Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison are two information systems icons who share a passion for technology. What many people may not realize is they share another characteristic: Both were adopted as young children. Jobs’ and Ellison’s respective adoptive parents nurtured the boys’ love for science and math, and that contributed to their current successes.
With this spirit in mind, a group of retail IT executives have come together in hopes of helping to nurture the future of other young children.
RetailROI, or the Retail Orphan Initiative, is a new charity organization whose mission is to raise awareness of adoption issues and provide solutions for abandoned children. The program evolved during an informal meeting between Paul Singer, senior VP and CIO for Supervalu, and Greg Buzek, founder and president, IHL Consulting.
During their meeting, Singer shared his longtime work as an adoption advocate, while Buzek talked about his work to support orphan care. Together, the two created the concept for RetailROI.
Along with these two trailblazers is a roster of other IT executives eager to lend a hand. With the help of Prashanth Palakurthi, founder and CEO of Reflexis, the team connected with the Giving Back Fund, a foundation that will manage donations for the charity. The donor trustees are Singer, Buzek and Marc Millstein, founder and president of RetailConnections.
The board of advisers, which recommends where funds will be donated, includes Tim Kasbe, CIO of Reliance Retail Ltd.; Cathy Hotka, president and CEO, Cathy Hotka & Associates; Jeff Roster, research VP Industry Market Strategies, Retail at Gartner; and Jeff Ketner, president of public relations firm KetnerBarnes. During last month’s 98th annual NRF Convention & EXPO, this think tank of retail IT executives held its first official meeting, hoping to spread the word and brainstorm on how to raise funds for orphan care.
I’ve been following the evolution of the project since the fall. And let’s face it, between the aftershock of retail stocks following the financial market’s tailspin, daily reports of retail bankruptcies, store closings and a dismal holiday shopping season, this is the first glimmer of good news coming out of the retail industry in a long time.
The group is still in the early stages, and while there is no set program just yet, ideas of how to raise donations continue to be discussed. By keeping IT at the heart of this project, however, the ideas are endless.
For example, a “Round-Up” program could be the easiest way to get donations. As consumers make a purchase at point-of-sale, software can be programmed to round up a final total from $25.75 to $26.00. The 25 cents could be donated to RetailROI.
Another option is to create co-branded gift cards with a retailer and/or a credit-card provider such as Visa USA or MasterCard International. For every card that is sold through the retail partner, the retailer could donate a portion of the proceeds to RetailROI.
Sure, these ideas will require the cooperation of technology vendors to program software to support the applications. But that may be a small price to pay for such a selfless project.
Think about it. Every nickel, dime or quarter raised could contribute to the future of the next Steve Jobs or Larry Ellison. Now that’s what I call a real “retail return on investment.”