Co-Authored By Jake Kloberdanz, CEO and Co-Founder, ONEHOPE and Melissa Lake, Executive Director, ONEHOPE Foundation
As social impact becomes more relevant in today’s business world, we are quickly realizing that the business of impact is the business of the future. And like many other social entrepreneurs leading the way in this space, it is important that we educate all businesses to build a higher purpose into their models so that the most effective organizations in the world can also positively impact humanity in a major way. As the inventor of the phrase Cause-Centric Commerce, which explains and educates others on best practices in the growing trend to build social impact into a business model year-round, below I’ve included 7 tips on how to get started:
1. Find nonprofit partners that make sense for your company
Find a nonprofit partner that compliments your industry and that fits your company’s mission. This will make it much easier to get support from your team, customers, and business partners. For example, SoapBox recently branched out from bar soaps to add liquid handsoap to their product line. It made sense, then, for them to work with an organization to provide clean drinking water as a partner with their liquid soap. Just as liquid handsoap is an extension of bar soap, clean water for washing hands is an extension of providing soap for those who do not otherwise have access. Every bottle of SoapBox’s Liquid Handsoap provides a month of clean drinking water for a person in need with Raincatcher, thus inherently establishing a connection between the consumer, the product, and the cause.
2. Look for credible impact partners
Much like a business, it takes time for a nonprofit or a foundation to get off the ground and become successful. So, it is important to find impact partners that have been around for at least 2-3 years. Ninety percent of nonprofits fail within the first three years, and those that make it are more likely to have established traction and have reached critical mass to where the dollars given are going to be used in an effective and efficient way.
3. Relay quantifiable and transparent metrics
This is particularly important if you are in the consumer or retail space, as you want to make sure you are relaying quantifiable and transparent metrics when it comes to impact. By doing this, consumers know exactly where their money is going, how many trees they’ve planted or how many people received clean drinking water for each transaction. One of the role models in this space is the well-known organization, charity: water, that not only provides a clear dollar-to-impact ratio (every $20 funds clean drinking water for one person for 20 years) but also shows you the GPS coordinates for the well that you’ve helped fund and the people who are being impacted.
4. Make giving back happen year round
Making an impact is no longer something you just do during the holidays or for a one-off marketing campaign; it is something you make part of your company’s everyday character. It can and should be done year-round as a sign of commitment to giving back. Consumers can see through an inauthentic connection to a cause and prefer to feel the attachment from the company to the cause that is established with year-round giving. Just like in your personal life, commitment to a cause you are passionate about doesn’t end just because a campaign does. It gets deeper and becomes more meaningful allowing you to make an even greater impact.
5. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
If your company already has limited time and resources to put into social impact, don’t put more on your plate by launching your own foundation or public charity. Instead, partner with an already existing organization that does a good job and makes sense for your company. The ONEHOPE Foundation can help you do just that, through Social Impact as a Service (SIAS). They advise and lend some mindshare, expertise, and manpower to help your company build social impact into its DNA.
6. Set a Vision to Be A Part of Something Bigger
Making people feel part of something bigger than their own individual impact is key. Set a lofty impact goal for your company and help them believe in it by making it quantifiable. This year, Boll & Branch set a goal for 2014 of providing 5,000 victims of human trafficking with a safe place to sleep for one night with partner Not For Sale. They set that goal and worked backwards on how much they could donate per sheet set and figured out how many they’d need to sell. This number was relayed to supporters, customers, partners, and internal teammates, and together they are well on their way to hitting this goal.
7. Don’t be Afraid to Set Your Goals High, but Make Them Attainable
Everyone wants to be challenged, but no one wants to hit only 50% of their goal. Like good sales goals, good social impact goals should create something to stretch for, but not be something unattainable. When you are first starting off, it is always good to plan conservatively for the public and aim to over-deliver internally. As you gain more traction and understanding of what impact the Cause-Centric model makes on your business, you can get more aggressive and more accurate with your impact numbers over time.