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Responsible Marketing

How can business help the poor?

By September 25, 2008June 16th, 202126 Comments

The Responsible Marketing Blog will be participating in Blog Action Day on Wednesday, October 15th.

Here’s what it’s about:

First and last, the purpose of Blog Action Day is to create a discussion. We ask bloggers to take a single day out of their schedule and focus it on an important issue.

By doing so on the same day, the blogging community effectively changes the conversation on the web and focuses audiences around the globe on that issue.

The video that was produced to encourage bloggers to participate does a nice job explaining what this is all about:

Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty from Blog Action Day.

I’d like our post to be extremely useful.

I use the word “our” because we’re going to write it together.

To me, useful would be a solid list of real world examples of businesses, large and small, doing things to help the poor.

And instead of doing a search, I’d like the examples to come from you, the readers of The Responsible Marketing Blog.

Here’s a little incentive to make it interesting:

20 dollars

No, it’s not for you!

Outsource Marketing will donate $20 to the food bank of your choice on your behalf if your example or examples makes the top 10 list in the Blog Action Day post.

It doesn’t have to be your company, it can be any business you’ve seen that’s doing some good for the poor. The more detail, the better.

Even if your example doesn’t make the top 10, I will also link to the comments from this post so all ideas will be shared.

Let’s build this together!

Where have you seen business helping the poor?

Comment below to participate.

. . .
Please forward this post to a friend, post it on your social networks and circulate it around your office. The more examples the better!

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Join the discussion 26 Comments

  • Arden Byers says:

    Boeing is holding a special employee drive for the month of September. They are matching triple for each e-giving dollar. Funds go to local organizations who provide supplies to local food banks and meal programs in the Puget Sound. This is a great incentive for employees to give to the program.

  • This year GE in Italy supported “Pane Quotidiano” (means “daily bread”), a charitable association founded in 1898 in Milano to help feed the poor. In 1908 the association was “formally” established and, on June 4th, celebrated a 100 years of feeding the less fortunate.

    The contributions donated on this occasion were used to publish a picture book documenting the lives of the association’s guests. The book was sold in libraries for donations. Additionally the association was also able to buy a new truck need to collect the food that everyday businesses and/or distributors give away because in excess or approaching the expiration date. It was touching and great to be part of this initiative!

    The association web site is:

  • I am proud to write that my company’s founder, employs his knowledge and time as a volunteer to a DC non-profit organization, called Byte Back. He teaches others who ordinarily could not afford such specific education and training, and gives them an intangible advantage to help themselves, and possbily others.

    It reaps both a confidence and a ‘pay it forward’ mentality that simply handing out monetary contributions, could never compare to.

  • Margaret says:

    You can help the poor by telling everyone in your company to donate one some time and volunteer at the local food bank.

  • Always allow opportunities for your clients, customers and staff to donate. There are so many services and organizations that already provide the services, they need support to get the job done.

    You may want to consider the following:

    -Give discounts to clients for donating needed goods.
    -Allow staff to donate money or goods to wear jeans or “dress down” on a specified day.
    -Volunteer your own professional services, sorta like “pro bono”.

  • My idea:

    Run a campaign, contribute a percentage of Gross Profit to go to particular families, chosen in conjunction with a church or local organization/shelter.

    Best regards,
    Scott Andrews, CEO
    ARRiiVE Business Solutions

  • Wing Wong says:

    The problem, when it comes to business philanthropy, is that the business needs a ROI on the effort and investment.

    Take food banks, for instance. Right now, there are food banks that, due to the reduced donations, thanks to individual financial issues resulting from the mortgage/credit meltdown, have run out of food, needing to turn away those who’ve come for food.

    Can companies help? Yes. They can hold company events where the company goes to buy food to donate to these groups. The companies can sponsor community food gathering events, which then takes the gathered food and donates it to the local community food bank.

    Ultimately, the only ROI on such a deal, is community good will and perhaps patronage of their establishments. There are many good candidate businesses for this kind of business involvement. Local business entities, chamber of commerce, corporations, etc.


