Charitable Giving

Yesterday, I gave money away.I donated money, I mean. I don’t want you to think I just reached into my pockets and threw money in the air because I didn’t. Instead, I did some strategic donating, both personally and in the name of S2 Stationery and Design and added a little help from my 9-to-5’s Matching Gift Program.

One of the greatest perks of my 9-to-5 is our corporate matching gift program. The company will donate up to double the amount you donate until you reach their maximum allowance of $1000. Incredibly generous and it has quite honestly helped every organization I’ve donated to in the past four and a half years. Which is why I’ve matched every donation I’ve made personally since January. Of course, I wasn’t expect to be leaving the company until after my five year anniversary, which means I would have spaced out my donations better, but now that I’m leaving, I’m making sure that my donations made up until my last day of work are counted.

I have always been a generously inclined person. I have also always been a community activist through volunteerism. When I was in High School I volunteered and as an adult, I still volunteer. I’ve read books with children during my lunch break, painted and organized countless schools, cleaned up parks, organized food drives, collected clothing, etc. I strongly believe that my belief in doing this comes from my Mother. The woman will feed the hungry with her last can of beans. I’m not exaggerating. Even when she doesn’t have, she finds a way. What I distinctively remember about my mom is when, as a kid, she would box up mine and my brother’s old clothes along with hers and any other items she could scrounge up (all in good shape) and mail them (by boat-it was the cheapest) to our poor family in Honduras. Watching her do this every Christmas until she got older and family members passed away, really got under my skin. Not only was this family, this was life- she was helping those unfortunate and it shaped me forever.

Having worked in a corporate environment for all these years and believing so ardently in volunteerism and helping those in need, when I started building S2 Stationery and Design, I knew that I had to have giving and volunteering not just in a mission statement, but in the core of my company.  So many companies simply create Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs and throw in a mission that reflects it and all the while never really do much to make a difference. That was where S2 would not go wrong.

In 2009 when I had my dream of stationery, it was based in the idea of creating eco-friendly and largely recycled products.  Of course, I’ve learned along the way that there is still energy that gets burned and plastic that my products come in, even if I don’t then wrap the items in plastic after. Then there is the gas from shipping the products around the world. In other words, it takes a lot to maintain a green company and while I’m trying and making continued attempts that will hopefully last long term, I also realized that I needed to work with organizations that are also doing their best to make a difference.

Now, in light of recent events involving an organization who used social media to fuel fire to a cause that while important, may not be the most relevant at this time, and keeping in mind my own opinions of non-profits (having worked for several in my past), I decided to do several months of research and to trust my good ole gut.

When I first started thinking about organizations to partner with, I focused on tree planting organizations. Since my main material is paper, I wanted to make sure I helped rebuild the tree population. I think in the end, I stuck with the idea of tree planting, but went a bit deeper in donating to organizations really trying to make an impact. Just yesterday, I donated $25 a piece to Trees For the Future, Kiva, and The Pachamama Alliance.

The Kiva donation actually is for a microloan to Por Un Futuro Mejor (Paute) Group in Paute, Ecuador, who run stationery shops to make a living. Naturally, I chose it due to it’s paper connection, but also the connection to Ruth, the woman who runs a stationery store and wants to expand her business, “Ruth’s goal is to expand her business and provide for her family.”. How is she any different from me?

The decision behind Pachamama Alliance, is really more out of a personal love for the Amazon and Rain Forest. I have loved everything about the Amazon since I was a little girl. To me, it defines everything great and amazing about our planet. It holds the mysteries of the earth, like the Ocean. It is intimidating and yet generous. I hope to one day go to the Amazon, maybe through one of the Pachamama Alliance’s trips. Either way, I’ve gotten away from my point here. The connection between Pachamama Alliance and S2 is trees. I believe the trees of the Amazon are some of the greatest and most powerful in the world. Not only do they protect the people, but the way of the Earth and they need to be protected.

Lastly, my donation to Trees For the Future, was based on their commitment to sustainable agroforestry, working across the globe, especially in countries like Haiti, which lack tree communities, and they plant trees. I recall two years ago, when the earthquake struck Haiti reading about and viewing photos showing the lack of trees in Haiti. I remembered feeling sad and thinking how different the country might be with trees. That came to mind when I clicked donate last night.

Now, before I clicked send, I checked the ratings of each organization on Charity Navigator and even read comments by other donors. While they did help me make a donation, they also helped me expand my scope of searching. Again, I really wanted to find organizations that reflected my beliefs and that really focused on sustainable education, protection, and project development.

I owe all of this with great thanks to Heifer International, who I was going to donate to after receiving their catalog last December.  See,  I immediately got caught up in the glossy pictures and the donation price for providing tree seedlings to help families in Tanzania to control erosion on their hillside gardens. I mean, how awesome would it be to say I donated $60 to Heifer International and in turn helped a family in Tanzania control erosion? Mind you, I think this is an important issue and it fits perfectly with my goals for S2 Stationery and Design, but I wasn’t sold on Heifer International. The reviews and their rating did lead me in a confident direction either. In fact, it made me look at other organizations and that’s how I found Kiva, Trees For the Future and The Pachamama Alliance.

I hope to donate down the line to Heifer International, but for now, I’m sticking with my three and thanks to my 9-to-5’s help, my donations are larger, more considerable donations. They’re donations that will help loan more money to more women around the world, or plant more trees, and protect the Amazon.

Giving is something that is important to me, but it’s not just giving money that counts. Making time to consider these matters and instilling them into my company and personal lifestyle counts more. Sometimes money isn’t even an option- it’s why I only donated $75 so far instead of 10% of my income last year. I will get there, by the way, to maybe even 20% of my income, but for now, $75 will have to do.

Oh, and about that matching gift program- while I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to create a matching gift program similar to the one I have had the great pleasure of using for 4+ years, I do know that it has shaped how I will create my social responsibility program for my future employees. Score for the corporate world!

I’m not sharing this as a way to wave the flag of “do-gooder Sara” but instead to discuss how important it is to give back to the planet and the communities that give us so much, including opportunities. I’m sure you’re scratching your head wondering how women in Ecuador are giving me the opportunity to have a stationery company, but the simple truth is that everything touches everything. My energy here in NY impacts the lives of individuals around the world. It’s in the impressions I’ve made while traveling, to my decision to not use a water bottle that may end up floating around the ocean and landing on the beaches of Thailand. I don’t meant to get heavy philosophical here, I just believe that we are all capable of doing amazingly good and powerful things if we opened our eyes to the vastness of the world and our reach.

If you’re giving and being charitable, I’d love to hear about it; you can share your thoughts below.

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s2 stationery & designs

A rule-breaking designer, artist & entrepreneur who's passionate about paper and handcrafting stationery. I also write, travel, and focus on eco + social good.

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