Doing the 'Give One' Right

06/02/2015 12:01 am ET | Updated Jun 01, 2016

New "buy one give one" companies are cropping up every day, and we at SoapBox love helping the movement grow. However, as I'm sure you've heard, these companies, and even nonprofits before that, have received criticism for doing more harm than good. Especially for social mission companies, it's tough to focus on doing the aid right when you're just trying to keep your baby alive and running. In our 5 years of building this business and figuring out how to sustainably give, here are a few things we've learned.

Partner Up

Partner with existing aid organizations doing it right. Large or small, we do both! Sustainability is such a buzzword in the aid industry, but balancing giving right and running a start-up with limited time resources is an issue only social mission companies have to deal with. With those limited resources, do the most good by making great partnerships.

For example, for our stateside and emergency bar soap donations, we partner with Global Soap Project, who actually recently merged efforts with Clean the World to double up their impact, to develop our aid bars. These two organizations collect hotel soap remnants, melt them down, sanitize them and remake them into bars. So instead of making our own aid bars and adding a whole new level of complication, we take these bars and give them. In fact, 66 percent of our total bar donations stay stateside at homeless shelters and food banks. More about that later though!

For our international bar donations, we work with a plethora of smaller organizations. Some of these organizations already have hygiene education programs in place, and we simply come alongside them and give them the funds to get their materials and purchase soap in their local communities. This helps local economies and markets, gives a culturally relevant product, and saves the environment to boot (shipping containers full of soap don't need to be put on the back of a huge container ship and sent there, there's already soap there).

Other organizations train local people to learn the trade of soap-making and start their own businesses. By far these are the coolest stories.

The other half of our products give clean water with every purchase. Splash, our clean water partner, comes alongside local governments and local aid organizations to take the clean water infrastructure multinational food corporations use and apply it to orphanages and children's hospitals. Splash's goal is always to be out of the picture by a set date with a self-sustaining clean water infrastructure in place, sustained by their local partners.

Be Transparent

A great way to keep your organization accountable is by telling people exactly what's going on behind the scenes. Find ways to get your customers involved in their aid impact in simple easy ways. They do care, but not enough to put a lot of effort into researching, so make it easy for them and they'll think you're awesome. Honestly, that's the beauty of a social mission company. The goal is to take all of the people that don't care enough to go out of their way to help others and draw them into being a part of global change, too.

We recently launched a program to do just this called the Hope Code. Each of our products has a unique code that consumers can take to our website, enter it in, and see which project/country their purchase will be going toward. In just a few short months, we've had over 1,300 people enter their Hope Codes, so we're becoming more and more convinced that people do get excited when they can be a part of the mission.

Give Where the Need Is

Even if it isn't sexy, if there aren't kids in a rainforest receiving your soap, do good where you see a real need.

Our stateside donations have continued to grow year after year for this reason. Last time we calculated it out, we had hit 66 percent of our total aid bars staying stateside. This is because we kept finding that homeless shelters and food banks never have enough personal care products. Government aid programs don't cover non-food items like bar soap and toothpaste, and people don't think to bring a non-food item to a food bank -- so there was this huge need in the market right under our noses!

It may not be sexy, but it does a world of good.

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