Sweet Charity

When it comes to charity, jewelers are a generous lot. A recent JCK poll found that they give freely of not only their money and merchandise, but also their time and skills. Those donations and good works support a broad range of charitable and other nonprofit causes.

Some 88% of jewelers surveyed contribute money, merchandise, or volunteer services to charitable, civic, or cultural organizations. Of these, 82% donate merchandise while 71% offer cash; many give both. The sums are frequently sizable. One in three jewelers gives $2,500 or more each year in cash or merchandise. Of this group, one in 10 offers more than $10,000 in cash while one in six donates goods worth that amount. Nonprofit civic and business groups receive the most donations, followed closely by human-services organizations and cultural charities.

“I would like to encourage all jewelers to give back to their community ’til it hurts,” says Austin, Texas, jeweler Russell Korman. “The long-term benefits to both your business and your community are immeasurable.” Korman recently donated to the Austin Junior League annual fund-raising event a pair of matched round brilliant-cut diamonds with a total weight of 4.01 cts. and a retail value of $33,000.

The volunteer spirit. For many jewelers, charity goes beyond donations of money and merchandise. Two-thirds of those surveyed contribute their time and service to a local charity or nonprofit group. Many belong to business groups noted for charity work such as the Lions Club, Kiwanis Club, or Rotary Club. Others volunteer for their local hospital or health-related charities such as the American Cancer Society, Muscular Dystrophy Association, or Red Cross.

Many jewelers devote time to help kids in their communities through the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Big Brother or Big Sister youth groups. Others sponsor local youth clubs and sports teams. Many respondents do volunteer work for their churches and synagogues, while others provide support and service to food banks, homeless shelters, and programs to aid abused women and troubled youths. Many also support museums, local theater groups, and orchestras with volunteer work, merchandise donations, and in-store events.

For some, the commitment to volunteer work is extensive. One dedicated Connecticut jeweler serves food at a homeless shelter, fixes up old houses, gives blood, volunteers at a local hospital, and mans a phone during Muscular Dystrophy Association telethons. A Texas jeweler works with the local 4-H Club; the United Way; high school and university events; and the local symphony, theater, and ballet. “We feel it is more important to volunteer than to just donate money,” says the busy Texan.

Giving according to means. Some jewelers say they’re too small or in too poor a district to support charities. Yet, by and large, size is no barrier to doing good works. Surely, bigger stores can afford to give and do more, but the widow’s mite contributions of small independent jewelers are valuable nonetheless.

Woods Jewelers in Cleveland, Tenn., is a case in point. The business has a small staff and can provide only limited volunteer service. So it puts time and effort where it will do the most good, supporting the local United Way and Kiwanis Club. Another small jeweler, Orange Blossom Jewelers in Green Bay, Wis., devotes its efforts to a single cause, the Green Bay Symphony, rather than diluting its aid among several concerns.

Roughly 10% of those surveyed donate their stores’ services (such as appraisals or repairs) or their personnel’s time for charity efforts. One in six respondents serves on the board of a charity or other nonprofit group. Many are members of several such panels. Wendell Holder of Anderson Brothers Jewelers Inc. in Lubbock, Texas, sits on the boards of five nonprofit organizations and has helped with countless fund-raisers in his community. Kettering, Ohio, jeweler Fred Weber is chairman of the local hospital system, a trustee of the business council of the Dayton public school system, and a director of the Miami Valley Economic Development Coalition.

Reaping the benefits. Doing good works often brings reciprocal rewards for a business. Public exposure of the store and its products – through charity auctions, telethons, in-store events, or volunteer work – can build an image, raise consumer awareness, and even boost employee morale. One Virginia jeweler says his merchandise donations ended up attracting many new customers as well as previous ones. Louis B. Liebermann of Joliet, Ill., notes that his involvement with local school activities “broadens the exposure spectrum.”

Many jewelers see public support of local charities and nonprofit groups as a form of advertising. That’s especially the case with gifts to cultural institutions such as museums, arts councils, theaters, and orchestras. In fact, roughly half of those polled say they require some public recognition – displays of jewelry at special events, ads in charity-event programs – in return for their donations.

