Tom Rector and his team know there’s more to a good campaign than just a profit. In fact, some of the most memorable promotions focus on supporting community causes, where the payout stretches far beyond the bottom line. “When you can take what you do and use it to help, that’s an awesome situation,” says Rector, CEO of Rector Communications (asi/305623).
With the community in mind, the Indianapolis-based firm has started a new philanthropic division called Ink the Cause. It’s dedicated solely to altruism, using the power of branded T-shirts to raise funds for worthy causes. “We’ve always believed there is more to being a good company than just making money,” says Rector. “We want to have a positive impact on our community.”
“It’s a perfect way to showcase what we do. But more importantly, there’s a lot of heart behind this.”
Ink the Cause is certainly doing that. Launched last summer, the online fundraising platform allows anyone to run their own apparel-driven charity campaigns. The process starts with creating a cause-supporting T-shirt. Ink the Cause will develop the shirt design or clients can do it themselves using the company’s online designer, which affords access to 10,000 clip art samples, text formats and colors. From there, Rector’s team builds a single-page micro Web store from which the T-shirts are sold – typically for a couple weeks.
Through the campaign, Ink the Cause, the client and anyone else committed to the charity effort promotes the shirt through word-of-mouth and social media. “We field the orders, print the garments and handle shipping,” says Rector. And the company does so without making a profit. Ink the Cause takes in enough to cover its costs and possible contingencies, while the rest goes to the charity. “With our ability to print on-demand there’s no need for the cause’s originators to spend money on a stock of garments,” he says.
In one of its early success stories last year, Ink the Cause helped generate approximately $13,000 for the Indianapolis Police Foundation. The campaign began in response to the killing of Indianapolis Police Officer Perry Renn, who was shot to death last July while defending the public from a gunman. Even more broadly, the shirts – which featured a police badge and the words “Indy Strong” – served as a statement against a rising tide of violence in the Midwestern city. The shirt’s messaging included a Twitter hashtag, #StopTheViolence.
“We wanted to do what we can using our apparel crowdfunding system to unify the city and give back to those who are out protecting our streets,” says Gabe Peters, Rector Communication’s vice president of merchandising and the point man for Ink the Cause.
Turning a profit may not be part of the Ink the Cause platform, but the philanthropy has garnered a wealth of positive attention – including local Indianapolis TV coverage – that can feed Rector Communication’s mainstay promotional products business. Of course, there’s a huge feel-good factor, too, for everyone involved. “It’s a perfect way to showcase what we do,” says Rector. “But more importantly, there’s a lot of heart behind this.”