I am not sure that anyone "waits" instinctively to make a difference. The reason some companies do wait is based on their initial investment thesis and mission. In other words, companies at the heart of their enterprise have a reason for being and making money. In many cases, companies who are making a difference from a social perspective, are doing it as an afterthought, based on external pressure and therefore it becomes a "nice to have" not a "need to have" in their business. Businesses that don't build giving back into their corporate DNA from the start, may have trouble altering their DNA to make a difference once the course has been set. Successful companies are often pressured to give back. If the company responds, and what they come up with is not authentic, it can seem disingenuous to consumers.
If you're an entrepreneur you have the fantastic opportunity to build your business model around contributing and giving back on multiple levels (but ONLY if the founders believe in the mission - body, mind and spirit). Early on at U-Be-Livin-Smart we asked the question: how impactful can our brand be to consumers beyond just the mere utility of eating our products? This is a much more authentic and deeper place from which to start.
Here are some thoughts for start-ups on what they can do to make a difference now if they believe in a "core DNA" social mission.
Build a natural connection
It's important to consumers that your cause makes sense based on what you're selling. If you're a shoemaker, don't give to Habitat for Humanity, but if you do, supply workers with shoes! Since we make highly nutritious, nutrient-dense muffins and vitamins, we knew that we had the ability to impact the health of not only those fortunate enough to purchase our products but for those who rely on local food banks as well. With our food donation program (ours, meaning our consumers along with us as a company), we have made it our goal to feed 88 million North Americans in the next decade who are underprivileged and undernourished. With the Feed 88 Million program we hope to humanize a problem that feels at best marginalized and at worst completely forgotten by society. There is a child or adult within 15 kilometers of you right now who is hungry and undernourished. For us that is tragic given how prosperous our country is.
Make it mean something
In my opinion the companies who give back the best, approach it from a personal place. We make healthy food - obviously we like to feed people. On a personal note, I remember as a child how our local food bank helped my Mom as she struggled to raise six of us. One in eight Canadian households experiences food insecurity according to a recent report by the Canadian Institute of Health Research. When we launched our company U-Be-Livin-Smart last year, we knew that having a food donation program was just as important as being profitable and in fact we started our program from day one. As a result we've already fed 80,000 individuals with the help of our consumers.
Make it about local communities
In order for consumers to feel connected to the cause and your brand, giving back needs to happen in their neighborhood. Our modest donation program (the need is far greater than our program) keeps the giving local with a grass roots approach. Our product is donated in the same community a purchaser lives in so the ability for the individual to see his or her "small and simple impact" is there within their community.
Make it about the consumer, not your company
Let's face it -- without our consumers there would be no company. In order to build a community around a way of life (eating healthy in our case) we need to come together for the greater good. By designing a program that is fueled by the consumers purchase decision, you put the consumer in the position to positively impact their community. Don't steel their limelight by making it all about the company! This empowers consumers to know that their purchase decision matters.
Keep it simple
Don't ask customers to fill out paper work or give time or money. For example, with our program for every package of any of our products bought in a community, our consumer (through their purchase) and we at U-Be-Livin-Smart feed a needy individual in that community through a nearby food bank. All the consumer has to do is make the decision to purchase. Then it's our job to communicate how their actions are positively impacting others through social media and other marketing activities. Lastly, celebrate the milestones that your intentions have led to. I know we will.
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