Pat Gilmore of Dunbar Jewelers in Yakima, Wash., has served on the boards of nine charities over the last 20 years and has reaped multiple benefits from his efforts. In many instances, fellow board members and their families have become clients. “It has been a big boost to business,” says the jeweler.

There’s another benefit. “I’ve learned a great deal about the organizations I work with and use the skills I acquire in my own business,” Gilmore says. When delivering career talks at the local middle school, he distributes business cards to students and offers complimentary jewelry checking and cleaning. That has brought lots of new customers into the store. Even so, Gilmore says, his altruism is motivated primarily by a desire to help his community. “I consider it an honor to be asked to sit on these boards,” he says.

That spirit of selfless giving is shared by many. Two-thirds of those polled say the chief reward accruing from their altruism is the personal satisfaction of helping their community. In fact, 46% say they specifically don’t seek public recognition for their contributions. Hy Goldberg of Safian & Rudolph Jewelers in Philadelphia sums it up nicely: “Charity is to help others, not to help yourself.”

Tips for Choosing a Charity

How can your business choose the right group to support? The question is important for two reasons. One is the sheer number of charities from which to choose. At last count, in 1996, there were roughly 654,000 charitable organizations nationwide, according to the National Charities Information Bureau (NCIB). That’s a 20% increase over 1992’s figure. Second, with so many local and national groups asking for your help, you shouldn’t dilute your donations or time on too many causes. “You have to be more picky about what you support,” says a Missouri jeweler.

Here are some tips from NCIB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) to help you make the right choices.

  • Think local. Charity starts at home. Check your own community for nonprofit groups or charities that could use a corporate helping hand. Are there homeless shelters, organizations for abused women, food banks, school activities, struggling local symphonies, public TV stations, or kids’ sports teams to which you could donate your time, personnel, or money? To find them, contact your hometown Better Business Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, municipal government, school administration office, or place of worship for suggestions.

  • Learn about the charity. Visit the local offices of the nonprofit organization or charity. Talk to its officials. Learn about its operations, including fund-raising events and charitable activities. Get the exact name of the organization. (Some groups with unproven track records have names that are intentionally similar to legitimate charities.)

What is its purpose? For example, is it finding a cure for a certain disease or caring for people who suffer from that disease? How is the organization achieving that goal (research, making grants)? Ask about its organizational structure. Charitable groups should have well-organized, adequate, and active governing structures, says CBBB.

  • Get it in writing. A charitable or nonprofit group should provide an annually updated account of its activities and financial statements on request, says CBBB. Avoid any organization that won’t give you that information or that withholds it unless you first donate.

  • How are the funds used? How much of each dollar raised is used specifically for the organization’s charitable purpose? NCIB says a minimum of 60 cents of each dollar the charity spends should go to its charitable activities; CBBB sets this benchmark at 50 cents. Fund-raising expenses should take no more than 30 cents of each dollar, says NCIB; according to CBBB, such costs should not exceed 35 cents.

  • Does the group meet ethical standards? The industry watchdogs, NCIB and CBBB, both have tough criteria with which they evaluate charities. NCIB, which tracks hundreds of charitable organizations, believes donors are entitled to accurate information about the charities they support. You can read its evaluations in a free booklet called “Wise Giving Guide,” available from NCIB, 19 Union Square West, New York, NY 10003; (212) 929-6300.

Another information source is “Charity Reports,” published by the Philanthropic Advisory Service of CBBB. These reports include information on charitable groups’ background, current programs, governing body, fund-raising practices, tax-exempt status, and finances. They also indicate whether an organization complies with CBBB’s standards for charitable solicitations. Both NCIB and CBBB have Web sites (see “Charity on the Web”).

  • Find out the group’s tax status. You’ll want to know if your donation is tax-deductible. Ask the charity but double-check the response with NCIB, CBBB, or the Internal Revenue Service.

