Thursday, November 18, 2010

New corporate responsibility

I believe by now everyone is aware of the Pepsi Refresh Campaign. Pepsi decided that instead of spending millions of dollars on advertising, they are re-directing the money to worthy causes. On face value, when it first came out, I thought awesome. Money will now be poured into much needed community and social projects.

I thought non-profits were going to benefit tremendously from this endeavour. I was right, but fewer get the money than I thought. Why? Because it is about competition. Whoever the public votes on will win that month's money. Again, face value, great. If you have a great cause, you will get funded. But if you look deeper, it is a flawed system.

As a non-profit Director and someone that works in the government, fairness rarely beats out popularity. The same holds true here. Your cause may benefit the most people or provide a great impact to the community, but if it is not flashy and sexy, you will not get the votes.

Pepsi is not the only company that does this. Right now, Walmart is running a similar campaign for Hunger Programs. Again it is a voting program. The only glaring detail that really drove this point out to me was through the statistics. Our food bank, Second Harvest of the Lehigh Valley and Northeast Pennsylvania, is in the running for this money. Walmart developed a program that calculated needs by the region. The national "Food Hardship Rate" is 9.2%. Our area is rated at 16.7%. We should get it based upon need, not a popularity vote. We are currently 12th and only the top 6 get funding.

So if some place like Philly or NYC, due to the sheer population numbers, gets more people signed up/ voting, the money will go to them. This is not fair to small markets. Is it time to rethink these programs?

I believe Pepsi and Walmart are doing these programs for the wrong reasons. Their social responsibility by funding these programs is great, but by making it competitive, it provides more marketing and exposure than just granting grants through normal means. It is all about their tooting their own horns versus actually helping the ones that need it the most.

I am grateful for what they do, but maybe it is time to re-think these programs. They are hurting the ones that need it the most.

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