Wheatsville Practices ‘Strategic Giving’ to Engage with Community

Wheatsville Food Co-op
Austin, TX

Year founded: 1976
Number of members: 22,087
Member investment: $70
Number of employees: 236
Number of retails: Guadalupe Street and South Lamar locations

Like many businesses focused on serving a community, Wheatsville Food Co-op in Austin, Tex. , was generous in supporting local service groups and like-minded organizations. Yet, Raquel Dadomo, brand manager at the co-op, realized that a lot of the co-op’s resources put toward offering that support wasn’t having the kind of impact the co-op envisioned. For example, a 1% donation by the co-op of a certain day’s sales raised significant funds, but was implemented and received with little fanfare while draining the co-op’s marketing and outreach budget. In that light, the co-op’s generosity was more of a strain on operations than the community-builder they wanted it to be. “It was largely invisible,” she said.

Dadomo wanted a co-op donation program that was dynamic, one that involved widespread excitement, participation, and communication feedback loops that better told the co-op’s story around its generosity to the community. At a marketing conference she learned about the power of a well-executed round-up program at the register, and for Wheatsville, the idea of ‘strategic giving’ gained traction.

“It really struck me that as a co-op grocery store we have that opportunity to make someone’s day,” she said. “To me strategic giving is about being generous, but in ways where more people know about it, and are included and able to participate. ”

By creating a roundup program at the register, the co-op could build participation at many levels. The organizations the roundup donations go to were voted on by the co-op’s members in the annual board of director’s election ballot (also encouraging board voting). They’d ask patrons to roundup their change at the final sale to contribute toward that month’s chosen organization.

Staff got to meet the people from the groups receiving the roundup donations, and the recipient organizations spread the word to their constituents. Wheatsville also supports staff who volunteer in the community, and those staff would volunteer at organizations during their chosen roundup month.

The co-op also used social media widely to boost their activities with photos and event shares, and it also provided a medium to communicate with the community about the co-op’s activities. At the end of every month, the co-op invites the recipient community group for a “giving ceremony” which is publicized, and at the end of the year, all the groups are invited for one big event. “By doing it this way, we could show what we can accomplish together. ”

“With this program we also really turned up the volume in terms of our public storytelling. ” Dadomo said that they were able to show how everyone’s participation made a hero out of everyone involved: customers who donated, staff who asked customers to roundup their change, the people at the recipient organizations doing innovative things, and the ability of everyone to support so much good work being done in the community through the co-op. “It gives people a reason to shop at the co-op, to feel empowered to help make those choices. People feel more attached to the co-op and pursuing the co-op’s goals together. ”

Now she said customers often stop her at the co-op or on the street to recognize the co-op’s generosity. This has had an inspirational impact on everyone, and Dadomo is continuing to look for new ways that strategic giving can merge with community involvement. “Customers can see how important it is, and with us telling the story, especially on social media, they see the co-op interacting with so many different groups. Now it’s a very important part of what we do. The narrative has completely flipped. ”

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By |March 6th, 2018|Categories: Articles, Case Studies, Solutions|Tags: , |

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