Groupon's Grassroots Approach to Corporate Citizenship

Everybody loves Groupon, but does anybody really know what they're all about? What kind of company are you supporting when you click on those daily deals?
Oct 25, 2012 10:30 AM ET

Everybody loves Groupon, but does anybody really know what they're all about? What kind of company are you supporting when you click on those daily deals? Be assured, your cash is building a foundation of corporate citizenship that you can not only feel comfortable with - you can even consider it a worthy investment.


In 2008, Groupon, the world’s first online daily-deal website, was born from a group-action and fundraising platform called The Point. Right from the start, Groupon channeled the power of collective action, and was focused on helping people learn about and contribute to local causes. From there, Groupon was born to help people discover and experience their city.

We wanted to keep that original spirit alive, so in July 2010, we launched G-Team—considered the beta form of Groupon Grassroots—to run project-specific campaigns in local markets across the nation. In April 2012, we relaunched as Groupon Grassroots a fully baked element in Groupon’s framework, dedicated to supporting local initiatives. So far, we’ve raised raised $4,384,361 from 168,295 supporters nationwide (see the latest figures here).

Wow! What's been the key to that kind of success?

We stayed true to one of our core assets, our subscriber base, and the three pillars that support our platform—credibility, convenience, and a sense of urgency—to build Groupon and to develop its corporate citizenship.

So how does Groupon Grassroots work?

Groupon’s subscriber base is the foundation of both its deals and Groupon Grassroots. Just as Groupon introduces new businesses to subscribers in their local neighborhoods, Grassroots connects local philanthropists with weekly batches of awesome local projects. For example, our subscribers recently provided 80 rescued chimps with fresh fruit and vegetables and funded a public gallery in an empty storefront.

By telling their local base about the need a project addresses, campaigns create a new community perspective and an opportunity to lend a hand. Plus, with 100% of donations directly funding projects that reach their “tipping points,” subscribers know they’re making a real difference.

What’s the advantage of using Groupon’s Grassroots program?

Groupon levels the playing field for small business by introducing subscribers to trustworthy local businesses, so it makes sense that we follow the same formula when introducing donors to Groupon’s quality philanthropy partners. We intentionally focus on the smaller nonprofits and social enterprises that wouldn’t otherwise have access to Groupon’s massive audience.  Donors have come to trust our vetting process and know when they donate to a Grassroots campaign they are supporting a valid project, thus helping broaden the scope of these smaller organizations working to improve their communities.

Additionally, partnering organizations are provided strategies for engaging with donors, reaching out to local press and leveraging social media to tell their story—tools they can take away and apply to future initiatives.

I admit, the reason I use Groupon because it is so convenient. How does that aspect of Groupon work in Grassroots?

It’s easy to discover a new experience through Groupon deal, just like it’s easy to support a project through Grassroots campaign. Typical donations from customers are $10 (think of it as the average cost of a lunch, or a few morning lattes). Customers simply click the button and give however many multiples of the minimum amount they like. To make things even easier, all of their credit-card information is already stored on their Groupon accounts.

Getting people to take action is a big part of the social-media equation. How does Groupon drive action for these causes and organizations?

Also similar to Groupon offers, Groupon Grassroots campaigns only run for a limited time, so subscribers feel the sense of urgency to act. The campaigns are also project-specific, so donors know that their contribution will have a direct, tangible impact in the community. Plus, when a business, individual, or foundation matches donations from subscribers, there’s an additional incentive for donors to act and have their efforts doubled.

We’re big believers in companies using their core assets when it comes to corporate social responsibility. Any advice to other companies on this issue?

When a company leverages its greatest resources to social innovation, the impact is more significant than if it relied on the fumes of philanthropy, as Jason Saul of Mission Measurement would say. One of Groupon’s biggest strengths—our subscriber base—as well as our credibility, convenience, and a sense of urgency, are what drive our social innovation strategies and business as a whole.

Our advice for other companies is to figure out what your core assets are and do a needs assessment in the community to find where there is overlap. Chances are, whatever your answer, you can apply what you do best to helping make the world, and your neighborhood, a better place through your corporate citizenship.

Want to launch your own campaign with Groupon Grassroots? Click here!