Stop Telling Everyone How Charitable You Are

How many times have you seen a company boast that they give a percentage of their sales to charity? Does it make you feel all fuzzy inside? Does it make you buy their product? I’m not doubting the business owners’ genuine interest in being charitable, but I know they are compelled to tell you about their charitable contributions because they think it’s going to help with sales. I have had many clients tell me that people like to buy from companies more if they also think their dollars are giving back.

They are misinformed.

Consumers buy when a need is being met. Period. People buy because of a socially conscious mission only when they already like the product and the product fulfills a need. If the mission is going to be a major factor in the purchase, it has to be a fundamental part of the product. Anything less than that, and it’s just considered greenwashing.

When It’s Authentic & It Works

Take one of the most famous examples of socially conscious brands: Tom’s Shoes. They give a pair of shoes to someone in need with every purchase. Their brand is completely intertwined with their giving and creates a visceral experience for the customer; you can actually imagine a kid in a poverty-stricken area receiving a new pair of shoes every time you buy from Tom’s.

But don’t overlook the other immensely important aspect of the business: their shoes are super comfortable and have serious brand recognition. If their shoes were ugly and uncomfortable, they could give away 10 shoes for every pair purchased and nobody would buy them.

When It Doesn’t Work

Brands are most successful when they are clear and focused about what they stand for, and live and breath their stand. If you stand for a socially conscious mission, then you must go all the way with it if you want it to inspire buying.

Giving a small percentage of sales away doesn’t inspire anyone and can even feel inauthentic, even if there are genuine intentions behind it, because it’s obviously an afterthought. And there’s nothing wrong with it being an afterthought! You’ve got a business to create, and if you also have the energy and drive to be charitable, that’s great, more power to you.

But why are you sharing that with your customers? Because you think they are going to be more likely to purchase from you. This is when it starts to feel inauthentic.

Does this mean being socially conscious is no longer attractive to consumers? Definitely not!

How To Be A Good Person & Win At Business– And Life

Giving back can help you and your business in ways you can’t even anticipate, so definitely do it. But don’t hang your hat on it unless it’s a fundamental part of the company. In that case, just give and feel great about it,, and focus on building your brand around what the company is really about.

Cover Picture taken by @PavanBahler of @OSFashion in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Artwork Credit: @KobraStreetArt


Rachael Baxter

Rachael Baxter co-founded CONSCIOUS Magazine with her sister, Elena Baxter. As the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Rachael develops stories featuring social entrepreneurs, community development, local to global initiatives, and more, and is constantly striving to capture the zeitgeist of the ever-evolving conscious culture movement. She is also Co-founder at Baxter & Co.