TOMS stepped out as a leader in corporate giving

How your business can follow in its footsteps

By Ima Walker

Chances are if you don’t own a pair of TOMS shoes, you have heard of them. TOMS is the company that pioneered the ‘buy-one, give-one’ model of giving by donating one pair of shoes to a child in need for one pair sold. That model caught on and is now known as One for One®. 

Since the launch of TOMS in 2006, many companies have used One for One® as part of their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) plan. For example, with each purchase of “one,” these companies give “one.”

• Warby Parker gives a pair of eyeglasses to people in need. 

• Bombas donates essential clothing items to homeless shelters. 

• This Bar Saves Lives sends essential food to kids in need. 

• State Backpacks donates essentials to local charities. 

There are many reasons why this model of giving works, but one of the main reasons is that it engages the customer in the giving process. They need to buy an item anyway, so why not buy from a company that gives back? While there are many ways to give back as a company and One for One® is just one, the benefits of giving include tax deductions, employee engagement and retention, and customer loyalty. 

Despite those benefits, many would argue that a company should give back to the community in which they do business because ‘it is the right thing to do.’ If you are thinking of including giving back in your business plan, here are five questions to consider.


Why do you want to include giving in your plans?

There are many reasons to give back, and your reason should be a key driver in your selection of a cause. For example, if you want a tax deduction, make sure the cause is tax deductible. If you love animals, make sure you thoroughly vet the charity to ensure it directly impacts the animals you are passionate about. 

What do your customers care about? 

If your customers care about whom you support, they will care more about you. In fact, a 2010 study by Cone Communications found that 85 percent of consumers have a better outlook on businesses that give to a charity they care about.

What do your employees care about? 

According to All Business, one research study showed a 13 percent jump in productivity among workers whose employers consulted and included them in their company’s philanthropic initiatives. In other words, your employees care more when they know you care. 

Is the giving aligned with your company or product? 

One for One® is an obvious example of perfect strategic alignment because the company’s product that is purchased is also given to a person in need (shoes, socks, eyeglasses). Locally this works. For example, if you are a restaurant, you can give to Second Helpings (SERG Group does this). If you are a dog daycare, you can give to the Humane Association (Evergreen Pet Lodge does this). If you are a real estate company, you can support Habitat for Humanity (Charter One Realty does this).

What are some easy ways to start giving? 

  • Partner with a local organization – ask your employees to pick a cause and get started. It could be as simple as a Blood Donation Day or a day to help Bluffton Self Help pack bags. 
  • Donate products or services – if you are an accountant or lawyer, most charities welcome free advice. 
  • Offer discounts to community heroes – Veterans, EMS workers, nurses and teachers are some examples of the many unsung heroes in the Lowcountry.

Don’t let the thought of giving back overwhelm you or scare you to not take action. You don’t need to give a lot of time or money – the expression “it’s the thought that counts” holds true. Just get started, and it won’t take long for your heart to fill as you fill other hearts. 

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