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Contributor Article: The Technological Shift Propelling Social Good

by hypepotamus

As business shifts over the course of 2021, we are dedicated to hearing from tech leaders about what trends they are seeing in their industry. John McNeel, Co-Founder, CEO & Chairman of in/PACT, provided his insight on the emerging PurposeTech space and what it looks like in our post-pandemic world. In/PACT is a Charleston-based FinTech platform designed specifically for the charitable giving community. 


The Technological Shift Propelling Social Good

Marrying profit and purpose in the age of greater transparency is vital to ensuring companies drive meaningful change. As financial instability, social injustice, and environmental concerns are on the rise, the socially conscious consumer is operating with their eyes wide open; focused on the brands they love and taking inventory of the impact those brands are having on the planet and humanity. 

Charitable giving is becoming an essential component of consumer brand engagement. More companies are hyper-focused on understanding what their customers care about and how to cater to their needs. Thanks to the digitization of the giving process, the myriad of limitations once associated with charitable contributions are a thing of the past. The way people and organizations give back is quickly being reimagined for the better.


Purpose + Tech = A New Genre in Giving

The digital acceleration of 2020 paved a more straightforward path in defining the relationship between philanthropy, innovation, and purpose. As companies strive for differentiation, relevance, and growth, the reason why they “do what they do” is a story consumers want to hear. Brands worldwide are dedicating more resources toward seeking impactful ways to give back to their communities, lend support to those who need it most, and promote employee engagement in the communities they serve.

Tying cause-driven initiatives to customer engagement demands authenticity. A logo on a website isn’t enough; today’s consumers want to know how the companies they buy from are moving the needle. Over the last year, racial and social issues moved to the forefront, demonstrating the need for genuine engagement on the part of brands, who have an extraordinary role to play in helping to shape our society. This is an area where merging purchase with purpose is essential. 

To nurture that connection, brands must first understand the issues most important to their customers. Creating a transparent process by which consumers can actively participate in choosing organizations to support, brands can then create streamlined pathways to facilitate the process. The “democratization of giving” enables a new opportunity for charities as well. Moving past the old model of partnering exclusively with large national non-profits, brands can offer a way to support hyper-local efforts within each consumer’s community. 

Walgreens is one such large retailer whose long-standing relationships with national programs like Red Nose Day will now be supplemented with localized giving. Beginning this year, myWalgreens members can donate their Walgreens Cash rewards directly to community organizations via the app, or on the company’s website. While Walgreens seeks partnerships that fit with the company’s broader community initiative areas — youth, community, social impact, and health equity — customers using the app to donate will see a rotating list of local non-profit charities based on their location. Customers can then donate their cash rewards in any dollar amount or spread it out amongst the organizations. 

Merging purpose and tech is about seamlessly integrating donation channels into existing infrastructures, making giving more effortless for the consumer and, therefore, more impactful for the sponsor. By incorporating purposeful giving into already existing daily behaviors like shopping, brands can create intentional, meaningful interactions with their customers. 


Money in the Bank

Banks, credit unions and financial institutions are primed for the opportunity presented by purpose-driven technology. For these entities, brick and mortar institutions, in particular, the central role they previously played in charitable giving has diminished with the introduction of digital wallets or other forms of payment. No longer do customers need to write a check to the PTA or withdraw cash to bring to a fundraiser. Emotionally-driven donations are evolving as well, often being transacted on fundraising sites or via social media. 

Purpose-driven technology is a way for banks to reach those customers who have migrated away to other channels and pull them back into their ecosystem. Tying charitable giving in with a consumer’s other financial products, like savings accounts, credit cards, car loans, keeps all transactions trackable in one spot. For the consumer, this allows for more streamlined record-keeping, particularly at tax time. Community organizations can benefit, too, as automated donation methods like rounding up credit card swipes or contributing loyalty points are easy ways to promote repeat donations. With charities needing more than ever to generate recurring monthly revenue, these passive mechanisms are a perfect solution. 


Mobile Philanthropy: COVID Accelerates Digital Giving

The pandemic forced the pivot to digital for everyone, creating challenges for many organizations while also opening up opportunities for those brands to better deliver on their mission. Within 18 months, countless industries had to up their virtual game, and charitable giving was no exception. In 2020 alone, charitable giving in the United States grew by 2%, with a reported total of $3.2 billion in online donations, an increase of  20.7% compared to 2019. With more and more transactions happening on mobile, non-profits benefited from that trend. Online donation pages had an average conversion rate of 8% on mobile devices last year in 2020; this year, they are on track to increase by 50%. 

In recent years, technology and digitization have removed many roadblocks to giving, leading to a shift in how people think about charity. Technology has improved our ability to tackle many of the most pressing social problems — poverty, lack of access to education, environmental destruction — and now, brands and organizations can actively participate in that effort. By doing so, companies can also drive an emotional connection with customers, potentially increasing customer value, growing spend, enhancing engagement, and attracting new customers.


More about the author: 

John McNeel is Co-Founder and Chairman of in/PACT, a cloud-based charitable giving solutions for the financial services and loyalty industries out of Charleston. McNeel is also the founder of social purpose management consultancy CHANGEx LLC.



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