  • St. Clouds restaurant in Leschi holds a monthly cooking project for the homeless. Each month, the restaurant invites the community to come to its kitchen bringing whatever food they can spare…St. Clouds provides the proteins. Together they cook custom gourmet meals for the homeless, who could never afford such a meal. These are delivered to 200 people at five shelters and a tent city around town each month.

    Promotion of the event has been strictly via word-of-mouth. More information available at

    This is a unique, very cool local outreach that is, in my opinion, truly an act of kindness.

  • D says:

    All those CEOs destroying their companies and walking away with huge golden parachutes should give 99% of their GPs to charity.

  • Check out Connect Ethiopia. An organization started by business in ireland. It’s goal is to create business links between companies in Ireland and Ethiopia and use business and trade to develop poor countries.

  • Bill Boyd says:

    Here’s one program that’s small but effective. Small Potatoes Gleaning Project bridges the gap between local surplus produce that would otherwise be wasted and those who are hungry in Whatcom County, Washington (just south of British Columbia, Canada). Thanks to the combined efforts of farmers, farm workers, and volunteers, over 25 tons of fresh produce was gleaned and distributed to over 30 sites and to low-income participants around Whatcom County in 2007.

  • Caleb Chang says:

    Good topic – I wish many more businesses will participate in this conversation and give this some thought.

    I have a few ideas and real world examples:

    Vancity’s Change Everything initiative

    Join your local Rotary club. In 2008-09, the global mandate for Rotarians is to “Make Dreams Real” for the world’s children

    Start collecting non-perishable food stuff from staff to fill food hampers
    Start or participate in initiatives like Community Money –

    Provide microfinance loans thru services like –

    If a business has a rewards program for their customers, allow reward program member to donate their points to local charities or international causes –

    Fill shoeboxes full of gifts and donate them to organizations like Samaritan’s Purse –

    Volunteer your time at a local soup kitchen

    Check with your local churches for projects that help the poor.

    Give to the United Way They get it. Their “Girls Today, Leaders Tomorrow” initiative makes a real difference.

    Donate to programs that help our kids –

    Lastly, businesses can look to align with organizations that give a hand up, not a hand out

  • Yahia Khan says:

    As I responded in Linkedin:

    Open offshore companies on those regions where poverty is a curse.

    You will get product for less money :
    more profit + less poverty.

    And loop ….

    All Happy,

  • The concept is worthwhile, and I plan to participate on my own blog at . But Patrick, I disagree with your contention that the video is effective. It’s nothing but text, moving uncomfortably across the small screen.

    To me, it would be far more effective to present it as a static page that I could read at my own pace, and then click on the link to learn more. This was uncomfortable to read as the words ran around on the screen. I’m a fast reader and didn’t like having to wit for it–a slow reader would have problems keeping up. Had this been a commercial message, I’d have been gone at the 10-second mark. Felt much longer than a minute and a half–endless, in fact.

  • Pia Hede says:

    Any firm could have a blog on their webpage. This activity will also be of commercial interest of the firm as people will talk about what is happening on the webpage and return to look what happens next. The firm choose a project. The project of the month: Like in the television programme, “The secret millionaire” they go to a poor area and find a project, where some good people dedicate their lives to help other people. On the blog they present those people and open an account to wich people can make donations and write comments, ideas or even offer to join to give a helping hand. It is after this posible to follow this place and the people, who work there by clicking on the link. But each month a new project is presented with a picture on the webpage. But still it is possible to follow links to former projects of the month.
    Kind regards Pia from Denmark. In a month my own webpage will be in both english and danish

  • Tony Macklin says:

    Many employers have employees that aren’t financially self-sufficient (or their families members aren’t). Find out about the following efforts in your community and host those programs at your worksite (or at least proactively connect your employees to them):
    * Volunteer tax preparation, Earned Income Tax Credits, Child Care Tax Credits
    * Financial literacy, credit counseling, home ownership counseling, savings programs
    * Workforce soft skills and technical skills programs, including 21st century literacy skills (problem-solving, technology, information literacy skills).

