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Non-Profits and Socially Responsible Companies with Global Interests in a 2.0 World

Tim Sullivan, C02Stats
Jamie Welsh, 10% solution
Xavier Helgesen, Better World Books

I’m here because I care about the world! I care, and I know Angela cares, which means Cal Coast also cares. We don’t do a ton of business with non-profit companies currently, but we are excited to change lives one day, and we’ll use our SEO talents to do so 🙂 Its best to start the long term planning now, huh?

Not a lot of people here though, lol. Don’t the rest of you care? Maybe you’re just not at SES, but optimizing for your cause online could be huge… so take note!

First up we had Jeff from Better World Books (Xavier showed up eventually lol) who told the story about his college roommates who re-sold their old textbooks online. That evolved into selling textbooks through a community drive along with the local library, and doing something good at the same time online. Better World Books was born – where people get books, literacy, and community librarys raise money. The program has raised 2M for libraries so far, so its working 🙂 The company uses Amazon,, Facebook, Apebooks, and other existing ecommerce tools to grow the business. What a fun way to do business AND give back – kudos guys!

Next up was Jamie Welsh with 10% Solutions, a company to help others become more socially responsible.

Jamie warned the group: Don’t engage in web 2.0 unless you’re ready! So then, how do organizations get ready? Make sure you have a plan of action!

How has social web technology changed how companies function? We are all interconnected, and we need to be careful about how to build relationships. Jamie started a few things NOT to do:

  1. Greenwashing. Going on the green bandwagon. Don’t be a wolf in sheeps clothing. Don’t claim green (or whatever’s cool right now) if you don’t really practice it!!
  2. Givingwashing. An example of the guy giving 25K and then spending 100K marketing that he gave 25K. That’s so backwards, stop tooting your own horn! Give to give, don’t give to get.
  3. Faking Transparency. Telling customers you volunteer and change the world when you really have one volunteer at your company. You need to be true and transparent.

Remember: Your external message has to marry with your internal DNA. Just be who you say you are.

What are other things TO DO to be a socially responsible company? Think How, What, Who….

  1. Internal. Decide who you are and who you want to help. Create a center to get the funds together and have a clear purpose.
  2. Strategies. Bring in 3rd parties. Volunteer match, Network for Good, V corporation, companies to help you. Make sure to have a strategic business plan that revolves around helping others.
  3. Test drive. How does it resonate?
  4. ENGAGE. Web 2.0 is your toolkit here. Myspace, flicker, twitter, facebook, manage those relationships!! Incorporate that transparency in a good way.
    Stand back. Get ready for the feedback and the onslaught of your consumers.

Always Be Transparent, and Be Authentic!

Jamie mentioned that she does Habitat 4 Humanity marketing pro bono (YAY JAMIE!) and she told the example of how similar non-profit companies are stuggling when they really don’t have to, they just need to START PARTNERING with some for profit companies. Non profits can do it… just not alone all the time… they have the right message and now they need the right people to help them convey that message. This also makes the overall user experience better, don’t you think???


How do you make a case for “Why?” in this economy? Recessions have very little impact on non-profits. Companies realize people buy on emotion, and being socially responsible creates emotion. Many companies are just doing it wrong because they don’t stay true to the cause or their passions.

How do you stay true? Keep your mission and goals in the mind of ALL employees, not just the top people. Every person in the company needs to be on board.

What holds companies back? The amount of work, and people within the company who don’t get it.

How do you put metrics on this? Well, look at what you’ve raised and what you’ve done. Track volunteers, supply chain in and out, and come up with a quantifiable number on what your goal is, so you can measure that success. Also remember SROI – Social Return On Investment 🙂
Even further…how do you get people to ACT instead of just chat and become friends on facebook or other 2.0 sites? Well…Look at your cause, look at the effect. Is your non-profit effective? Or is it planned to be? Think of ways you can ask all of your following to contribute, and you’ll have better success.

How do you Better World Books guys make money? (lady just bought a book for $4) Xavier said that most people buy at least 3 books and that covers shipping, they get good shipping rates too. So it’s a numbers game. Also, they break even after getting the books and then sell them for a “consignment” fee.

Everyone engaged in an interesting question from an Addiction specialist. He is having trouble competing with other ‘for profit’ addiction organizations who have 50K a month budgets…what to do? How does he manage to get enough value to his website to beat out the big guys? Just don’t worry about being everything to everyone, provide something of differentiated value. Get Google grants. And don’t be scared to have a profit center in your non-profit site, like paid directory listings or something to keep you running. Ask if I was a for profit company, what would be my value proposition?

How are non-profits getting donors? Just look at the the successful ones, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel!! Also, consider web 2.0, its waaay cheaper than direct mail.

Homework: Look up the BBMG study and look at the green consumer marketplace for a fascinating study on how socially conscious the public is.

Check out the Social Enterprise Institute – they get together executive directors and they meet with a goal to discuss the social enterprise.

Overall I was disappointed with this session 🙁 I applaud everyone’s efforts but I think there are many more innovative things we can all do online to really combine our businesses with our purpose, and I think we should all try to support the greater good with our online efforts!!! Hopefully those reading will comment with ideas. Like maybe everyone who knows SEO should help a deserving company who doesn’t!? We would do this! Comment your case, lol.