Trend #5

Purpose-Driven Customer Engagement is on the Rise

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Culture and brand are two sides of the same coin, and consumers expect just as much as employees do when it comes to exhibiting authentic corporate purpose.

The stats are in and every year the desire for greater purpose and action from CEOs and their companies is higher. For example, the latest data from Edelman shows that 86% of people agree that CEOs must speak out on societal challenges. And according to a Porter Novelli study, a whopping 88% of consumers say they would buy a product from a purpose- driven brand and 66% would switch from a product they typically buy to a new product from a purpose-driven brand. When consumers think a brand has a strong purpose, they are 4.1 times more likely to trust the company, according to Zeno’s 2020 Strength of Purpose study. And when that trust is broken, IBM research shows one-third of consumers say they will no longer purchase that brand. So, in 2020, it wasn’t surprising to see companies turning their attention to how they can invigorate their customer experiences to drive positive engagement and sentiment outcomes with consumers.

In the last year, a record number of companies invested in purpose from the inside out in innovative ways. They launched public relief appeals in response to crises and traded in corporate holiday parties and large gatherings for grants or charitable donation currency for their employees, contractors, suppliers, vendors or customers.

Regardless of the approach, many more brands infused purpose into their customer experiences in ways that led to a significant increase in social impact to nonprofits, increasing their brand engagement and affinity while helping them stand out in competitive markets. It also helped them deliver on tangible, transparent action when statements were no longer enough.


An Answer to Activism

Today’s brands, influencers, celebrities and CEOs are at a greater risk of being “canceled” than ever before. While the duration of a cancelation depends on a number of factors, a company can actively pre-empt a cancelation or start to repair the brand after such a crisis by leveraging their corporate purpose programs.

Providing an outlet for consumers to act on causes they are passionate about in real time is arguably the most powerful way a brand can demonstrate they care about what their consumer cares about. For example, allowing consumers to take action through their interactions with a brand and support a wide array of causes empowers them to be supporting what matters to them at any given time. This could be in the form of donation round-ups, loyalty reward redemptions for charitable donations, in-product experiences or dedicated giving sites.

In the unfortunate instance of a brand being canceled, along with a sincere acknowledgement or apology for wrongdoing, many brands are making social commitments. They are promising cultural or corporate actions that will repair the issue or prevent it from occurring again and making grants to a related cause. While these responses can be seen as reactive, they have been shown to deliver on consumer expectations of tangible action when a cancelation occurs.


Top Ways Companies are engaging their customers in doing good


Growth in customer

Employees weren’t the only ones faced with isolation and disconnection in 2020 due to physical distancing. Everyone was affected. Many companies recognized the opportunity and obligation to engage both their employees and customers through Goodness, hence mobilizing their greatest resources for collective impact: their people. In so doing, they achieved impact at a scale greater than the organization could do alone, while providing their network with a sense of purpose, efficacy and belonging.

In 2020, 70% more companies activated customer giving initiatives. These campaigns raised $17.7 million for 4,691 unique nonprofits, compared to $7.4 million in 2019.

Choice leads to
higher impact

While historically it has been common practice for companies to include only a limited selection of curated nonprofits in their customer initiatives, our data shows that much like in the employee context, more choice leads to higher donation amounts. So, where choice is limited, people may still give — but they give less. Conversely, when 50 or more organizations are available to a customer, the donation amount per transaction increases by 72% compared to when 10 or fewer organizations are available. This is a powerful testament to the fact that when a company shows they care about what an individual cares about, it drives greater engagement resulting in more social impact.

As it turns out, bottom-up approaches don’t just attract, retain and engage employees, they also work for customers!

Top causes supported through
customer initiatives

Looking at the top cause categories supported by customers of our corporate clients, we see several similarities to the top categories for both employee and corporate giving.

The cause categories are reflective of the challenges of last year — human services, food banks, education, health and civil rights. Perhaps the most surprising result was religious organizations coming in at number two. As outlined in the Grassroots Passions Fuel Collective Movements section of this report, this indicates a significant demand and opportunity for more companies to consider making religious causes available to donors — either with or without a match — as a way to deepen community engagement.

Mental health, which is a growing concern as the effects of the crises in 2020 linger, landed just out of the top 10 at number 11.


with Bing

Give with Bing, powered by Benevity’s API, allows people to turn everyday searches into Goodness for the causes they care about.

Users can go to and select a cause of their choice. Each search thereafter earns Microsoft Rewards points. Every one of those reward points gets converted into a donation that then gets aggregated and sent to one of 1.4 million eligible nonprofits worldwide, as selected by individual Bing users. In just 10 months since Microsoft and Benevity collaborated to launch Give with Bing, the program and impact has grown enormously, raising over $5.7 million.

The Next Frontier for
Corporate Purpose

While cause marketing has been around for a long time, purpose-driven customer engagement is just starting to burgeon. Companies with large customer bases — consumer or business — are investing in these initiatives as they recognize that the future of brand preference hinges on authentic and empowered purpose.


"We couldn’t be more proud for Microsoft Bing to be the search engine that gives back. Benevity made it easy to develop a user experience for both customers and nonprofits that matches our vision. The best part is that we are able to empower Bing customers to direct donations to causes they care about, making their searches all the more impactful.”

— Jordi Ribas
CVP, Microsoft Bing Engineering


The 2020 Benevity Impact Report

Purpose has been recognized as a key component of long-term business resilience and sustainability — and it's driven a significant increase in all aspects of corporate purpose. The Benevity client community created record-breaking impact in 2020 and we're sharing all the details as part of The State of Corporate Purpose report.

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