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The holiday season is a time when many companies donate to charities, both to highlight their values and commitment to improving lives and to ensure a charitable tax deduction before the end of the year. With the economy continuing to struggle, you might think you can’t afford to contribute. But, supporting a cause can be a competitive advantage for your ecommerce business.

Here are four benefits of strategic giving that will convince you that you can’t afford not to give.

1. Build Stronger Relationships with Customers

Do your customers view your product as a commodity? If so, their loyalty will last exactly as long as you have the lowest price. When you compete solely on price, you’re attracting customers who aren’t loyal because they don’t really understand who you are or the value you provide.

Can you maintain the lowest price in your industry in the face of increasing competition? If not, a strategic giving program will help define the values, mission and benefits of your organization and offer compelling reasons beyond price and convenience for customers to do business with you. If they view the world like you do, they’ll become invested in your products or services and your mission.

My organization, Opportunity International, helps women in 28 countries work their way out of poverty. This holiday season, we are partnering with both companies and individuals to celebrate Giving Tuesday. Founded in 2012 by New York’s 92nd Street Y in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, Giving Tuesday is designed to counter Black Friday and Cyber Monday by reminding people that the spirit of the holiday season is also about community, not just consumerism. More than 18,000 corporate and nonprofit organizations are participating in Giving Tuesday this year by harnessing the power of social media to create a global moment dedicated to giving around the world. This is a great way for your business to get involved in giving back.

2. Know Your Customers Care About Philanthropy

A Cone Communications and Echo Research study from 2013 found that 82% of U.S. consumers consider corporate social responsibility when they shop. Two demographics particularly interested in philanthropy are mothers and millennials. If reaching women and young adults is important to your business, then giving could be an important marketing tool.

One of our strategic partners at Opportunity is clothing retailer, Evereve. Evereve’s donations are not only generous, they’re part of a strategic philanthropic mandate written into the company’s first business plan — to donate 10% of its profits to charitable causes that help and are important to moms. The philanthropic program gives their customers an opportunity to partner with the company to change lives, while also deepening their relationship with the brand.

3. Remember Your Employees See Giving as a High Priority

Giving matters to employees, too. A Hewitt & Associates study of over 200 employers with more than 100,000 employees found that companies who actively pursue environmental and social outreach efforts had more engaged workers.

This is particularly true with younger employees. The Pew Research Center found that 21% of millennials place a higher priority on helping people in need, while just 15% prioritized having a high-paying position. A spirit of purpose and the knowledge their work is helping to make the world a better place helps increase employee engagement, retention, morale and productivity.

4. Initiate and Continue a Meaningful Conversation

Once you’ve implemented a strategic giving strategy, be sure to promote your activities on your company website, blog, newsletter and other internal and external marketing vehicles. Make employees and customers an important partner in your charitable giving by inviting feedback on your activities.

Evereve CEO Megan Tamte and I spoke at a women’s leadership event in Minneapolis last year. She cited the company’s strategic giving as one of the biggest drivers of their success. The program keeps her and the organization focused on a broader mission in addition to fashion, helping create loyalty among customers who want to make a difference in the world, too.

An effective strategic giving program provides a way for your company to give thanks to customers and give back to the larger world community. Both will benefit you and your company. So this holiday season, I encourage you to embrace the spirit and discover how giving can give you an ecommerce edge.

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