March 01, 2011

Industry with Heart

Mannatech’s Give for Real Program

by J.M. Emmert

For Mannatech, the passion and the culture of its business has always been to change people’s lives. The developer of high-quality health, weight and fitness and skin care solutions based on nutritional science has had one mission in mind since it was founded in 1994: to enhance the quality of life for those it touches through its products and Real Food Technology® solutions.

With an identity deeply rooted in the spirit of giving, the company is now using its corporate philanthropy to step up the fight against global malnutrition. In 2010 it launched the Give for RealSM program, a unique donation-through-consumption initiative designed to fight malnutrition in children.

Robert A. Sinnott“According to UNICEF, more than 5 million children die from malnutrition every year,” says Robert A. Sinnott, Ph.D., MNS, Co-CEO and Chief Science Officer of Mannatech. “In short, there is a dietary crisis growing for these children that demands our assistance. Our Give for Real program allows the company and our independent sales associates to optimize nutrition across the globe.”

What makes the Give for Real program work in the direct selling industry is that the lack of proper nutrition is a global problem, and not just a problem in the developing world. Mannatech can bring Real Food Technology solutions to people in industrialized nations—such as the United States, where there is a tremendous need for good nutrition—and create a funding mechanism in the developing world through orphanage organizations.

That funding mechanism is based on the concept of social entrepreneurship, which proffers new thinking on solving a variety of social and economic problems in the world. When executives realized that the company met the criteria of this new business model, they embraced it and wove it into the corporate culture.

Meeting the Challenge

The first criterion of social entrepreneurship is to identify a problem on a global scale. Mannatech had already done that. In 1999, founder Sam Caster and his wife, Linda, expanded their efforts to support orphanages by establishing MannaRelief, a charity that provides advanced nutrients to malnourished children in orphanages around the world.

The charity started with one orphanage in Romania. In the 11 years since it began, it has touched the lives of more than 109,000 children in 83 countries around the globe, with more than 25 million servings of nutritional support provided to children in need.

However, the old model of the charity did not fully engage Mannatech’s 400,000 independent sales associates and was hindered by the economic pitfalls associated with the traditional charitable fundraising model. Like many charitable organizations, MannaRelief saw monetary donations decrease as the demand to help malnourished children increased. Mannatech executives and board members felt they needed to come up with a more aggressive approach to the company’s philanthropic efforts for fighting global malnutrition without putting all the financial burden on the associates. They agreed that if they could create a sustainable funding mechanism, then they could really go out and make a difference.

Children in Mexico enjoying hearty and healthy meals containing Mannatech’s PhytoBlend powder supplement provided by MannaRelief.
Children in Mexico enjoying hearty and healthy meals containing Mannatech’s PhytoBlend powder supplement provided by MannaRelief.

So that’s what they did. Launched on July 13, 2010, Mannatech’s Give for Real program became the mechanism to help fund the company’s fight against malnutrition. For every purchase on an order containing specific Mannatech products, a donation of PhytoBlend™ powder is provided through MannaRelief to children in need worldwide. “Mannatech’s Real Food Technology solution-inspired products provide one of the best strategies for addressing [the malnutrition] crisis because the products are developed from real-food-sourced ingredients chosen from those scientifically proven to best benefit the human body,” Sinnott says.

The company’s monthly volume creates a sustainable donation base that allows Mannatech to make a real commitment to orphanage organizations. Its ultimate goal is to link millions of consumers worldwide to millions of at-risk children to reduce malnutrition.

Now armed with the second criterion of social entrepreneurship—an innovative solution to a global problem—Mannatech went about addressing the third and fourth criteria: tapping into the passion of the public and driving the social entrepreneurship movement by finding a way to financially incentivize those who were passionate about the problem.

When Mannatech executives landed on the concept of social entrepreneurship, they knew they had the technology, the passion and the purpose to take on malnutrition. They also knew that they had an associate base intricately involved in the fundraising aspects of MannaRelief, which meant they were engaged—and that they wanted to be a part of a solution. Through the Give for Real program, Mannatech is now able to provide its associates with a way to become social entrepreneurs for a global cause.

“Social entrepreneurism works so well in our business because of the network marketing structure that brings together associates that can unite to fight this global epidemic,” Sinnott says. “The Give for Real program has allowed us to find a medium that will allow us to increase the quality of life for every individual we are able to touch.”

International Exposure

The Give for Real Program enabled MannaRelief to make its first major donation this past December, supplying more than 600,000 servings of PhytoBlend powder supplement to malnourished children in Mexico. More than 5,000 children in 52 orphanages across four Mexican states will receive the supplement through MannaRelief and its partnership with Fundacion Vamos Mexico, an organization created by former Mexican President Vicente Fox and his wife, Marta Sahagún de Fox.

