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How the Theory of Reciprocity Encourages People to Donate More

December 3, 2013 Comments

CausoraGuest post by Kai Buehler, CEO & Co-Founder at Causora

Nonprofits have been long struggling with the age old question: How do you get people to give more? From solicitations in the mail with free return address labels, to commercials with hungry children or homeless puppies that pull at your heart strings, charities have tried it all. Researchers have been studying the issue and they’ve found that some gifts work well, while others, like little trinkets, do not incentivize people to give. Here are some insights on giving we’ve come to understand as we build Causora, a one-for-one giving platform that rewards donations.

Studies show that one way to get donors excited and to come back is to reward them with small gifts that are related to the nonprofit’s mission statement. Describing thank-you gifts not as rewards, but as a means of furthering the charity’s goals, also works well. For example, a mug or tote bag that has the nonprofit’s logo printed on it to raise awareness for the cause allows the donors to feel that they are helping the charity by accepting the gift.

Secondly, public recognition of donations continues to be an effective strategy to drive donations. Gifts that send a social signal about the donor like tickets to exclusive galas and auctions may positively affect the propensity to donate.

Another interesting study was conducted by the German researcher Armin Falk who looked into the size of gifts and the reciprocity effect. As a social construct, reciprocity suggests that in response to receiving something or benefiting from a favor, people tend to feel a subtle return obligation and might be more inclined to donate, and Falk’s study concluded that a bigger “gift” amplifies the readiness to donate. His study was comprised of 10,000 requests for charitable donations that were sent to three groups: Participants in the first group received a letter asking for a donation, the second group got the letter and a free postcard and envelope (“small gift”), whereas the last group received a package with four postcards and envelopes (“large gift”). The study showed that the group who received the small gift donated 17% more while those with the large gift donated 75% more than the no-gift group.

Taking these findings one step further, Causora is a new one-for-one giving platform that has hit on a way that allows charities to reward donors with significant rewards (no return address stickers or tote bags) while tying the gift to altruism, a feeling that increases giving. Causora’s online platform allows you to give to your favorite nonprofit and in exchange, receive a gift card from socially conscious merchants for the same amount (eg. donate $20, get $20 to spend). Nonprofits can sign up for free and will receive over 90% of all funds generated on the platform.

Here’s how Causora works like a ‘loyalty program for charitable giving’:

1. Causora users donate to their favorite cause, choosing from over 200 charities including the Red Cross,, Habitat for Humanity, Boys & Girls Clubs, and Amazon Watch.

2. Users receive the same amount in Causora credits that never expire.

3. Users redeem their Causora credits for exciting rewards like restaurants vouchers, spa visits, wine, flowers, Zipcar credits, or a GOOD magazine subscription.

The rewards are donated by socially-conscious merchants who believe in giving back, so donors can feel good about supporting both their favorite charity and these merchants, while also getting a reward for themselves or their friends. By leveraging the power of human altruism, reciprocity, and sense of community, we can re-imagine and re-scale philanthropy.

For more information about the author and Causora, go to


Why #GivingTuesday Is The Most Selfish Thing You Can Do

November 26, 2013 Comments

It is so wonderful to see individuals and communities rally around the spirit of giving at a time when so much of the culture is focused on what we can purchase for ourselves. That’s why joining next week’s #GivingTuesday movement can be so rewarding for an individual, community, or company. Let’s examine why:

  1. 1.    Personal Satisfaction

Irrespective of which industry we work in, human beings have an innate desire to find meaning for themselves in their own lives. Culture, through various media and content, guides our search for meaning in various directions. Some point towards money, some point towards fame, and some point to being important in some relation to others. Yet, as many of us discover (often too late in life), the fulfillment we seek can be found through our contribution to others. It’s only when we give ourselves that we give our lives meaning. In the absence of this realization, too many people spend much of their lives seeking to draw attention to themselves which never fills that nagging void to be meaningful in relation others on this planet.

  1. 2.    Business Benefits

Whether you’re a start-up, entrepreneur or large corporation, each entity now finds itself challenged by the new demands of the social business marketplace. First among these are new consumer expectations looking to the private sector to play a more powerful role in finding solutions to the social crises that affect all our lives. Each of these crises are threatening in their own right,  but they are terrifying when they compound. These crises include: obesity, healthcare, loss of biodiversity, climate change, childhood mortality, disease, and the list goes on. As such, no matter their size, the smartest companies are rising to this challenge by bringing their mission and core values to life through their marketing in order to ensure they are relevant and meaningful to their customers’ lives. One may only look at the powerful examples of IBM’s “Smarter Planet”, Patagonia’s “Don’t Buy This Jacket”, and Nike’s “Better World” to realize the top marketers in the world have now recognized the importance of contribution to their reputation, employee productivity, and customer loyalty.

  1. 3.    Global Benefits

The challenges humanity faces is to meet these compounding social crises with equal force. Time is now more limited than ever, especially when you consider the rising global population and its knock-on effects to all aspects of society. As such, many individuals, organizations, and corporations have embraced the realization that we are far stronger together than we are alone. These crises demand our collective focus and efforts if we’re to truly make a dent in the expansive challenges we face as a species and a planet.

#GivingTuesday is an incredibly powerful expression of these key realizations. Its promise is not just the immediate satisfaction ofmaking a contribution to others and participating in a collective effort which rewards you with a sense of community, but also that you get to witness the scale of social impact that a collected effort alone can achieve.

