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Finding the Goodness of Charitable Giving, Gift Cards & Loyalty Programs

Charitable giving, gift cards and loyalty programs are nothing new, but businesses and the organizations that enable these solutions are finding new ways to leverage such programs to get closer with their customers, build their businesses, and in the process save the world.

It's a small world after all. Advances in transportation and communications over the years have made people and organizations--whether across a state or on the other side of the world--more easily accessible. And the recent social networking phenomenon has allowed communities of interest to come together like never before.

But this article is not specifically about social networking. Rather, it's about the sense of community and social responsibility that consumers today have expressed, and how organizations can cater to that desire and, in the process, contribute to society while building their own brands.

According to eMarketer, "a growing number of consumers considered social purpose the leading purchase driver, even when quality and price were equal."

Just look at the success of TOMS Shoes, which built a business offering very basic footwear with the promise that with every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. The company started with just one shoe style in a few colors, but has since expanded to offer an array of styles in a cornucopia of colors and patterns. It has even introduced a line of eyewear.

"We are in business to help change lives," reads the TOMS website. "It's a big job, and we don't do it alone. With our customers and Giving Partners, we're transforming everyday purchases into a force for good around the world. One for One."

This message clearly resonates with lots of people, including my 13-year-old daughter and plenty of her peers. And, as a result of TOMS' success, they can now purchase the shoes through a variety of channels.

This is just one example of a brand doing what can be referred to as cause-related marketing to build its profile or reinforce its brand. And most consumers are more than OK with that.

According to KULA Causes, 76 percent of U.S. Internet users have indicated they approve of brands making money as a result of social purpose, a 33 percent increase since 2008.

KULA Causes is a one-and-a-half-year-old company that powers the charitable giving and loyalty efforts of airline JetBlue, prepackaged foods company Kellogg's, and frequent traveler online research site MilePoint. The company offers web portals through which these companies and others allow their customers to track and redeem loyalty points and, if they wish, donate to any of more than 2.5 local and global causes in any of 29 countries.

Mark Dority, director of marketing, calls what KULA Causes provides an engagement tool to get people involved in a program and to keep them coming back for more.

"We try to touch each individual in their affinity--whether it's a school, a rain forest" or whatever.

People who donate via the KULA Causes platform can opt to share that activity through social media, which in turn promotes both their cause and the sponsoring company's brand.

Here are some more details about how KULA Causes' three existing customers (as of late March anyway) are using the platform, for which the company charges based on transaction.

JetBlue launched its program based on the KULA Causes platform in late October of 2012. True Blue frequent flier program participants who visit the JetBlue website and come to the Giving Journey part of the portal are actually on the KULA Causes platform, although the experience is seamless and there's a single sign on for the whole experience. Once there, True Blue members can see their loyalty points and donate points to charities around the world. (The smallest donation increment is $10, which True Blue members get/give when they opt to donate 13,034 of their frequent flier points.) The site provides a list of charities to which visitors can donate, where in the world each charity is doing its good works, and how each will use the donation. KULA Causes then accepts the donation, does the currency conversions when needed, and handles settlements between the brand and charity.

MilePoint, which launched in September of 2012, has a similar program.

The loyalty program for Kellogg's, called Kellogg Family Rewards, was in the process of launching on the KULA Causes platform in late March. Kello's has more than 2.5 million family rewards customers.

This program targets parents who grocery shop by providing a code inside cereal boxes. These individunls input the codes into the Kellogg Family Rewards website and in return are rewarded with a certain amount of points. They can use those codes either to get products or make donations to local schools or other causes.

Dority says that in addition to enabling businesses to enable charitable giving and promote their brands, KULA Causes will use its platform to launch its own business-to-consumer program. This program will offer donation cards at retail locations that consumers can purchase and provide as gifts to others. This gives the person who receives the gift the option to make the donation to the charity of his or her choice, notes Dority.

"KULA wants to impact the world by giving people more opportunities to give," says Dority, and not just in times of crisis. We want it to become part of the culture."
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Title Annotation:COVER STORY
Author:Bernier, Paula
Publication:Customer
Date:May 1, 2013
Words:910
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