Good Works = Good Business

Kickstarter did a very cool thing this week: it announced that it was reincorporating as a public benefit corporation, which legally requires it to include a commitment to aid the public in its charter and its executive decisions, and to report on its progress toward that goal. Kickstarter didn’t have to undergo any massive cultural shift to fulfill any of those conditions—its stated benefit is to “help bring creative projects to life”—but it’s a refreshingly transparent and socially responsible course of action.

Budding Plant From Coins

It’s also not the first time the company has worn its altruism on its sleeve. Last year, it was certified as a B Corporation, committing itself to a stringent set of environmental and social-responsibility standards. It donates 5 percent of its profits to charitable and creative causes, and it has even gone so far as to promise to avoid “us[ing] loopholes or other esoteric but legal tax management strategies to reduce its tax burden.” To ensure that it sticks to its mission, founders Perry Chen and Yancey Strickler have publicly committed to never take the company public, trading a potentially huge financial windfall for the ability to maintain control over their company’s values.

Best of all, they’ve done all of this while turning a healthy annual profit, something that very few six-year old tech startups can claim. And that’s really the most important part. Kickstarter is one of a handful of companies that rejects the false dichotomy that you cannot simultaneously do good works and good business.

In fact, good works might turn out to be a competitive advantage. As brands fall all over themselves to attract the all-important ★★MILLENNIAL CONSUMER★★, it’s worth remembering that 70 percent of them would choose to pay a fair price to a brand that supports good causes than to purchase the same product at a cheaper price from a brand that doesn’t.

Millennials In Cosplay

We’ve seen this in our own client work. A few years ago, we worked on a social campaign for a global clothing brand to promote jeans made with a new manufacturing process that used significantly less water than the traditional method. The campaign rewarded consumers by “unlocking” donations to Water.org for taking small but socially significant actions, like watching a video about the clean water crisis in developing nations or going to a retail outlet and scanning a QR code on the product to learn more about it. The campaign was so successful that we were able to shut off the planned Facebook Ads buy 20 percent of the way through, because organic engagement from enthusiastic supporters was enough to achieve all of the campaign goals.

That wasn’t an isolated incident. We convinced one client to reroute a substantial portion of a planned Facebook media buy and make a small charitable contribution for every new fan they acquired. Not only did they wind up with as many new fans as they would have gotten had they just spent those dollars on Facebook Ads, the new fans that they acquired wound up sharing content and engaging with the brand at a much higher rate.

Then there’s the sportswear company that cemented their relationship with a sponsored athlete by tying engagement with a Twitter campaign to donations to that athlete’s pet charity. Or the retailer that managed to break through the holiday promotional chatter by creating opportunities to help underprivileged children rather than hype Black Friday deals.

When we say that we value clients who value “good work and good works,” it’s not because we hate capitalism. It’s because we’ve seen how easy it is for a brand to make money and make the world a better place, simultaneously. We’ve already helped clients manage successful Kickstarter campaigns, and Kickstarter’s ongoing commitment to good works makes us even more excited for the next one.