DSW, a leading branded footwear and accessories retailer, recently announced the company will be giving back to the community once again through its Shoe Lovers Care Leave Your Mark program.  DSW associates nominated eight family-focused, nonprofit organizations that have made an impression on their lives.

The public is invited to learn more about the nominated organizations and vote online through ShoeLoversCare.com. Voting is open Aug. 4 through Aug. 15 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Participants can cast one unique vote daily. Supporters can also share their vote on Facebook and Twitter with #DSWShoeLoversCare.

Finalists will receive $5,000 and the organization with the most votes will receive a $75,000 donation. Since 2013, $665,000 in grants have been donated to 47 of our Associates' favorite non-profit organizations through DSW's Shoe Lovers Care Leave Your Mark campaign.

It’s a unique way of customer/employee engagement for DSW.

Loyalty360 talked to Jonica N. Armstrong, community relations manager at DSW, more about this compelling program.

What factors prompted this unique program and what are your goals for it from a customer engagement perspective? 
Armstrong:  Through our philanthropic program, Shoe Lovers Care, we wanted to find a way to connect our associates’ diverse, nonprofit, and cause-related passions to our 25M+ Rewards Customers. This sub-program, Leave Your Mark, has provided an opportunity to bring awareness and support to, now, 56 non-profits our associates love the most. It has been a great way to engage, socially, with our customers.

How long has DSW been doing the program and what has the response been like? 
Armstrong: This is DSW’s fourth year carrying out the campaign. Thus far, 47 non-profits have competed for the top grant, however, through the campaign, all have received at least $5,000 as a donation.  To date, through the Shoe Lovers Care Leave Your Mark campaign, we have distributed $665,000.
With the complete of the existing campaign, eight more non-profits will join this list and another $110,000 will be distributed. The response has been great from our associates, customers, and the non-profits. Our associates have expressed gladness for an opportunity to have their employer back their specific organizations. Participation has been a unique catalyst for getting associates more involved with non-profits in a service capacity. Customers have been supportive, submitting more than one million votes since the campaign started. Participating non-profits have stated the awareness brought to their organization was more valuable than even the top, $75,000 donation. As a result of participating, many have increased their followers/supporters.

From all the national brands that we talk to on a regular basis, we have found that brands that do work to support any worthwhile cause tend to resonate more and on a deeper emotional level with customers. Have you found this to be the case at DSW? 
Armstrong: While we haven’t completed an extreme amount of analysis, based on comments we receive from our customers, we believe that giving back is an important differentiator.
How does this program work? 
Armstrong: We invite all 12,000+ of our associates to nominate an organization they are passionate about and/or think deserve an opportunity to win a $75,000 donation. We go through a vetting process to narrow to no more than eight non-profits that are diverse in cause, size, and geographic location. We present the finalist non-profits to the public, via our customer emails, social media channels, and in-store activities, with a request to vote every day of the campaign on which they feel is most deserving of the $75,000 donation. At the end of approximately 12 days, the finalist nonprofit with the most votes wins the $75,000 donation and all other runners-up each receive a $5,000 donation. Additionally, we fly the Associate, who nominated the winner, to join our CEO in presenting the donation at the nonprofit’s headquarters.

What has this program done for DSW?
Armstrong: The program has allowed us to support our associates’ philanthropic passions in a meaningful way, increasing engagement and retention. Additionally, it has allowed us to gain new customers and supporters as a result of our campaign.
 

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