Social Enterprise Dictionary - Part 2

Last month I started a blog post about creating a social enterprise dictionary. A discussion was started with comments coming from a variety of individuals.  Last night, over a glass of wine and some "old-fashioned" social networking with David Ian Gray, more was added to the #socent lexicon.We were discussing the retail experience - why people return to restaurants, like Flying Pig, where we were last night; or choose to shop at the same clothing stores and supermarkets. And it boils down to creating a positive retail experience. This experience is translated across a number of other types of businesses, but isn't fully integrated into the charitable sector.  This is an area that social enterprise can make huge in-roads.

So far, the retail experience in the charitable world is limited to the end user of the organization's service. This experience has not extended to the donor, making them a repeat customer. For example, the end user of the counselling centre might have a positive enough experience to continue seeking support from that organization, but the donor who ensures that there are affordable counselling services offered, is not treated as a repeat customer, because their interaction is removed from the end result.  In the context of my conversation with David, we were looking at retail philanthropy from the experience of the donor as client, not just the recipient of the service.

Jay Baydala founder of UEnd uses the term retail philanthropy to describe a donor's experience as a shopping experience.  By giving people the projects to shop for, they are, in essence having a retail experience.

Cause Capitalism uses the term retail philanthropy in a different context.  From their perspective, retail philanthropy is the ability to shop for everyday things and have some of the proceeds be redirected to charitable purposes.  We see this all the time, when you buy a pink shirt from the Running Room, part of the proceeds go to Breast Cancer, or the Go Red for Women campaign supporting the American Heart Association at Macy's, or the Becel Manage Your Health campaign.  In all of these cases, retail philanthropy is about cause marketing.

David and I were exploring retail philanthropy from the perspective of the donor. What would allow for the individual to have that "keep coming back for more" charity experience that she has when she goes to her favourite restaurant or retail outlet. If we started looking at philanthropic giving as a retail transaction, is there a way that we could increase the positive retail experience and decrease the negative experiences.  For example, now starts the holiday giving season.  Over the next couple of months people will be bombarded by direct mail "asks," telephone solicitations, and corporate giving functions all in the name of the holiday spirit. The experience of giving through any one of these methods does not encourage repeat customers. The socialization of giving is removed, hence the retail experience is removed, by the very nature of the exchange between donor and charity in these instances. 

Building stronger communities is not only about the stuff that is being built within the community, but it is also about the interactions that occur within those communities. In an effort to streamline giving we have removed the retail and social aspect of the very transaction that makes people want to come back for more. Some might argue that is what the gala events are for (see this week's blog post on Gala Economics by Seth Godin on his view of the role that galas play in the charitable market), but even with galas, we have lost that ongoing interaction and repeat buyer mentality that makes the retail world move forward.

Social enterprises have an important role to play, not only in solving major social problems and bridging the world between charities and for-profit companies; they also can bring the retail experience into the philanthropic experience... Creating repeat customers.  Repeat customers who are the donors, not just the repeat end user of the service offered by the charity.

I am still trying to figure out what a new word for philanthropy is.  Especially as we see this type of social engagement morphing.  What do you think? What word can be created or used to describe this new charitable landscape?