If you had to choose one word or phrase to describe Charitable Checkout, what would it be?
Interest Alignment. At its core, Charitable Checkout’s ‘secret sauce’ is that it uniquely aligns the interests of our disparate stakeholders. Our brand, celebrity, and non-profit partners, as well as the participating consumer, are all rewarded, economically and socially, through the use of our platform. For our part, in most cases we sell access to our platform on a pay-for-performance basis which means our interests are aligned with those of our customers. Everyone wins!
How do you define success for your enterprise?
We measure our success in a variety of ways. However, the overarching goal is to enable brands and retailers to gain and retain customers and increase engagement and sales as a direct consequence of helping to make the world a better place. Expressed another way, the more we are able to provide marketers with our no risk, low barrier, plug-n-play way to enjoy a profitable ‘triple bottom-line,’ the more I view our venture a success. And since our revenue is linked to the results we deliver for our partners, economic success for us is indicative that we have achieved these goals for our partners.
What is the one thing you wish you knew before you founded Charitable Checkout?
If anything, I wish we had come up with the idea sooner, but I can’t think of any particular piece of advance knowledge that would have been pivotal. Developing our unique cause marketing platform and business model has required, and will continue to involve, ongoing experimentation and refinement. Solving the big problems is a large part of the fun and, of course, it’s what separates the nice ideas from successful and scalable long-term ventures. The process contributes to building a strong foundation, both in terms of a cohesive team and mature products, for the company. I don’t believe in the efficacy of short-cuts. Although we continue to iterate, our guiding principles have not changed.
What is Charitable Checkout’s biggest success story to date? Why do you think that particular campaign was so effective?
In general the most successful campaigns have involved active celebrities and brands, and engaged and loyal fan bases. When our celebrity partners really make an effort to educate and motivate their fans and/or when our brand partners showcase a campaign front and center, we see the best results. It’s exciting to see a recording artist like Switchfoot raise thousands of dollars for its favorite charities, while at the same time generating goodwill and sales for their coupon sponsor, Hurley. In such cases, we’ve seen participation rates of over 15% in e-commerce and as high as 6.8% elsewhere. We are also very excited about new campaigns with The United Way of NYC and HGTV, respectively, which utilize our new 'Giving Squads' social giving competition feature.
What is the one thing you never want to hear (or, most want to hear) from a customer/user/client?
What we most want to hear is that we made a genuine positive impact on someone’s business results while simultaneously benefiting one or more worthy causes. However, general, non-specific praise, we can do without. When someone just tells us how awesome we are, what can we do with that? We can’t learn anything or improve the product or the way we conduct our business from sheer accolades. We like to hear ways in which our users and customers think we can improve our product. Apart from our own analytics, which give us a picture of the strategies with the most merit, hearing it directly from the people we serve is of the greatest value. For instance, we’ve had the great experience of partners suggesting new use cases for Charitable Checkout that we had never thought of. For instance, Yotel in New York City is about to launch a campaign that will play out (in addition to other channels) on their guest Wi-Fi splash page.
What compan[y]ies (other than your own) are you inspired by, and why?
Generally speaking, we’re inspired by companies that understand that the benefits of baking social responsibility into their business models can be realized while simultaneously positively impacting the (economic) bottom line. There are several companies out there that are doing great things in the space. We like Tickets-For-Charity which enables the sale of event tickets at competitive secondary market prices, a portion of which is donated to charity. We also like PledgeMusic, a social funding platform for music productions that includes a charitable component. Moreover, there are scores of very cool boutique social brands who succeed by combining giving back with commerce. TOMS Shoes and Warby Parker are great examples, and Roozt is building a marketplace featuring nothing but products from socially responsible brands. It’s also great to see huge companies like Whole Foods Market, Starbucks, and Quidsi (home of Diapers, Soap, Casa, Wag, etc.) integrating efforts to give back into their day-to-day businesses.
How has conscious consumption changed in the last five years, and where do you see it headed in the next five?
It seems that awareness of conscious consumption, or ‘vote with your pocketbook’ activism, has reached a tipping point of sorts in the last few years and marketers have been eager to experiment with ways to benefit from this evolving consciousness. Looking ahead, I expect that consumers will be even more empowered by technology to influence, and be influenced by, what their friends, families, and role models are doing and thinking. That influence will both drive and direct consumption. If we have anything to do about it, people will increasingly understand that doing the right things, or giving back, doesn’t have to painful; but is rewarding, both socially and economically.