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Warby Parker: Buy a Pair, Give a Pair

ericshainock's picture

Sticking with the theme of philanthropy rooted in business, Warby Parker fits the bill. The organization was founded with a lofty objective: provide designer eyewear at an affordable price, while leading the way for socially conscious business.

While Warby Parker had a great business plan to maximize revenue and become a player in the glasses space, there was an underlying philanthropic reason to open its doors. On their site, they simply state: "We believe that everyone has the right to see."
Almost one billion people across the globe do not have access to glasses, which translates into 15 percent of the world's population being unable to learn or work effectively according to Warby Parker. To help alleviate this issue, Warby Parker partnered with VisionSpring to ensure that for every pair of glasses sold, an additional one was given to someone through the non-profit. This One for One model is becoming more popular in business (think TOMS and Chegg). Corporate social responsibility is necessary for every large brand, but when it is authentic to an organization's culture, consumers will go out of their way to spend dollars there rather than with competitors.

In addition, consumers not only feel good that they are spending money with brands that make positive contributions to charity, but also each consumer indirectly supports charity as well. It's similar to the social campaigns that occur online when a social media action (tweet, Facebook post) triggers a donation from each user; I benefit by receiving a pair of glasses and I know that someone else in need receives a benefit too.

Warby Parker takes it one step further though. Their model is simple: buy a pair of glasses, count the number sold and make a donation to its nonprofit partners, which covers the cost of sourcing that number of glasses. The third step is what makes Warby Parker special - the nonprofit trains people to give basic eye exams and sell glasses at reasonable prices so that people in developing countries have access to eye care. This allows men and women to earn a living, and follows the old motto of "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." According to Warby Parker, training people instead of the direct glasses donation forces its partners to offer glasses that people actually want to buy. It's worked: over a million pair of glasses have been distributed since Warby Parker opened its doors.

As mentioned, integrating philanthropy within a corporate culture and a mission helps consumers feel good about how they spend their dollars while also differentiating itself from competitors. In the end, it increases the bottom line and consumer, brand, and the global world all win as a result. Professional sport teams can ingrain philanthropy within its culture beyond community relations or a team foundation. By providing assets that are unique to a team (stadiums, players, the platform celebrities have), these philanthropy efforts can be amplified through sports. If each team were to do this, it would have a local and global impact as sports is one of the few industries that cuts across race, gender, and geography.

Eric Shainock works for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital as an Account Representative in the Strategic Partnerships division after previously working at Intersport, a sports marketing agency. He is a 2014 graduate of the Ohio University Sports Administration Graduate Program. Feel free to reach out via email: or on Twitter: @ericshainock.


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