There’s a major problem with the social mission of most every traditional company in America: they don’t sell their social impact. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered what charitable causes a large company donates to only to find that I have to dig through about 20 web pages to figure it out. And even then, they always leave many questions unanswered: how do you help this charity? Why do you help it? How are your employees engaged with it? How does this actually fit with your mission? Why is this the most effective use of your charitable dollars and time?
The fact is, they don’t answer these questions because they seldom have an answer. More often than not, corporate charity is nothing more than an after thought – something companies do as part of some vague notion of their corporate responsibility.
We, as cause based leaders, must be like the best ones. Tom’s Shoes, Ben and Jerry’s, and several others sell their social impact. Now, before you cringe at that, let me explain… yes, I agree,.. true giving should be done without credit taking, and without putting the spotlight on yourself. That is the core of generous giving, I know… I know… but the simple reality is, people and companies are fumbling about in a hapless effort to prop up their version of creating social good. Most of them have it all wrong, and the only way it can be gotten right is for companies to start having a dialogue.
So, here’s my message for us: don’t be afraid to sell your social impact. Wear it proudly, make it a central part of your mission, explore how it fits with what you do as a company, engage your employees with it, and, most importantly, BUILD IT INTO YOUR BRAND. As a customer of your products or services, I will be proud to know that my involvement with you supports a social good – we consumers, now more than ever, want to know that our purchases are doing more for the world than providing an item for us! Sell me on what you’re doing for the world, why you are a good company. Do that well, and I will become a rabidly loyal customer. Do that poorly, and I’ll move to your competition, which has convinced me my purchase is also part of something bigger than myself.