For these reasons, #GivingTuesday stands as a monument to the personal, professional, and global benefits to the individual by complimenting their own healthy self-interest with service to the collective good. The program gives each many options  to participate, whether it’s as a social media ambassador, a donor, or a volunteer in support of one of the non-profits to benefit from this day of giving.

Each of us has something we care about and #GivingTuesday is our opportunity to bring our best selves to bear on the change we know is needed in our world and we encourage everyone to participate and reach out to others so that we can truly discover the personal benefits of working together.



Unilever and the Integrity of Brand Storytelling

November 25, 2013 Comments

Unilever project sunlightWith the launch of Project Sunlight, Unilever has taken another leap forward towards what is increasingly recognized as the future of effective social marketing. Central to such leadership is the recognition that a brand needs to lead with its social purpose to ensure the brand is meaningful and relevant to customers lives. But more than that, what Unilever has done better than any other brand right now is to demonstrate the integrity of their storytelling through both the parent company and its product brands.

This was powerfully demonstrated with the launch of Project Sunlight this week. For years, sub-brands that used to benefit from the relative protection of the corporate veil didn’t feel compelled to define what the company stood for. But under the leadership of Paul Polman, Unilever has put its shoulder squarely behind its core positioning of sustainable living, which overarches all the messaging related to its product brands.

Project Sunlight takes this one step further by integrating the company and product brands into a single purposeful movement. Framed around the company’s core mission, “To build a brighter future,” Project Sunlight enlists the various sustainability, cause marketing, and foundation efforts of its many product brands in the service of generating acts of sunlight that collectively serve to fulfill its mission. In doing so, Unilever recognizes that well informed and media savvy consumers are now looking behind the product brand to the parent company, and have a far higher expectation of accountability and transparency across all the company’s brands.

This is not without parallel’s, for brands today sit at the intersection of compounding social crises such as obesity, GMO’s and lack of access to clean water, fast changing social technologies and rising customer activism. In response, the smartest marketers are seeking to mitigate risk and build their reputations by putting their shoulder behind their social impact work, engaging in conversations, and operating with greater transparency in order to inspire greater customer goodwill, loyalty, and ultimately sales.

The benefits of such an approach are many and include: protection of the company’s social license to operate, mitigating the risk of damaging consumer activism, reputation enhancement by earning consumer goodwill based on the good work the company does, marketing spend optimization due to an alignment between company and product brands, and employee and consumer loyalty.

Viewed in this light, the rationale behind Unilever’s decisions appear almost self-evident because there is so much upside and efficiency’s to be found through such an approach. But anyone with an understanding of the complexity of operating a multi-national corporation that includes dozens of household name brands will recognize that such a singular and seamless commitment is no small effort. In doing so, Unilever has not only positioned themselves for continued leadership across multiple categories and within the marketing world, but they have set a powerful example to other brands that will help motivate the private sector to play an ever-increasing role in scaling social change.

What Unilever has recognized, however, is that there is an enormous first-mover advantage to be enjoyed. By taking a risk to establish a company-wide point of view, they also get to choose exactly which key emotional property or promise to the world they want to lead with. As more and more brands rise to this challenge, the window of opportunity for their competitors will shrink. That does not mean Unilever is off the hook- good intentions must now be backed by real actions that yield tangible results around the globe, and the methodology and metrics by which to measure the social impact of a brand are perhaps as complicated as committing to such an effort itself.

Yet, by taking such a bold position, Unilever has demonstrated those new found qualities that define leadership in a fast-changing social business market place. Commitment to social purpose, a healthy appetite for risk, and a recognition that only through authenticity, transparency, and accountability can a brand transcend a product category, industry, or even market, and become a mainstay of popular culture their customers want to see succeed.

Create your unique brand story and marketing strategy for 2014 with our 8-Module Social Branding Blueprint



Story vs. Data: A Battle to Fix the World

November 22, 2013 3 Comments

It was such a pleasure to attend the Social Innovation Summit at Stanford this week and the experience confirmed what we see as a fundamental tension between Story and Data, underscoring predictions of the future and how we facilitate social …

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Free Training Tuesday: 6 Case Studies From the World’s Smartest Brands

November 19, 2013 1 Comments

Today’s video, Social Branding Strategies from the World’s Smartest Brands, walks through six major brand case studies and lays out the strategy, tools, and tangible results of these super successful campaigns. These best-of-breed campaigns exemplify many of the concepts covered …

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How Virgin Atlantic Just Gave Us a Master Class in Social Branding

November 13, 2013 0 Comments

Many brands are doing surprising work today but Virgin Atlantic is one that consistently captures the attention of not only the airline industry but the media landscape at large. Last week, they did this yet again with the launch of …

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Free Training Tuesday: 10 Steps to Leverage Customer Activism and Protect Your Brand

November 12, 2013 3 Comments

We hope you enjoyed last week’s Free Training Tuesday video all about the key technology trends that are reshaping brand engagement as we know it. In today’s video, Customer Activism, you’ll see that companies are now in a dynamic dialogue around accountability with their customers and how …

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3 Ways to Build Local Customer Communities Like Lyft, TOMS, and Airbnb

November 6, 2013 1 Comments

It seems that brands that are great at building large, engaged digital followings are also expert at growing local customer communities.  Here are three ways your company can connect with your supporters offline and build your reputation as a key …

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About Simon Mainwaring

We First training and consulting helps the world’s most innovative brands tell the story of the good work they do in ways that build their reputation, employee productivity, sales and social impact.

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