The Christmas holiday season is approaching fast – the time of year when consumers are most active, and are focused on end-of-year charitable giving. So it’s a good time for retailers to start thinking of implementing charitable campaigns.

Corporate social responsibility is an undeniably important business approach that helps retailers build customer loyalty, improve their brand reputation and, often, increase sales. Every year, encouraged by the growing cohort of socially-conscious consumers, we see more and more charitable campaigns launched by our customers during the holiday season.

Research by Cone and Ebiquity found that more than 90% of Internet users worldwide expect companies to do more than focus on their bottom line. And they’re putting their money where their mouth is: 84% said they tried to purchase products and services from socially responsible companies.

Simply put, ecommerce and philanthropy are a natural fit, and positive attitudes toward a company translate into positive beliefs about the company’s products. Some retailers are quite creative and select a variety of causes to support. As a result, it becomes easy for shoppers to make a buying decision when they see a company contribution that resonates with their own  values.  Planning, content preparation and execution are three pillars of success for running your online charitable campaigns.

Plan: It is easy to start with charitable campaigns. After you choose a cause that aligns with your social responsibility strategy, plan campaigns that will enhance customer loyalty and brand reputation. Decide on the channels, dates, format, frequency and communication. Consider best practice principles when creating your plan:

  • Use a mix of channels that fit your business: website, email campaigns, social media, and in-person events.

  • Decide on the dates. You can link your campaign to key dates throughout the season, or create your own calendar.

  • Be creative with formats. Use all modern media available – images and video for digital channels, and traditional print for in-person events.

  • Align communications among channels. If you communicate it on the website, make sure you reference the campaign in your email newsletters, in social media and in stores. Include the closure of the campaign in your plan and communicate the achievements to inspire your customers.

Content: Create appealing visuals, video and texts for campaigns. Ask the charity you support to provide basic outlines and creative, and adjust it to your media strategy. Adjust content for different channels; website, email, social, and in-person events require the same content to be presented in different formats.

Execution: Depending on the way your program is structured, you may need to implement a third‐party system for donations, or just use order reporting if you are donating a percentage of sales. Communication is key for social responsibility campaigns. Make sure the campaigns get good visibility on all the channels ‐ use social media and in-person events, communicate achievements and monitor public response. If you support a cause throughout the year, be sure to reinforce it repeatedly during the festive season. You may want to link your campaign to key days and increase the communication frequency.

Here are a few great examples from last season:

Health-related causes are great thing to support, and there are many charities that are committed to making health care equally accessible, improving quality, and supporting medical  research. The beauty brand philosophy supports the Hope&Grace Initiative by giving one percent of net product sales to support community‐based mental health efforts.


Brooks Brothers supports a children’s research hospital that treats children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. They featured the campaign and asked for donations on their website as well as in email campaigns throughout December.


Giving Tuesday is a day devoted to charity, and occurs the day after Cyber Monday. As a  response to commercialization of the post‐Thanksgiving, the day now have gained popularity in over 70 countries.

Hickory Farms launched a #GivingTuesday campaign, where they communicated that each $1 donation can help connect a child with up to 10 nutritious meals. Land’s End is also using #GivingTuesday for a good cause, supporting the National Coalition for the Homeless and donate coats for every coat purchased.

Community-based causes are another way to draw support. Cole Haan, for example, supports organizations providing free literary arts tutorials for under-resourced children. They launched a hashtag campaign to spread the word and solicit donations.

Life is Good support Kid’s Foundation and have an 8 week tour started in fall. They reinforced the campaign in holiday emails and featured the tour results to draw the attention to the results – visited 40 communities in 8 weeks and raised $1 million for kids in need.

At the end of the year they sent out a special email featuring this charity initiative and the generous way to close 2015.

The numbers around #GivingTuesday, now entering its fifth year, are staggering. The campaign has generated 1.3 million social media mentions, raised more than $116 million online, and seen more than 700,000 people make donations. It’s clear that consumers are civic-minded, and are willing to put their money where their mouth is. Retailers would do well to make sure their ethos, and their charitable giving initiatives, aligns with the them.