It’s Better to Give Than Receive

Dec 20, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

In the commercialized orgy that has become the American holiday season, many have seemingly forgotten the adage: “It is better to give than receive.”

According to some retail industry watchers, this year’s holiday season is different as the images of the personal devastation brought by Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami in Asia
and other events have made consumers and marketers more aware of how much we possess and how little others have.

Marshall Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group, told USA Today, “Holiday 2005 will be remembered as the year of giving to those in need. Retailers want consumers
to feel good about buying and helping others.”

David Hessekiel, president of the Cause Marketing Forum, said the move by American businesses to support charities has gained impetus in recent years. “The disasters have demonstrated
what companies will do. But the upswing really goes back to the public perception of corporations and corporate leaders falling from a low perch after years of scandal. Many corporate
leaders woke up to say, ‘We have to turn this around,’ ” he said.

Among the retailers combining commerce and causes this holiday season are Best Buy, Brooks Bros., Kay Jewelers, Talbots, Target and Wal-Mart.

Best Buy formed Toys for Teens in conjunction with the U.S. Marine’s Toys for Tots program. Bins are set up in stores for consumers to leave gifts at stores. Customers also have
the option of making a monetary donation at the checkout.

Talbots donated $1 for every dollar purchased in its stores for the first weekend in December to Save the Children. The retailer promised to contribute a minimum of $50,000.

Wal-Mart, off the heels of its great publicity related to Hurricane Katrina, has joined again with the Salvation Army to promote its Red Kettle efforts. Last year, the company
helped raised $17 million for the group.

Moderator’s Comment: Are consumers more interested in cause related retailing than in the past? What are the keys to be successful when a business aligns
with a cause or causes?

George Anderson – Moderator

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6 Comments on "It’s Better to Give Than Receive"

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M. Jericho Banks PhD
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 2 months ago

Cause-support seems to be stronger this year in our churches. More of them than ever are recommending specific retailers or retailer programs. Many mass merchants, malls, and large retailers already have church group relationships and cause-oriented programs in place, and more are joining in every day. Some church groups, when approached by promoters to support the opening of “Tales Of Narnia,” negotiated donations to various causes. By far the most pervasive types of support programs are those related to deployed troops. But, now that the fiscal power of the union between church groups and retailers is better understood, their support for victims of natural disasters is growing significantly as well.

Don Delzell
Don Delzell
15 years 2 months ago
I agree with Kai Clarke. Cause related marketing, as part of a profit motive, is anathema to the energy of giving. Corporations do not have an obligation to give to, support, or participate in any form of charitable enterprise – any more than an individual does. The choice to do so should be based on the culture of the corporation, as it is based on the individual’s personal ethos. Corporations already give back to the society they serve via taxes, employment, and provision of goods and services required by constituents of that society. Profit-driven cause marketing will inevitably fail, and create a backlash of cynical mistrust and doubt. It is my belief that Wal-Mart’s “Buy USA” program is one such example. The response of many companies to Katrina was to utilize their core strengths to assist the society they serve. No special PR accompanied the effort, and it was carried out with efficiency. Of CEOs and Chairman, I ask this: remain as true in your corporate charity as you would aspire to in your personal… Read more »
Mark Lilien
15 years 2 months ago

If the cause hits a shopper’s personal chord, the retailer’s success is much more powerful. A few retailers, including entire malls, sponsor shopping events using the mailing list of local membership organizations and charities, donating money to the cause(s). This is easily trackable, so the retailers and the charities can measure the success. Charity marketing can lead to partnerships that are much more impactful than simple donations. Home Depot supports the AARP, gives AARP members discounts, and uses the AARP connection to recruit staff. Some distribution firms use sheltered workshops for the handicapped to assemble displays and do their mailings. Many retailers could save money and improve their standing in the community if they did the same thing. And how many retailers go to these organizations to recruit permanent staff? You can bet that the recruits will have low turnover.

Kai Clarke
15 years 2 months ago

America is a giving country. Although this is a great alignment, and many organizations (like Wal-Mart and Costco) have well-defined charities, it is not the reason why their customers shop there. We cannot forget that retailers are here to fulfill the needs of their customers, and I have yet to hear about a customer who has indicated that they want to go to their favorite store so that they can donate to charities. Instead, they want to purchase products or services and, if they have the opportunity (or cash), they will then give. Most requests for donations are done at the cash register, after the sale is completed, or on the way out of the store. Aligning themselves with a charity is a great way to give, and it offers a great opportunity to create some positive PR, but we shouldn’t confuse it with a retailer’s allegiance to its shareholders to maximize profits.

Warren Thayer
15 years 2 months ago
I think people are more open to this sort of giving, especially since it’s so hard to get a Christmas list from family members who already have all that they need–and know it. I like those little tear-off slips at the cash register where you can have a $5 or $10 donation scanned with your purchase. For the tax nuts, might be wise to offer receipts that explain just how much is deductible, etc., for even small amounts. I’ve been surprised to find how many people care about that, for a buck here or a buck there. And it’d be nice if retailers could tie a big-ticket purchase to a $X donation to a list of causes that the buyer can choose from. Some folk still don’t want to give to the Red Cross because it once charged soldiers for coffee decades ago, so I’m told. (Sheesh!) And I once gave gifts of donations to a NYC shelter for homeless single mothers, and, believe it or not, took flak from some of the recipients! (They… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
15 years 2 months ago
There are, naturally enough, two sides to this issue. On the one hand, there does seem to be evidence that making it easy for people to donate to causes when they’re out shopping anyway makes it nice and easy and relatively painless. However, there are also people who prefer to make their own choices, in their own time, and not be harassed or harangued or made to feel guilty when shopping. Last year, and this year, many people in the UK have been making purchases from charity catalogues for things to go directly to the people being helped by the charity. Animals, farm implements, books, anything that they choose and something tangible rather than just donating cash that goes into a bigger pot and cannot be specifically measured or personalised. Sometimes these gifts are given in the name of someone the giver nominates, instead of sending a gift to them (i.e. I might give a goat in my daughter’s name rather than sending my daughter a gift) but often they are supplemental, an extra person… Read more »

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