Campaign in Review: Kiwibank’s Gumboot Up


What happened?

Kiwibank is donating $100,000 to the I AM HOPE organisation’s Gumboot Friday initiative, as part of a viral Facebook campaign pledging to donate $1 for every Kiwi who added the New Zealander of the Year #GumbootUp frame to Facebook profile picture. $100,000 is a an amazing donation to any charitable cause, and we’re excited for all the good work that I AM HOPE is going to be able to do. But why are some Kiwis disappointed with the donation, and calling on Kiwibank to donate even more? And what can this tell us about good corporate social responsibility practices?

Was it a good or bad example of corporate social responsibility?

At first glance, this campaign seems like a great example of corporate social responsibility in action. It seems to match pretty well with almost all of our criteria for Great Corporate Social Responsibility:

Great Corporate Social Responsibility...

1.     Goes above and beyond. - yes!

2.     Is varied, but focused around a common purpose. - yes!

3.     Is easily identifiable. - yes!

4.     Is a mindset of solving a social problem over time, not just a one-off. - falls short here, but that’s okay.

5.     Is congruent with your business operations. - yes, aligns with the New Zealander of the Year competition

6.     Supports community projects - yes

7.     Is bold. - sort of (more on this below)

8.     Is significant in effort (a guideline we use is around 2% of your annual profit). - again, more on this soon

9.     Is relevant to the values of the target market. - yes!

10.  Is celebrated and communicated. - yes! By more than 185,000 New Zealanders

11.  Is organised. - falls short here, more on this below

12.  Centre on making progress, not perfection. - yes

13.  Takes employee involvement in decision making. - we’re unsure

14.  Might involve collaboration with other businesses. - NA for this campaign

15.  Is reported on. - TBC, watch out for a annual CSR report from this group

16.  Grows with a company; and is often one of the driving forces behind company growth. - not in this case, but again, that’s okay.

So why didn’t this campaign sit right with all Kiwis?

The complaint that we’re seeing across Facebook is that the donation isn’t large enough. By end of the first week, over 185,000 Kiwis had added the #GumbootUp frame – so why is the donation capped at $100,000?

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Kiwibank has since clarified that the campaign was only ever going to match donations up to $20,000, so the $100,000 they’re now donating is actually a massive jump up. But the problem is that this limit wasn’t clearly communicated to public. Check out the wording of the initial Facebook post, with no mention of a $20,000 cap.

So when Kiwibank announced that they were increasing their donation cap to $50,000, and then even $100,000, this didn’t feel like an increase at all. To Kiwis who had been changing their profile picture, expecting it to mean another $1 donation, it started to feel like they were just giving Kiwibank brand exposure for free.

The verdict from us…

Don’t get us wrong - $100,000 is an incredible donation, and we have to be careful not to criticise any signs of change-making for being imperfect, because imperfect is often still far better than nothing. Kiwibank are giving an incredible amount to GumbootUp and that’s something to be really celebrated. In this sense, it’s great that Kiwibank has stepped up and increased that number from what they were originally expecting to donate. But by not clearly communicating the scope of their campaign from the outset they’ve been made to look like they’re on the back foot, being forced to donate more out of public pressure than out of genuine, committed corporate social responsibility.

That impression doesn’t look good for Kiwibank when you consider their revenue. Their net profit after tax in the last financial year was $115 million - that really puts the initial $20,000 cap into perspective. We recommend that businesses contribute 2% of their profit to corporate social responsibility – for Kiwibank, that would be around $2.3 million for this coming year, for everything . When you consider that their operating expenses for the same year was $373 million, even their $100,000 donation starts to seem like a really good use of their marketing budget for such a viral campaign.

So how could Kiwibank have avoided this criticism, and made sure that their donation was seen in the positive light it deserved to be? Clearer communication about the scope of the campaign from the outset could have helped, sure. But would the #GumbootUp frame have gone viral if it’d come with some small print about a $20,000 donation cap? Absolutely not. The amount of people changing their profile pictures in support of I AM HOPE is a clear indicator that New Zealanders want to get behind corporate social responsibility campaigns, and that they want those campaigns to be exactly what we (incorrectly) thought Kiwibank’s was – bold, significant, and above all something that goes above and beyond.

How did Kiwibank’s latest efforts sit with you?