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When returns are the goal.

And ye shall receive. Words to live by, certainly. But are they words to do business by as well? And is it even all right to expect something in return for your donations? We here at Instore suggest that because philanthropy is something that affects your business, you should make it a part of your planning, no matter what you choose to get out of it. In the following pages, learn what strategies could work best for your business — just in time for the giving season.

Philanthropy deserves as much planning as any other part of your business finances because, like it or not, it affects your bottom line. And yet charitable giving is often carried out in a haphazard, scattershot approach that doesn’t yield the best results for you or for the charity in question.

“There are a lot of jewelers who want to be seen as nice guys but don’t have any clear expectations of business returns,” says consultant Charlotte Preston, owner of Charlotte Preston Catalysts. “There are real benefits. It might be about nurturing repeat business, developing new business, supporting the organizations that have supported that jeweler, creating a proactive buzz or responding to a tragedy that takes place.”

Alfredo Molina, owner of Molina Fine Jewelers in Phoenix, AZ and Black, Starr & Frost in Newport Beach, CA, says he — like many jewelers who are inclined toward generosity — didn’t start out thinking of philanthropy as a business strategy. “But our philanthropic giving has become our best voice,” Molina says. “When you advertise something, people don’t believe what you say, but when you do things in the community, then obviously it has a very positive effect on your business.”

Molina says it’s important to balance business interests with sincerity: “If you don’t have your heart in it, they will know you are not real,” he says. “That’s even worse than not getting involved. Just focus on the needs of others and you will succeed.”

Charitable Giving Tips

Make sure your goals are smart (i.e. specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.) Here’s an example: Donate three items to an auction in order to generate an increase in your Facebook fan base of 50 people by Nov. 10, so that when you use Facebook to talk about Christmas happenings in the store you will have a larger audience lined up. “If there’s no specific goal, then there’s no measurable benefit,” Preston says.


Once you’ve set a goal, budget for it, the same way you would for advertising or payroll.

Form an advisory group of influential clients who can help you select charities, says Molina.

Say no — at least sometimes. Identify two or three areas you’d like to focus on — women, children and the refugee community, for example. Then if someone asks you to support the library, you can say you want those dollars to support the children’s department in the library, Preston says. If it lies outside of those established areas, you can say, “We focus our giving on these two or three areas.”

CONSIDER DONATING A DAY OF WORK — pay the regular hourly rate for one of your associates to help out with whatever the organization needs. Manpower is appreciated by the charity and most employees like the opportunity to help and get paid for it at the same time, says Kate Peterson, owner of Performance Concepts.

Do your research. Talk to the executive director or the members of the board to learn how the charity is run and what its programs entail. You can check with the state attorney-general’s office or the Better Business Bureau to find out if there are any complaints lodged against the organization. Review its annual report to see how it uses donor dollars, how much money goes to salaries and overhead, and how much gets to those it serves. Check out for help evaluating charities.

Make sure everyone in your store is involved with a minimum of two charities at a board, committee or event level, Molina says.


If you’d like your staff to become involved in your charity or one of their own, give them paid time to do it and then evaluate their ability to meet predetermined business goals, Preston says.

It can be OK to have a “no legitimate cause turned away” policy (though you don’t necessarily want/need to publicize that!). One way to do it is to use gift cards, says Peterson. The denomination should be dependent on the average ticket in your store — $50 or $100 is usually sufficient — with the intention of bringing people into the store. The answer to a request then is always, ‘We’re happy to help. Our policy is that donations come in the form of a gift card.” Of course, discretionary exceptions can be made.

Ask about the charity or event, and ask where and how your company will be recognized, Peterson says. Get copies of any print material or pictures from the event that feature your name or logo. For major events (involving sponsorships or bigger donations), negotiate for event tickets as part of the package — and when your donation includes a prize (an auction item or raffle prize), be sure that you or your representative has the opportunity to present it to the winner personally.

Ask a charity how you can make the biggest impact, suggests Adrienne Fay, director of marketing for Borsheims in Omaha, NE, whether that means donating a piece of jewelry for an auction or raffle or underwriting the cost of a table at an event.

If you donate a piece of jewelry, Fay says, ask whether you can trade the piece for a table at the charity’s event so that your sales staff is able to network there.

Promote your involvement — in your newsletter, on your Facebook page, on Twitter, in your print media, in the store and on your website. Everywhere.


Concentrate on one charity each holiday season to make the biggest impact, says Fay. At Borsheims, the charity of the season benefits from a “giving tree” in the store. During the first weekend in December, customers pay $5 to choose a box from the tree, which contains a gift certificate or piece of jewelry. Borsheims also donates a percentage of all sales that weekend to the charity.

