12/16/2014 08:31 am ET Updated Feb 15, 2015

What If Every Purchase You Made Gave Back?

It is an increasingly asked question and many companies answer this by incorporating a contribution at point of purchase. Companies such as Warby Parker use a buy-one-give-one model; in this case it's buy-a-pair-give-a-pair. To date Warby Parker has distributed a million pairs of eyeglasses. In parallel Warby Parker also has a financial contribution program with Architecture for Humanity. Others like Eartheasy in Canada use a variation of the model, employing a revenue or profit share contribution. Eartheasy works with Trees for the Future Foundation where every purchase transacted on results in a tree being planted. Another twist to the profit share model is ONEHOPE Wine (OHW). OHW was started seven years ago with the idea of a continuous give-back platform supporting cause related organizations. The OHW model donates half of the profits to seven featured causes which are paired with a product/wine. To date this program has donated over $1.3 million to its non-profit partners. (Figures provided by the ONEHOPE Foundation).

The question of giving back is the opening salutation as you reach the ONEHOPE Foundation (OHF) website. OHW created the OHF in 2009 as a financial mechanism to distribute the donations it was making and with the long-term goal of creating a program so other companies could also pass their donations thru the OHF.

Giving back is not about giving something up

The ONEHOPE social enterprise model was inspired by cause but founded on solid business principles.

1) Quality: By partnering with Robert Mondavi Jr. they addressed a basic consideration often overlooked by social enterprises... offer a quality product.
2) One + One (should at least) = Two: By integrating cause with quality, the consumer is not faced with the conundrum of giving something means giving up something.
3) Marketplace: 94% of people want to shop from business that give back
4) Outsource expertise: Vet and support non-profit partners not just for their cause but their ability to impact those cause areas. Financially supporting these organizations is akin to hiring them to do what they do best.

Melissa Lake, Executive Director of OHF explains the review process for non-profit applicants to become a "Featured Cause". "We evaluate our non-profit partners before adding them to our database for potential funding opportunities based on a 13-point system to ensure the organizations are efficiently run and will benefit from our partnership. Some examples are that we check to make sure that the organization has at least an 85% program to overhead ratio, that they are not religious or politically affiliated, that they have been in operation for at least 3 years (as most nonprofits fail within the first 3 years, those that are past that mark are much more likely to succeed), and that they have a quantifiable impact ratio. Each piece of our criteria serves to help us ensure that we are making the best donation decisions that we can"

****Religious and politically affiliated organizations are not eligible for consideration******

Expansion, Proximity and Connection

Companies and programs scale because they are successful but scale does no ensure success. In parallel OHW and OHF are both embarking on scaling up their impact. OHW has introduced "viaONEHOPE" and the OHF is working with other consumer product companies through their "Social Impact as a Service (SIAS)" program.

Becoming a Cause Entrepreneur viaONEHOPE (CEO)

• The viaONEHOPE OHW platform which is not just about brand latitude but about deepening, individualizing and empowering the ONEHOPE consumer.

• Proximity: viaONEHOPE is an opportunity to become a CEO - "Cause Entrepreneur viaONEHOPE". Hosts of events, brides or grooms have the option to purchase ONEHOPE products for their special occasion, select their own cause of choice from the current cause partners, and earn an income in doing so.

• Connection: The CEO program takes a B2C relationship (OHW to Customer) and transforms it at the point of purchase. The micro-event is a platform for a one-to-many peer relationship (CEO to occasion attendees) viaONEHOPE.

Social Impact as a Service (SIAS):

• Extension: SIAS is a consulting service that takes the lessons learned from the OHW model (of creating a cause-centric commerce brand) to help companies create or align give-back partnerships to increase both sales and social impact. The OHF works with other companies to share best practices, manages the partnership, and launches the programs for consumer product companies.

• Proximity: The SIAS program pairs companies that want to give -back with a vetted non-profit and an impact ratio. It provides customized impact reports, social media strategies, and opportunities to directly engage with donor and corporate nonprofits of choice.

• Connection: The SIAS goal is to provide a turn-key program to incorporate cause-centric commerce into a business without losing sight of the business.

Programs like SIAS seeks to reduce risk and complexity while increasing the ease of launching and managing programs at a time when the number of companies incorporating a "give-back" component is growing. Traditionally companies might set up a foundation as programs outgrow internal resources. Interestingly the SIAS model (in some instances) acts as proxy foundation. Whether or not companies should start "give back" is an all together different question. Launching and scaling cause-commerce platforms are challenging and not every company should attempt it but there are a growing number of resources out there to tap into.