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November 2006 | Vol. V - No. 11




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The Ups and Downs of Giving

How to Balance Charity With Business


Across the country, kids are in need, and one of the things they often lack is a toy. Specialty toy retailers are in a unique position to help out and, in some cases, the rewards may be greater than just having the satisfaction of making a kid smile. However, it is important for the giver to be genuine, or the rewards may be lost for everyone, retailers across the country told TDmonthly Magazine.

Finding the Right Charity

With a little effort, retailers can find charities that are a good fit for their values and their stores. For example, Valerie Pontbriand, co-owner of Four Eyes Joke Shop in Southbridge, Mass., noted that she is active with Relay for Life, Toys for Tots and the American Red Cross.

Pontbriand also started a joint venture with Hugz, a new card company, to send Good Humor packs with thank-you cards to members of the military.

Debbie Wurzburger, owner of The Toy Chest in Pikesville, Md., works with several charities. Diana L. Nelson, president of Kazoo & Company in Denver, Colo., holds an Angel Book Project each Christmas.

Go Local, or National

Retailers may find worthy organizations in their hometown. Or they may want to reach out with a wider net.

One of the many national charities that are in need of toys is the My Stuff Bags Foundation, which provides duffel bags filled with toiletries and toys to abused, neglected, abandoned and displaced children. Marine Toys for Tots Foundation collects new toys to distribute as Christmas gifts. And, of course, The Toy Industry Foundation serves disadvantaged and at-risk infants and children by giving toys to charities around the country.

Contributions Bring Rewards for All

Children reap the biggest rewards when retailers give generously, but there are also some rewards for the giver as well.

After Hurricane Katrina, Pontbriand noted that she helped spearhead funding to adopt two families from New Orleans. The result was unexpected free advertising.

“There’s no way to measure what’s happened as a result of that news coverage, but my store was plastered all over primetime for huge amounts of time,” she said.

Wurzburger noted that many of her customers are involved with the same charitable organizations that she is, and they show their appreciation by shopping in her store and referring others there.

The Pitfalls of Generosity

However, Pontbriand also warned that being public about contributions opens retailers up to problems.

“Your phone rings off the hook, and you get visitors to your business that are soliciting left and right, and are very disappointed when you say no to them,” she told TDmonthly.

She explained that many businesses mistakenly think she’s getting rich from what she does, and it’s become a sensitive subject for her.
   
Finally, Follow Your Heart

Whether retailers decide to give publicly or not, the bottom line is that they need to get involved for the right reasons.

“I would have to say…that the rewards of contributing positively to the community come back to you 10-fold if you do it with a pure heart,” Pointbriand concluded. “If you do it with ulterior motives, you get what you give.”


Here is more information on some of the charities mentioned in the article:

My Stuff Bags Foundation
866-3MY-STUFF
www.mystuffbags.org

Marine Toys for Tots Foundation
703-640-9433
www.toysfortots.org

The Toy Industry Foundation
703-836-2121
www.toy-tia.org

American Red Cross
www.redcross.org



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Brenda RuggieroWriter's Bio: Brenda Ruggiero is a freelance writer from western Maryland. Read more articles by this author

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