Target pledging $1 million to six Cdn. charities through its Facebook page

TORONTO – Target Canada is pledging to donate $1 million to local charities through its Facebook page this holiday season as it moves to establish itself as a good neighbour ahead of next year’s arrival on Canadian soil.

The campaign, running Tuesday until Dec. 9, asks Facebook users to visit its page and click to donate $100 of Target’s money to one of six local charities it has selected after months of market research on the Canadian philanthropy scene.

“It’s just one of the ways we will try and engage our future guests,” said Derek Jenkins, senior vice-president of external relations at Target Canada.

“Being a good neighbour doesn’t mean you just come in and do business.”

The U.S. retail giant, set to open its first Canadian locations in the spring of 2013, plans to donate five per cent of its profits to local communities and the campaign will help it determine some of Canadians’ favourite causes.

“It just shows our commitment to making sure we’re involved in the community, but also the other benefit we get is we get to find out what’s really important to our Canadian guests,” Jenkins said.

The information will help Target to draft its giving strategy for Canada, along with the research it has already been doing, which helped to determine the areas of concentration for the current campaign — exercise, nutrition, arts and education.

Jenkins said the company is looking to tailor its corporate social responsibility program specifically to the Canadian market, and has learned that Canadians are more focused on well-being, than education, for instance.

“It just seems education isn’t as much as a concern as accessibility to food, and nutrition and well-being” in Canada, he said.

Participating partners in the program include ArtsSmarts, ArtStarts, various YMCAs in Canada, Food Banks Canada, First Book Canada and Pathways to Education.

Users can select not only the charity of their choice, but the province to which they want the money directed and can return to donate once every 24 hours.

Target will continue the campaign until the $1 million is donated, or just before midnight on Dec. 9, whichever comes first.

Gena Rotstein, a philanthropy adviser at Dexterity Consulting, said it’s becoming more common for multinational companies to launch corporate social responsibility initiatives prior to entering a new market to build goodwill.

“Doing good in the community is good for business,” she said,

Crowd-sourced funding programs are also innovative ways to drive people to companies’ social media sites and to generate buzz, she added.

“The question then becomes from a company’s perspective: is how are they managing their brand as it aligns with the charities that people are clicking on and voting for?” Rotstein said.

“It will be interesting to see what happens as Target learns about the community more. What charities do they choose to work with and are they actually putting their money into solving whatever the critical issues are that target has identified or are they just using it for more eyeballs?”

Target is preparing to move into Canada, its first expansion outside the U.S., opening the first of between 125 and 135 stores in March and April at locations once owned by Canadian retailer Zellers.