How Businesses are Using Social Causes to Stand Out

Published March 31, 2018 by Laura

Much has been said about the Millennial generation, but one thing for certain is their growing influence in the world economy, especially in regards to consumer products and services. Millennials are those born between 1982 and 2004 (1) This group is now classified as the largest generation with a total U.S. population of 79.41 million, which is 4 million larger than the now, second-largest generation, the Baby Boomers. (2) Naturally, they have massive purchasing power.  For these reasons, it’s important to consider what’s important to them– in this case, it’s social cause.

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Maybe it’s the impact of the 2008 economic recession that has led Millennials to be one of the strongest proponents of corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR is defined by as:

“A company’s sense of responsibility towards the community and environment (both ecological and social) in which it operates. Companies express this citizenship (1) through their waste and pollution reduction processes, (2) by contributing educational and social programs, and (3) by earning adequate returns on the employed resources.”(3)

Many people want to know that their hard earned cash is going toward something positive. According to a study by Cone Communications, 70 percent of Millennials will spend more money on brands that support causes they care about, which is a considerable amount of money given Millennials offer $2.45 trillion in spending power. (4) This, in a addition to the growing number of Millennials rising into leadership roles, may be one reason why we’ve seen an increase in corporate giving and philanthropy over the last few years. In 2016, over $18 billion was given by corporations. (4)

Appealing to Millennials and their purchasing power is just one reason why businesses should incorporate greater philanthropy efforts in order to improve growth in their business. Here, we’ll cover the top four ways businesses are using social causes to stand out:

1. Branding

In recent years, there has been a handful of businesses that have attributed a major portion of newfound success to the fact that they integrated a social cause into their business model. Companies like these are not only selling a product; They are selling a lifestyle, a sense of community, and the reassurance that they are doing good.

One company that comes to mind is TOMS shoes. From day one, they promised to give a pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair purchased. This one-for-one deal has resulted in over 60 million pairs of shoes being donated. (5) This commitment to doing good is the foundation of their brand. As TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie puts it,

“Built into our cost structure is the intention to provide great benefit to our customers because they feel like they’re getting to be part of something more than just a transaction. More and more [people] understand what the impactof their purchases are on the rest of the world. By doing that, we’re able to form more loyal customers; We’re attracting new customers.”(6)

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TOMS Shoes was valued at $625 million as recently as 2014, according to Reuters. (7) This is no small feat for a ‘mission that turned into a company,’ as Mycoskie puts it.

2. Marketing

Corporate philanthropy may very well be the next big marketing frontier. Small businesses have known for a long time that giving back to the community is not only morally right, but it’s good for business. Companies who back social causes and charities often receive free press and notoriety and seen in a positive light.

It gets really interesting when companies utilize their own product or services as part of their donation efforts, thus reinforcing their brand, product offering, and industry authoritativeness. For example, AT&T provided free cellular data in the post-hurricane Harvey-stricken nation of Puerto Rico (8), while UPS provided trucks and logistics (and a large monetary donation) to the relief efforts in Texas and Louisiana post-hurricane Harvey. (9) These companies offered up what they do best, and in return, were able to bolster their brands.

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Another great benefit of corporate philanthropy is growth hacking. It never hurts to add a social sharing element to a philanthropic campaign. Say, for example, that your company will match all donations to a charity for those who retweet your tweet with a specific hashtag attached to it. Not only will this enable you to exercise your values as a company, but you’ll also help to grow your brand.

3. Happy Employees + Happy Culture

Customers aren’t the only people of concern that are impacted by companies who do good. Employees want to know that their hard work is benefiting causes they care about; not just churning the cogs of capitalism. Further to that fact, it’s not just peace of mind that companies are getting with happy employees. A 2015 study by the University of Warwick found that happiness in employees results in an increase in productivity by 12%. (10)

Corporate Philanthropy leads to ‘engaged employees’ as the HR specialists of the world call it. But, what it really means is that a company’s employees will be more inspired, motivated, and enthusiastic. They will believe more in the company’s mission and their role in it.

One to one donations aren’t the only way companies can be involved in philanthropy, and it’s certainly the extreme case of giving back. Companies can match employee charitable donations, let employees use paid work days for volunteering, or encourage employees to choose a local charity to which the company will make a donation.

4. Tax Deductions

OK, let’s be honest here. Charitable donations are tax deductible, so why not kill several birds with one stone? What’s more, businesses can donate extra product inventory, goods, or property. While you can’t deduct your time (for say, volunteering), you can deduct mileage and gas. However, make sure to consult your accountant to know exactly what deductions can be made.

Looking for help with your next philanthropic campaign? We get excited about this stuff! Just ask us for help. We also have special pricing and programs available for non-profit organizations.

A special thank you to this blog post’s sources:

  1. Neil Howe and William Strauss, October 2004,
  3. “Definition of Corporate Social Responsibility,”

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