You’re likely to have heard about Toms Shoes – an organisation that donates one pair of shoes to children in need for every pair sold. But did you know it’s a really easy for your business to do this too?
How? Through an enterprising business called Buy One Give One (B1G1).
In this blog post, I share a short interview with the founder, Masami Sato, who will be one of the first guests to appear on the Give-to-Profit Podcast.
Alisoun: The concept of Buy 1 Give 1 is such a simple idea, where did the come idea from?
Masami: My own business.
I’ve been an entrepreneur for the last 16 years. Before B1G1 I was a business owner running a food business and I started my business because I wanted to give back – one day. As we developed my business we were so busy running and expanding it. Being able to give seemed so far away because we didn’t have the time to volunteer or the money to build a soup kitchen, which we really wanted to do.
Then one day an idea came to me: rather than trying to do something big, how about giving back in a small way. We decided that donating a meal to a child for every product we sold would be something we could do straight away. I’d traveled around a lot as a child and so donating a meal to a child in India, every time we sold a meal was what we did first. That was the beginning of the B1G1 concept. We hadn’t heard of anything similar at the time. Toms Shoes started around the same time but we didn’t know of them then.
Alisoun: How did incorporating charitable giving into your business then make you feel?
Masami: When you have a dream but it’s not happened yet because you don’t have the time or money it doesn’t feel good. So to realise you can make a difference every day feels great. It was also good to see how our staff and customers wanted to be part of what we were doing.
Alisoun: What impact would you like to have in the world?
Masami: To create a world that’s full of giving – because a world of giving is a happier place!
Now through B1G1 we are here to help businesses implement effective giving by embedding giving into their everyday business activities, such as “every time we sell a product x, we give y (e.g. give access to water).”
But there is much more to this. When businesses start thinking about ways to make a difference and giving generously, they are more likely to embrace a giving spirit and a real sense of purpose.
Our real focus is to create the giving spirit where businesses and people are inspired by the contributions they are making. And if more and more people and businesses started to choose to buy from companies that are making a real difference, we can together solve many problems in our world.
Alisoun: How does B1G1 help businesses support social causes?
Masami: We list great projects from around the world by working with NGOs and charity organisations that are making a difference every day on the ground. We select our partners carefully to ensure the sustainability of their giving activities.
We break each project down into small units of impact, such as ‘plant a tree’, ‘help provide education to a child for a day’ or ‘give one nourishing meal one person in need’ etc. The giving in B1G1 can start from just one cent.
This way, any business can find a way to incorporate giving into their everyday transactions and activities. And a lot of B1G1 businesses use giving as a special gift for their team members or to celebrate special milestones.
And because of the way the impact is tracked, businesses that are giving via B1G1 are able to see and demonstrate their impact. We know from our community that our members find greater meaning when they do this.
Alisoun: With a community of business owners who incorporate social impact into their business, and charities from around the world, you must have witnessed some incredible transformations – of people, businesses, and communities. Could you share an example where a business and cause have both really benefited from connecting with one another?
Masami: In 2012, Karen Ormerod who had started a tiny marketing stall selling handmade fashion items on the Sunshine Coast of Australia joined B1G1 in 2012. When she implemented B1G1 in her business, she added an extra product tag to her products saying, “Buying this item changes the world” and explained how her business was giving back to make a difference for each and every product she sold.
Since then, her business, KOBOMO has created 153,289 giving impacts including 66,573 nourishing meals to refugee children in Thailand and 50,327 days of tuition classes to disadvantaged girls in Cambodia. Armed with a greater sense of purpose, her business has expanded.
Today, she not only has her own retail outlet in a shopping mall but also manages a fast-growing global online business.
And many of the worthy causes (the organisations that list their projects in B1G1) also benefit from being part of this community.
B1G1 tends to work with small to medium size charity organisations with a good track record. What they are great at is the way they work on the ground to create great impact. They work with communities long-term to identify best ways to create sustainable change. But these organisations might not be so good at marketing. Raising funds cost a lot for these smaller organisations.
When they are assessed and approved to be part of B1G1, however, they can attract additional funding from the global business community. And all we ask them to focus on is to create greater impact and to keep us updated with the progress. 100% of what they raise in B1G1 goes to their projects. B1G1 does not take any fee from them (unlike normal fundraising schemes) because the initiative is uniquely funded by the business membership model.
It’s a win-win model.
Small giving from small businesses can create maximum impact through great giving projects that are facilitated by smaller high-impact causes.
