Geraldine Gatehouse

Give Back, Get Back: Turning Online Activity Into CSR

By Geraldine Gatehouse
January 20, 2012

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As we are still breaking in 2012, now’s a good time to present some creative CSR ideas.

If you don’t already know about Springwise.com, I recommend that you check it out and consider subscribing to its complimentary newsletter. Its tagline, “Your essential fix of entrepreneurial ideas,” says it all, and some of them are just brilliant. Assisted by “a network of approximately 15,000 spotters,” Springwise.com scans the globe for new business ideas, delivering instant inspiration to entrepreneurial minds. Many of the ideas help support nonprofits and create social-responsibility communities, of which Snoball was a recent one.

Snoball aims to encourage viral charitable giving via a social platform that enables users to donate money based on an event or action. To get started, a user sets up a Snoball account and selects the criteria for a “Snoball,” which is the trigger for a donation that accumulates. Snoballs can be anything: a sports statistic, the weather, whatever. A Snoball can be linked to a date: For example, on the first of each month, the user will donate $2 to a specified charity.

With Facebook integration, a Snoball can be prompted by a status update, check-in, or wall post. Account holders can then share their Snoballs with friends not only on Facebook, but also Twitter and foursquare. They will encourage those with similar interests to participate and start Snoballs of their own. Users can select from 1.6 million nonprofits to which to donate.

Snoball retains five percent of every donation to cover its costs, while the remaining 95 percent goes directly to the specified charity.

CSR Idea: Upon reading this, I thought that herein lies a great opportunity for a company to engage in a group Snoball. It would encourage cooperation, teambuilding, and creativity within a company, and it could be used to raise funds for a nonprofit that the company wishes to support. 

Other supporters of the nonprofit could be encouraged to join. In talking to John Ludlow, chief strategic officer, there is an advanced feature for the Snoball platform on the horizon. Named Snoball Fight, it would enable employees to choose some activities and goals—run, work out, garden, volunteer—and log the time of involvement.

An activity could trigger a donation as low as one cent per person, but that amount would be accumulative when many are involved, and the total raised could then be translated into a dollar donation from the company.

Another great idea comes from California-based Ark (an acronym for Acts of random kindness). It works in a similar way to SwipeGood and Pennies, which allow users to donate to their specified charities when the services round up their credit card purchases to the nearest dollar and donate the difference. From Springwise.com: “Billing itself as “Internet for good,” Ark lets users earn money for the causes they care about simply by going about their usual online activities.

Ark has forged partnerships with Google, Amazon.com, eBay, and LivingSocial to direct funds to charities. Users begin by logging into Ark with their existing Facebook accounts and granting permission for the two services to connect. Users go about their business online—conducting searches, making purchases, and sharing sponsored links, for example—and Ark’s affiliated advertisers and retailers pay for that traffic, and revenue is accumulated under users’ account.

When users want to donate some of those funds, they simply choose a cause and click a button and that charity is credited. The service is free for both users and charities. Using the service, consumers have raised almost $6,000 in less than three months, according to the company blog.

CSR Idea: Again, if this were to be done companywide, mundane activities such as buying office products could help the charity being supported. This is another simple way to give back without requiring a lot of time, management, or resources. It could also be operated in conjunction with the charity and its other supporters.

Given that my passions include repurposing, recycling, and reuse, my last pick from Springwise.com this month is my favorite. Springwise.com tells us: “Givmo is a free online service that helps consumers get rid of unwanted possessions while donating to charity at the same time. The site donates $1 to charity for every item recycled.”

Now in beta, Givmo is “like an online Goodwill or Freecycle on steroids with a charitable twist,” in the New York company’s own words. Users begin by simply taking photos of the items they want to unload and posting them on the site; they can also just email the photos to give@givmo.com.

From there, other Givmo users across the country can search or browse the site for items they need. When they find something they’d like to have, they simply agree to pay the shipping cost for the original owner to mail it to them. The owner then packages and ships the item at any UPS drop-off location using a Givmo prepaid shipping label, secure in the knowledge that the item will continue to be used. 

For every item recycled, meanwhile, Givmo donates $1 to its currently featured charity partner. Though it hopes to expand, Givmo currently only operates in the continental United States.

CSR Idea: This is another way that a company could encourage giving via its employees, creating a program that combines the efforts of all for the good of many. It is a simple solution to create goodwill, camaraderie, teamwork, and cooperation among employees, just by building on what many people do regularly anyway.

I hope these few ideas will give you some inspiration to incorporate CSR into your company, whether it is a one-person organization or a multimillion dollar corporation. True leadership comes from passionate individuals. I encourage you to take a leadership role in CSR and impact the lives of others for the better while getting back the many benefits derived from the act of giving.

Quote of the Month

I don't believe that the solutions in society will come from the left or the right or the north or the south. They will come from islands within those organizations, islands of people with integrity who want to do something. —Karl-Henrik Robert, Founder of the Natural Step

Geraldine Gatehouse is an independent planner, speaker, and instructor with a passionate belief in the value and potential global impact of CSR. She is based in southern California, a member of Meeting Professionals International, a Site Classic 2012 committee member, a 2012 Site Southern California board advisor, and a member of the IMEX America team. She can be reached at geraldine-g@cox.net, via her 

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