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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct. 26, 2008
    Posts
    187

    Default Part Business Part Charity?

    I am planning to start a project, part of whose focus will be giving back to the community and involving customers in the process.

    The basic idea is that for every x number of items sold, we will give away Y item to someone in need (we have multiple ideas on things to give away, although I believe we have settled on something specific, and we know what the product will be, but my business partner doesn't want to promote the idea in detail until the product is ready to go).

    So, without going into too much detail, I will say that the items we are planning to sell are going to be relatively small (<$15) and the item we will be giving away will be large (>$50,000). It isn't going to be a raffle type thing- the item will be going to someone in need, not to someone who has purchased a product.

    We do, however, plan to make the giveaway customer involved (i.e., customers help us decide who will be receiving the item given away).

    In a way, this will be sort of like TOMS, but on a larger scale, as it won't be something where we are giving away one of the product for every one sold.

    So far, we've gotten excellent feedback from others on the idea, but COTH is always much more...real? realistic? practical? Than most, so I am looking for feedback from y'all.

    So, out of curiosity- what do you think of the idea?

    If you could purchase a product where part of the proceeds were going to help those in need, would that make you more likely to purchase the product (this is in an industry where typically people don't offer to give back from their profits)?

    Does potential involvement make you more interested in the idea? (so, with a lot of organizations [Red Cross, United Way, etc.], you give money to help others, but you don't necessarily get to choose where your donation goes- or you aren't involved in choosing who gets the donation. Does the potential to help make that decision make the idea seem more interesting?

    Any suggestions on things that would make you more or less interested in this idea?

    Pitfalls or things to avoid?

    Any sort of feedback would be greatly appreciated (and once we get things a bit farther along, I plan to share more details!).

    I know it is a little difficult to provide extensive feedback without knowing exactly what I am talking about (and the value of the product to you specifically).

    But the price of the product, at the lowest level (there may be different options- we haven't decided yet), will be around what you would spend on coffee at Starbucks every morning. If you knew you could purchase a product at that price point, and some of the proceeds would go towards something that would definitively change someone's life (immediately), would you be interested?
    Last edited by murieics; Feb. 3, 2013 at 06:46 PM. Reason: Added additional information



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct. 26, 2008
    Posts
    187

    Default

    As a separate but related question, is there a specific portion of profit/proceeds you would want to see going towards the "giving" that would make you more or less likely to participate?

    Or is it more of a perception thing? (it's an idea that you feel strongly in favor of, that you wouldn't be able to do by yourself, so the idea of being able to help someone in that way would be enough to make you interested in participating)

    We are hoping to make this something that everyone will be interested in getting involved with, which is part of the reason we are trying to keep the cost of the product low.

    So, for example, with TOMS- I feel like there has been widespread interest in TOMS, and lots of people own lots of pairs of TOMS, but the more expensive price tag might make some people less likely to participate (no, we aren't doing anything related to shoes- TOMS is just a sort of example that everyone has heard about, so it make sense to use it as an example).



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan. 26, 2006
    Location
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Posts
    4,699

    Default

    Your idea appears to be on the same sort of line as habitat for humanity's restore retail outlets



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct. 26, 2008
    Posts
    187

    Default

    That's an interesting comparison- I never thought of it that way.

    In a way, I suppose it could be compared to that, although it would be a new product rather than a donated product, and hopefully the product will be something that provides a more widespread usefulness or entertainment value than the reStore.



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan. 17, 2008
    Location
    Dutchess County, New York
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    4,195

    Default

    Are there other suppliers of your main product? If I were choosing between two similar products I'd choose the one that gave to charity. But I wouldn't go out and buy the product simply because it made donations.

    You talk about giving something to "someone" in need and making it public. Are you really referring to a charity or not for profit? In which case, publicize away! But if it is a specific person I'd imagine there's a good chance they'd like to remain anonymous.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct. 26, 2008
    Posts
    187

    Default

    There are a lot of people that supply the main product- but most don't give specifically to a cause (at least not that I know of- it certainly isn't something that is publicized well if they do). As of right now we haven't totally decided if we are going to give through a charity or to a specific person. We were thinking to give to a specific person- and allow our customers to be involved in the decision making of the who (we would pick the "finalists" as it were, and then allow our customers to choose who they would most like to see helped).



