestic abuse for emergency contact purposes. Verizon does this via a unique nationwide partnership with numerous domestic violence prevention organizations around the country.

And the core idea is such a simple one. With cellular technology evolving so fast, many of us upgrade our devices pretty quickly, and of course Verizon has a vested interest in this - they sell more phones that way. This trend must have laid an intriguing question before Verizon: how best to put all those old phones to use?

Consider another example. The hot business lately seems to be Groupon, the deal-of-the-day site that regularly features a pretty staggering area of discount offerings and coupon deals. But they've also got a secondary arm called G-Team that specializes in "Supporting Causes & Causing a Scene." According to Groupon, "G-Team campaigns range from ridiculous flashmobs to fundraisers that benefit local community organizations. Every G-Team campaign connects you with enough people to achieve something awesome that you couldn't have done alone."

After all, isn't that exactly what the business does? They leverage huge discounts from retailers by guaranteeing an assured quantity of customers, plus a generous helping of free promotion in the process.

From there, G-Team organizers must have asked themselves, how can we utilize this quantity discount model to help causes in our communities and abroad? One of the answers came just a few days ago, when G-Team partnered with several global hunger prevention organizations to offer a three-day Groupon campaign, encouraging small-dollar donations to benefit displaced refugees in Darfur. An anonymous donor offered to match the donations, ensuring that participants got that trademark Groupon savings by seeing their donation doubled.

The effort was a success, enabling the World Food USA's SAFE Stove Project to purchase thousands of clean burning stoves to help in cooking and spare women the laborious and often dangerous task of venturing outside their encampments for daily wood-gathering.

So next time you're brainstorming ideas for charitable giving, ask yourself, what does my organization already do better than others? How can we leverage these competencies for the benefit of our causes? Sometimes well-honed routines can give small ideas a big reverb effect.

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