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Two Ways Companies Can Give And Gift Smarter

Written by Lynley Sides, published in Enterprising Women magazine Vol 14 No3

At the Enterprising Women Awards event in Florida this Spring, I was honored to be surrounded by women who exemplified two admirable characteristics (among others). They had a powerful sense of gratitude and commitment to giving back to their local communities and to global social issues. They also were savvy business leaders, able to think strategically, add real value through their products and services, and make decisions that build their bottom lines.

With the Fall season comes planning for holiday events, gifting, and charitable giving – all chances to express gratitude, spread goodwill, and make a difference. They’re also opportunities to build long-term value for your business and directly boost its bottom line.

Socially conscious company leaders should not apologize for creating business value from the gift-giving or charitable giving they do.

Companies of all sizes give gifts (a $17 billion industry) or give to charity ($6 billion) which generate goodwill and change lives for the better. But a study by The Conference Board says, to be sustainable in today’s business environment, it’s no longer sufficient for philanthropy in business to simply ‘do good’ or create a ‘golden halo,’ and “If company giving is to succeed in the long run, it must provide a financial return.”

If companies give gifts and give back in ways that are good for the world, appreciated, and good for business, it becomes possible for them to give more. The win is to be socially conscious and to do so in ways that win the hearts of customers and employees, inspire them to spread the word, and attract new fans and customers — and then measure the results.

So how can your company, regardless of size or industry, give gifts and give back in ways that create all of this?

Give Powerful Gifts

At Red Herring, during the Dot Com era, my group’s vendors sent us all sorts of gifts –- wine, branded shirts, “towers” of goodies, and so on. We gave most of it out around the office, some went to the landfill, and for sure, we weren’t telling our friends about the chocolates. The only gift I remember from those years was from a small agency, Swirl, that gave us the opportunity to donate, on their dime, to one of a few charities, and 10 years later, I’m still talking about them.

Since then, charitable gift cards have become more common gifts. At the same cost as traditional gifts, ones like Global Giving, Kiva, and Donors Choose have meaning for the recipient, change lives for the better, strengthen the company’s image, and don’t fill up landfills.

Building on this idea, The Glue Network, created charitable gift cards designed specifically for businesses. When companies give Glue cards, their customers or employees choose among global humanitarian projects and find something that’s meaningful to them. Because they choose, they feel grateful, remember the gift, and are inspired to share the company with friends and colleagues through the Glue social media interface, creating strong branding and PR.

When software startup Demandbase, winner of the San Francisco Business Times 2013 Innovation Award, switched to giving customers Glue gift cards, they received significantly more positive comments. Their customers often match their gift with personal funds and share posts about the good the company is doing – resulting in more good for social causes and for the company.

Charitable Giving and Cause-Related Marketing

People are nearly twice as likely to buy or recommend a product if it’s affiliated with a cause they care about. However, when a company makes a charitable gift, the cause may fit with their mission but necessarily, it’s not the one most of their customers would have chosen.

To drive greater business value, create causes-based experiences that allow consumer choice and provide rich social experiences. Voting campaigns by brands like Pepsi, Chase, and Gap have taken a step toward this but could go farther to create social sharing and direct business results.

On The Glue Network platform, companies empower their customers to give on their behalf, enlisting them as advocates to their social networks, and directly driving new followers, customers, revenue, and data. Customized with the look and giving options desired by the company, the platform and can be integrated with its website to encourage purchases or other actions.

Fun footwear brand, MADiL, is deeply committed to giving back. But instead of choosing one specific cause like Toms Shoes or Warby Parker, they empower their consumers to choose where their giving dollars go, as they buy. With over 90% of consumers participating, co-founder Devra Elze is a true Enterprising Woman who’s building a strong brand, deep loyalty, and social sharing while giving back to causes from malaria nets for babies in Africa to education programs in local housing projects.

Good for the World and Good for Business

Women business leaders care deeply about giving back, showing appreciation, and making smart decisions. By gifting and giving smart, you can win your customers and employees’ hearts and directly create business value, leading to more giving and better business performance for years to come.