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Best of the Best: Mad for Madagascar

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Best of the Best Logo[dropcap cap=W]hen Nancy Schuring, owner of Devon Fine Jewelry in Syckoff, NJ, signed on for a trip to tour gem mines in Madagascar, she thought it would be fun and educational. She had no idea it would lead her to found a nonprofit or that her involvement would become a central part of her brand identity.— EILEEN McCLELLAND[/dropcap]


[smalltext]Nancy Schuring with gem expert Jim Fiebig, who organized the tour that first took her to Madagascar.[/smalltext]

[componentheading]THE IDEA [/componentheading]
[contentheading]Gem Education[/contentheading]

Schuring was struck by the poverty of the people who live in mining areas of Madagascar, a large island in the Indian Ocean and a source of multi-color sapphires, aquamarines, garnets, amethysts, citrines, zircons and opals. She learned much of the local population is ill-equipped to benefit from the country’s natural resources and don’t realize the value of gems, which are sometimes traded for a bowl of rice. In addition, the $500 tuition for the Institute of Gemology of Madagascar is beyond the reach of locals who live on $300 or less a year. “We wanted local people to be able to go and learn,” Schuring says. “The gems are their national treasure.”

[componentheading]THE EXECUTION [/componentheading]
[contentheading]Foundation Creation[/contentheading]


[smalltext]The Devon Foundation helps young people in Madagascar study gemology.[/smalltext]

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Schuring created the Devon Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching the lapidary arts to people in developing countries. The foundation offers scholarships to the Institute of Gemology of Madagascar. So far, it has awarded eight scholarships for lapidary arts and jewelry design. Schuring is now reaching out to the industry for retail and vendor partners, who’d like to adopt the charity as their industry-related cause. For a $500 donation, Schuring shares ideas for related promotional events and prints customized brochures.

[componentheading]THE REWARD [/componentheading]
[contentheading]Graduate No. 1[/contentheading]

“One of our graduates has a business now and is cutting gemstones and selling them,” Schuring says. “That is our dream come true, that a student is earning a livelihood as a result of our efforts.” In her own store, Schuring says she has noticed a 25 to 30 percent increase in business since she began promoting the foundation, for which she received coverage in regional newspapers and from all three local network affiliates. “It engendered a lot of loyalty and acknowledgement and I began to realize this is a powerful marketing factor,” she says. “People want to know that the money they spend will go for more than their own pleasure.”

[componentheading]DO IT YOURSELF[/componentheading]

Contact (201) 848-9689 or visit www.thedevonfoundation.org for information about becoming a partner.
 
You don’t have to travel to Madagascar to promote your own charitable giving and make it part of your brand. Boost your philanthropic profile. Do good and you may find you are doing well. Schuring suggests you work out how much you are already giving — you may be amazed by the figure —and then channel your efforts.

[span class=note]This story is from the March 2011 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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