PR ON THE GO November 16, 2023

Making a Difference this Holiday: Ideas for Philanthropic E-commerce Success

Black Friday is coming up, and with 2023 and a cost of living crisis around the world, people are looking for deals.

“Consumer expectations are shifting, especially around price and convenience,” Google Chief Business Officer Philipp Schindler told investors last month. “We've seen four times more deals queries during the holidays versus other periods. 75% of users say they'll shop with those offering free shipping.” [source: Bloomberg Technology newsletter Nov 15 2023]

As we hunt for deals, let us not forget that the holiday season is about giving back. Giving warms the heart more than consuming. While shoppers are looking for great deals, they will always appreciate a shopping experience that includes a charitable cause.

There are simple ways to make a social impact in e-commerce. We asked our experts to share ideas and examples of e-commerce philanthropic campaigns to create an impactful shopping experience and give back.

  • Shop for a Cause
  • Get your brand ambassadors and employees involved
  • The One-for-One model
  • Angel trees
  • Limited edition items to promote a cause
  • Carbon Credit packages
  • Loyalty points for charity
  • Round-Up for Charity
  • Seasonal Giving Campaigns

1) Shop for a Cause

Emily Reynolds-Bergh, R Public Relations

"E-commerce brands can try "Shop for a Cause" campaigns. Collaborate with NGOs, where a percentage of each purchase goes to a related cause. You can work together on email marketing campaigns, digital ads, and even in-person pop-ups to help raise money and awareness at the same time."

2) Get your brand ambassadors and employees involved

Andrea Sok, SOK Influencer PR

"Partnering with a nonprofit during the holidays is a great way to further your philanthropic interests, boost sales, and generate funding for a cause. Carefully select the charity you want to partner with. It should align with your company's mission and values but also should be a cause your consumers care for or will at least want to know more about.

Work with the charity to develop a win-win opportunity and set a fundraising goal. Keep in mind that this is the busiest time of year for nonprofits so although you want to do good, asking the organization to commit many hours of staff time or to "introduce" you to their donors (yes I have seen this!) becomes a burden and you end up doing more harm than good. The most successful e-commerce philanthropic campaigns showcase a strong product with a percentage of every sale donated to the charity.

Get your brand ambassadors and employees involved by equipping them with messaging, images, and data about the charity's impact. Shout your fundraising goal from the rooftops and when you reach it, celebrate!"

3) The One-for-One model

Rakesh Bisht, Gleexa

"I recommend an innovative philanthropic campaign idea to you that aligns with the admirable One-for-One model championed by esteemed brands like TOMS and Bombas. Envision an e-commerce platform where individuals can shop while simultaneously leaving a lasting impact on the lives of others. Our shopping-with-impact campaign will operate under a one-for-one giving policy, which guarantees that for every purchase made, we shall donate an equivalent item to someone in need. Picture the delight and fulfillment customers experience when they discover that through their online shopping of essentials like socks or shoes, they have also enriched the lives of underprivileged individuals. This blend of retail therapy and altruism is bound to instill a deep sense of purpose and satisfaction in every single shopper."

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4) Angel trees

Tasia Duske, Museum Hack

"One neat idea e-commerce companies can use in holiday campaigns is a virtual version of "angel trees." Many philanthropies put up Christmas trees with paper ornaments that list desired gifts for children or families in need. E-commerce stores can curate a collection of items to be donated to people in need, at special price points. This collection can live on a landing page, or even could be a directory of individual wishlists -- online storefronts will already have either of these features. This approach gives the sensation of picking out and sending a personalized present a recipient requested and will cherish, versus simply donating money, which seems more impersonal. Not to mention, it gives the donor autonomy over what they choose to send, which almost gamifies the charitable act and makes it seem more fun. This campaign could be a "spend X amount and get a free gift to donate " or purchase a donation at a discounted cost. Once the customer has completed the action, be sure to send a heartfelt, personalized thank you mentioning their gift!"

5) Limited edition items to promote a cause

Priyanka Swamy, Perfect Locks Hair Company

"One effective approach is to use a Buy One, Give One (B2G) model. For example, for every purchase, one-third or one-half of the proceeds can be donated to a good cause. We’ve done this ourselves by teaming up with organizations that support cancer patients with hair loss. It’s an easy way to let customers know that their purchase is helping a good cause.

