CafeGive Social CEO Sandra Morris and Marketing Director Alan Robinson: Doing Well, While Doing Good

| March 10, 2014
CafeGive Social CEO Sandra Morris and Marketing Director Alan Robinson.

CafeGive Social CEO Sandra Morris and Marketing Director Alan Robinson.

One day back in 2009, Sandra Morris met up with her old friends Laurie Price and Ketan Sempat for coffee and pitched an idea: a company that created Web and social media applications that helped their clients give back to their communities. The resulting brainstorming session put in motion a plan that the three veterans of the technology, product development and marketing industries had nurtured since their days as employees at Intel – to revolutionize community giving using digital marketing technology such as Web apps and social media.

CafeGive Social's official logo.

CafeGive Social was born.

The idea was simple: Design Web apps and social media strategies to help clients design their own charitable giving campaigns, and engage and contribute to their communities. Once the company was off the ground, Morris worked with Marketing Director Alan Robinson to develop and implement a plan that would serve a wide array of clients – from Intel and US Bank to the Portland Nursery and the Rose City Rollers – in serving their communities.

The plan worked. In just five years, CafeGive Social has become a unique success story: a business that profits from making the world a better place.

TMM’s Michael Munkvold spoke with Morris and Robinson about CafeGive Social’s past, present and future, the fledgling field of cause marketing, and using social media to become the change you wish to see.

Q: Portland is a very marketing-saturated place right now. In this very crowded marketplace, what makes CafeGive special?

Sandra: CafeGive is all about working in the intersection of cause marketing and social media. All of our work –  the platform that we have created, the applications that we have – is focused on helping companies tell their giving back story, engaging communities in the way these companies give back, engaging employees, and making that all very social.

Q: What kinds of technologies do you use in creating your applications?

Sandra: All of our applications are Web-based. We provide all the hosting, all the templates, and a set of self-service tools so people can build their own social media campaigns for giving back. We have a back end so people can track what’s happening in those campaigns, so they can make decisions about where to invest in the campaign to make it work. The platform allows to work across companies so they can work together – a non-profit and a for-profit could work together on the same campaign, for example. We also have a back-end donation platform that allows for-profit companies to collect dollars on behalf of a non-profit company, and distribute grant dollars to them.

Q: What can social media and web apps do in the realm of charitable giving that can’t be done with more traditional methods, like grant writing?

cgs2

Sandra: The marketing research around cause marketing is astounding. Any marketing person, reading about how consumers react to cause marketing, would salivate at having these kinds of numbers. According to Cohen Communications, 91% of consumers want to know how companies are involved in their community. Over 50% of consumers, if they know companies are involved in their communities or in community giving, are more likely to recommend them to friends and pay more for their product. These numbers are phenomenal, and they continue to grow year by year. That begs for a social media solution. Social media is the place where you’re building community around your brand and your company. That’s an extension of your employees as well as your customers and people who are interested in your brand. That community is a perfect place for you to have these kinds of conversations.

Q: How do your cause marketing services add to your clients’ brand?

Alan: The products, solutions and services we provide help these companies showcase their brand and build an army of brand advocates to spread the word about the causes that they are supporting. We are not necessarily a brand advocacy agency, but  our products allow our clients to raise the level of their brand around cause marketing.

Sandra: The place where we do our best work is where a company has a really good sense of what their brand stands for, and we’re helping them elevate that into social media.

Q: There are moments in this business where you have an amazing success, a “this is why I do this” moment. Tell me about a moment like that CafeGive has had with a client.

