42_I Do Foundation

Commit to Change

You can have your wedding cake and share it too. The ingenious idea behind this new nonprofit group is to redirect some of the money that fuels one of the great extravagances of American life--the totally over-the-top wedding--to organizations that fight for social justice. Here's how it works: Couples who want to celebrate in a more meaningful way can register with the foundation and agree to patronize partnered companies, including retail stores, travel agencies, and invitation printers. A percentage of the money that couples spend with affiliated organizations goes to worthwhile causes. Now if the foundation could only do something about the Electric Slide.

Peter Murray and Bethany Robertson
Cofounders, I Do Foundation
Washington, DC
http://www.IDoFoundation.org

FROM PETER & BETHANY'S ORIGINAL ENTRY:

What specific issue are you trying to address?
Murray and Robertson have seized upon an opportunity to redirect some of the extraordinary spending that occurs at weddings to organizations fighting for equity and social justice. Their vision is to create a cultural shift, in which charitable giving becomes a regular part of every special life event. They have approached the wedding industry first due to its unique spending structures. By making it easy to incorporate a charitable component into every aspect of every couple's wedding planning, Murray and Robertson are generating new resources for nonprofits providing services to some of the world's most needy populations.

What business principle applied?
The innovation of the idea results from the combination of two seemingly incongruous sectors into one powerful idea. The organization's strength as a change agent is rooted in the fact that it makes business sense. Retail stores, travel agents, and invitation services all value engaged couples because they are at a period of high, elastic spending. Retailers are willing to pay affiliate marketing fees to obtain these customers, fees which the I Do Foundation directs to nonprofit organizations. And engaged couples--getting married later in life, often having already established their households--are looking for a new way to celebrate.

How did you put it into practice?
One of the first times Murray and Robertson talked to a potential funder about this idea, they were told to consider funerals. But their vision was to build life-long giving habits--and funerals didn't fit. Other conversations ended with the word "interesting"--said in that long, drawn out way that means: "I don't get it." What they eventually learned was that good ideas don't go anywhere unless they make sense for all the shareholders. When they could explain why a charitable focus would draw customers, and why wedding spending would create new resources, both for-profit and nonprofit partners were ready to listen.

How have you seen results?
The I Do Foundation's current success is measured by its partnerships, which span from travel agencies like Carlson Wagonlit, to retail partners like Linens N' Things, to nonprofits such as Human Rights Watch. In addition, the Foundation has created a marketing partnership with a major bridal magazine, providing a unique platform for their ideas. Drawing on the strength of this diverse team, the I Do Foundation launched in January 2002. While the Foundation is projected to raise millions, Murray and Robertson are equally focused on the important goal of creating a societal shift in how people celebrate.

Read more entries from the Fast 50 2002

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