Non-Profits & Socially-Responsible Companies

Aug 18, 2008 - 3:33 pm 1 by

Non-Profits & Socially-Responsible Companies With Global Interests in a 2.0 World

The Web has changed how we do everything, including giving back to our fellow man. What does the nonprofit world look like in the Web 2.0 world? Technology has grown by leaps and bounds since the dawn of the Internet as a communication vehicle. It has changed the ways we give back and communicate with our constituents, and new platforms support entire communities. Learn from experts about the latest developments in community and technology for the non-profit sector. Moderator: Brian Morrissey, Digital Editor, AdWeek Speakers: Jamie Welsh, Founder & CEO, 10% Solution Xavier Helgesen, Co-founder, Better World Books ? from Better World Books Better World Books (BWB) is the first speaker. From their website: Better World Books collects and sells books online to fund literacy initiatives worldwide. With more than two million new and used titles in stock, we’re a self-sustaining, triple-bottom-line company that creates social, economic and environmental value for all our stakeholders. They started selling books via multiple sites, and now have their own website as well. They want to create a brand where people can vote with their dollars, support literacy with their purchase, and support the environment, as they use carbon-neutral shipping. Their proceeds go to support literacy. They have a group on Facebook, they sell excess books for libraries and help them raise money. Jamie Welsh from 10% Solution is up next. They help companies become more socially responsible. We 2.0 = Total transparency = Putting your money where your mouth is before you open it. They help organizations figure out how to effectively work in a 2.0 world. 2.0 has changed a lot of things and the way things are done, and their company wants to help people to use them in the proper way. What not to do. She first talks about “greenwashing” and “givingwashing”. Companies need to use transparency and truth. Givingwashing example of someone donating $25,000 to Katrina victims, then spending $100,000 making sure everyone knew about the donation. You need to make sure that your external message matches up with what your company actually does internally. What to do? Figure out who. Who is going to make a difference? Who can help? Break down silos, make sure it isn’t just a couple of people doing something, but organized for whole company. You can bring in an outside company such as hers, or other companies (missed company names here). The companies can help you get your social responsibility set up. Do a test drive. Don’t just do a Facebook app, but check with outside people and inside people, see if it will be something you actually use. Look at the tools available, such as Flickr, Facebook, etc. (missed rest). Fifth step: stand back, and get ready for feedback. It is a two way channel. You need to be ready for the feedback, it isn’t just a one-way communication. Q&A How hard is it to sell companies on the “why”? How do you make the case with the current economy? She has found little impact due to the recession with the organizations they work with. She suggests looking at latest issue of Fast Company, as there’s a good article about Clorox and Sierra Club and their environmental campaign. People are understanding that even though we’re in a recession, they still need to get involved with this, that this is the direction that everyone is going. To BWB: how do you mange being a company yet still have a focus on the non-profit aspect of things? Missed all of answer, but need to keep Jamie:Gen y is coming in and asking about social responsibility. In an interview, you need to be able to answer to job candidate that yes, you are socially responsible, and be able to show it. Again, transparency is a key. What are the three things that holds most companies back from embracing this? Amount of work involved, amount of work involved, and amount of work involved. The companies do manage to overcome hurdles once they do decide to do this. You need to convince the companies of why they will love it once this is done. They may be reluctant to start, but are grateful by the end of things. Xavier: It really helps to have a cause that makes sense. With the books, it made a lot of sense to support literacy, as opposed to something like the Humane Society. For Google, with the majority of their money coming from ads, it make sense to give away some of their ads (via the Google Grants program) for non-profits. It is easier to be socially responsible today than it was twenty years ago. Companies are now being recognized for this, consumers are taking social responsibility into account in their purchases, and employees when they select an employer. Jamie: You need to look at what’s the best fit for your company. Get a plan for what you’re doing, don’t just choose an idea that you can throw money at. Need to be part of the business plans, how to incorporate it into a sustainable business and branding. There may be hard parts in the evolution of how things work, especially between big and small organizations. Example of small organic farmers and companies like Costco selling organic products under their own name. How do your differentiate yourself when everyone is saying they’re socially responsible? Better World Books has partnered with another company to make sure they do this. Rewrote bylaws to make sure that they are accountable to their mission and not just shareholder value. Today things are being blended. It’s not just 100% pure donations to a non-profit, or 100% for-profit. How do you be both socially responsible and make a profit? There is at least one fund that helps support this type of company that gives a social return as well as economic return. It can be hard to measure the social benefit of what you are doing. Carbon offsets are one thing that is easier to quantify and measure. Jamie also talks about benchmarks and the ROI that you can attribute to your social good. This is a challenge right now in this space. Jamie suggested looking at REI. They’re a non-profit, yet look like a “real company.” Question for BWB: Audience member bought a book for four dollars with free shipping, she asked how the company could make money. Those books are low margin, but orders usually have multiple books and larger dollar amounts for orders. Another audience member asked how to compete with places like Amazon that are huge and have lots of marketing budget. BWB can get to smaller markets that are not as viable for Amazon, such as shipping English books to Germany at a low cost.

Live coverage of this session is provided by Keri Morgret. Please excuse any typos and grammar errors on our live coverage notes.


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