Dec 13, 2009
Trend Watcher explores two main trends that emerged from the flourishing charity sector: partnerships between brands and interdependent associations.

Charity Business 

The charity sector is flourishing. There are two main trends emerging: partnerships between brands and interdependent associations. Trends Watcher finds out more…

Charitable associations have clearly adapted to the rules of the financial world. To support their causes, they are more and more often calling upon the help of big brands which are renowned for bringing in cash. With this kind of partnership, everyone’s a winner, including the brands and consumers.

from a straightforward branded product to a charity-linked product

Could it be that charity-linked products will one day replace our current idea of products? A brief explanation first: a charity-linked product is one made by a company for an individual, where a fixed proportion of the price is set aside for a charitable cause. The first that comes to mind, and the best known, has to be RED. Launched by U2’s Bono, the “RED” label is intended to contribute to the fight against AIDS with the collaboration of some brand names: Converse has created a limited series trainer and Gap has offered to donate half of the profit on every red T-shirt it sells, not to mention HP, Apple and Armani, who have all produced limited editions, the profits from which have been given to charity.

RED is now a huge success. First of all from a financial perspective, as it guarantees the not-for-profit association a real economic independence. Then in terms of image and reputation, both for the NGO, whose cause is given a higher media profile, and for the brands, who highlight their social commitment.

This economic-charity model initiated by RED products can now be applied to less exclusive goods. So Solidaime has adapted the concept by involving brands from completely different worlds, such as Bonduelle, Héro and Senoble, to offer the first range of mass-market charity products. So already (and even more so in the future), we can quite feasibly imagine the possibility of eating charity-linked products and nothing else, from your starter to your pudding, and not forgetting your drinks. Might it also come to pass that these socially more useful charity-linked products will replace traditional brands?

from commercial transactions to social ones

As well as tangible products, NGOs and brand names are also investing in intangible ones. Massive Good, an initiative launched recently by the Millennium Foundation in partnership with everyone involved in the civil aviation sector, lets passengers donate $2, £2 or €2 when they buy their plane tickets. All of the money collected is given to Unitaid, an organisation hosted by the WHO.

Another even more interesting example is that of Orange RockCorps. An initiative by the mobile telephone operator Orange, the concept relates to the world of entertainment – live concerts to be precise. This is how it works: the only way you can get a ticket for a concert organised by Orange RockCorps is to sign up for four hours of volunteer work.

This is a real revolution, both for the brand and for the consumer: the brand doesn’t sell any tickets, but becomes a partner in community work, and the consumer doesn’t buy any tickets, but instead donates his or her time to help other people. So, the rules are changing: consumers are ready to pay more for a charity-linked product or to give their time in exchange for attending an event. It’s no longer just about consumption: now it’s all about useful consumption. For brands, this obviously involves changing the way they sell their products, but it is also an excellent opportunity to nurture a new kind of relationship with consumers, and even the whole of society. That’s necessary these days, but will be even more so in the future.



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