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March 7, 1990

The Brand Footprint

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As big as commercial brands such as Coke, McDonalds, and Apple might seem, concept brands have the potential to get much bigger. To understand the generosity brand, you need to realize that the business of generosity is simply enormous. It is transforming one organization after another. Entire industries and verticals are dedicated to generosity. B schools are creating courses about it, and major business journals devote articles to it every month. Generosity has a Godzilla-sized footprint.
And the brand is still growing. Generosity is not in a push phase; it’s in a pull phase. And as the Millennial generation matures, its generosity mindset is undoubtedly going to spread and overtake all of society. Innovation, meanwhile, is rife, spawning diverse and energetic forms of generosity.
Think of what the business of generosity already encompasses (the following is a very partial listing):
• Newly formed channels aggregate generosity, some with money (Givington’s, Pure Charity), some with goods and services (youshare.org), and some with gifts-in-kind (Good360).
• Social media sites are bringing people together for conversations around generosity (Generous City, Giving Tuesday).
• Some organizations are using market-based models to address needs, including social venture capitalism (Acumen Fund), social impact investing (Ashoka), social entrepreneurship (Omidyar Network, Skoll Foundation), and microfinancing (Kiva Microfunds).
• Some companies identify themselves as social enterprise or socially conscious brands (Full Circle Exchange, Raven + Lily, Whole Foods).
• Established corporations are rediscovering sustainability practices, such as the way Nestlé is adopting good water practices.
• Some missionaries and church organizations are using the business-as-mission model to enable them to get into resistant nations for spiritual work.
• Websites are enabling everyday folks to become their own small-scale philanthropists (Jolkona, DonorsChoose.org).
In addition to the diversity of generosity approaches, we also see how powerful generosity really is when we realize how much it affects our own identity.
We know that people can identify with commercial brands. Someone might tell us, “I drink Pepsi. I watch The Voice on TV. I always buy the new version of Grand Theft Auto when it comes out. I’m a United Methodist. I do my work on a MacBook.” This helps us peg him in our minds.
The same kind of brand transference happens with generosity. What we care about, what we give to, what we volunteer for defines, at least in part, who we are and what we care about. A buddy of mine said, “Our cause alignment and giving is part of our personal brand. This is the same as a Fortune 500 company translating their brand.” Someone might say, “I support charity:water” or “I care about human trafficking. If you get that, then you get me better.”
Our cause alignment becomes a part of our personal branding. In this way generosity reaches inside our own lives at the same time it transforms the structures of the society we live in.

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