What Gives!? How Philanthropy Fosters Engagement in the Modern Retail World

Heart Painted on Hands

There are many classic, presumably obvious reasons why a person or business should participate in philanthropy-based work: it creates happiness, reduces stress, and it’s just humane. Really, any reason that moves you to action is a good one.

As I talk to my peers in the mattress industry, I often hear about the important responsibility to keep the lights on and ensure organizations stay afloat. So, is there still room to do more? Should philanthropy be a priority? The resounding answer is, yes! To survive the next decade, it must be a priority. Here’s why.

According to a national research survey from Cone Communications, a public relations and marketing agency specializing in social impact:

  • 89 percent of Americans are likely to switch brands to one associated with a cause, given comparable price and quality, jumping nearly 35 percent from 1993 to 2017.
  • 91 percent want even more products and services to support a cause.  
  • 54 percent of Americans bought a product associated with a cause over the last 12 months, increasing 170 percent from 1993 to 2017.


Cause Consumers

Cause consumers are here, and their appetite isn’t satiated.

Now, I’m not saying your primary why should be to get more sales. If your genuine desire isn’t first to do good, we’ll all see right through it and it won’t help. What I am saying—actually, what the research says—is today’s retail consumers favor companies and products that do good.

I was recently interviewed by a publication based in northern Utah. After we ended, the executive editor said that throughout all her interviews and reporting, she has observed the most successful organizations were also those with a strong philanthropic mission.

It’s true, and consumers today expect this of us.

In fact, 78 percent of consumers want companies to address important social justice issues. And, 70 percent believe companies have an obligation to take action to improve issues that may not be relevant to their everyday business, according to Cone Communications.


Philanthropy for the Employee

Philanthropy is not just important to our customers, it’s also critical to our employees.

Great Place to Work, a Fortune magazine partner organization, surveyed more than 380,000 employees at hundreds of companies and found philanthropy at the corporate level, “is associated with greater employee retention, higher levels of brand ambassadorship on the part of workers and more enthusiastic employees.

Group of people with their hands in a circle, showing team work.



“Staffers who believe their organizations give back to the community are a striking 13 times [emphasis added] more likely to look forward to coming to work, compared to employees who do not perceive their employers to be generous toward the community.”


Additionally, “Charitable, philanthropic efforts on the part of employees and employers result in workplaces that are better for business, better for the people who work there and better for the world.”


Deloitte’s 2017 Volunteerism Survey of working Americans explored how people view volunteerism. They found that, “a culture of volunteerism in the workplace may boost morale, workplace atmosphere, and brand perception,” and help develop future leaders. Eighty percent of respondents reported that “active volunteers move into leadership roles more easily.”


4 People Hugging, Watching the Sunset


Remember the comment above about being genuine to your cause? It matters to employees, too.


Reporting on research linking employee engagement and cause work, Ryan Scott, a contributing author on Forbes.com, stated, “It’s not enough to offer a volunteer program and give lip service to causes. How direct managers and executive leadership personally engage in causes affects the attitudes of employees.”


Businesses are an integral part of building communities and healthy economies. When our businesses flourish, we all flourish and are more capable of giving back to build the next generation.


Using Retail to Fight Trafficking


One of my favorite examples of a business giving to its community revolves around someone in our industry: Deep Water Home in beautiful Chelan, Washington.


The story starts with their interior stylist, Diana Hoyt, who had an eye-opening experience near Spokane a little more than a year ago.


In a nutshell, Diana pulled into a rest stop where she saw a man in a truck let out a teenage girl. As the girl got out of the truck, Diana noticed she was wearing a small white dress—even though the temperature was below 20 degrees—and had bruising on her upper legs. Diana immediately knew something wasn’t right but didn’t know what to do. She froze. As the girl got back into the truck and drove away, Diana said she will forever remember the image of this young girl’s face.


Sad young girl looking down at her feet in a dark hallway.


A few months later, my path crossed Diana’s during the Summer 2018 Las Vegas Market where Malouf organized an event to launch a new campaign called OnWatch, which is free online training designed to help people recognize the signs of sex trafficking and what to do if they see something. Diana later told me that as we started talking about the signs, the memory of the young girl flooded her mind. After learning the solutions, Diana said she went from feeling hopeless to empowered knowing that if she had another experience, she could intervene.


As soon as the event ended, she went to her employer at Deep Water Home and began developing ways to get their community involved.


Within three months we worked together to create a public event in their store with all of their employees to create awareness about trafficking. We showcased OnWatch as a solution for everyone to make an impact. Since that time, they have continued to get their community involved and even been asked to hold an event in Spokane where she had her original experience.


In addition, working on their community event inspired our team to build additional resources to help others get involved and hold their own event. Consequently, we launched a toolkit full of resources needed to get your business or community trained to recognize the signs of trafficking. It is working!


Group of young children smiling and giving the peace sign.

Do Good


Giving is well worth the time and investment it takes. I hope you can see that now even more. In some ways I know I’m preaching to the choir because, according to the Small Business Administration, 75 percent of you are already giving back. For those who aren’t or those who want to be better, my parting advice is to find what works for you and your organization and do it.


Be genuine. Do good. Make an impact.

For more information about OnWatch and how you can get involved, visit www.IAmOnWatch.org


On Watch logo


This article originally appeared on Sleep Retailer.


About Jake Neeley

Jake Neeley is the director of philanthropy for Malouf and is responsible for planning, development and implementation of the company’s charitable marketing, communications and fundraising strategies through its non-profit arm, the Malouf Foundation.

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