While drinking Athletic, a non-alcoholic (fake!) beer, I noticed that its box proclaims that it gives back 2% to local trails. I love walking trails, and I thought: the next time I venture to have a sober night, I’ll pick up another box of Athletic. (Thanks, Athletic, for giving out $2.5m in trail grants.) Warby Parker gives a pair of eyeglasses for each pair bought (they've given 10m pairs!), while Bombas does this for socks. Bookshop.org gives a percent back to small bookshops ($23m raised!). Businesses do this because it's nice—and because it’s: good for business. Charity motivates consumers to buy more or tell a friend about the good the company is doing, and then the friend may buy the magnanimous brand.
Let’s take some non-drunken inspiration from Athletic: if Bridge were to give money to charity, to what would we give? I believe it should be something that indirectly supports indie shops. There is a parallel between historic downtowns and indie shops. The older a retail community, the more likely it is to have small retail square footprints, which are ideal for indie stores.
I imagine us giving to a group like the National Register of Historic Places, which supports old buildings and spaces that are often in or nearby historic shopping areas. By doing this, we’d be indirectly helping local shops.
Or, we could support a shoe or bike charity. Walking and biking go hand in hand with local communities. A characteristic of older shopping areas is sidewalks and bike-able streets. New retail developments, in contrast, tend to have huge, warehouse-like square footage, lack sidewalks, and have multi-lane, dangerous roads. When I was in a Walmart in Panama City Beach, I felt like I was in a cheap football stadium. Instead of cozy streets and sidewalks, it had a massive parking lot, which previously could have been a forest--with a walking trail. Now it's a tarred parking lot with delivery truck bays. In general, you're more likely to walk (or bike) to local stores. You drive to big-box stores (or wait for Amazon to deliver). Due to this, when I recently created a 'Save Local' logo, I included a sneaker and a bike in the graphic. If there was a 'Support Big-Box’ logo, it would include a car and a cutdown tree. Supporting walking and biking are in line with our shop local mission. We could even team-up with Athletic's trail charity.
Giving proceeds to charity isn't free: it may increase a company’s costs and thereby its prices. Since we want to stay competitive with Shopify and others, it helps to look at other business-to-business software providers and see if they advertise that they gave to charity with each purchase. Does Shopify or BigCommerce give back with each purchase? No. I feel the reason is that when one signs up for a B2B service, the employee picking it often has to pick the most affordable service or the one with the best features. One can’t come to their boss and say they chose it because they support saving the whales. Donating a portion of each purchase is more common with retail goods, when one doesn’t have to justify the purchase to the accounting department. (B2B businesses do donate to charity, but it’s often a one-time donation and not on each purchase.)
When making a personal purchase, how you feel is part of the value, but that’s not the case when making a B2B purchase. If Bridge were to have a consumer-facing marketplace, which sells to the public, then it would make more sense to add feeling good and donating to charity as part of the value we deliver.
Which brings us back to the question, how can we help donate to charity? How can we give back to the community and those around us? I recently saw the movie The Menu, about a chef and his staff who take revenge on ungrateful customers, and this reminds me of the need to be generous with workers. What if we could help the workers at our stores? I think we could by enabling tipping. We could allow shoppers to give a tip during their online checkout that goes to the staff. If we raised $10k per store from our top 250 stores, that's $2.5m we can give to staff and their families. That's something we can cheers to with an Athletic beer.
PS ~ A special thanks our Bridge team. Not only do I want to help our stores help their staff, I want Bridge to show its gratitude to you. This holiday season, please know that I appreciate you and what you’ve done this year. Happy Holidays.