Another strategy is cause-driven marketing. Partnering with charities and running campaigns in which a percentage of sales over a certain period is donated to a specific cause is both effective and inspiring for consumers.

In addition, producing limited-edition items that are specially designed to promote a cause can also generate a lot of interest and engagement.

Don’t forget the importance of transparency and authenticity. Customers want to know exactly how their investment is making a difference. Transparency and clear communication about the impact you’re creating builds trust and drives engagement."

6) Carbon Credit packages

Christine Corbin

"Tip #1: Make it super seamless for customers to give back. Can you add a product to your site that's the equivalent of a charitable donation, like Reformation has done with their Carbon Credit packages?

Tip #2: Consider leveraging a gift with purchase to incentivise customers to donate. For example: could you offer a small gift card with a philanthropic donation of a certain price point? This has the double benefit of encouraging both a donation, AND a repeat purchase back at your brand."

7) Loyalty points for charity

John Pennypacker, Deep Cognition

"One idea for a philanthropic campaign in e-commerce is to create a rewards program that allows customers to donate their loyalty points to charity. This would incentivize customers to shop more and make it easier for them to give back. Alternatively, businesses could offer discounts on certain items when customers donate a portion of their purchase amount directly to a designated charitable organization. This could be done in-store or online, providing an easy way to give back while shopping.

Another option is for companies to partner with charitable organizations and donate a fixed percentage of each purchase directly to the cause. This could be a great way to ensure customers’ shopping habits positively impact people and the planet.

Whatever the approach, businesses need to make sure they are transparent about their philanthropic efforts – this can help build customer trust and encourage even more giving."

8) Round-Up for Charity

Jason Wise, EarthWeb

"Adding a "Round-Up for Charity" option to your checkout process is a smart move that will not only get customers more involved but also help people in need. In simple terms, the idea is to let customers round up their purchases to the nearest dollar, with the extra money going to a charity of their choice.

For example, imagine that an online store that sells home goods started a "Round-Up for Education" program. In this system, buyers can choose to round up their purchases, and the extra money is used to help fund educational programs for kids who don't have much.

Not only does this match your business with a good cause, but it also meets the growing demand from customers to shop in a way that is good for society. By adding the choice without any problems during the checkout process, you give customers an easy way to make a difference, which builds community and mutual values.

The Round-Up for Charity program can be a great way for businesses to show they care about the community and improve the picture of their brand. Showing that you want to make a change is important, and this makes a real link between your products and a bigger social goal. Being clear about the specific cause being backed makes the brand seem more real, which builds trust and customer loyalty.

In the end, starting a Round-Up for Charity program is good for everyone. Your customers will feel good about giving to a cause they care about, and your business will help make a real difference in the community. Adding a purpose to the buying process is easy and makes deals into chances to make the world a better place."

9) Seasonal Giving Campaigns

Draven McConville, Klipboard

"A Seasonal Giving Campaign is a smart and effective way to get customers involved and build a feeling of community. This idea includes starting a charitable project for a certain holiday or season and asking customers to do meaningful acts of giving during that time.

Think about a jewelry store that starts a "Holiday Hearts" ad, for example. As part of this kind of effort, a portion of the holiday sales are used to give gifts or basic necessities to families in need. This goes above and beyond the usual way of selling things. This method is great because it serves two purposes at once: it not only encourages the spirit of giving that comes with the holiday season, but it also builds a stronger bond between the brand and its community.

Businesses can use this effort to show their commitment to social responsibility by linking the act of giving with the happy mood of a certain season or holiday. It turns a business deal into a useful contribution to other people's well-being, which resonates well with customers who are becoming more aware of how their purchases affect others.

This Seasonal Giving Campaign not only improves how people think of the brand, but it also gives customers a shared experience that makes them feel like they have a reason in life. Businesses can show that they share their customers' values by putting an emphasis on community service and giving back to the community. Campaigns like these have an effect that goes beyond just making sales. They build a loyal customer base that supports the brand's mission to make the world a better place."


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