Sandra: Some of our best work is with smaller organizations. We were working with a bank on the East Coast called Adirondack Trust, and they came to us and said, “We have this community fund, we give to 12 to 14 different organizations in the community, but nobody knows what we do. How do we tell this story?” They knew it would be through social media, and they wanted to commit to a series of campaigns that would help them articulate the story and engage the community. They raised 18 times what they had raised the year before for the community fund, by having a few conversations with us, and using three of our applications to articulate what they were doing. One was a voting app, one was a matching donation application, and the other was our social impact map.  They put that map together as a coordinated campaign, and worked with us and a marketing guy who was committed and charged up about it, and took our advice and ran with it. I think it’s a beautiful story because he accomplished what he set out to accomplish. There were other campaigns we did that had much bigger impact, but the reason I like it is that a small local organization was able to rally a small community and have amazing results in their community.

cgs3

 

Alan: Every time that we have a new client, everything we do is around a cause, and I think the impact that has around the community is huge. We worked with another financial institution, Verity Credit Union, that wanted to raise awareness about their bike loan program. They reached out to a  community biking organization and had a voting contest on their Facebook page where people could post pictures of their bikes, and people could vote on which bike they liked best. For every vote Verity received, they donated $5 to a local biking community fund, and whoever received the most votes got a gift certificate from a small local business that sold bicycles in the community. One little campaign was able to connect a non-profit, a credit union, a community and a local business. That’s what means the most to me: the sense of community.

Q: How closely do clients work with you on these campaigns?

Sandra: We have two types of clients. One will say, “I know exactly what I want to do with this campaign”, and they have their own graphic artist and a set of dates they want to set, and they know how they’re going to promote it. They use our templates, and they can even go in and create the campaign themselves with our self-serve tools. The other kind of client comes to us and says, “We have an idea about what we think we want to do. Can you advise us about what you think will work, what type of campaign we should run based on our business goals, and where we are in our social media strategy? It would be great if you put together a marketing package for us so we knew how to promote it.” We work with both big and small companies that need that. We have worked with a local US Bank branch to roll out an entire program for Oregon schools – a program they are now taking to New Mexico and Nebraska – and Girl Rising and Ten Times Ten,  helping them put together an entire strategy for donations. We can take on big projects like that, medium-sized projects where they just want us to do the graphic arts and maybe provide a blog and a press release, and we also have clients like PatelCo Credit Union, who use our platform so much that they just pay the fee, launch the campaign and never talk to us.

Q: Who designs the apps? Is it mostly internal?

Sandra: Yes. We have a development team, and our CTO Ketan Sampat, who is one of the founders, has a rich software development background.

Q: Do you ever bring in outside contractors?

Sandra: We have, and we’ve worked with a couple of local firms.

Q: What kinds of content are the most successful in your campaigns?

Sandra: There are three applications and a subscription that are really popular. “Like Us, Give Back” is very simple: “Like this page and we’ll give back.” A brand can put that on their causes page. Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield did one with SMART, where they put that campaign on the SMART page and, for every new “Like” SMART got for the next two months, they gave back $5 to a non-profit. The photo contest is also popular, where an entry or a vote earns a donation. The other is a matching donation application that allows companies put put a matching grant and match every donation that comes in. The most popular subscription is called Social Impact Map, which allows companies to keep a yearly record of all the places they have given, all the places their employees have volunteered, and where they’re giving back. It connects social media photographs with that volunteer effort and connects the pin of that map with those photographs, and also has a social media stream.

Q: Where do you see this company going, and where would you like it to go?

Sandra: We have a lot of exciting things on the horizons. We think there’s a lot of opportunities for B corporations to tell their story. Most B corps are giving back and are really involved in community, and we’re getting interest from all kinds of segments: law firms, financial planners, credit unions, small retailers, and non-profits who want to reward the companies they’re working with. There is no segment that isn’t interested in this market, so we’re enhancing it, making all of our social media connections stronger and more robust, and we’ve got some things coming out around social impact maps that are really exciting.

Alan: We are reaching out to companies and getting them to realize how they can leverage what they are already doing. It’s only a matter of time: The more that we break through as a brand, the more we can connect with people and tell our story and make connections with other B corporations and companies that are doing those same types of things . The sky is the limit for CafeGive Social, because no is doing what we do, and that leaves a lot of wide-open space for us to grow.

