"Partnering with, collaborating, sponsored by, brand ambassador, influencer, #ad." Look familiar? If you have even one blog that you follow regularly or spend any time on social media you've likely noticed that sponsored content and "freebies" are as ubiquitous as selfies and babies napping with animals. Whatever the subject matter, there are brands that are anxious to tap into a blog's readership or follower base and use them for marketing. Bloggers and page owners have become a powerful tool to bring goods to those who may purchase them based on the recommendation (or the beautiful photo) that the "influencer" gives.
I don't really remember when I started seeing this happen but I can't think of many blogs I read or instagram accounts I follow that don't partner with brands in some way to bring sponsored content to viewers. And regardless of what the influencer is selling, I have to believe that the decision to work with brands was born out of the best of intentions. Fewer banner ads or no banner ads at all? Who doesn't like the sound of that? Having a way to tell your readers what products you're loving without getting a flurry of DMs asking about your dishes/couch/shoes and getting the product for free while also being paid by the brand? It makes a lot of sense. But it's a very slippery slope and when done too often or not done well, it shows. According to this CMO article from 2016, 54% of consumers don't trust sponsored content. Who doesn't feel annoyed when yet another account pulls out the thinly veiled, "Such a busy day, no time to think about dinner but then I came home to my (insert box food delivery service name here) and the day was saved! Enter this coupon code for 3 free boxes!" Brands are able to use these unique discount codes to track the return on their investment and gauge demographics.
Even though I've found some of these posts to be helpful, I've also found it to be incredibly frustrating, especially when overuse makes me question a site's integrity. As the success of such partnerships has grown, so has the price tag of the items; exotic vacations, mattresses and appliances are all now commonplace in the world of paid content. Over the years I've found it incredibly disheartening, especially when building a site that I knew would focus largely on collaborations with other artists and companies whose missions I truly believe in. Surely there must be a better way, a way to make the partnership a benefit to everyone, including communities who would never see the post or purchase the product. After thinking a lot about how to do this in a way that felt transparent and sustainable, this is what I came up with:
Any time The Raisin Girls hosts paid content or works with a brand where product is exchanged, a portion of that product's monetary value will be donated to a corresponding not for profit organization that's doing great work. So for example, if we get sent $100 in food for recipe development, I'll donate cash to Project Angel Heart, a long standing group here in Denver that delivers meals to those in the process of fighting serious illness. Clothing or home items? If I keep them and use them, I'll be donating to The Gathering Place, a drop-in day facility for women in transition. If a blogger is sent items that they will truly use, then it stands to reason that they are saving money by not having to purchase the item, right? So why not donate a portion of what would have been spent? Operating in this way also ensures integrity in the items we are willing to promote - if I don't love something enough to be willing to make a donation on it's behalf I would never accept it.
If your math level is anything beyond 4th grade you can see that initially, this is a terrible business model BUT what could be more motivating than knowing that every partnership with a great company means introducing beneficiaries into the equation outside of brand and blogger. Donations will be made every December and posted here and all paid content will have a footnote to let readers know what organization will be benefitting from the partnership. Know of other bloggers who are using their platform to help others? Comment below and we'll compile a list!