Month: April 2016

7 Tips for Effective Fundraising in the Digital Age

The United States is home to hundreds of thousands of charities that represent nearly as many causes, but they all have one thing in common: the need for funding and resources. Whether for facilitating groundbreaking medical research or simply for paying the daily electric bill, funds from donors play a critical role in the operation and ultimate influence of a nonprofit organization. Much like businesses competing in the open market, these groups must develop and harness viable marketing strategies in order to stay afloat and advance their goal of social and environmental change.

For many leaders in the nonprofit sector, the task of sourcing adequate funds easily ranks as the top obstacle they face on an annual basis. Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) published a 2014 study on philanthropic trends in which the author noted, “Nonprofits still don’t have the resources they need to respond to new opportunities, leadership transitions or changes in their environment.” One factor informing this trend includes the reality that many foundations struggle to meet rising demand for their services or resources, and additional pressure mounts as government agencies turn to charities to help address budget gaps.

All told, charity leaders across the country share the weight of the need to fundraise more efficiently. Here are seven suggestions for reaching out to the community and for boosting the amount and frequency of donations in this, the digital age:

Take Advantage of Mobile Platforms

mobile deviceOnline donations have generated a solid percentage of income for charities in years past. However, mobile has officially surpassed desktop in the amount of Google searches placed by consumers each month. Incorporating a strong mobile presence with a charity’s advertising strategy will ensure the greatest accessibility to the largest audience, and it will open up a new pipeline for funding.

Outline Specific Donation Options

For online and mobile platforms, many organizations offer a space for people to create a custom amount that they would like to give. The approach will generate income, but according to studies, charities can increase the amount of money they receive by indicating fixed totals. In addition to providing these labels, a companion strategy is to encourage frequent giving and offer programs that will debit money on a monthly or annual basis.

Make Giving Convenient for Supporters

We live in an age where nearly everything online requires a username and password for access. When individuals access a charity’s website, one of the best ways to gain their trust and support is to simplify the process as much as possible. This means not asking for unnecessary information, such as requiring long questionnaires in order to make a donation. Similarly, it also means going with a minimalist approach in the page design by providing simple navigation, transparent information about the organization, etc.

Increase Use of Video Content

YouTubeIn its recently released Visual Networking Index, CISCO projected that video viewing will account for 80 percent of consumer Internet traffic by 2019, a nearly 20 percent increase from polls taken in 2014. Video allows nonprofits to connect with their web visitors by instantly conveying their goals and their impact to viewers. Strategies for this approach include using both amateur clips taken with smartphones or similar devices and professional footage, so as to connect with donors on different levels.

Foster Partnerships with Other Organizations

Partnerships with corporations or celebrities can quickly generate recognition and traffic. For example, the Boys and Girls Club of America has joined forces with Major League Baseball, and as a result, it receives advertising as the Official Charity of MLB. While such a connection may not be feasible for all charities, many local options still exist. Radio stations, for example, may be looking to fill advertisement space for free by mentioning a nonprofit group, benefiting both parties.

Customize Advertisements

In order to effectively reach a targeted audience, charities must proactively diversify the ways in which they distribute their messages. Social media and digital advertising serve as strong complements to the traditional letter and email approaches, and they allow organizations to reach out to their audiences more frequently and at a much lower cost. In addition, digital advertising facilitates creating messages tailored to specific demographics. For instance, one advertisement might go to Millennials in one state, while a different message may go to Baby Boomers in another.

Use Donor Recognition to Return the Favor

Recognition is one of the many reasons that individuals and corporations decide to give to a particular charity. By demonstrating an active system for recognizing donors, a charity can better gain and retain the support of contributors. Some organizations assign a staff member to specifically manage the recognition program, and that person is responsible for developing parameters for recognizing the amount and frequency of donations. For example, at one level of gifting, individuals might have their name or the title of their company printed on a monthly newsletter, while at another level, the name would appear on a building plaque.

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4 of the Best Furniture Markets to Attend in 2016

Furniture Today, a leading news outlet for home decor professionals, regularly updates its list of industry tradeshows. These markets are a place to preview and purchase new furniture and home accessories poised to enter the market.

