There is so much taking we do on a daily basis. We take in the atmosphere around us, take what is being offered us, and even take from limited resources that can’t afford to be taken from. It’s wired into our everyday culture. But what if we gave more than we took? What if we opened our eyes to what’s going on around us and looked for needs to fill, hoping that we could someday wire into our everyday culture the act of giving.
When we became part of our community ten years ago, we knew this was an ethos that we wanted to adopt. Even beyond making something delicious or brightening someone’s day, our ultimate goal was to leave our community better than when we found it. It’s a challenge to ourselves to not settle into the daily habit of taking from our community and focus on where and how we can give back.
We’ve had some stellar examples in businesses who set the bar exceptionally high. MiiR takes dollars from every sale and intentionally channels them into projects locally and afar. They even give their customers the chance to track where every dollar spent goes and then reports back on how the giving is going, how lives are being impacted or changed for the better. REI & REI Foundation have set the bar over the past 42 years by giving over 87 million dollars to enhancing access to outdoor spaces as well as creating opportunities for those in urban settings to access outdoor spaces in their immediate community. They also built advocacy partnerships focused on meeting the needs of various communities in terms of building sustainable recreational opportunities and even branching into public health, transportation and more.
So what can we do? After all, compared to those we admire we’re relatively small with under fifty staff members. But no one ever made a lasting impact by thinking small. Every effort counts - every hour volunteered, every dollar donated. If we each think of ourselves as too small to make a difference, then no lasting change would ever be made! We all have to start somewhere and we started with empowering our team members to be active, engaged community members. We did this by offering an employee charity match up to $200 per year - allowing them to engage in the ways they feel impassioned to give. Next, we wanted to partner with some seriously compassionate, dedicated and powerful forces in our immediate community - Second Harvest Food Bank, The Contributor and Safe Haven Family Shelter.
How did we decide to partner with those three specific organizations? We simply looked around us. Due to our location downtown we see firsthand the heartbreaking effects of homelessness and poverty in our city. We decided it was important to us to contribute to the efforts of those who are changing the lives of those suffering around us. Second Harvest Food Bank works to do something so simple, yet so necessary for survival - they feed the hungry in Middle and West Tennessee. Safe Haven’s mission is to eliminate family homelessness in Middle Tennessee. And The Contributor provides earned income opportunities for homeless and formerly homeless individuals. The hardworking individuals behind these organizations are working daily to provide our community with basic needs - food, shelter and jobs. Last year we donated 2% of our net profit with regular monthly donations and the occasional need-based giving in addition.
What we find when we open our eyes to the needs around us is that it’s nearly impossible to filter needs - so we began giving to others beyond our core 3 organizations as the years went on. Employees bring our attention to needs they are passionate about, regular customers find themselves in times of need, even global needs become apparent and we want to continue to prioritize the stance of giving more than we take. As a business there is always a bottom-line, a goal to be met, services and products to make or sell...it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. Our transparency here is not motivated by self-gratifying pats on the back, but rather a desire that you know the hearts behind what we’re doing, know what your daily purchases are fueling and even encourage you to remember that a seemingly small change is still change - every effort counts, even if just from one person, one family.