How We Can Change the World by Buying Things … Together

A single consumer isn’t able to change much about how a given company does business. But when thousands of customers join together and speak with a single voice, corporate leaders pay attention and make changes – whether it’s revising business practices, yanking advertising or offering new products or services.

This idea, the power that comes from aggregating consumers, may not seem important to a nonprofit, but it’s actually at the heart of what First Book does.

First Book provides new books to children in needThe problem we’re working to solve is the lack of access to books and educational materials for kids from low-income families. The schools and programs they attend usually don’t have the resources to buy new books, and neither do their families. So these kids miss out on the single most important thing they need to become strong readers and successful students. And many of them lose their chance to become the scientist, engineer, electrician, doctor or teacher that they have the potential (and desire) to become. When that happens, we all lose.

And the private sector loses too. The publishing industry loses money because those children can’t buy books, and they lose future customers because those children never become readers.

But … if we can bring enough teachers and program leaders together, we can pool their limited resources and create a new, untapped market for the publishers. Not to mention creating future customers, and – most crucially – a stronger, better-educated society for everyone. Everyone really does win.

There’s an excellent piece by Will Byrne, co-founder of the nonprofit Groundswell, in Fast Company’s Co.EXIST blog describing this phenomenon:

With purchasing power, we can help business leaders to deliver social benefits while also meeting their bottom line, creating local markets that reward those who do. People, given a path that does not set them back economically, will make choices as consumers that do good for their world. And, just as important, business leaders will as well.

It’s a good idea, right? It’s also what First Book is all about.

First Book provides new books to children in need(In the piece, Byrne recognizes First Book’s president, Kyle Zimmer, and her contributions to this important way of thinking. But that just proves that he’s on the right track.)

That’s why, when we meet new teachers and community leaders, and tell them to sign up with First Book to get new books, we make the point that the more groups we connect with, the more books we’ll be able to get them, at lower cost.

It sounds like magic, but it’s actually simple. First Book exists to aggregate the purchasing power of the hundreds of thousands of Title I schools, mentoring programs, food banks, homeless shelters and church groups that work with kids in need, and our power to make change grows as we grow … together.