Many of the events also serve as educational and networking opportunities. The following events appear on Furniture Today’s list and are among the most prominent markets rounding out the remainder of 2016.

Canadian Furniture Show

canadian furniture show logoFormerly called The Canadian Home Furnishings Market, the Canadian Furniture Show will take place in 2016 at the International Center in Mississauga, Ontario, from May 28th through May 30th. The event, which has a history dating back to 1972, is made possible by the Quebec Furniture Manufacturer’s Association. Canada’s only national furniture show, the event spans three days and offers more than 425,000 square feet of show room space for designers, manufacturers, and other home furniture industry professionals to explore products.

In 2015, the market hosted nearly 250 exhibitors and in excess of 50 Canadian manufacturers. The Canadian Furniture Show anticipates a similar turnout this year and will also welcome best-selling author David Chilton to its 2016 event. He will give a live presentation and host a book signing prior to the market.

Leading up to the market, the show will share “Great Finds” on its website and social media platforms, highlighting products that will appear at the event. Also preceding the event will be an awards gala at the Universal Event Space honoring Angelo Gallo, the president of Statum Designs Inc., with the Lifetime Achievement Award. JC Perreault and Nordic Holdings Ltd.: Konto Furniture and Sofa Land will be presented with Retailer of the Year Awards.

Those interested in learning more about industry issues can attend the town hall meeting on the final day. Light refreshments will be served, while attendees share their opinions and insights regarding sector-related topics.

Las Vegas Market

On July 31st, the Las Vegas Market will kick off its summer event. Nearly a week long, the exposition will fill approximately 5 million square feet of space in the World Market Center.  It offers a comprehensive look at furnishings, home decor, and gifts as well as giving attendees insight into upcoming, seasonal trends. More than 2,200 resources will be available, including a section dedicated to the national bedding industry.

The market is one of two events held at World Market Center during the year.  As the only major home furnishings market in the West, it has grown significantly since its launch during the summer of 2005. The event showcases home products ranging from furniture to wall art and rugs, and features 1,200 new lines.

Of the top 100 retailers in the sector, 77 have reserved booths at the market. The Las Vegas Market welcomes interior professionals from across the nation, and past iterations have been attended by representatives from 76 countries. In addition to its show floor, the market offers seminars hosted by leading designers and industry leaders, who educate attendees on trends (such as the impact of Millennials on the industry) and sector challenges. They also provide them an opportunity to connect with peers.

Tupelo Furniture Market

From August 18th to August 21st, the Tupelo Furniture Market will serve as the platform for more than 500 manufacturers to showcase their products. Participants focus on case goods, upholstery, and accessories.  The event is considered one of the strongest order-writing markets in the country and is held in Tupelo, Mississippi, also known as the upholstery capital of the world.

Approximately 30,000 retail furniture buyers from all 50 states are expected to attend the market to explore exhibits across more than 1.6 million square feet of space. American Furniture Mfg., Wonderland Wicker, Outdoor Great Room, and Largo International are among the companies that have shared their products at the event.

In addition to shopping the market, attendees are given the opportunity to obtain industry education at a “Lunch and Learn” series.  The market serves as a platform to honor notable professionals as well. On Thursday evening, representatives of the Tupelo Furniture Market present the National Buyer Award, and on Friday night, the recipient of the Manufacturer’s Representative Award is announced.

High Point Market

A North Carolina tradeshow, High Point Market begins on October 22nd and is the second of two markets hosted each year.  The five-day event, which has become the largest furnishing industry tradeshow worldwide, fills more than 11.5 million square feet of space with upholstery, accent furniture, case goods, bedding, lighting, and accessories.

In total, 180 buildings make up the market. More than 2,000 exhibitors showcase their products, drawing in 75,000 people from over 100 countries. In fact, 10 percent of the market’s attendees travel internationally to learn about tens of thousands of new products.

The market is exclusive to trade professionals only. Registration is available on-site at 10 different locations, including 220 Elm and the International Buyers Center. Upon registering, trade professionals will receive a free market pass to explore showrooms during open hours. Individuals interested in getting a sneak peek of the products appearing at the October market can attend the two-day High Point Premarket in September.

