Not satisfied to just sign a check, an increasing number of for-profit businesses are changing the rules of corporate philanthropy. Panera Bread Co. began its foray into more hands-on philanthropy a year ago when it converted a store into a pay-what-you-want (or at least, what you can) restaurant where proceeds are donated to charity. It was a bold experiment, but one The Associated Press reports has been successful. The store generates $3,000 to $4,000 a month in profit, money Panera is putting toward a job training program for at-risk youth. The company now operates three charitable restaurants and intends to open a new location about every three months.
Johnson & Johnson* is aiming to make it easier for its own consumers to connect to charities through a new endeavor called “&you.” The digital tool helps consumers find volunteer and donation opportunities, cause-related news, events and even nonprofit jobs, all in one spot. It allows nonprofits to “amplify” their outreach to volunteers, donors and supporters by aggregating their opportunities and information from a host of partner sites (including VolunteerMatch, Idealist, DoSomething.org, GuideStar and Network for Good). Users create a widget to post on their webpages or social media sites that refreshes as new opportunities appear that meet their interests.
Businesses give billions of dollars to charities every year, but the greatest source of donations is still individuals. As a result, companies are finding innovative ways to ensure they not only make a difference themselves, but that they provide simple tools and opportunities to maximize an even more powerful resource – the consumer’s desire to give.