  • Beware of high-pressure tactics. Avoid groups that pressure you to make on-the-spot donations.

  • What about local charities? If you have questions, contact your local Better Business Bureau or United Way. Better yet, visit the organization so you can watch it in action.

Does your business make annual contributions to charity?

Yes 88%
No or no answer 12%

What are your methods of charitable support?

Merchandise donations 82%
Financial donations 71%
Volunteer time/service 65%

What are your primary methods of charitable support?

Donate merchandise 82%
Donate money 71%
Donate personal time/service 65%
Serve on boards, committees 15%
Donate store services 11%
Sponsor events, groups 6%

What were the most important business results of your charitable activities in 1997 and 1998?
Top responses

1. Prospective customers were exposed to the store name.
2. The store gained new customers.
3. Prospective customers saw the store’s jewelry.
4. New employees were hired.

How much jewelry does your firm donate annually to charity?
% of respondents

Retail Value 1997 1998 (est.) 1999 (est.)
Up to $500 15% 11% 9%
$501 to $1,000 3% 3% 3%
$1,001 to $2,500 18% 12% 9%
$2,501 to $5,000 23% 25% 17%
$5,001 to $7,500 3% 2% 4%
$7,501 to $10,000 2% 3% 1%
$10,001 to $15,000 6% 8% 7%
$15,001 to $20,000 2% 2% 2%
$20,001 to $25,000 3% 3% 1%
$25,001 to $50,000 1% 1%
$50,000 and up 3% 2% 1%
No answer 21% 27% 46%

What are the most important benefits of your firm’s charitable donations and work?

Named as most important % replying
Personal satisfaction 64%
Improving one’s community 61%
Networking with prospective customers 55%
Exposure for store’s jewelry 44%
Identifying prospective employees 25%

What public recognition do you require for your charitable donations/services?*

None 46%
Display jewelry at special events 36%
Program ads 44%
Other 29%
*Adds up to more than 100% because of multiple answers

How much cash does your firm donate annually to charity?
% of respondents

1997 1998 (est.) 1999 (est.)
Nothing 8% 8% 5%
Up to $100 4% 1% 1%
$101 to $500 9% 9% 10%
$501 to $1,000 7% 9% 7%
$1,001 to $2,500 12% 12% 9%
$2,501 to $5,000 11% 9% 5%
$5,001 to $10,000 8% 7% 4%
More than $10,000 11% 10% 8%
No answer/Unsure 30% 35% 48%

Charity on the Web

Looking for quick information about a favorite charity or the tax status of a new one? Want to know more about the nonprofit sector? Answers are just moments away on the Internet. Here are some useful Web sites to visit:

  • Is an organization tax-exempt? Find out at the Web site of the Internal Revenue Service (www.irs.ustreas.gov/ prod/bus_info/eol). Go to the “search” option and type in the name and location of the organization. An alternative is the Internet Nonprofit Center (www.nonprofits.org), which includes access to the IRS database of 1.2 million nonprofit organizations and charities.

  • To learn how to make sound decisions about charitable contributions, go to the National Charities Information Bureau site (www.give.org/index) or the Money magazine report on “Which Charities Merit Your Money” at www.path-finder.com/money/features/charity.

  • To find out about hundreds of charities evaluated by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, go to www.bbb.org.

  • Looking for a specific charity? Go to the Web site of the Independent Charities of America (www.charitiesusa.com) or the NonProfit Times site, which tracks the 100 largest charities (www.nptimes.com).

  • Americans gave $143.46 billion to charities in 1997. To learn the details about this charitable giving, go to the Philanthropy Journal Online, a nonprofit publication covering the nonprofit sector, at www.philanthropy-journal.org/ nonprof/givingusa0698.htm.

  • For more information about nonprofit resources, go to the Web site of the Foundation Center (www.fdncenter.org/).

  • To find where you can offer your volunteer services, check out Impact Online (www.impactonline.org), the Nonprofit Career Network (www.nonprofitcareer.com), or the Internet Nonprofit Center (www.nonprofits.org).