Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.


Has large corporate America figured out what small business has known for a long time?  That giving back to the community is not only the right thing to do, but also a great way to get your name/product/promotion out there for free?  

As a small business owner in a previous life with The Space Store, I learned early on that advertising was not only expensive, it really didn’t work - it just wasn’t an option for us.  However creative promotions, astronaut autograph signings and donations did the trick every time.  

The Space Store donated silent auctions items on a regular basis, from astronaut flight suits for kids to official astronaut patches to space shuttle toys.  It meant we got our name in the program and an eye catching display in the silent auction for charity functions across the country.  All it cost The Space Store was a small amount of postage, a little effort to pack up and ship the item, and, a few dollars in actual wholesale costs.  In fact, over time, we were able to convince vendors to send us additional inventory that was to be used strictly for these donations, at no charge to The Space Store.

Now, Pepsi has announced the Pepsi Refresh Project.   In lieu of spending millions of dollars on Super Bowl ads that we’ll all forget a few days later, the beverage maker plans to award grants to "people, businesses and non-profits with ideas that will have a positive impact."    Starting February 1st, you can vote for up to 10 of your favorite ideas every day.  The Pepsi Refresh Project will be looking for 1000 ideas every month.  All voting will start on the 1st and continue through the last day of every month.

"Corporate social responsibility is not a new idea, but one that resonates more than ever  with consumers in the driver's seat, controlling and sharing information," says Helen Vollmer, CEO of Vollmer Public Relations, one of the largest independent PR firms in the country.  "The Mad Men days of advertisers telling us what to think and what to buy is long gone.  Today savvy marketers understand that we want a voice in what's happening around us.  Those companies that embrace this and involve us in their core values will win every time." 

Need another example?  Perhaps you have noticed the television spots running for Disney every other commercial break?  Here is one more great charitable campaign that is garnering attention across the country.  Give a Day. Get a Disney Day.   The goal is "to inspire one million people to volunteer a day of service to a participating organization in their communities."  When you visit the official Disney website, you are given the chance to search a list of eligible organizations you can volunteer a day for based on your Zip Code.  After you find your volunteer opportunity, you sign up with that organization.  Once that organization sends verification that you have indeed volunteered, Disney will send you an email with a voucher redeemable for a 1-day, 1-theme park ticket for you to use, or you may donate it to a designated charitable organization.  

Not only are these major iconic American corporations giving back to our communities, they’ve also found an excellent way to spend considerably less money on wide scale campaigns, picking up some good karma along the way and garnering free advertising on blogs, tweets and posts worldwide.  I promise you, chances are, I would not have written, tweeted or posted about either of these companies for one of their traditional advertising campaigns. 

Of course, the ‘terms and conditions’ on each site will wear you out trying to read and understand them all - just read the terms as best you can and know some way and somehow Pepsi, Disney and you are doing your part to make this a better world.  (And giving the corporate lawyers something to do as well.) 

By the way, The Space Store is still up and running with a new owner.  Need some space toys or stuff?  The 10% discount code is still teacher.  You’re welcome.

Rock on Steeleworkers!