Alisoun: What do you see as the main benefits for a business of supporting social causes?
Masami: The most important benefit is how people in the business get to feel about what they do: leaders of the business feeling more dedicated to their mission and team members coming together to make a greater impact. And when people in the business are really ‘connected’ many other great things can happen.
More customers may support the mission of the business. Greater traction the business may create…
I use the word ‘may’ because the return of the giving cannot be expected. If the intention of the giving is to make a difference (and not to gain financially from it), it will definitely create greater impact in the business too. When people come together with genuine care to help others, a mission greater than who they are, they can achieve greater things.
And being able to create positive impact easily and regularly and monitor the progress is a great benefit on its own. Other benefits that we experience are simply bonuses!
Alisoun: Why is demonstrating social impact important for a business?
Masami: Because people care about the world. We are more and more connected these days through advancing technology, growing social media and shared knowledge base. We resonate with other people’s stories and we care more and more about the impact of our purchasing decisions.
More and more people are choosing their jobs based on whether or not the company makes any social impact.
Many talk about how ‘trust’ is the new currency for our greater success. But trust cannot be bought. It only comes from a genuine sense of caring, vulnerability, openness and honesty. And making things better for others should be the fundamental focus of a business – not just to maximise profits.
Making profits matter because, with increased financial capacity, we can create greater impact and benefits for those we serve. Having the clear purpose that everyone in the business understands is critical if it is to survive and thrive in this new world where more people are seeking greater meaning – not just practical value for money.
Alisoun: How do you measure the social impact of B1G1?
Masami: When we bring in new projects, we start identifying the impact by asking questions. Let’s say this charity organisation is an expert in building wells. First of all, we need to know that they have been working on the project for more than 3 years and have clear cost breakdowns. Once that point is cleared, we get into identifying the average cost of one well (e.g. $5,000), how long the well lasts normally without too much maintenance (e.g. 10 years) and how many people live in an average community to benefit from the well (e.g. 800 people).
Once we clarify all the information, we break down the project into smallest impact units. In this case, it can be the cost of building a well divided by the number of years and number of days in a year and then further divide that by the average number of beneficiaries. Now, you know how much it costs to provide one day’s access to water to one person.
When people are giving to the projects of their choice, we automatically track the impacts and then when we remit the funds to our Worthy Cause partners, we get the confirmation from them on the utilisation of the funds. After that, we do an annual review of each organisation to ensure their projects are running successfully year after year.
We also categorise the projects based on UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) too. This way, you get to see how you and your business are making progress towards creating more sustainable future too.
Alisoun: If there was just one more tip or insight you could share, what would it be?
Masami: The difference we make today is even more powerful than the great things we wish to achieve ‘one day’.
So often, people try to achieve something too big and end up postponing initial actions. We also hear from many business owners that they wish to give back when their business is more successful or when they have more time.
But if we think we can only start what we aspire to do in the future, we might never get to do those things. Life is unpredictable, as is out business journey. If we make our initial action small enough, we can all make a difference today and every day. Then, we get to enjoy the journey so much more.
And helping people who have greater challenges than us helps us remember the gratitude we can feel with all the things we already have.
You can find out more about Buy One Give One at www.b1g1.com or connect with Masami on LinkedIn HERE.
Donating a product for every product you sell is just one of the twenty-five strategies for supporting social causes through your business that I share in my Give-to-Profit book. You can find out more If you have found this blog helpful, you may want to check out my book HERE.
I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts – please do share your comments below.
Alisoun Mackenzie is The Compassionate Business Mentor, Author, and Speaker who inspires business owners and social entrepreneurs to turn their passions into profits and make a difference in the world.
She is also the author of two Amazon Best Selling books Give to Profit: How to Grow Your Business by Supporting Charities Social Causes and Heartatude, The 9 Principles of Heart-Centered Success
And the founder of The Heartabiz Hub a business network and training academy and has written the following free ebooks:
- The 9 Secrets to Signing Up Clients Without Selling (click here)
- 101 Ways To Attract Great Clients, With Heart, Integrity & Social Impact (click here)
- 52 Ways to Raise Funds for Charities and Social Causes Through Your Business (click here)
You can connect with Alisoun here:
- Alisoun’s website – www.alisoun.com
- Alisoun Mackenzie Facebook Fanpage (for tips on authentic living and business mastery) – click HERE
- The Heartabiz Hub Facebook Fanpage (for details about our courses and events) – click HERE
- Give To Profit Facebook Fanpage (tips on supporting charities and social causes) – click HERE