Doing Well By Doing Good
Sunday, May 3, 2020
Posted by: Brian O'Leary
In 2016, the Book Industry Study Group hosted a day-long program, "Making A Profit By Making A Difference". The content was both a shift away from what had been done in the past as part of our "Making Information Pay" conference series, and an affirmation that there's a purpose-driven component in book publishing that makes our industry an attractive option for many who work in it.
In the time since, we've focused most of our in-person programming on the supply-chain topics that BISG addresses every day. We needed to demonstrate our value in those areas, and I think we've done that. But I've also felt that we could do more, following the path started with that 2016 event.
Doug Lessing of Phin describes the opportunity as "using business as a force for good". Many BISG members know Lessing from his three-decade-long career with Firebrand Technologies. In 2019, he created Phin as a platform that could help companies "create lasting, meaningful relationships with their customers." Phin links causes to companies and the people they serve. In their model, companies pay the donations, while their customers choose the cause.
I have known Lessing for much of the last decade, and we spoke last week about Phin's current focus on feeding people who need help during this pandemic. Over the past two months, Phin has invested in its ability to support a significant expansion of its charitable efforts. Last week, it announced the launch of the Phin Food & Shelter Project, dedicated to helping those most directly impacted by the economic losses suffered as COVID-19 has spread.
For its food and shelter project, Phin has decided to waive the fees it would normally charge for managing the donation process. Companies that participate cover the costs of the donations their communities specify, only. In a press release announcing the launch, Lessing noted, "We're working with companies that believe in two principles: the power of doing good, and the value of putting choice in their customer's hands. Phin makes it easy for companies to reward their customers with the ability to make a real difference, today."
Phin is already working with a handful of companies in the book industry. Not surprisingly, Firebrand Technologies was an early adopter and has supported several campaigns, including the current food and shelter project. Lessing shared with me other companies that have approached Phin, looking for ways to help those affected by the pandemic. Companies looking to join the effort can use a simple form to confirm their interest. Individuals who would like to test the platform can navigate to this link to unlock a $10 donation.
At BISG, we're working on ways to support this outreach. Building awareness by writing about the opportunities is a start. BISG's 2020 event calendar already included a year-end event, "BISG Gives Back", that we can shape to address the needs we'll have in December and beyond. Look for announcements on a couple of other, near-term opportunities, as well.
To be clear, it's a difficult time to ask any company in the book industry for a charitable commitment. Revenues are down almost across the board, and many companies have had to make difficult decisions about furloughing staff and postponing or foregoing investments.
But this is also an opportunity to pull together. As Lessing pointed out, the consequences of not acting are plainly in front of us. Food insecurity and homelessness are problems that will not be solved through Phin alone, but we can do something now to help the charitable organizations around the country who are scrambling to address this immediate and emergent challenge.