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CafeGive Social CEO Sandra Morris and Marketing Director Alan Robinson.

CafeGive Social CEO Sandra Morris and Marketing Director Alan Robinson.

One day back in 2009, Sandra Morris met up with her old friends Laurie Price and Ketan Sempat for coffee and pitched an idea: a company that created Web and social media applications that helped their clients give back to their communities. The resulting brainstorming session put in motion a plan that the three veterans of the technology, product development and marketing industries had nurtured since their days as employees at Intel – to revolutionize community giving using digital marketing technology such as Web apps and social media.

CafeGive Social's official logo.

CafeGive Social was born.

The idea was simple: Design Web apps and social media strategies to help clients design their own charitable giving campaigns, and engage and contribute to their communities. Once the company was off the ground, Morris worked with Marketing Director Alan Robinson to develop and implement a plan that would serve a wide array of clients – from Intel and US Bank to the Portland Nursery and the Rose City Rollers – in serving their communities.

The plan worked. In just five years, CafeGive Social has become a unique success story: a business that profits from making the world a better place.

TMM’s Michael Munkvold spoke with Morris and Robinson about CafeGive Social’s past, present and future, the fledgling field of cause marketing, and using social media to become the change you wish to see.

Q: Portland is a very marketing-saturated place right now. In this very crowded marketplace, what makes CafeGive special?

Sandra: CafeGive is all about working in the intersection of cause marketing and social media. All of our work –  the platform that we have created, the applications that we have – is focused on helping companies tell their giving back story, engaging communities in the way these companies give back, engaging employees, and making that all very social.

Q: What kinds of technologies do you use in creating your applications?

Sandra: All of our applications are Web-based. We provide all the hosting, all the templates, and a set of self-service tools so people can build their own social media campaigns for giving back. We have a back end so people can track what’s happening in those campaigns, so they can make decisions about where to invest in the campaign to make it work. The platform allows to work across companies so they can work together – a non-profit and a for-profit could work together on the same campaign, for example. We also have a back-end donation platform that allows for-profit companies to collect dollars on behalf of a non-profit company, and distribute grant dollars to them.

Q: What can social media and web apps do in the realm of charitable giving that can’t be done with more traditional methods, like grant writing?

cgs2

Sandra: The marketing research around cause marketing is astounding. Any marketing person, reading about how consumers react to cause marketing, would salivate at having these kinds of numbers. According to Cohen Communications, 91% of consumers want to know how companies are involved in their community. Over 50% of consumers, if they know companies are involved in their communities or in community giving, are more likely to recommend them to friends and pay more for their product. These numbers are phenomenal, and they continue to grow year by year. That begs for a social media solution. Social media is the place where you’re building community around your brand and your company. That’s an extension of your employees as well as your customers and people who are interested in your brand. That community is a perfect place for you to have these kinds of conversations.

Q: How do your cause marketing services add to your clients’ brand?

Alan: The products, solutions and services we provide help these companies showcase their brand and build an army of brand advocates to spread the word about the causes that they are supporting. We are not necessarily a brand advocacy agency, but  our products allow our clients to raise the level of their brand around cause marketing.

Sandra: The place where we do our best work is where a company has a really good sense of what their brand stands for, and we’re helping them elevate that into social media.

Q: There are moments in this business where you have an amazing success, a “this is why I do this” moment. Tell me about a moment like that CafeGive has had with a client.