Las Vegas

5 of the Best Trends Discovered at the Las Vegas Market

On January 24, 2016, the Las Vegas Market kicked off its winter show. Over the span of five days, attendees explored 40 floors of furniture and home decor. More than 330 new resources were displayed throughout 146 showrooms, which resulted in record levels of leasing. However, the biggest takeaways from the event were opportunities to learn about new trends. The following are among the best trends noticed at the furniture show.

Domestically-Made Products

local madeIn the past, it was not uncommon for American furniture retailers to sell products manufactured and shipped from overseas.  However, countries such as China no longer offer competitive enough prices to warrant such off-shore business models.

On-shoring, a process in which products and services are rendered domestically, is growing as a result of costly overseas transportation and labor expenditures. The trend dates back to 2014 and has indicated positive growth ever since, according to Technavio’s latest US home furniture market report. In 2016, “Made in the USA” will become more of a norm, with technologies making it possible for furniture retailers to manufacture and obtain products with a smaller workforce.

In addition, home furnishing business owners are expected to take more advantage of just in time (JIT) shipping. JIT helps manufacturers reduce inventory costs by acquiring products as needed, rather than holding onto surplus, a dated strategy.

Technology in Brick and Mortar Operations

Brick and mortar companies will never cease to operate. Instead, business owners and managers will find new ways to integrate technologies into their daily operations to improve customer satisfaction. Among the services likely to improve the furniture buying experience are in-store checkout automation and driverless trucks. The use of big data to understand consumer buying trends is expected as well.

In terms of marketing strategies, retailers will use technology to strengthen the aesthetic and appeal of their stores. Marketing displays will be inspired by collected consumer data and images found online, while what products are made available will be driven by what customers are likely to purchase as well as their competitiveness against other products.

Further, technologies that are used in daily life will be impactful in brick and mortar businesses. Active participation on social media, for instance, is a powerful tool for carrying on conversations with consumers to learn what they like and expect of a company as well as learn about the most effective place to market. A company can inquire about how users are discovering them to strategize future promotional opportunities.

Millennial Shoppers

millenialIn 2013, the American millennial population reached 76.6 million. The average annual household income of a millennial was $60,000, and the generation’s purchasing power was estimated at $1.68 trillion. According to Furniture Today, the population now sits at 79 million, making it imperative for furniture manufacturers and distributors to transition their focus to marketing to this demographic.

Unlike baby boomers who value integrity, justice, practicality, duty, and family, millennial shoppers seek happiness, passion, sharing, discovery, and diversity. An effective marketing plan will take into consideration these factors and add content that illustrates the experience of purchasing and using a product. It will also offer supplemental tools that make millennial shoppers feel they have insider information, which makes them feel engaged.

Most importantly, furniture manufacturers must craft pieces that need limited marketing to sell the product. Instead, the millennial generation is more likely to purchase furniture based on its quality. Quality is typically shared by word of mouth, rather than promoted directly through a brand.

Technological Enhancements in Furniture

Prior to 2016, furniture offering electronics built into them were already available. The same can be said about furniture that makes life easier, such as power reclining chairs and furnishings with electrical outlets that give consumers the option to plug in their electronics. The Las Vegas Market makes it apparent that future technological features will carry out even more important tasks.

For example, the president of Furniture Sales of Mid-America predicts furniture stores carrying a line of massage chairs that do more than provide comfortable seating for their owners. He suggests they will have the capability to monitor stress levels and offer calming solutions, such as music suggestions that play instantly to lower blood pressure or to complement a recommended massage. He also alludes to furniture stores providing smart refrigerators and security alarm systems, which will give consumers a one-stop location to obtain all their home needs.

Internet Retailing

While there will always be a need for brick and mortar furniture stores, retailers and manufacturers must accommodate online shopping. In 2014, 80 percent of consumers purchased home furnishings over the internet, which made up nine percent of furniture sales and accounted for $9 billion when paired with bedding sales.

Half of consumers also relied on their smartphones to help them make purchasing decisions during and after their visit to a physical location. In that respect, avoidance of online shopping can damage the success of a business. A brick and mortar business does not need to transition its entire operation online. However, establishing a strategy for managing online shoppers will help companies maintain competitiveness and grow in the future.

