Embedded Philanthropy: The Future of Giving

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Embedded Philanthropy: The Future of Giving

Incouraged Communications Blog Features Benevity
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Benevity featured on the Incouraged blog - Embedded Philanthropy: The Future of Giving at http://bit.ly/dwM5cA

Summary

Incouraged Communications featured Benevity on its blog in the post called Embedded Philanthropy: The Future of Giving

From the post:  What’s the next, deeper level of consumer and employee engagement?  What’s the mechanism for leveraging corporate philanthropic dollars to  affect more meaningful social change while still benefitting the corporate image?

Imagine the Future of Charitable Giving
Take a minute and imagine the future of charitable giving for you as an individual…what does it look like?  What technology is involved?  How integrated is it into your everyday life?  Well, buckle up and prepare for an amazing glimpse into the future of charitable giving as envisioned by a Calgary-based company called Benevity.  More than a few of the concepts I discussed with CEO Bryan de Lottinville quite frankly blew me away.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010 - 1:00pm

CONTENT: Blog

Embedded Philanthropy: The Future of Giving

Involving consumers and employees in corporate philanthropic efforts has grown significantly in scope and breadth in recent years.  Cause marketing and cause branding have become a marketer’s tactic-du-jour touted everywhere (including this blog) as the best way to engage not only the attention but also the hearts and minds of consumers and employees alike.  While these efforts run wide, few effectively delve into a company’s larger social responsibility efforts in a meaningful way.

What’s the next, deeper level of consumer and employee engagement?  What’s the mechanism for leveraging corporate philanthropic dollars to affect more meaningful social change while still benefitting the corporate image?

Imagine the Future of Charitable Giving
Take a minute and imagine the future of charitable giving for you as an individual…what does it look like?  What technology is involved?  How integrated is it into your everyday life?  Well, buckle up and prepare for an amazing glimpse into the future of charitable giving as envisioned by a Calgary-based company called Benevity.  More than a few of the concepts I discussed with CEO Bryan de Lottinville quite frankly blew me away.

An attorney-turned-growth-company-exec, de Lottinville started Benevity when he realized the legacy he wanted to create was more than “fixing up companies to sell them” though he’s racked up quite a track record in doing so, most recently with a game-changer you’ve probably heard of: iStockphoto.com  He was first introduced to the business of cause as an advisor to a Toronto-based company revisioning traditional consumer loyalty programs into donation-based programs.  de Lottinville describes his perspective on the charitable space:

I came from a user-generated content site (iStockphoto) that has turned an engaged community into a wildly successful business. I have seen first hand the power of micropayments, crowdsourcing, empowered choice, and (to use a slightly worn term) “democratization”.  So it was through that lens that I looked at the current state of philanthropy and donation efforts.

I was troubled by many aspects of the philanthropic landscape (and still am).  The vast number of duplicative not-for-profits across all pillars, the high cost of fundraising, the relatively small percentage of annual donations coming from corporations and notably, the duplication of infrastructure across NPOs and their costly struggle with the allure of the destination giving site – there are literally hundreds of thousands of charities trying to get people to come to their site to donate and build an online community.

In a world where time is the true scarcity and people across all demographics seek greater meaning in all that they do, why not go to where the people and the transactions are already aggregated, create a mechanism to easily donate gifts of any size to any charity through a variety of means on sites they already trust, and create a win-win-win for corporations, individuals and charities?

With those goals and issues in mind, Benevity created an embeddable, user-driven microdonation platform that can be integrated into any company’s existing transaction environment, on their terms and under their own brands.

Giving Goes Transactional
And so Benevity was born.  In short, anywhere a company does business, online or off, whether internal or external, Benevity can embed philanthropic giving.  Implementations range from internal fundraising efforts routed through a corporate intranet to e-commerce transactions where a donation is added onto a purchase and anything in between (more on this at Benevity’s website).

An Online Banking Example
It might look something like this:  imagine logging into your online banking account and one of the main navigational tabs is labeled “My Giving”.  Click it and you’ll see your virtual “Personal Foundation” that includes your charities of choice, the percentage allocations to each, the recurring or one-time donations you have made from your accounts, a rolled up tax receipt, and perhaps your current accumulation of the bank’s “donation currency” that you’ve generated through activity within the bank.

Pretty slick, huh?

But wait, it gets better.

The Big Bang for Your Giving Buck
Now you’re ready to distribute your charitable giving dollars.  And perhaps you’re compelled to select certain local or national causes because the bank is matching your donation, effectively leveraging their corporate philanthropic dollars.  Again, de Lottinville explains:

What Benevity has created is a way to help companies truly “do well by doing good”, as trite as that sounds, and to give money away intelligently.  The landscape of philanthropy is changing, as are conventional notions of cause marketing.  It’s no longer good enough to attach your brand to a polar bear or other cause of the day and hope for some amorphous brand lift.

In our view, what some refer to as “slacktivism” (click-to-vote-for-a-non-profit) campaigns are only a small step toward real engagement because the vast majority of people who vote for their specified non-profit or project don’t win.  If you say that you’ll help me do good and I vote for a cause that I know does great work but doesn’t get on your corporate radar, am I more engaged in your philanthropic efforts, or less?  The web and social media have given consumers the power to impact your brand, so the more you treat them like they matter, the better off you’ll be.

At Benevity, we’d rather see consumers and employees have a meaningful seat at the table and be able to vote with their wallets (regardless of the size of the donation) as a way to unlock and allocate corporate dollars.  Instead of a company choosing a single cause to align with, they can choose many under one or more pillars and/or use matching offers to create bias toward those causes with which a corporation chooses to align.  With our software, a company doesn’t have to empower full choice, so they can create customized portfolios of non-profit beneficiaries or leave it open to choose any registered charity.  They’re also able to set parameters around how much to match per contributed dollar or set maximum dollar or timeframe limits.

We’re Only as Limited as Our Imagination
The implications for this type of software and vision are only as limited as our collective imagination.  Imagine how this might change the face of online advertising when a website that enables its users to direct charitable giving dollars upon checkout presents a charitable corporate partner to match the user donation via a branded window.  Bryan de Lottinville hopes these types of transactions will become a seamless part of our online experience in the future:

Our vision is that Benevity services will become a cultural utility – we’d like to make giving any amount to the cause of your choice as prevalent (and easy) as leaving a tip at a restaurant.  Today we all have so many opportunities to effect change.  We’re certainly not a silver bullet for CSR and community investment – we’re an additional feather in the quiver.

What we’re able to provide is a platform that offers businesses of all types and sizes automation and flexibility behind the scenes; a highly customizable giving engine that can power any kind of charitable initiative, making the company and its customers, employees and even suppliers authentic and transparent architects of the change they want to see in the world.  With a charity-agnostic platform to deliver the donation mechanics, the company’s challenge is to determine how they’re going to make that particular campaign sing.

What I love about Benevity’s model is the almost limitless potential for campaigns that harness matching corporate dollars, whether they’re consumer-facing cause marketing campaigns or internal employee giving efforts.  The Benevity software allows a nice hybrid of user-directed giving and cause branding in the ability to have an open platform of choice while still making a clear statement about the corporate cause of choice via matching dollar programs or customized portfolios.

What do you think about the concept of embedded giving?  What considerations are important to consider?  Share your thoughts in the comments section!

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Contact

Benevity
http://www.benevity.org
Keywords: Community Investment | Incouraged Communications | benevity | cause marketing | corporate giving | corporate matching | corporate philanthropy | embedded giving | employee giving | workplace giving

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