A Holiday Snapshot: ‘The Right Thing to Do’

During the holidays, when commercialism can overwhelm sentiment, it’s reassuring to know that American retail jewelers really are a good-hearted bunch, driven as much by the Golden Rule as by selling their gold and silver wares. As a holiday gift to you, we offer this statistical snapshot, based on a new JCK national survey of hundreds of businesses, of how U.S. jewelers extend charity all year long in their communities.

Helping many. Four out of five jewelers (85.5%) actively support at least one charity, found JCK‘s poll, and more than a third (35.7%) support several. Sierra West Jewelers, Orem, Utah, for example, aids 18 different local charities, such as the Miss Utah Scholarship pageant, the Even Start Family Literacy program, and local police and ballet fund-raisers. “We believe in their causes, and we’re trying to give something back [to the community],” explains R. Timothy Branscomb.

Ballew Jewelers in Freehold, N.J., supports more than 100 charity affairs in minor ways and one charity in particular—chosen on a rotating basis by managers—annually with a major fund-raising effort. In Jacksonville, Fla., Underwood Jewelers helps approximately 70 charities in various ways, while a Denver, Colo., jeweler who didn’t want his name used gives to 50-plus local groups, with contributions ranging from $100 to $25,000.

Many jewelers, however, concentrate on a few programs, or—in some cases—only one program. Mark Knipe Goldsmiths, Concord, N.H., supports three, especially the Concord Main Street Program, part of the National Main Street economic redevelopment program. “We chose it for its potential impact on maintaining downtown as the center of the community,” says Knipe. In Rocky River, Ohio, Marlen Jewelers focuses on juvenile diabetes research “to make a more important contribution, instead of spreading ourselves thin by donating on a small scale to many organizations,” says owner Scott Lazarus. Grunwald Jewelers, Geneva, Ill., goes a different route: It periodically changes the prime charity it supports to “help spread our dollars to good causes,” says Martha Grunwald.

However, jewelers are careful about whom they back and how their donations are used. “We support numerous charities but don’t give to every request,” says Vicki Shaw of Shaw & Son, Canal Winchester, Ohio. “We decide ahead of time who to support.”

“If we feel a charity isn’t allocating enough funds directly [to charitable work], we discontinue support,” says Chris De Capri of Capri Jewelers, Richmond, Va. “Accountability is an issue,” agrees Michael George, M.S.G. Jewelers, St. Louis, Mo.—”accountability to God and people for the proper use of funds and gifts.”

Helping at home. As might be expected, some groups that jewelers support are connected to national health research and care charities, such as the American Cancer Society and those fighting breast cancer (16.1%) or the United Way (8.3%). But the hometown charities U.S. jewelers support are as numerous and varied as the jewelers themselves. They include local libraries, art centers, symphonies, organizations that help abused women and children, food banks, wildlife care centers, even a local competitive jump rope team.

Hometown schools (10.1%), places of worship and religious groups that help the community (10.7%), and hospitals (7.8%) also are major recipients of jewelers’ support. But it’s those organizations and programs devoted to some aspect of children’s well-being—i.e., health, sports, life-building, education, literacy, and non-violence—that are most popular with jewelers. At least 40% actively support some sort of child-related endeavor.

Jewelers provide this support in numerous ways, often several at the same time. According to JCK‘s survey, half donate cash, some of which comes from ongoing sales of specific products. Foley Jewelers, Newark, Del., donates $1 to the Sept. 11 Twin Towers Fund for every flag pin sold, while Crescent Jewelry Co., Hannibal, Mo., gives $1 to the Jewelers Charity Fund for Children for every watch battery sold.

Others hold in-store events intended specifically to raise money for good works. Kay Cameron in Sayville, N.Y., for instance, gives 10% of all sales on a particular day to the American Lung Association. Bullocks Jewelers in Van Alstyne, Texas, periodically donates a percentage of one-day sales to the local Friends of the Library, whose work “gives kids in this small town options while helping them learn,” says Jan Bullock.

Tapper’s Fine Jewelers, Detroit, Mich., actively supports “Kids Kicking Cancer,” founded by a local university professor of pediatrics, which uses martial arts training to encourage and empower children afflicted with cancer. Tapper’s collects old gold and jewelry year-round from customers, and the company’s refiner melts down the gold for free. Tapper’s turns the liquid gold into liquid cash, which it donates to “Kids Kicking Cancer.” The store promotes the program with full-page newspaper ads and is working with a local dental fraternity to collect their scrap gold. The program has raised more than $25,000 over two years. “We’re committed to this organization, because it touches so many lives,” says Steven J. Tapper, general manager and vice president.Eve J. Alfille Ltd., Evanston, Ill., gives “10% of large-scale events [400 to 600 guests] to Chicago’s pediatric AIDS charities. Sam Katz Jewelers in St. Louis, Mo., holds an annual benefit for the Humane Society, its main charity, while Schmieder Jewelers, Sun City, Ariz., gives a percentage of one-week sales in December to the Hospice of Sun City.