11 of the Most Influential Female Philanthropists in the U.S.

Women have exerted their time, capital, and brainpower in supporting charitable causes since the 1800s, and their philanthropic impact has grown markedly during the early part of the 21st century. Consider these figures from 2009-2011 alone:

2009 – Women in the U.S. donate nearly double the percentage of their income to charities than men.

2010 – Homes led by single females account for 57 percent more charitable contributions than those led by single males.

2011 – Women lead or hold equal partnership in 90 percent of donation decisions made in high-net-worth households.

That women outperform men in charitable giving is supported by data more recently compiled by the BMO Wealth Institute. Its numbers confirm that the female demographic in the United States now represents the majority in private wealth control (51 percent), and it also projects that the $14 trillion of wealth held by women in 2015 will reach $22 trillion within the next four years. More disposable income and wealth has translated to more capital dedicated to philanthropy in many cases.

Beyond the numbers, women are setting trends by identifying new and innovative ways to benefit a wide range of causes. The following list of eleven high-power female philanthropists highlights their charitable endeavors and achievements they have made in each:

  1. Tara Ford Spiegel

A successful interior designer at Room By Room, Tara Ford Spiegel is a board member at the Ronald McDonald House. For the latter, she leveraged her background in the entertainment industry and talent management to organize a Masquerade Gala that generated more than $750,000 to aid children with cancer.

  1. Priscilla Chan

Co-founder of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Dr. Priscilla Chan supports causes ranging from healthcare to immigration, and in 2013 she helped organize a $1 billion donation to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Like other philanthropists such as Tim Cook, Dr. Chan announced plans with her husband to dedicate $45 billion, the vast majority of their wealth, in the coming years in support of various social issues.

  1. Lauren Bush
Lauren Bush
Lauren Bush | Image courtesy | Flickr

Fashion model-turned-philanthropist Lauren Bush is the founder of the FEED Foundation, which sells burlap bags and other products to raise money to feed people who do not have access to sufficient food. Since 2007, she has raised more than $10 million to help those in need around the world.

  1. Julie Sandorf

An advocate for multiple causes, Julie Sandorf has held positions as president of the Corporation for Supportive Housing and co-founder of Nextbook, which supports Jewish arts and culture. Currently, she leads the Charles H. Revson Foundation, where she directs multi-million-dollar grant writing for programs ranging from biomedical research to urban affairs.

  1. Rosario Dawson

Perhaps best known for her work in the movie industry, Rosario Dawson is also an advocate for the Housing Works organization, and she has served as an honorary chair for the Design on a Dime initiative. Through her involvement, she has assisted with securing funds to help more than 20,000 people in New York with low incomes and no homes who have HIV/AIDS.

  1. Julia Fehrenbach

Julia Fehrenbach has amassed years of experience in the non-profit sector, and she currently serves as co-founder at Building Blocks for Change. Ranked among New York’s Top 20 Young Philanthropists, Ms. Fehrenbach organizes fundraising events worldwide in support of the BBFC vision for laying successful social foundations in communities in need.

  1. Jennifer Fisher

A renowned jewelry designer, Jennifer Fisher balances her professional schedule with membership in the Council of Fashion Designers of America and participates in their Fashion Targets Breast Cancer Initiative. Having survived cancer, she now supports the organization, which has generated nearly $50 million for related charities by selling pieces for women to wear in memory of those who have had the disease.

  1. Michelle Javian
rosario dawson
Rosario Dawson | Image courtesy Asim Bharwani | Flickr

Passionate about helping heart patients and the people in their lives, Michelle Javian is the CEO of Harboring Hearts, which she co-founded in 2009. She leads efforts to provide multiple forms of support to people during medical treatment. In addition, Ms. Javian holds a board position at New York Presbyterian Hospital New Leaders.

  1. Jane B. O’Connell

President of the Altman Foundation, Jane B. O’Connell oversees all the organization’s operations for funding and awarding grants in and around New York City. Two notable donations that she has signed include $500,000 to the Fund for Public Schools and $450,000 to the Queens Borough Public Library.

