How Charity-Focused Zappos Is Making a Difference in Its Community

Zappos
E-tailer Zappos supports countless philanthropic initiatives, many of them led by its own employees.
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On Tuesday, QVC and FFANY honored Zappos.com at the annual Shoes on Sale breast cancer charity gala in New York.

Under its Zappos for Good banner, the e-commerce retailer champions countless charitable initiatives that support its community — both near and far.

Last week, for instance, in the wake of the tragic shooting in Las Vegas, Zappos launched a Crowdrise donation fund for victims’ families, pledging to match contributions up to $1 million.

The firm’s “karma kommando,” Steven Bautista, said many initiatives are spearheaded by employees. “Our team members are constantly coming up with ideas for how we can give back to the communities in which we live and work, and they take those ideas and run with them,” he said. “We always find a way to make a project happen, even if it’s on a smaller scale.”

Some of those once-small ideas have grown into significant charitable endeavors that rally the support of the wider community, such as Prom Closet, where Zappos and other area businesses play fairy godmother for teens unable to afford prom attire.

“It’s wonderful to see what we’ve accomplished over the years through our various charity endeavors, and it’s all down to our employees,” Bautista said.

Here’s a closer look at five ways the retailer is making an impact.

1. Prom Closet
Since 2014, Zappos has partnered with local homeless organization Project 150 to stage Prom Closet. Every spring, the plaza at Zappos’ headquarters is transformed into a prom emporium where teens can shop for free dresses, suits, shoes, purses and other accessories, all donated by Zappos’ partner brands. Styling, makeup, haircutting and tailoring services also are provided. “We’re so focused on taking care of basic [charitable] needs like food and clothing that these types of things are often forgotten. But prom is one of those experiences you don’t want kids to miss out on due to circumstances that are out of their control,” Bautista said. “Prom Closet is something that started out pretty small and has grown into a huge community effort.”

 

2. Kids’ Farmers Market
In what Bautista described as “one of the coolest things we’ve ever done,” Zappos hosted its first student-run farmers market in May. Kids from 40 local schools set up tents on the Zappos campus to sell everything from homegrown fruits and vegetables to handmade craft items. The one-day event, which was open to the public, was organized with Green Our Planet, which runs the country’s largest school garden program. “The kids do everything themselves: They grow the produce, they price their items, they do their own marketing and selling. They’re earning money for their school and learning about helping others in a fun way,” Bautista said. Another market is planned for this fall.

 

3. Home for the Pawlidayz
Each holiday season, from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, Zappos covers the cost of pet adoptions through select shelters, rescues and humane organizations across the country. Since the campaign’s launch in 2015, more than 18,000 dogs and cats have found homes. This year, the e-tailer sweetened the deal with Friends on Us Fridays — for the 15 weeks leading up to this year’s Pawlidayz event, Zappos is sponsoring adoptions every Friday at shelters in 15 states and 36 cities. “This cause is my favorite because it allows us to reach a lot of people, and it’s solving a bigger problem,” Bautista said, referring to the 6.5 million homeless animals taken into the country’s already overcrowded shelters each year.

4. Give
One of Zappos’ wider-reaching initiatives, Give grew from a customer inquiry about donating a gently used pair of shoes. Inspired, a Zappos employee came up with the idea to facilitate customer donations by covering the shipping costs. The program has expanded to include second-hand clothing and books, as well as new school supplies. Customers simply box up their items and use a prepaid shipping label, printed from Zappos’ website, to send their donations directly to one of Give’s three partners: Soles4Souls, Spread the Word Nevada and the Kids in Need Foundation. Since the program’s launch last November, about 100,000 items have been donated. “Give allows everyone, no matter how busy they are, to help others in need — and it doesn’t cost them anything,” Bautista said.

5. Promapalooza
To make sure her autistic brother, Mason — and other special-needs kids — could experience a prom night in a judgment-free environment, Nevada teenager Lauren Abercrombie created Promapalooza in 2014. Zappos stepped in this year to help oversee and sponsor the annual event, which draws hundreds of teens and their parents. The company’s employee bistro was transformed for the big evening, limos transported kids to the venue, and local businesses donated food, cake and other refreshments. “It’s a wonderful cause that allows these kids to experience the prom in a more comfortable setting where they can just be themselves,” said Bautista.