Mannatech and MannaRelief presented the product to Fundacion Vamos Mexico at a press conference outside the Vicente Fox Center in Guanajuato, Mexico. “We believe this significant donation through our Give for Real program symbolizes Mannatech’s commitment toward enhancing the health of children in need through better nutrition,” Sinnott says. “The Give for Real program exemplifies the company’s philanthropic spirit and allows our independent sales associates to donate and help optimize nutrition where it is needed most across the world. We are thankful for the missions of organizations like MannaRelief and Fundacion Vamos Mexico that recognize the growing need to combat malnutrition and provide young children the proper nourishment they need.”

The second organization that aligned with the Give for Real program is one out of Springfield, Mo., called Convoy of Hope, a major international relief organization that has made a significant shift toward meeting the needs of malnourished children. Earlier this year, MannaRelief sent enough product to nourish 6,000 children in El Salvador through the organization, which hopes to help nourish 100,000 children over the next several years.

What has come from meeting with various organizations is the “feeding” versus “nourishing” debate that was brought to light a few years ago when Doctors Without Borders launched a campaign called “Food Is Not Enough.” What that debate refers to is that today’s international food aid relies heavily on enriched flour-based cereals that no longer meet the new minimum standards set by the World Health Organization for young children.

Mannatech’s strategy is to take its Real Food Technology that it patented—vitamins and mineral and phytochemicals from real food sources—and put it in a powdered blend that allows other cultures around the world to blend it into food being cooked for children. In Guatemala, another area recently visited by Mannatech representatives, that’s black beans and tortillas. What the children receive is 100 percent of their micronutrient requirements from real food sources.

And what a difference it is making. The company recently sent a video crew to Mexico to document the progress made in the orphanages that received the supplements in December. What they found is that symptoms of malnutrition—the failure to thrive, the lack of appetite, the stunted growth, the learning disabilities and the bad behavior—have been alleviated. It does not take long for a child’s body to respond to proper nutrition.

Mannatech executives now believe they have a key strategy for fighting malnutrition. The company’s patented technology provides the nourishment at-risk children need, and the direct selling model provides a sustainable donation base that allows the company to continue fundraising activities. As the company’s efforts receive more international exposure, the hope is that more organizations around the world will be willing to invest money to help fight malnutrition. What most of these organizations want is a proven strategy, and Mannatech’s Give for Real program is able to offer just that.

Looking Ahead

Mannatech is not only aligning with orphanage organizations to defeat malnutrition. In 2010, the company became the official health and wellness supplement provider to the International Sport Karate Association. Several of Mannatech’s products will be the only health supplements on the market to receive an “ISKA-Certified for Elite Athletes” seal featured on its packaging. As part of strengthening that partnership, Mannatech announced on Feb. 17 that it had formed a partnership with the North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA) to fight malnutrition. This marks the first time in its 34-year history that the association has embraced a cause.

NASKA will team up with Mannatech along its 14-city tour of martial arts competitions. “This North American tour is so much more than an elite martial arts competition. It’s about a cause to fight against malnutrition,” Sinnott says. “Together, with some of NASKA’s elite athletes, we can make a difference among the lives of people of all ages by educating them about the benefits of proper eating and a balanced diet while simultaneously working to alleviate malnutrition across the globe through our Give for Real program.”

Mannatech’s goal has always been to bring awareness and support that will inspire others to take action. Through the model of social entrepreneurship, it has created a way to engage its 400,000 associates in the cause of defeating global malnutrition. By enabling everyone to play a role, the company is able to make a real dent in this crisis.

The shift toward the social entrepreneurial way of doing business marks a huge change in how the company is able to give back to others. It is the difference between cause-based marketing and social entrepreneurism. Whereas cause-based marketing is dedicated to supporting worthy causes, social entrepreneurs are dedicated to solving problems. Mannatech has witnessed the devastating effects of malnutrition around the world and knows it has the technology to solve the problem—and it will use every resource available in the company to accomplish that goal.

The new model has also given Mannatech a better understanding of itself. “Social entrepreneurship has brought us into the fullness of who we are,” Caster says. “I think we have been a different kind of company in the direct selling industry. A lot of focus in direct sales is on the business opportunity, which it should be. It’s a wonderful business to be involved in. But because of our core technology, what we found is that a lot of people were more attracted to the ability to impact people’s lives than to just the business. So the business was sort of a side benefit to doing what we did. I think that has always been sort of the passion and the culture of our business—to change lives. And I believe if we commit ourselves to it, we’ll attract people from all over the world who are seeking a purpose-driven life.”

And that they are. Mannatech is finding that many people are interested as much in impacting the lives of others as they are in building direct selling businesses. And those new entrepreneurs fit well with a company that believes doing good business includes doing good for others.