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Carrie Pollare

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The Three G's: The New Trend In Giving (And 5 Companies Who Do It Right)

Posted: 03/18/09 02:33 PM ET

GIVING...it's something that most of us have cut way back on or even eliminated as our economy has slid into mayhem. No more checks to our favorite charities. No more fundraising events with their beckoning silent auctions. And, the charities/non-profit organizations, many of which are being called upon to support more impoverished people than ever (thanks also to the economy), as well as others in need, are feeling it...big time.

But, there is a new trend in giving that makes it affordable. It relies on what I'll call "The Three G's."

They are "Give, Get and Grassroots."

Let me explain. In a nutshell, you Give a little, Get something in return and join the Grassroots effort to spread the word, so that more people will give a little. Why? It's simple math. If each person can afford to Give just a little, then you need thousands, or even millions, of people, giving just a little, to have a big impact. So your donation is threefold: buying an inexpensive item, wearing your charitable purchase as a walking billboard to "advertise" the cause you are supporting and then spending some of your time to tell everyone you know about it. And, if you follow The Three G's, you are, in essence, contributing to a big donation to charity without a big impact to your checking account.

My brother (my business partner) and I created The Three G's to encapsulate a movement we're witnessing, as more and more companies are trying to make a difference in the world by donating a portion of their "proceeds" to charity. In fact, it is exactly this model we followed when we started "I'm Tired of..." bracelets. You buy a fashionable, eco friendly bracelet for just $10, which almost everyone can afford. Half of that sale ($5) goes to a charity, supporting the cause you choose. So, you Give a little, Get something cool in return and make a donation to charity. Next, when you wear your bracelet and tell your friends about it, you're now contributing to the Grassroots effort, that can help something like this explode and raise major money for many charities. It's all about building a huge community.

There was a famous Clairol commercial years ago that perfectly captured the definition of Grassroots efforts. A woman who loved her hair product told two friends, who then told two friends, who then told two friends and so on and so on. At the end of the commercial, the whole screen was full of women chattering about their shampoo, all started by one person telling another. The same can be applied to charitable donations. One friend tells another, "I just bought this cool bracelet that I'm wearing for $10. Check it out. Half the sale ($5) from the bracelet is being donated to a charity that's fighting world hunger. You should get one." And so it begins...

Companies that are trying to model themselves in this new way are, admittedly, kind of all over the place in their approaches and some, I think, are missing the mark. You'll hear everything from 1% of sales to 10% of profits to a meal for a hungry child or animal for every item you buy.

If a company is donating a piece of its "sales," it's very easy to figure out the exact amount of your donation. In our case, for example, we donate half the sale. So, if you buy 10 bracelets for $100, you know that $50 of that is being donated to your cause. But what if someone is donating a percentage of their profits? How do you quantify that? You have no way of determining what their profits are. What happens if there are no profits? Most of the companies that follow this method have their hearts in the right place and if they sell a lot, the donation could still be substantial. The consumer just has no way of knowing. So you have to be careful.

The Three G's principle is being used very effectively by more and more companies. Here are some of my favorites to get you started:

CommonThreadz
This is a non-profit organization that began by selling t-shirts designed by volunteer artists and donating 100% of its profits to buy school uniforms for orphans and vulnerable children in Africa. Without these uniforms, the children were not allowed to attend school. As I've said in this article, quantifying profit donations can be difficult, so you have to use your own judgment when you purchase from them. But, you can usually tell when a company is truly trying to make a difference. CommonThreadz has since expanded to other philanthropic endeavors for these children, as well. The t-shirts average $38. www.commonthreadz.org

Feed Bags
The "Feed Bag" is a cute burlap and organic cotton tote bag that, literally, looks like a stylish feed bag. Developed by model and activist Lauren Bush, in conjunction with the UN World Food Programme, it is designed to raise awareness and funds for hungry children. Each bag you buy feeds a needy child for a full school year. The original Feed Bag is available exclusively at www.amazon.com for $20. There are other slightly more expensive styles at www.feedprojects.org.

I'm Tired of...
Of course, you knew I'd include this one. Our mission is to raise money for important causes and associated charities via our $10 eco friendly bracelet, made out of recycled tires and metals. For every $10 bracelet you buy, we donate $5 (half) to the causes you choose. Even though our project is just five months old, our bracelets are already raising lots of money for such well known charities as Best Friends Animal Society, Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, Stop Global Warming, The Hunger Project, Breastcancer.org and Jenny McCarthy's Generation Rescue. www.ImTiredOnline.com

Newman's Own
Maybe you don't know that when you buy that bottle of Newman's Own salad dressing at the market, all of the profits are being donated to charity. Newman's Own has donated more than $250 million to thousands of charities all over the country since it began in 1982, including Paul Newman's "Hole in the Wall Camps" for children with life threatening illnesses, who get to have an unforgettable summer camp experience, free of charge. That's a pretty good indicator that your purchases are doing wonderful things for those in need. You can learn more at www.newmansown.com.

TOMS Shoes
Such a simple formula...You buy a pair of TOMS Shoes...cute, comfortable, almost slipper-like flats...and the company gives a pair of shoes to a child in need. So far, TOMS has donated more than 10,000 pairs of shoes to kids in Argentina and 50,000 in South Africa. www.tomsshoes.com

All of these and many more companies rely on "the kindness of strangers" to make their goals become realities. It goes way beyond just buying because the grassroots effort is so critically important. If we want to raise millions of dollars for charities, then we need to sell millions of bracelets. The only way that can happen is through some serious word of mouth. Your reward is knowing that when you buy Give, Get and Grassroots products, you are still GIVING, even in these tough economic times. Now go out and spread the word!