Love your neighbor.

Can Burgers Make a Difference?

04-15-2015

Neat Neat Neat Records and Bravas Food, two local small businesses located south of Downtown, have chosen to work together again to promote the annual Record Store Day. They use the unique twist of incentivizing consumers to visit the gourmet burger joint and picking a certain burger (Tha Snoooop). If you buy a "Tha Snooop, each business donates $1 to us at NeighborLink. Simple concept that isn't necessarily new, but effective. After the first day of sales, the buzz is significant and we've raise $52 from burgers and $70 from generous donors. I'm sure it's helped Bravas boost traffic and get NeatX3 some much needed awareness for their big event this Saturday.

$122 doesn't seem like much does it, but what if it doesn't have to? What if we found a specific NeighborLink project that had an appropriate target goal ($240) and then told all the customers that the proceeds don't just go to an organization, they go THROUGH an organization that has volunteers who will make sure the project get completed? This is exactly what happened last year and is in place this year.

I'm not a wiz at nonprofit fundraising when it comes to courting big donors, but I do know socially conscious consumers pretty well. I'm a pretty good consumer of products myself, which is a really drawn out way of saying that I like to buy things. My wife and I try to steward our resources and support as many causes as possible when we see an opportunity. Every consumer has a built-in "value meter" that analyzes every purchase with the goal of answering whether or not the price requested is worth it. A socially minded consumer will consider the donation as a form of discount or "good deed," which gets added to the equation when justifying their purchase. Not rocket science, I know, but it's true. I took the NL staff there yesterday to support the cause, get some photos for promo, and I walked out spending $50 knowing that only $3 of that was going to the project, and another $3 was going to be matched by Neatx3. If I really wanted to make the greatest impact, I would have donated the money directly to the project or just not gone to eat, but I wanted an exchange for my money and sometimes it doesn't feel like there is anything in it for me when I donate.

I wish I, and almost all of humanity, didn't think that there has to always be something in it for them, but we do. We're looking for an "equitable rate of exchange" in everything, especially when we hold something as valuable. Time, money, stuff, relationships, jobs, etc. "If I give you something, what do I get in return?" This reality informs the way we raise funds at NeighborLink and is ultimately why we created our own crowd-funding platform that empowers our volunteers to use the power of digital media tools and their social network to raise money for projects. We've raised over $25,000 in the past two years for projects and currently raise 100% of project expenses this way. We also get really excited about projects like these because they're significant. $240 is such a small percentage of our total operational budget, yet it's $240 that we didn't have yesterday and a barrier between the person we're helping and the solution to their problem.

This is why when small businesses like Bravas and Neatx3 approach me about wanting to give back, I immediately turn to them and ask whether they want to just give us a check or do they want a project to fund. What do you think they say? A PROJECT! Last year, they raise $400 for a hot water heater and it just happened this year that we had another recipient that needed a hot water heater. Today's consumers want to be connected to the solution, even if that initial consumer is small business who is trying to find meaningful ways to give back within their means. Bo and Morrison (store owners) may never get out on a NL project, but they are just as important as the volunteers who installed the hot water heater this week for a blind neighbor named, David.

It's amazing to be able to find a need, set an adequate goal that meets the need, and then communicate to consumers that their choices directly impact the life of another human being that has a set of circumstances that make life a bit harder than them. So what happens if we end up raising over $240? We cycle those funds into another project and buy another hot water heater, some lumber, or solve another problem for a neighbor in need and tell those burger lovers that they did more than what was needed and it still mattered.

Small businesses take note. You can change your neighborhood, be a great neighbor, and provide value to your customers without ever discounting your product or falling to the temptation of giving everything away. Bo and Morrison are making strategic promotional efforts to drive traffic to their stores and being generous with the proceeds. They're also staying within what they can do as a business. Bravas focused on one burger and not the entire menu. They've got a business to run, too. Businesses, when approached by a nonprofit or community group for donations or support, challenge them with the idea of "what's in it for me?," and ask them to consider collaborative efforts beyond the typical logo placement or coupon distribution. Or, you can just partner with NeighborLink and we'll make sure that your dollars go directly to serving your neighbors in need.

Go buy a burger before Saturday. Get to Record Store Day. It's OK to be a consumer this one time. We'll take your $2 and be happy you have a happy belly and some new jams.

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