  1. Masha Pearl

Masha Pearl focuses her charitable efforts on helping survivors of the Holocaust who are living in the U.S. She oversees financial assistance programs for these individuals as executive director at The Blue Card, where she has helped expand the number of donors to the organization considerably. Apart from her role at The Blue Card, she sits on the board at Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) Leadership Group, a provider of pediatric heart care for children in countries without modern resources.

  1. Judith Rodin

Judith Rodin is the president at the Rockefeller Foundation, which supports causes nationally and internationally. She has guided the organization’s involvement in responding to such issues as Hurricane Sandy relief, as well as raising money for the Foundation’s NYC Cultural Innovation Fund.

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4 Ways Social Media Has Revolutionized Philanthropy

Plato established the first volunteer foundation in 387 BCE to promote collaboration for the public good. Since that time, charitable thinkers have implemented countless innovations to increase the efficacy and outreach of their nonprofit organizations. Among the many additions, perhaps the most influential is social media.

While Facebook and Twitter are currently at the forefront of social media, a precursor platform by the name of Six Degrees first held social media prominence from 1997 to 2001. Six Degrees introduced the concept of connecting digitally with others by creating online friendships, and inspiration for the site came from the six degrees of separation theory, posited in 1929 by Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy.

Mathematicians have carried out projects to prove the theory, which asserts that everyone on earth is connected by six or fewer acquaintances. However, the six degrees premise has essentially lost weight, as social media has brought the world closer together, in all likelihood approaching the point of a replacement zero degree theory.

From likes to shares, comments to personal messages, the revolution of social media has benefited countless charitable groups seeking to connect with volunteers and benefactors locally and around the world. The following list briefly details four ways in which this new technology has helped the nonprofit sector to connect with people to address tough social issues and spread goodwill:

Generating traffic

facebookThe National Center for Charitable Statistics estimated that in 2015 more than 1.5 million public charities, private foundations, and nonprofit organizations operated in the U.S. United Way, Salvation Army, and other leaders on this list host websites where patrons can leave donations and register for events, but how do they attract visitors on a consistent basis?

Marketing polls have shown that a minimum of 80 percent of business owners have increased exposure and traffic by implementing social media strategies. Organizations achieve this by setting up a Facebook page and establishing a predictable, proactive schedule for publishing interactive content.

Visitors return to sites when they anticipate some form of reward for their time, such as the opportunity to post selfies or help spread a hashtag message. For example, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge launched in 2014 to provide the opportunity for individuals to post a video of their participation. As a result, more than $220 million has gone toward Lou Gehrig’s disease research.

Lowering costs

Social media presents a viable solution for replacing costly, offline marketing campaigns. Whereas charities previously spent large sums of money on television and print media, many have found the exponential cost benefits of transferring to social platforms, and one key aspect of this benefit is timing.

The television approach runs the risk of not catching the intended audience at the exact moment a commercial airs. Running a call center assumes that people will answer the phone or listen to their voicemails. Moreover, flyers and newspaper advertisements lack any guarantee that people will pick them up before a gust of wind.

Yet with social media, charity organizations can focus their time and resources on reaching people in real-time and in a non-threatening way. Thus, nonprofit groups can dramatically increase their return on investment and dedicate more capital to their respective causes.

Creating dialogue

twitterA 2014 survey revealed that more than half of the people who self-identified as regular social media users first learned about charity related news and information online, versus television or daily conversation. The efficiency of broadcasting supports the unrivaled ability of social media to facilitate live discussions from any distance and in a way that appeals to a majority of audience members.

Millennials have demonstrated a high level of responsiveness to the dialogue-centered nature of social media, according to a report published by The Case Foundation. Among other findings, the summary says that Millennials, most of whom have grown up in the age of Twitter and Instagram, engage in philanthropy more readily when they feel as though their efforts benefit people, rather than institutions.

Social media campaigns make it possible for charities to demonstrate their accomplishments while simultaneously encouraging open responses and interaction. In addition, the open channel for discussion helps Millennials to feel more involved on a regular basis rather than simply sitting inactively after writing a check. The constant activity made available by these pages fosters a sense of solidarity for a given cause.

Collecting feedback

In addition to increasing online traffic and dialogue at lower prices, social media serves as a standout system for aggregating and measuring data. Consumer sentiment, as manifested through the number of followers, post shares, etc., is an invaluable asset to charities, and the gathered statistics can greatly inform decisions made by the executive leadership of an organization.

