Authentic Altruism or ‘Quick-dry’ Charity Make-Over?

Marketing-O-Rama / Philanthropy

It’s been incredible to see so many new companies and products adding charitable components to what they’re doing or even go all the way and back that into their ‘DNA’  as a socially conscious but still capitalistic company. I love it!

Sometimes though you wonder if companies might be doing this just for the PR value and not really for authentic reasons that resonate with their brand, their customers or the owners. For instance, I recently came across a campaign for Kentucky Fried Chicken to donate 50 cents for every pink bucket of chicken they sell.

KFC w/Komen foundation


While I’m all for breast cancer research and help (my Mom died from breast and ovarian cancer) but I don’t see the connection. And I’m not the only one I’ve seen some snarky blog posts about how KFC is trying to use this do-good campaign to gloss over the fact fried chicken could lead to obesity and heart disease. It just doesn’t fit the KFC brand and I cannot see customers really getting behind this in a genuine way. Plus, there already seeing some negative backlash for their “good corporate deed”.

If you’re going to use your business to promote or support a cause there should be a personal reason. Case in point, a recent rose wine I just had produced by former Olympian Peggy Fleming is called “Victories“. Peggy went through a fight with breast cancer and now for every bottle purchased a significant portion goes to breast cancer causes. I like the way this is authentic plus it really ties into the product itself, a rose, since pink has become the color for breast cancer awareness.

Victories wine
Here’s another interesting example that fits the product personality –Elivse and Kreese make high-end luxury goods out of discarded fire hose and other recycled material. Yup I said fire hose!

Elvis & Kresse Fire hose bag

They’ve also used waste coffee sacks, scrap sail cloth, used air traffic control flight strips, parachute silk and all sorts of other industrial waste. They donate 50% of their profits back to Firehouse Brigade charities and that fits perfectly with their brand and actual product. It’s a beautiful congruent element that once again gets customers talking.

Personally, I’ve incorporated my adventurous personality many different fundraisers including one for Virgin Unite. Me and my buddies, Mike Filsaime and Rob Olic, joined up to do a “Fall-a-Thon” where our goal was to raise $1 per every foot we fell out of the sky. (Oh…did I mention it was from 30,000 feet – the cruising altitude of a jet?)


So the big questions to ask yourself are:

  • What causes matters to you and to your customers?
  • What is the personality of my product, service or company?
  • How does what we do help create zealots to spread our message.

I’d love to hear about different impactful tie-ins you’ve seen that have worked or those that didn’t. Leave a comment and keep the conversation going.


  1. March 28, 2011, 7:10 pm

    My purpose is to bring the Dream Bar Cafe Principles to the masses to help people gain: clarity, confidence & focus. It’s a wonderful life pursuit indeed.

  2. March 31, 2011, 1:28 pm

    Having integrated my non-profit work with my business deeply, I too look through skeptical lenses at the PR-centric attempts to slap on a charitable cause to what is, essentially, an unconnected and often unconcerned capitalist venture. Kind of like what Seth Godin calls a “Meatball Sundae”!

    By letting my clients know that a share of profits from every sale of my infoproducts goes to help fund a child’s heart operation, I’ve grown a tribe of supporters who really care about helping kids, while also learning how to grow their online business. A happy synergy that simply keeps on growing and touching lives.

    Oh, in case some don’t see the connection between an online business and a charity that helps heart kids… it’s this. In the offline world, I’m a pediatric heart surgeon :-)

    All success

  3. April 10, 2011, 8:09 am

    KFC’s is just way OTT and not believable.

  4. May 2, 2011, 9:14 pm

    Spot on. I think it goes to a much bigger issue, namely, that most companies don’t know WHY they are really in business. Hint: it’s not profit, that’s the by-product of the value of your WHY.

    The most inspiring (for me) at least explanation of this is Simon Sinek’s TED talk, see:

    Or, if you want a similar spin on it, set your DVR for CNBC’s biography of Ben & Jerry’s. Cliche, but cliche for a reason.

    There is a Cause fit for KFC. In fact, I saw a biography on Col. Sanders and it was inspired.

    If they connect back to their roots, they could probably figure out the right cause angle for the company and go from there instead of layering it on as an afterthought.

Leave a Reply