Journal , Fall / Winter Issue

Buying Karma: Products That Give Back

What could inspire more feel-goodness than a perfectly curated addition to your home that also “gives back”? We searched for, and found, beauty in form, function, and philanthropy. 

For those with a philanthropic mindset, it’s an added bonus when we buy a product that leverages our collective consumer power to do good in the world. But are all the products out there that are affiliated with charitable causes equally authentic? Do they do equal amounts of good? The answer is a resounding “no”. Here are a few simple considerations to help you become a savvy social impact consumer and ensure your hard-earned dollars are actually giving back to those in need.

The following should always be readily apparent on products that claim to give back: 

Benefiting Charity

Although it may seem obvious, as a consumer, it’s critical to understand exactly who or what is benefiting from your donation. Simply stating that your purchase supports “breast cancer awareness” shouldn’t cut it. That said, sometimes products benefit many charities—too many to list—in which case, you should be directed to a website for additional information, e.g. “Your purchase supports 150 local K-12 schools in the Pacific Northwest. See www.companywebsite.com for a full list of schools.” 

Donation Amount

You should understand how much the product you’re purchasing unlocks for the benefitting organization. Sometimes this is stated as a specific dollar amount, e.g. “$2 from your purchase will be donated to ABC Charity.” Sometimes this is an item, e.g. “When you purchase this notebook, one notebook will be donated to school children in need.”

Be wary of vague language, especially unknowable quantities such as “a percentage of the proceeds of the sale of this item will be donated to XYZ Charity.” Better would be, “5 percent of your purchase price will be donated.” 

Minimum & Maximum Donation

Very often, companies set a maximum donation amount generated from the purchase of a specific product (e.g. $1.00 from the sale of this product will be donated to XYZ charity, up to a maximum of $10,000). This is always good information to understand and should always be clearly visible on the packaging. Occasionally, product packaging will advertise a general corporate donation even if the purchase of the product is not linked to the donation (e.g. We’re celebrating breast cancer awareness month by making a $10,000 donation to The Best Breast Cancer Charity). In this instance, the company is using the packaging to share their corporate support of a good cause more generally and build goodwill with consumers, versus a purchase-triggered donation. 

Duration of the Campaign

There are certainly products that have a donation built into the business model whereby a purchase always triggers a donation (e.g. TOMS shoes, Warby Parker eyeglasses), but the vast majority of programs are limited to a specific campaign period, which can vary from a single day to a full year. It’s always helpful to understand whether the purchase you’re making falls within that donation window. 

Bonus: Social Impact

Savvy marketers understand that sharing the actual impact of a product purchase helps tell a more complete story for the consumer. Would you prefer to know that $5 from your purchase goes to a homeless shelter or that a new coat is given to a homeless child in your community?

You shouldn’t be expected to do copious amounts of research to understand how your purchase is helping those in need, basic information should be readily available to you. Bottom line: if a give-back product doesn’t resonate as being authentic with you, save your dollars for one that does. Fortunately, in today’s marketplace, there’s no shortage of excellent, high-quality products that help you help them make the world a better place. 

Products That Give Back:

Hip Water Bottles, $15

Beautifully designed by Karim Rashid, every Hip bottle purchased provides two days of safe drinking water to a person in need through a partnership with Water For People.

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Soma Glass Water Bottles, $30

Water tastes great from a glass bottle but their weight can be a drawback. Not so with these sleek, lightweight glass bottles from Soma where every purchase includes a donation to charity: water projects.

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The Screw Cancer Screwdriver, $35

Support cancer patients and survivors with the award-winning ergonomically designed screwdriver you won’t want to hide in your toolbox. 40% of each purchase supports cancer-fighting charity partners.

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Verve Culture Artisan Citrus Juicer, $90

Whether you’re making fresh juice for breakfast or cocktails you’ll love the feel and performance of this
authentic Mexican cast-iron juicer. Verve Culture supports the craftsman and culture behind each product.

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Photography by Constance Mariena / Text by Megan Strand

This story originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of The Inspired Home Journal, titled “Buying Karma.”

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