The staff at Cancer Research UK successfully applied this methodology by looking at local social media trends. They identified a popular hashtag and adapted it to their cause, raising more than 8 million euros for research.


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7 Trends Shaping the Success of the Furniture Industry

A profitable sector that earns hundreds of billions in revenue globally, the home furniture industry will continue to grow in the coming years. Read on to find out what trends will shape the market.

1. Ready-to-Assemble (RTA) Furniture

furniture maker

Image courtesy user Dana | Flickr

RTA furniture has history dating back to the 1940s when the first knockdown sitting furniture was patented, and this innovation was later followed by a table that could be assembled at home in the 1950s. The concept gained significant traction in 2010, and this type of furniture has since been in high demand because of its convenience.

RTA products offer a quick solution for homeowners and renters to furnish their homes with ease and at a fraction of the cost of traditional furniture. Because the design only requires the manufacturing of parts, furniture companies have the ability to store and display products using limited space. They also save on manufacturing time because assembly is completely removed from their process, thus reducing expenditures.

2. On-Shoring Production

In an effort to minimize expenses, many manufacturers have transitioned to on-shoring business processes, bringing production back to the United States because transportation has become more affordable. The movement initiated in 2014 and is expected to grow in the coming years, given rising labor costs in the Asia-Pacific region.

In fact, the Triad Business Journal reported that furniture companies found the change led to increased access to a skilled workforce, improved supply-chain lead time, and better proximity to customers. The hope is that on-shoring will enhance local and regional economies over an extended period of time. In 2015 alone, the switch indicated positive growth.

3. Sustainable Living

Environmental impact is a significant factor in consumers’ purchasing decisions. Furniture manufacturers should continue to anticipate consumers’ desire for eco-friendly solutions, such as materials made of engineered woods and other resources that simplify living sustainability.

Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc., for instance, takes a “green” approach by focusing on recycling, reusing, and replenishing. The manufacturer integrates engineered wood, which is 100 percent recycled, into its products, and the company has also boosted efficient use of tree materials by 32 percent to reduce waste. Other measures promoting sustainable living include the recycling of wood by-products and sheet metal, as well as reducing fuel consumption of its idle trucks to 90 percent of the industry norm.

4. Space-Saving, Portable Furniture

Particularly appealing to people living in small apartments and homes, furniture design that takes into account economy of space will remain an appealing trend through 2020, according to Technavio. Home furnishings that serve a dual purpose will perform better on the market.

A good example of this type of multi-purpose item is a storage box. If it is made of sturdy material, the compact product can store personal belongings and then be used as a table or chair, which makes more efficient use of the furnishing and saves space. Often times, portable furniture also comes with a lower price tag, a benefit to consumers.

5. Technological Innovation

hideaway bedThe move to online retail was the initial technological innovation boosting furniture sales in the industry. Now, manufacturers are looking to increase their offerings with more technology-based solutions. To bring ease to consumers’ lifestyles, an influx of furniture lines capable of connecting with “smart” equipment should be expected to grow in the coming years.

Catering to general consumers, furniture will be designed with charging docks to keep cell phones, tablets, and other electronic devices charged as needed. Specialty lines leveraging technology to enhance customer experience are being developed for the health care field. Specifically, designers are working to create furniture that monitors patients’ health as well as transmits data to medical care providers to update histories.

6. Home Office Needs

Telecommuting is a growing trend worldwide. With 3.7 million people in the United States spending at least half their time working from home as of 2014, the trend shows no sign of subsiding. predicts global home office furniture purchases will increase by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.58 percent between 2014 and 2019.

For this reason, not only will a growing demand for desks and office chairs occur, but the sale of organizational pieces such as filing cabinets will also rise. To ensure a home remains a suitable living space despite having an office used for business purposes, the website further forecasts a sales boost of products that hide office equipment.

7. Luxury Home Furnishings

Luxury brands offerings products on the global market will see promising returns in places such as Europe, India, and China. Stateside, selling high-end furnishings to affluent demographics is much tougher. American customers have altered the meaning of luxury to not only include price, but to also take experience into consideration. Offering an online platform that is easy to navigate and provides a quick delivery turnaround positions companies to make more sales.

