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You Must Do Good For Your Brand to Do Well With Millennials The preference of young consumers for products linked to charities they support is so strong it is altering marketing strategies.

By Christie Garton

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Millennials are driving an ever-growing trend of capitalism-with-a-conscience through their collective buying power of more than $200 billion annually and their deep-rooted desire to do good. When 87 percent of Millennials donate to a nonprofit in 2013, you know they are not content with being passive observers in a brand's larger plan.

Millennials instead demand a "participation economy" that allows them to contribute, co-create and shape the giving behaviors of brands they love.

Related: Cause Marketing Matters to Consumers

Millennials, noted for their early adopter nature when it comes to technology, were also the first to embrace brands making a difference, consistently rewarding them with their money and their trust. Businesses have caught on. Companies like TOMS Shoes and Soapbox Soaps, responded to the call by implementing a "one-for-one" giving model, tying a easily-identified benefit (like providing shoes to children in need) to a purchase.

For a generation raised on instant gratification, this immediate sensation of giving back while making a purchase became a major factor in the success of the "one-for-one" model. You get a great product and there is a tangible social benefit resulting from your purchase.

More than 85 percent of millennials correlate their purchasing decisions and their willingness to recommend a brand to the social good efforts a company is making. Businesses interested in selling to millennials can't afford to ignore the opportunity to create social good. The "one-for-one" model proved that companies could have profit-driven goals while integrating philanthropy into their business's bottom line. Millennials now want even more.

Companies interested in tapping the loyalty-building potential within the social good space have a big opportunity to push the boundaries of charitable giving. How best to do it? Ask your consumers what they'd like to see you do, what they believe is best aligned with your mission, and go do it.

We call this a "for us, by us" approach to creating social good through business. With UChic, a social commerce company I recently launched to help young women in the U.S. live their dreams, we talked to our consumers. We learned a major pain point at this life stage is the lack of funding for those critical out-of-classroom experiences (i.e., study abroad and attending conferences/seminars) that can change lives. This feedback provided an "aha!" moment.

Related: The 3 Surprising Ways to Weave Social Good Into a Startup's DNA

As an entrepreneur, I wanted to do something to address that need. Our "for us, by us" aligns our charitable activities with the interests of our consumers. That has led to an exciting business model and the exciting, positive impact potential we have.

This model is appealing to millennials because it gives them a voice and connects them to a cause they can readily relate to. The "for us, by us" model gets them actively involved in the social giving process, ties them to a cause that's personally meaningful and empowers them through their own purchasing decisions.

Here are two key points to consider when implementing the "for us, by us" model into your business:

For us: Know what your customers value. For our company, it is clear that our target market of high school and college-aged women value extraordinary life experiences, yet lacked the means to fund them. We can unlock dollars by donating from product sales to scholarships for outstanding young women within our consumer base. Lesson learned? Do your research, identify how your consumers want you to make a difference, then work it into your company's business model and DNA.

By us: Make it a co-op. Our consumers truly drive the strategy and success of our business. We involve these young women in everything we do. They write content for our blog and social media platforms, serve as brand ambassadors and collaborate on the development and marketing of our products. Give your consumers a voice in your business and, most importantly, listen.

Millennials not only want to see change, they want to help make it happen.

When you give millennials a way a put their own stamp on your brand, especially in the social good space, you're connecting them to your company in a way that positively impacts brand loyalty and, ultimately, your bottom line.

Related: Marketing to Millennials? Make It Personal and Customized.

Christie Garton

Founder of 1,000 Dreams Fund

Christie Garton is an award-winning social entrepreneur, author and creator of the 1,000 Dreams Fund (1000dreamsfund.org), a social enterprise which empowers young women in the U.S. through scholarships and life-changing advice. Garton is the author of the best-selling college guidebook for women, U Chic: College Girls' Real Advice for Your First Year (& Beyond!) (4th Edition, Sourcebooks 2015) and co-author of Marketing to Millennials: Reach the Largest and Most Influential Generation of Consumers Ever(AMACOM 2013). Garton has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post and U.S.News & World Report. She holds a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.

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