Some jewelers even have started their own projects to support charity. The “Carats for Kids” project of Capri Jewelers in Richmond, Va., in three years has raised more than $40,000 for charities dealing with cancer in children.

Home-made. One in three (33%) jewelers polled contribute merchandise, and more than one in four (26.2%) supply items specifically for charity auctions, raffles, and giveaways. Bash Jewelers, Lancaster, Pa., has been recognized by the local American Heart Association (AHA) office for its jewelry donations to AHA’s annual ball. The pieces are “always a highlight of the event [and] add a level of elegance and excitement that guests talk about,” notes Carol Lefever, auction chairman for the ball.

A number of jewelers custom-make the jewelry they donate. Reznikov’s Fine Jewelry, Antonia, Texas, for example, always creates a piece of jewelry that is the premiere auction item for the annual AHA gala there. In the seven years it’s done so, its custom-made jewelry has raised more than $60,000. In El Segundo, Calif., The Jewelry Source annually designs “a special jewelry piece” that it donates to the local children’s hospital, “a personal payback for the incredible care they give,” says owner Brenda Newman.

Many jewelers, however, support their communities with not only money and merchandise but also personal involvement, volunteering their time and services. Jody Rusconi of Graystone Jewelers, Eureka, Calif., for example, helps the local wildlife care center “both financially and with participation—I have broken-wing red-tail hawks in our own house!” Curt Parker Jewelers, St. Louis, Mo., supports the local “Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure” for breast cancer research—a charity chosen by its staff—by forming and sponsoring a team in the event. “We write letters and e-mail all our clients, offering them a $35 gift certificate to sign up and participate, and we pay the $17 entry fee for joining our team,” says Elizabeth Parker.

Each October, for 12 years, Tapper’s has collected children’s coats to be donated to three local groups that aid needy and abused children. To date, the company has collected more than 10,000 coats, donated by the public at the store and at containers the store sets up at local schools.

About one in four jewelers polled (24%) serve on boards or committees. Toby Joseph, Joseph’s Jewelers, Des Moines, Iowa, chairs the local hospital foundation, while his brother is on the NCCJ board. In Mukwonago, Wis., jeweler Steven Bartle serves as first assistant chief of the volunteer fire department, while in Royersford, Pa., Cathy Calhoun not only donates her speaker’s fees to charity but also serves on the boards of the local YMCA and organizations for elderly housing and civic revitalization.

‘The right thing.’ What motivates so many jewelers to perform and support good works in their hometowns? For some, the reasons are personal. A number of jewelers support activities like Special Olympics or diabetes or cancer research, they tell JCK, because one of their family, friends, children, customers, or co-workers is affected or afflicted.

For others, business is a factor. In Rockford, Ill., for example, Clodius & Co. “actively pursues charity, community, and arts organizations,” offering its sponsorship and support, say Mark and Monika Clodius. “When we opened our store, we chose to ‘market’ ourselves through arts, charitable, and community organizations. The people who run them and staff their boards [are those] we would like to have as customers.” The business, which participated in more than 40 events last year, has gained new customers through its efforts, as well as public recognition from the mayor and the Rotary Club.

Supporting local charities solely for business reasons, though, can be disappointing. One Southern jeweler who had contributed door prizes to various civic and charity events and groups stopped doing so, he says, when “we determined the expenses didn’t merit the benefit to our business.” And a Pennsylvania jeweler withdrew support of a charity because, said the owner, “people in the organization didn’t respond by shopping in our store.”

But the bottom line for many jewelers’ charitable work and contributions isn’t “the bottom line.”

“We believe in giving back to those in our community, especially the less fortunate,” says Michael George, M.S.G. Jewelers, St. Louis, Mo. “We do it because [charitable and nonprofit groups] need help,” says Will Feller, of Goldsmith Co. Jewelers, Provo, Utah. Probably the best explanation comes from Michael D. Derby, Corrine Jewelers, Toms River, N.J., who says simply, “It’s the right thing to do.”

Does your business actively support a local charity?

Source: JCK Retail Panel, August 2003
Yes 85.5%
No 14.5

How long has your business supported local charities?

Source: JCK Retail Panel, August 2003
1-5 years 23.5%
6-10 years 23.5
11-15 years 9.0
16-20 years 16.3
21-30 years 15.7
Over 30 years 12.0