Additionally, companies selling luxury brands can increase their sales potential by targeting younger individuals earning $100,000 to $250,000, also known as “high-earners-not-rich-yet,” or HENRYs. Classic products that have a sense of simple elegance work well with individuals in this group because they value quality, not elitism. Overall, the outlook for furniture manufacturers aiming to sell high-ticket items is good. Globally, this sector of the furniture industry will likely grow by a CAGR of four percent by 2019.

How Social Impact Investing Is Quickly Growing

John Rockefeller
Image courtesy Wikipedia

The nonprofit sector grew sharply following World War II, and in 1969, John D. Rockefeller III first introduced the term “venture philanthropy.” His model, which he described as “an adventurous approach to funding unpopular social causes,” gained momentum and served as one of the leading alternative philanthropic models, beyond the traditional grant-making foundation, until impact investing took off in the early 2000s.

Impact investing entered the vocabulary of philanthropists when The Rockefeller Foundation advanced the idea of investing in private companies that benefit some social or environmental cause, in order to gain returns. In essence, impact investing rejects the idea that profit and social good are mutually exclusive. Venture philanthropy is less concerned with obtaining financial returns, although some venture philanthropists do seek them.

In the arena of philanthropy, impact investing has, in many ways, displaced some of the appeal of venture philanthropy. Given the importance of this shift, here is a short list further comparing and contrasting the two models, as well as considerations for the future.

Financial objectives

Venture philanthropists typically design their funding initiatives with one primary consideration in mind: generating positive social change. Several businesses and corporations fit this model and tackle important social issues. One example of this approach is the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, LLC, founded by Dr. Priscilla Chan and her husband, Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook. Although in many ways it resembles a traditional charity, the company is registered as a limited liability corporation, not a foundation, which allows it the flexibility to invest in private, for-profit companies that it believes will have a positive impact on the world.

In contrast, impact investing is geared toward profit and social change. Taken from the innovative funding practices found in the financial sector, strategies for this form of philanthropy range from investing in social impact bonds to backing microfinance loans. In 2013, Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., instituted the GS Social Impact Fund, and the corporation offers bonds to investors interested in supporting medical research and early childhood education, among other causes. Bank of America Corp., JP Morgan Chase & Co., and UBS Inc. have set up similar options for clients.

Microfinance loans are an investment vehicle through which individuals and organizations can help entrepreneurs, many of them in third world countries, open a business with a small amount of capital. With the business backed by investment capital, the chances for its success increase and the returns for investors also grow. In sum, the entrepreneur and the local economy benefit, alongside the impact investor.

Overall scope

business officeOnce an organization or group of investors commits to an issue, how long do they pursue that interest? In most cases, venture philanthropists plan to allocate funding and resources to a cause for a set period of time, and the baseline for such an initiative is about three years, though longer engagements of five to seven years are also common. During that window of several years, the venture philanthropist will help develop the organization’s capacity for self-sufficiency—much like how venture capitalists support start-ups in the business world. The goal is to empower the organization with seed capital and other investments, so it can operate on its own in the future.

Impact investing, defined as “mobilizing large pools of private capital from new sources to address the world’s most critical problems,” operates on a different schedule. In fact, under this paradigm, investors typically start without a clear timeframe, and may take an “as long as it takes” approach.

The future of impact investing

One key factor in the growing popularity of impact investing is its relative accessibility. While venture philanthropy is typically limited to high-net-worth individuals and firms, impact investing allows interested parties from a greater range of financial backgrounds to participate. With the combination of government organizations, philanthropists, and the private sector, impact investing holds a vast amount of potential for producing real solutions to real problems.

As impact investing continues to grow in popularity, another point to observe is the activity of the Millennials—a generation known for their interest in social and environmental causes. Many are drawn to the impact approach because it presents a viable way to support their convictions, while simultaneously helping them earn returns and improve their financial security. Although their income may not reflect that of more established investors, Millennials merit attention because they now represent the largest demographic in the U.S. workforce. More and more members of this demographic have enlisted the help of financial advisors, and many are looking for value-based investment vehicles, instead of or in addition to traditional investment opportunities. In the years to come, their money and social interests will arguably dictate the impact investing sector, as well as the broader philanthropy landscape.

