Mailchimp’s platform has long been about helping the little guy. Co-founders Ben Chestnut and Dan Kurzius had founded the company in 2001 as a side gig to their web design agency in order to help smaller clients with their email marketing. Though the company has evolved beyond just email into a robust marketing automation platform, it remains rooted in helping small businesses. That thinking now extends to the brand’s new philanthropic platform, “Big Change Starts Small.”
In September, the brand debuted a whimsical animated brand campaign from R/GA celebrating small business owners. Now, in a corporate responsibility initiative conceived with independent agency Kin, Mailchimp turns the spotlight to local non-profits and smaller organizations attempting to change the world.
Through non-restricted funds, real-time advocacy and innovative social programs, Mailchimp’s “Big Change Starts Small” aims to empower those who know their communities best to be as effective as they can be.
“The philanthropic world can be very conventional and a lot of companies and brands go down the paved road, partnering with big organizations—but that often comes with a lot of restrictions, like getting logos placed or telling a story that meets with their message,” says Kin Co-Founder Sophie Ozoux. “What we realized with Mailchimp was that empowering local and small-world changers, trusting them to use the funds the way they need is really key to bigger impact.”
The messaging anchor of the campaign is an animated film from Kin that celebrates and highlights the plight of the smaller players. Buck, which animated Mailchimp's brand campaign, returned to produce the new work.
“Let’s change the world,” the voiceover begins before changing her tune. “No. Let’s change how we change the world. No. Let’s change how the changers change the world,” before going on to uphold the work of smaller “changers.”
There’s also a website that showcases some of Mailchimp’s efforts so far, including its including unrestricted funding to organizations like dance organization “Moving in the Spirit,” and its “Power to Grow” program, which makes a significant, multi-year investment to nonprofits in order to help them build out their own fundraising programs.
The effort actually represents a crystallization of Mailchimp’s corporate citizenship efforts over the last seven years, during which it’s worked with more than 200 local non-profits in its hometown of Atlanta. The company found that boosting smaller change-maker organizations, over more established causes has often led to more positive outcomes.
The campaign not only highlights Mailchimp’s own efforts but also aims to inspire other big companies to broaden their perspective on corporate citizenship to help smaller organizations effect “big change.”
“I think this campaign is a case study in manifesting a brand’s beliefs not just in smart strategy that guides the business and operations, but also in challenging and inspiring others to embrace an approach that can drive impact from local communities to change the broader world,” adds Kin Co-Founder Kwame Taylor-Hayford.
Lain Shakespeare, senior director of corporate citizenship at Mailchimp, says that the company originally intended to debut the campaign earlier in 2020, but the coronavirus crisis put plans on hold. “We saw it was a real opportunity to put the campaign on the back burner and address issues that were really urgent,” he says.
COVID led to the cancellation or postponement of major events, such as SXSW. So Mailchimp and Kin saw the opportunity to support the smaller players affected, such as those who were set to showcase their short films at the festival and created a new home for their work. Later in the year, they did the same for emerging authors with the “By the Books” initiative, meant help support those affected by canceled book tours and festivals.
“CSR can often feel extra,” says Shakespeare. “It can feel like atonement or separate, and it’s really important to me that this stay as close to the business as we can. It’s a natural extension of what we’ve been doing—empowering the underdog.”