Collaborate with a favorite manufacturer or designer. Max’s of Minneapolis teamed up with Vicente Agor during a trunk show to help build awareness about organ and tissue donation. Agor, a recipient of a double transplant made the cause personal by sharing his thoughts about how the experience changed his life. Twenty percent of the proceeds from trunk show sales was donated to LifeSource and the University of Minnesota Transplant Assistance Fund.

Reach out now and again to charities that are unfamiliar to you, suggests Curtis Bennett, VP of operations for OC Tanner in Salt Lake City, UT, to broaden exposure and branding.

When it comes to those “bigger involvement” charities, limit your affiliations to one or two — and make sure they are causes that speak to you personally. Insincerity is easy to spot — and it often negates the real brand value of involvement, Peterson says.

David Rocha, executive director of Jewelers for Children, recommends identifying a cause that resonates with both customers and employees, and one that is willing to give something back to you — usually in the form of recognition that will further motivate customers and employees.

Consider working with a charity that is known nationally or has national affiliations, Rocha says, since newcomers to a community won’t be familiar with a cause that is strictly local.


HELP OUT WITH DISASTERS: When floods hit Southern Illinois in the spring, J. Bacher Fine Jewelry of Harrisburg, IL, donated all profits from gold and silver buying to the local American Red Cross to aid affected families. “The people of Southern Illinois have blessed us with a good business,” says owner Joe Bacher. “This is one way we can give back.”

Philanthropy is as individual as any other aspect of running an independent jewelry store. Looking for inspiration? Here are three examples of very different approaches to charitable giving.


SINCE 1957 Tommy Aucoin Jr.’s family has owned Aucoin Hart Jewelers, which had been a New Orleans, LA, institution since 1927.

After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005, Tommy and his family, happy to be alive, returned to the city to find their business had fared better than most. Only the carpeting was wrecked.

“We didn’t get the devastation,” says Aucoin, the company’s president. “We didn’t get flooded, raided or looted. But half a block into the other side of our street, it was flooded. Our entire neighborhood was affected. A quarter of our staff had water in their homes.”

When they opened about a month after Katrina there wasn’t any business. And very little hope.

“We were shell-shocked,” Aucoin says. “We started advertising, and our message was ‘We’re here, we’re back, let us know if we can help in any way. We’ll polish your silver, we’ll help with appraisals. We just opened up the door and sent our sales team out in the streets to let people know we’re here if we can help.”

People in the industry, including suppliers and vendors, continued to ask how they could help. In response, in June 2006 the Aucoin family formed the Aucoin Hart Foundation to help with housing, healthcare and education. “The No. 1 thing we had to do was provide hope, so we did a lot of initial fund raising just to say ‘You can come back. New Orleans is alive and well.”

The first and biggest obstacle to that hope was homelessness. Aucoin Hart partnered with Habitat for Humanity and Penny Preville. “The first big event really put the jewelry industry on the map for the city of New Orleans,” Aucoin recalls. “Penny doesn’t have any ties here, but she was so interested in helping that she and her staff came down and built a house. That kicked off the foundation for us; we realized we can actually make a difference, we can do something.”

Lately the company has returned to its original mission — education — and partnered with New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton in that effort.

In 2008 Payton formed the Payton’s Play it Forward Foundation. In 2010 the foundation made grants to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, New Orleans Children’s Health Project, Protect Our Coastline.Org, Feed the Children and the Dr. Phil Foundation, among other groups. The two foundations initially teamed up for a Payton autograph-signing session and Aucoin Hart gave away a diamond pendant, raising more than $16,000 in the process.

In 2009, they worked together on a golf tournament. In 2010, when the Saints won the Super Bowl, Payton became a rock star. He purchased a float in a Mardi Gras parade and auctioned off seats, while Aucoin Hart raised more than $20,000 by raffling a Rolex.

In September 2010, a raffle and autograph signing drew an unprecedented 1,200 people to the store within two and a half hours. “Our target was to make $30,000,” Aucoin says. “We had no idea we were going to raise over $75,000.”

This year, they raffled a fleur de lis ring, valued at $15,000, during a similar event.

“For us as a company in this community, it’s such a good feeling knowing that that money we helped raise we know right where it’s going,” Aucoin says. “We’re helping rebuild the city one step at a time.”

Aucoin says the effort has boosted business by establishing trust with people throughout the city, who become brand ambassadors for the business.

“When you’re given a lot, a lot is expected,” Aucoin says. “People love to do business with people who support the community, who are invested in the community. It’s good for the business and good for the community.”