In a publication of The Rockefeller Foundation, executive members of the organization predicted that impact investing could potentially account for one percent of professionally managed assets. Other projections estimate that impact investments, which totaled $50 billion in 2009, will reach roughly $500 billion by 2019.

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5 Website Taxonomy Tips for Furniture Sellers

One major trend influencing the furniture industry and the retail landscape at large is the rise of online sales, particularly those made through mobile devices. As furniture retailers develop and launch websites that are functional across smartphones, tablets, and desktops, several factors will contribute to their success, including taxonomy—the organization, classification, and categorization of products on the site. Taxonomy is important because it helps online customers easily find the furniture items they’re looking for.

tabletIn the case of selling furniture, taxonomy can make a measurable difference in turning searches into sales. In 2015, Google released a set of figures indicating that roughly half of all furniture purchases are made to replace a specific used or broken item. In addition, about a third of furniture purchasers research products online before buying in a store, making it imperative that websites make it easy for buyers to find what they need. A clearly organized site can expedite their search and ultimately gain their business—whether the buyer ultimately purchases the item online or in the showroom.

How can furniture sellers make it easy for customers to find what they’re looking for? Some companies have employed professional taxonomists, who leverage their training and experience to define the categories and attributes of retail items and organize large product inventories. Others enlist the assistance of e-commerce management firms that specialize in presenting data in a logical, searchable way. Whether or not retailers opt to outsource, they should first consider these five tips for better website taxonomy:

Approach the catalog as a customer

The main objective of taxonomy is to create a superior customer experience that separates the company and its website from competitors. Organizing and classifying products in a way that makes sense to the customer starts by viewing the process from their perspective.

In most instances, furniture pieces will have a variety of classifications and descriptions that apply to them. For example, what one person calls an “armoire,” another may call a “cupboard,” while a third might use “wardrobe.” Deciding what label to assign a piece of furniture can be tricky, but it’s best to consider your target customer and what words they might use to refer to it. The remaining options can still be used to index the item, which can help users who employ less common search terms find what they need.

Mine in-store feedback

feedbackSecondly, because of the big-ticket nature of furniture, customers will most likely continue to visit the store at some point during the research and shopping process. The type of questions that people ask in the store can inform the process of organizing and classifying products on the website, because they offer direct insight into how customers think about, view, and search for furniture.

For instance, customer queries can help settle the armoire-cupboard-wardrobe debate. Which word do customers use most often when speaking to sales representatives? It’s also helpful to see the other ways that customers talk about furniture in the showroom. Are they more focused on size or material? Do they ask to compare prices between brands? Answers to these questions and others can greatly inform the online catalog design.

Analyze customer reviews online

A similar approach to observing in-store comments and requests is to monitor customer reviews online. This information can be easily aggregated and analyzed, since it’s already written or otherwise recorded. How do people talk about their customer service experience? How do they describe their new furniture in reviews or social media posts? The general sentiment drawn from these sources will help business owners to design and organize their sites to meet the expectations of potential and repeat buyers.

Evaluate market data

Data from a 2015 Google webinar are additionally relevant to strategies for furniture website taxonomy. About 31 percent of consumers complete research online before making an in-store purchase, and Google searches for home furniture are increasing at roughly 15 percent, year-over-year. This points to the importance of cataloguing the inventory so that it not only helps the buyer find his or her desired item, but that it also reflects what is in stock both online and in the store.

Google further illustrated data on searches within several sub-categories of the home furniture industry. The largest percentage of searches was for bedroom furniture; this sub-category made up half of all searches in the home furniture category. Meanwhile, about 29% of searches were for living room furniture, while 11% of searches were for kitchen and dining room furniture. Searches for bedroom and living room furniture had increased the fastest.

Adapt on a regular basis

These suggestions are starting points. Once a company has established a strong e-commerce platform, customer behavior should continue to inform the organization and taxonomy of the site. Economic projections expect e-commerce to maintain its upward trajectory, which tasks furniture sellers with the responsibility of ensuring that both their online and in-store showrooms offer a positive customer experience.