    Often a local United Way or Community Foundation will know where these programs are. Sometimes the public library will have listings.

  • Businesses can help the poor by providing opportunity and access.

    No one wants to be poor, and the premise that they are lazy and unwilling to try is a misconception created to alleviate the guilt of the privileged. Telling a poor person to get a job – such as a position at a local fast food establishment – won’t enable them to pay for housing, insurance, child care, transportation, or food.

    In most low income areas, there is little opportunity or access to jobs that pay a decent wage, provide health care, or allow for flexible schedules.
    Poor people don’t need a one time handout – they need access to jobs, personal and professional education, and proper diet, to ensure they can sustain the responsibility of providing for themselves.

    If businesses truly want to help they should start:

    1. Paying decent wages, offset by the cost of company provided health insurance

    2. Provide training – through partnerships with their state employment agencies and local colleges to keep the cost low

    3. Move away from the 9-5 in the cubicle mentality and provide flex scheduling especially for people with children and those not in customer service positions.

    4. Create a local coalition. ex. Local businesses could partner with a local grocers to provide discounts to employees and nutritional training. Grocers partner with local farmers who partner with local transport companies, and so forth.

  • Tim Girvin says:

    Hands on — I’d offer.

    I’ve found that the best reality of working authentically, to contribute in a reflectively meaningful way — meaning fully — is to do it your self; hands on, live, being in the space, contributing eye to eye. Rather than dropping some capital — what can you do, in the telling of your story that is live to them, live for you. It’s a life, it’s a live, it’s alive.

    You’re in that circle, you’re doing the work, making the contribution — and it’s real. No financial smoke that distances you from the reality.

    You’re there.

    Do something and you’ve got the passion to spread the word. Write a check and the instant of giving dissipates in an instance, as well. Do both and deliver it by hand and do some work at the same time! The ring is reflective, the song is sung true and the circle of giving and heart fullness is unbroken.

    Beauty full.


    Tim Girvin | | | |

  • This was the subject of a 1996 whitepaper which led us to what we are now, a profit for social purpose business, doing just that. We work as an advocacy to leverage investment in full cost recovery development strategies.

    This led to the Tomsk initiative and microfinance ban in Russia 2000-2005 and the microeconomic ‘Marshall Plan’ for Ukraine which began to influence policy in the area of childcare reform since 2007.

    The business for social purpose model has been replicated since in the UK in 2005 with the Community Interest Company form of incorporation.

    The National scale strategy paper for Ukraine moves from full cost recovery to a mix of social and business components that enable economic development projects to be delivered at nil overall cost.

    Marshall Plan

    This is not a nonprofit approach but a business model based on a wider interpretation of capitalism as a replacement for the nonprofit approach. The microcredit bank in Russia seeded 10,000 new businesses with loans based on the moral collateral model pioneered by Grameen.

    In Ukraine, so far, advocacy has prompted the government to create more than 400 rehab centres for disabled children. double the adoption allowance and create a pilot in the second largest city for every orphan to have a family type home at least.

    The paradigm proposes that business is set up for specific social purpose to deploy at least 50% of profit to social purpose, just those who wanted to do it, competing and coexisting in the free market with conventional business models.


  • Helping the poor is a specialized work and there are many agencies who are doing a great job out there. So here is my method of doing this.

    1. Choose an agency who is helping the poor, in my case an association that helps the blind, is located close to where I work and is recognised by Government and gives me Income Tax benefits on all my donations.
    2. Give them a percentage of my monthly revenue by check when I distribute the monthly salary.

    That is it. I do what I can do and they (the Association) does what they can do.

    Rajeev Vaid

  • This is a great question and I think that there is a good reason you categorized it in Social Entrepreneurship on LinkedIn. After working quite awhile with development organizations internationally and in the US, I am convinced that the best ways to help the poor are to help build strong economies in their neighborhoods and to help them train for, get and keep decent jobs that have benefits.