Sandra: Some of our best work is with smaller organizations. We were working with a bank on the East Coast called Adirondack Trust, and they came to us and said, “We have this community fund, we give to 12 to 14 different organizations in the community, but nobody knows what we do. How do we tell this story?” They knew it would be through social media, and they wanted to commit to a series of campaigns that would help them articulate the story and engage the community. They raised 18 times what they had raised the year before for the community fund, by having a few conversations with us, and using three of our applications to articulate what they were doing. One was a voting app, one was a matching donation application, and the other was our social impact map.  They put that map together as a coordinated campaign, and worked with us and a marketing guy who was committed and charged up about it, and took our advice and ran with it. I think it’s a beautiful story because he accomplished what he set out to accomplish. There were other campaigns we did that had much bigger impact, but the reason I like it is that a small local organization was able to rally a small community and have amazing results in their community.

cgs3

 

Alan: Every time that we have a new client, everything we do is around a cause, and I think the impact that has around the community is huge. We worked with another financial institution, Verity Credit Union, that wanted to raise awareness about their bike loan program. They reached out to a  community biking organization and had a voting contest on their Facebook page where people could post pictures of their bikes, and people could vote on which bike they liked best. For every vote Verity received, they donated $5 to a local biking community fund, and whoever received the most votes got a gift certificate from a small local business that sold bicycles in the community. One little campaign was able to connect a non-profit, a credit union, a community and a local business. That’s what means the most to me: the sense of community.

Q: How closely do clients work with you on these campaigns?

Sandra: We have two types of clients. One will say, “I know exactly what I want to do with this campaign”, and they have their own graphic artist and a set of dates they want to set, and they know how they’re going to promote it. They use our templates, and they can even go in and create the campaign themselves with our self-serve tools. The other kind of client comes to us and says, “We have an idea about what we think we want to do. Can you advise us about what you think will work, what type of campaign we should run based on our business goals, and where we are in our social media strategy? It would be great if you put together a marketing package for us so we knew how to promote it.” We work with both big and small companies that need that. We have worked with a local US Bank branch to roll out an entire program for Oregon schools – a program they are now taking to New Mexico and Nebraska – and Girl Rising and Ten Times Ten,  helping them put together an entire strategy for donations. We can take on big projects like that, medium-sized projects where they just want us to do the graphic arts and maybe provide a blog and a press release, and we also have clients like PatelCo Credit Union, who use our platform so much that they just pay the fee, launch the campaign and never talk to us.

Q: Who designs the apps? Is it mostly internal?

Sandra: Yes. We have a development team, and our CTO Ketan Sampat, who is one of the founders, has a rich software development background.

Q: Do you ever bring in outside contractors?

Sandra: We have, and we’ve worked with a couple of local firms.

Q: What kinds of content are the most successful in your campaigns?

Sandra: There are three applications and a subscription that are really popular. “Like Us, Give Back” is very simple: “Like this page and we’ll give back.” A brand can put that on their causes page. Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield did one with SMART, where they put that campaign on the SMART page and, for every new “Like” SMART got for the next two months, they gave back $5 to a non-profit. The photo contest is also popular, where an entry or a vote earns a donation. The other is a matching donation application that allows companies put put a matching grant and match every donation that comes in. The most popular subscription is called Social Impact Map, which allows companies to keep a yearly record of all the places they have given, all the places their employees have volunteered, and where they’re giving back. It connects social media photographs with that volunteer effort and connects the pin of that map with those photographs, and also has a social media stream.

Q: Where do you see this company going, and where would you like it to go?

Sandra: We have a lot of exciting things on the horizons. We think there’s a lot of opportunities for B corporations to tell their story. Most B corps are giving back and are really involved in community, and we’re getting interest from all kinds of segments: law firms, financial planners, credit unions, small retailers, and non-profits who want to reward the companies they’re working with. There is no segment that isn’t interested in this market, so we’re enhancing it, making all of our social media connections stronger and more robust, and we’ve got some things coming out around social impact maps that are really exciting.

Alan: We are reaching out to companies and getting them to realize how they can leverage what they are already doing. It’s only a matter of time: The more that we break through as a brand, the more we can connect with people and tell our story and make connections with other B corporations and companies that are doing those same types of things . The sky is the limit for CafeGive Social, because no is doing what we do, and that leaves a lot of wide-open space for us to grow.