A Look at the Environment Funding Group Taking Aim at Black Friday

Over the last decade, 1% for the Planet has raised more than $115 million for sustainability and environmental causes. Now it's starting a campaign to Take Back Black Friday for the Planet by turning Black Friday blue.

While the campaign encourages people to give a donation on behalf of their loved ones, the main goal is to get people to vote with their dollars, and pledge to purchase their holiday gifts from organizations that promote environmental sustainability and give back to the environment, preferably through one of their more than 1,200 corporate partners. It's even created a Holiday Gift Guide to help you out.

The idea plays on the success of Giving Tuesday, created by the United Nations Foundation and the 92nd Street Y in 2012 as a response to Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the general consumerization of the post-Thanksgiving season.

These are the sorts of campaigns that the tech industry loves because they have the ability to engage individuals using social media, build a viral movement, and raise money by getting people to do things that they were going to do anyway—in this case, shopping. Tech giants eBay and PayPal have been strong supporters of Giving Tuesday, and Blue Friday has also received early support from former eBay President Jeff Skoll’s organization, TakePart.org.

Related: How Tech Philanthropy Propelled Giving Tuesday

While it may be another year or two before we see if the concept really takes off, environmental organizations are probably wondering how they can get a piece of the millions that 1% for the Planet and its corporate partners raise every year.

Recently, I had the chance to speak with Melody Badgett, Managing Director of 1% for the Planet, and talk about how nonprofits and corporate partners get involved, and what else 1% for the Planet is working on.

Corporations agree to donate 1 percent of their sales, either from a particular product or line, a brand, or the entire company, to nonprofits working on environmental causes that have been vetted by 1% for the Planet, and get to use 1% for the Planet’s brand to create a more positive image and increase their sales.  

For nonprofits, the application process is fairly straightforward. Just fill out the application on the website, and it will be reviewed on a quarterly basis. As long as at least half your mission is focused on sustainability, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be added to its list of nonprofit partners.

With more than 3,300 approved nonprofits, however, that doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get noticed by the organization’s corporate partners. In fact, many of the nonprofits on the list got there because a company was interested in supporting them, so it's something of a two-way street. As 1% for the Planet has grown, though, it's become more involved in matching nonprofits with corporate partners, and is currently focusing on five key areasfood, water, land, climate, and species. It's also gradually broadened its definition of what sustainability means, so an organization that focuses on economic development might consider applying, particularly if its programs focus on food and water, or have an environmental stewardship and sustainability component.

Going back to the social aspect, many of the corporate sponsors solicit feedback from their customers to help guide their decisions on which nonprofits to supportanother example of how the tech industry is shaping philanthropy—so being active on social media, and really becoming active with the brands and companies that you hope to support your cause can give you a leg up as well.