    Depending on the size of your company, I would say that you might do something relatively small in scope (but very important) such as provide scholarships for job training or re-training to a few ambitious people who just miss qualifying for government help in this area. You could focus on people whose jobs were made obsolete by technology or on mothers who want to re-enter the workforce or on kids who have native smarts but didn’t do great in school and so need help getting skills training.

    If you have enough money to do something larger in scope you might start a socially conscious business of some sort and hire poor people to work there. Given them on the job training and then plow a percentage of the profits back into the business. The Roberts Foundation in San Francisco is one of the institutions that has had success funding this kind of thing.

    See my blog, Ripples and Wipeouts, at

  • RL Wilks says:

    My particular focus is to address ‘root cause’ issues in poverty. As such, I have had especially positive experience with microcredit (check out and the Foundation for Women which has a Linkedin group). I also favor clean water and literacy initiatives and am a big supporter of health projects like Rotary’s joint effort with gov’t agencies and the Gates Foundation to eradicate Polio (only 4 countries left).

    If you want to encourage your employess to get involved, a matching structure is generally quite productive.

  • I’m for the root cause approach too. It began with a critique of western economics which seem eerily prophetic today, and a manifesto for People not Numbers.

    “Economics, and indeed human civilization, can only be measured and calibrated in terms of human beings. Everything in economics has to be adjusted for people, first, and abandoning the illusory numerical analyses that inevitably put numbers ahead of people, capitalism ahead of democracy, and degradation ahead of compassion.”

    One may discover that Creative Capitalism as proposed by Bill Gates, in the more inclusive form in which business, NGOs and government work together is more than a decade old, and has already delivered successful projects as proof of concept. Also, that the concept of information, poverty and microfinance has long been known.

    Where one will not hear these ideas are from the words of those whose expertise and interests are tied up in the existing system, thus any attempt to inform otherwise will fall on deaf ears.

    The uncomfortable truth is that when Russia’s economy collapsed in 1998 following attempts to stimulate it by Harvard with a trick down approach, the bottom up microeconomic approach was a resounding success.

    Ask yourselves why a successful project managed by the US State Department has been obliterated from web history and you may see what reformers of capitalism are up against:*/

  • I think businesses should get more involved locally. I donate some time to a local neighborhood center for children. Many local businesses here give big to The United Way, when a smaller contribution, and just as deductible, given to this great place would directly benefit low income children and their families.

  • Renee Wolforth says:

    Ask them what the corporations can do – and keep it local, if you really want to help. Develop relationships with them, just like any customer. Treat them like a customer, not a charity case. It’s condescending and not effective. Trust is key, but it takes time to develop. Think small and keep your focus on them. Give them what they need/want, not what you think they need/want.

    If these corporations really want to find out how to best help, they have to go to them. These are people who are many times working two or three jobs and still not making ends meet. They don’t have leisure time. I bet you will find some focus groups at bus stops in big cities, either early in the am or late in the evening. Think outside the 9-5 box. In rural areas, maybe the local grocery store or in the center of town. Talk to them, but don’t waste their time.

    Pay them a nominal sum to fill out a survey concerning their needs and wants – or give them an opportunity to win corporation products/services in exchange for filling out the survey. Offer prizes that give them time – i.e. subsidized daycare or another targeted benefit – i.e. gas cards, grocery store coupons/discounts.

    Don’t give hand outs. Hand outs don’t work. They are just a quick fix. Ask local charities what people really need. They are the people with their fingers on the pulse of the poor. They already have the trust mostly likely, but the corporations will have to earn it.

  • Bob says:

    Their is a method to getting out and helping the poor. And we can do it individually. One by one. If everyone could just do one little service each and every week. Baby steps. It is and was really starting to bug me as a person by not stepping up to the plate in a more significant way. Everything I have in my possession is just a loan anyway. I am starting a number of very small things to help in all I can. Everything I do will be labeled Heart for the Poor. Remember the name, you will start seeing it all over the place in the next year or so.

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