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Making an Impact: The Connection between Retail and Charity
Whether you’re a cynic or a saint, there is no denying the positive connection between business and charity. Whether it’s the commercial benefits (cynics!) or the millions of dollars raised, new models of giving are evolving as online retail develops.
Vera Yan and Katia Santilli, Co-Founders of Nimble Activewear, strongly believe in the foundations of giving. “It’s hugely important to the two of us as well as our team that we make a positive impact in the world and give back in any way we can.” Yan tells us. “Our charity partnerships have seen us raise over $26,000 for women’s causes. It’s something we’re really proud of.”
So how does Nimble decide which charities to support? It’s obviously a difficult decision for many businesses. “Nimble Activewear is a business created by women, for women, so when deciding what causes to support we focus on charities that are committed to helping other women in need, whether they’re in Australia or beyond,” Santilli explains.
Via the i=Change platform, Nimble has supported women escaping domestic violence through Women’s Community Shelters, educating young women in East Africa through Akilah Institute, and provided much-needed essentials to Syrian refugees through CARE Australia.
i=Change is a tech platform that integrates into an online retail site, becoming the customer’s final experience post-purchase. The retailer gives back $1 from every sale and the customer chooses where the donation goes. “The platform provides 100 percent transparency, uniquely enabling retailers and their customers to see in real-time funds raised and their impact,” explains Jeremy Meltzer, Founder of i=Change. “Several years ago, based on many challenging experiences I had in the developing world, I sensed women and girls’ empowerment would become the defining issue of this century. I also believed a business solution could resonate strongly, and support an enormous funding gap for organisations working on this issue.”
Good360 is another company helping in the charity space when it comes to retail. “Good360 is a matchmaker,” says Alison Covington, Founder and Managing Director of Good360. “We help repurpose brand new goods by directing them to the Australians who need them most. We bring together the people working to lift up Australian communities, and the spare goods of businesses. We connect surplus with need.”
Good360’s business partners (including BIG W, L’Oréal, LEGO, Woolworths and LUSH) have donated over $70 million of brand new goods to date. It has delivered more than 6.2 million items to Australians through its network of over 800 charity partners nationwide who work across 24 different cause areas.
Retailers and charities are both finding that its the consumers who are driving this push for partnership. St Kilda Mums, a Melbourne based charity that provides essential nursery equipment, clothing, books and toys for babies and school-aged children, has seen this first-hand. “Often, when we do a call out for urgent items such as nappies, we will see our followers tag supermarkets or nappy brands in their responses,” says Gill Whelan, Partnerships Manager at St Kilda Mums. “They want to see retailers respond and contribute, and when they do, the feedback is extremely positive. It can influence the consumer to also contribute by buying from that retailer and donating to St Kilda Mums.”
For St Kilda Mums, the partnership with Good360 means they have a powerful ally when they need one. “By leveraging their relationships with suppliers, Good 360 can fill a gap when we are short of some items, such as clothing for older children. We might do a call out to our supporters for these items and sometimes it’s successful and at other times less so,” Whelan explains. “Good360 can provide new stock so the quality is guaranteed, and we have timeframes around when we might receive it.”
Raising money for charities isn’t just about helping customers feel good about a brand or their purchases. “Our team gets a real buzz out of seeing the i=Change donations get higher and higher. Plus, the charity events we’ve held allow us all to connect with other women who are just as committed to giving as we are – it’s incredible,” says Nimblewear’s Yan.
“Knowing we’re making a difference to the lives of women in need is such a huge motivator for our team,” Yan adds. “The fact that consumers are now more inclined to align with brands that have a charitable track record is a wonderful bonus.”
While that ‘feel-good’ feeling is obviously vital for so many elements of business culture, the reality is that having a charity element is also a marketing strategy as well. “Ninety-three percent of millennials wish to shop brands that give back,” explains Meltzer. “So with consumers at the forefront of this movement, shopping is profoundly shifting to being values-driven.”
These values are assisting with conversions and helping with abandoned cart rates as well. “As brands give back on behalf of customers, as opposed to outdated models, (where customers are asked to ‘add a donation’), retailers are seeing this drive an increase in conversions,” Meltzer says. “Where customers see messages that the brand gives back before they purchase – retailers are seeing this reduce abandon-cart up to 6 percent. Giving back can now unlock new revenue for retailers – making them more profitable.”
“Every retailer is different in terms of what they want to achieve but benefits span from responsible business practices to increased employee satisfaction and consumer engagement,” Covington agrees.
It was important for BIG W, for example, to positively impact team morale and expand BIG W’s charity efforts at a local community level. “It was great to save the environment, help out the community and create a very positive reputation for the store and the BIG W brand,” said Big W’s Store Manager in NSW of the program.
Good360 has experienced extreme growth and has had to adapt its model accordingly. Its flagship Christmas Campaign (in which it offers free shipping and handling to Not for Profits and eligible schools) continues to be a huge success and has grown from $2.4 million of brand new goods delivered to Australians who need them in its inaugural 2016 campaign to $8.3 million in its second year and a record $21.4 million in 2018, its third year. It has also been busy implementing alternative distribution channels to meet the growing needs of its business partners and members. “These distribution channels improve operational efficiency by reducing logistics costs and environmental footprint and ensure we provide flexible delivery solutions including: Door-2-Door delivery and Click & Collect via our ecommerce platform, members picking up donations direct from a local retail store, bulk truckload deliveries to rural communities, disaster recovery programs (getting the right goods to the right people at the right time) and utilising mini Good360 warehouses with larger charity partners Australia-wide,” Covington explains.
Similarly, i=Change has grown rapidly. It is now integrated with over 60 iconic Aussie brands including Pandora Jewellery, Camilla, Nobody Denim, By Charlotte, Nimble Activewear and a growing list. “Collectively our retail partners have positively impacted the lives of over 257,000 women and girls globally,” says Meltzer.
In fact, based on donations of just $1 per sale from retailers, i=Change recently reached its goal of raising $1 million. Given the uptake of the platform and the success with retailers and consumers alike, the company is focused on a new business model to ensure continued growth for both the business and the charities it helps. “$1 million raised is just the beginning,” Meltzer tells us. In fact, it is launching a new day on the retail calendar called, Shop for Change, on International Women’s Day (Friday 8 March 2019). Brands will increase their donation from giving $1 to $5 for the 24-hour period, so Australians can shop brands committed to empowering women and girls.
The reality is that just as the e-commerce landscape is shifting and consumer purchasing behaviour is shifting, so too does the charity space need to evolve. These examples reveal the ways in which logistics, fulfilment, landfill, local and international charities are all interconnected. Furthermore, consumers are savvy and can quickly sense when retailers are leveraging charities for their own marketing gain or are truly contributing in the world in a meaningful way.