Can Money Buy Happiness?

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What if every time you sold a product or service a percentage of the sale went to a cause your customers believed in? What if instead of you as the CEO of your company - writing one big check at year's end to a charity of your choice, your employees had the freedom to choose where the money went on a weekly basis? What if giving back increased your company's bottom line and made your employees happy and supported philanthropy?

in/PACT - a technology company that's bringing to market a revolutionary social good incentive platform created by Amar Sharany , a YPO member since 2002. in/PACT's position is that companies are more profitable and achieve more sustainable growth when their customers and employees are able to identify and act upon a set of shared values.

The seeds of in/PACT were sown more than 20 years ago when a school in Orlando, Florida, asked Sharany to help with their fundraising. Sharany was disinclined to ask for money and instead, proposed they team up with local merchants who would give a percentage of every sale that came from someone associated with the initiative back to the school.

The success of the endeavor got Sharany thinking...

"A lot of people in ethnic communities have high phone bills," says Sharany. "We decided to talk to telephone companies to see if we could do something similar and landed a deal with AT&T ."

A year and a half later, Sharany had 1,200 employees and was doing US$300 million in sales. With 3,000 community-based causes participating in the program reaching 400,000 households, he was giving back US$15+ million a year to the causes.

"In the early 1980s we were the only one doing this," says Sharany. "We basically invented what everyone now knows as cause marketing; conscious consumers buying products and services because they want to help their local community."

While the company grew tremendously - partnerships with Verizon and First USA followed - without the technology in place for tracking consumer purchases, shopping behavior and where contributions were going, the methodology plateaued.

"In 2008 I participated in the YPO Harvard President's Program ," says Sharany. "I suddenly had a vision of how the power of technology and social media could dramatically expand our platform."

Sharany was particularly inspired by Harvard Professor Michael Norton 's case study based on his book, Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending . The thesis, "Can money buy happiness?" suggested that spending money on other people has a more positive impact on happiness than spending money on oneself.

"Incentivizing people to engage by giving back to charity gives people moments of happiness," says Sharany. "When employees feel engaged by giving back, they work harder and remain loyal and that impacts your bottom line. When you do the same for your customers, it increases your bottom line again. Loyalty, pride and higher performance come from your company creating the perfect balance between doing well and doing good."

Particularly with the advent of the purpose-driven brand as championed by former Procter & Gamble CMO Jim Stengel , companies today understand the need to invite their stakeholders to participate in the corporate purpose. Earlier this year, Stengel accepted an invitation to become Chairman of in/PACT's International Advisory Board. in/PACT's platforms and products are designed to engage, reward and motivate employees and consumers at every possible point of interaction.

SpiffGive is a mobile and web application for giving to your cause of choice at any time from anywhere. Vouch! is an app that empowers customers to use their smartphones to collect contributions from local businesses through an innovative business partnership with students.
The Giving Day - in/PACT's latest development - was created initially for Gene Browne 's company The City Bin Co.> The platform is a weekly email sent out to employees giving them the option of a charity to direct a company contribution to with the amount of money contingent on company performance.

"This impacts employees directly," says Sharany. "It shows employees that what they're doing goes beyond just making money for the shareholders. It makes a difference directly in their lives and in the issues they care about. Every company should have a weekly Giving Day."
Cannes Lions - the world's biggest annual awards show and festival for professionals in the creative communications industry - is unveiling a new initiative this year called Glass Lion . The Glass Lion recognizes work that addresses issues of gender inequality and in/PACT has been chosen as the technology partner to engage the audience.

"Attendees will be able to use their badge numbers to support any one of 10 causes," says Sharany. "The engagement platform will empower people not to just observe, but to participate and create awareness."

The potential of in/PACT's platforms to drive empowerment, loyalty and advocacy are limitless and if early signs are any indication, presages a future where purchase and purpose and growth and goodness are synonymous.

"If we can use the psychology of giving to drive employee and customer loyalty," says Sharany, "then we can truly change the world."

Learn how your business can benefit from in/PACT

(The author of this article is Deborah Stoll from Young Presidents' Organization (YPO).

YPO (Young Presidents' Organization) is a not-for-profit, global network of young chief executives connected through the shared mission of becoming Better Leaders Through Education and Idea Exchange™. For more information, visit www.ypo.org .

(Image: Thinkstock)

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