I heard about an interesting business idea, where a promotional products business decided to let customers give away 10% of their revenue to registered charities. Kind of a nifty idea, and I had a chance to ask the business owner, Esbert Cardenas Jr., a few questions in an e-mail interview.
iShare is a way for the customers of my business, Image Outfitters, to support charities that they care about with the money they already pay us. Without changing the cost of their order for custom promotional products, I give all customers the option of donating 10% of the revenue to the nonprofit organization of their choosing. This model allows for funding of hyper-local organizations in my customers’ communities, or donations to larger national charities—it’s not up to me, though. My customers can choose any 501 (c)(3) nonprofit.
Back in 2008 my wife Kirsten and I noticed that many of the nonprofit organizations that we supported personally were suffering from underfunding tied to the economic recession. The recession also hit small businesses like mine, so we thought of iShare as a way to attract new business while supporting a diverse group of charitable organizations. Our mantra is “Learn, earn, and return.” We spent 14 years learning and earning. Now it is our turn to return to those in need. This innovation has helped our business grow in a way that we feel good about, because our customers are helping so many nonprofits along the way.
We did talk with a few existing customers about the idea and kicked off the iShare program by offering the donation option to them. We wanted to make sure the program ran smoothly before launching on a larger scale. Before we could make an official announcement, over $7,000 had been donated to charity.
Our customers love that they can give to charity with money they were
already planning to spend, and that they can choose any nonprofit. This option puts their money back into their communities, and that’s very important to a lot of our customers.
If I could go back, I think I would have kicked off iShare with a big formal announcement of the program rather than a soft launch. We weren’t entirely sure how our customers would react but with hindsight we would definitely launch iShare nationally from Day 1 if we could go back.
I would say to go for it! Our customers love iShare because funding is restored to their charity without altering their budgets, and we feel satisfied knowing we can give back as well. iShare has attracted many new customers to Image Outfitters and the nonprofits at the center of the program are receiving new funding to support their mission. It’s a win-win any way you slice it.
Whether you’re a frugal business owner trying to balance corporate costs with charitable giving or a nonprofit executive director seeking innovative ways to fundraise, iShare can meet that need.Thanks, Esbert, for a nice story to take into the Christmas season.