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan. 17, 2008
    Location
    Dutchess County, New York
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by murieics View Post
    We were thinking to give to a specific person- and allow our customers to be involved in the decision making of the who (we would pick the "finalists" as it were, and then allow our customers to choose who they would most like to see helped).
    Without knowing the specifics, this sounds creepy to me.



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct. 26, 2008
    Posts
    187

    Default

    It isn't a scholarship, but for argument's sake, let's say that we would give someone a scholarship. We would pick the finalists, then people would have the opportunity to vote on who they would like to see receive the scholarship.

    Still seem creepy?



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan. 17, 2008
    Location
    Dutchess County, New York
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    Default

    Less so with a scholarship, but the idea of a bunch of people judging several high school students is what I don't like. Presumably they are all qualified and decent candidates or they wouldn't be finalists. It is a lot of people judging other people that I don't like. Judging charities, fine!

    You probably could come up with a way to craft it to minimize that aspect, though I'm not sure how.

    I am in the process of starting my *own* business, with similar sorts of issues (well, I'm trying to come up with equestrian sponsorship ideas that are out of the box) so best of luck as you work through these issues!



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug. 12, 2010
    Location
    Westford, Massachusetts
    Posts
    4,088

    Default

    I agree with SMF11...the concept of a bunch of random customers choosing a single individual to give something of $50,000+ value to is off putting to me. Sounds too "reality show"ish, where the prize is awarded by people not necessarily educated in the subject at hand (in this case determining "need"). I can't think of too many very big ticket items that would be needed by a single individual like that...a car/truck? A big piece of equipment? Home rennovations (like handicapped accessibility)?

    If it is an item that could be used by a charity or a community, something with that much value would probably be better given to a group like that.

    And/or, find a charity to work with and let them, with their knowledge of need in a particular area, decide where it goes. That's how TOMS works...they work with charitable organizations to find the need and distribute the shoes in a manner that best meets it.



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct. 26, 2008
    Posts
    187

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by SMF11 View Post
    I am in the process of starting my *own* business, with similar sorts of issues (well, I'm trying to come up with equestrian sponsorship ideas that are out of the box) so best of luck as you work through these issues!
    Good luck with your project as well! So far the process has been fun and challenging all at the same time.

    Quote Originally Posted by Canaqua View Post
    I agree with SMF11...the concept of a bunch of random customers choosing a single individual to give something of $50,000+ value to is off putting to me. Sounds too "reality show"ish, where the prize is awarded by people not necessarily educated in the subject at hand (in this case determining "need"). I can't think of too many very big ticket items that would be needed by a single individual like that...a car/truck? A big piece of equipment? Home renovations (like handicapped accessibility)?

    If it is an item that could be used by a charity or a community, something with that much value would probably be better given to a group like that.

    And/or, find a charity to work with and let them, with their knowledge of need in a particular area, decide where it goes. That's how TOMS works...they work with charitable organizations to find the need and distribute the shoes in a manner that best meets it.
    This is part of what I am trying to determine. Would people like that they are being given the chance to help determine who is selected to receive the help, or would they prefer to allow someone else to make the decision?

    Since we would select the initial pool of candidates, anyone selected will be someone who would need the item and be able to benefit from it.

    I guess I am trying to decide if the idea having that "reality show" type quality to it is something that people like, as it allows them to participate more fully, or if it is something that is off-putting to them, as then it seems more like exploitation than actual help.

    I know that I definitively fall in the latter category (I would like to know that the person benefiting is actually someone who needs it, but wouldn't want that person's life to necessarily be publicized in that way)- but that is part of why I am wanting feedback from others.

    As someone mentioned, it could also be done in such a way that people get to help choose some aspects, without actually dragging people around in the limelight, so to speak.

    So perhaps let customers help determine the type of person they want to help, or the area that the person would come from, or that sort of thing without actually making a decision about the "most needy" person.

    I kind of thought that the interaction of the whole idea would be part of what draws people to it. That they are helping others, but that they also get to feel like they are a part of the process, even though they aren't necessarily physically providing the benefit themselves. I hoped that the process itself would perhaps help to foster a sense of community and giving.

    Is this a realistic view, or is it too idealistic?

    My views of the whole thing may be somewhat skewed by the fact that I have always been someone who leans more strongly towards giving my time rather than my money (not that I won't give money too, but I just always like to spend time and effort helping others, rather than just writing a check). If I am passionate about something, I want to be elbow-deep in it, I don't want to just write someone a check and be done with it.



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