AT M J CHRISTENSEN Diamond Centers of Las Vegas, NV, $5 paper bead bangles share showcase space with Hearts On Fire diamonds and Mikimoto pearls.

When marketing director Jennifer Miller first read about BeadforLife in a magazine ad, she was intrigued. BeadforLife teaches women in Uganda to make paper bead jewelry, start savings accounts and eventually open their own businesses.

“In the jewelry business, so much of what we do is tell stories about our designers,” Miller says. “This is a story of women working so hard to produce something, to lift themselves and to be workers and doers. I instantly connected with the message. And we have a new story to tell.”

As the beaders save money and open businesses, they help their own family members, creating a chain reaction of success. One beader now owns a nightclub. A few have teamed up to open a brickyard. Others own salons, restaurants, catering businesses; they’ve become poultry farmers, or sell recycled clothes and shoes. “It’s not uncommon that women will start two or three businesses,” says Heather Ditillo, program director of BeadforLife.

MJ Christensen began its involvement with a bead party — a trunk show with an African theme — and raised $43,000. But when they packed up the beads they hadn’t sold and sent them back to Bead for Life, everyone missed them. Customers kept stopping by and asking about them. That’s when the Millers decided to bring them back full-time.

They quickly sold another $17,000 worth by displaying them on their counters and telling the story to people who came in to buy diamonds, pick up repairs or sell gold.

“When women see a bag or a bowl of colored items, they have to touch every one of them,” Miller says. “They can’t believe they are made of paper or that they sell for $5. They are very addicting, and have inspired other people to host bead parties in their homes.”

Miller has sold strands at the grocery store. If she doesn’t have a supply with her, she’ll sell the ones she’s wearing.

Before jewelers became involved, the best BeadforLife could expect from a bead party was about $1,000; now jewelers have raised $20,000 to $45,000 per event. Ditillo says MJ Christensen — along with Henne Jewelers in Pittsburgh, PA, and Goldfarb Jewelers in Seattle, WA — deserve credit for taking the initiative to become involved with BeadforLife.

“We had initially thought that high-end jewelry wasn’t the best fit for us,” she says. “This has been a huge boost to our sales and to reaching an entirely different audience to join in our movement to help eradicate poverty in our lifetimes.”

Retailers can sell the beads wholesale, but MJ Christensen instead has decided to give all of the proceeds to charity. So BeadforLife donates 20 percent of the money raised to a Las Vegas charity of their choice, completing the circle of giving with a local beneficiary.

Miller is ramping up the bead-party concept by planning two fashion shows — one for each MJ Christensen store — Nov. 9 and 10, with the theme Runway For Life and entertainment provided by an African-style drum circle. Luckily, there’s room for a runway; their stores are 5,500 and 7,000 square feet. They’ve partnered with EcoChic, a local fashion house, which has donated models, clothes and choreography. A salon is providing hair and makeup.

Each outfit will be accessorized with those colorful paper beads.

“People volunteering to help us do this is a great sign of how well received this has been in our community,” Miller says. “We have a mantra of serving and not selling people. Bead for Life has been a great vehicle for us for getting to know people and opening up a dialog with new guests.”

The staff, she says, is very excited about the opportunity to help change people’s lives so dramatically. “Anytime you put yourself out there as someone with a serving attitude, who is relationship-driven — when you put that kind of energy out there, that gets passed along and it increases business and affects your bottom line,” Miller says.


ALFRE DOMOLINA was born in Santa Clara, Cuba in 1959 three months after the communist revolution. Molina’s father had left the jewelry business at age 25 to go into the hotel business, but when Fidel Castro came to power, he lost everything and was ultimately jailed.

In 1967, the family was finally allowed to leave Cuba, arriving in Chicago as Catholic refugees. Housed in a rat-infested, filthy hotel, they happened to meet a fellow Cuban in the lobby who bought them warm clothes and enough to eat for weeks.

“That act of random kindness changed my attitude and motivation forever,” Molina recalls. Molina, an 11th-generation jeweler, was inducted in 2005 into the Frederick Douglass Museum & Hall of Fame for Caring Americans in Washington, DC.

Molina, who traces his lineage in the jewelry industry to 17th century Italy, had returned to his family roots and opened Molina Fine Jewelers in Phoenix, AZ, in October 1987. Though it was just days before the stock market crashed and money was beyond tight, he made charity a priority that Christmas with a small party to benefit Toys for Tots.

From that modest start, the business — which now also includes Black, Starr & Frost in Newport Beach, CA — today contributes between $2 and $3 million annually to more than 220 charities. Priorities include children, diseases and the arts.

The business recently donated $5,000 to Jewelers That Care, (founded by gemologist Alethe Clemetson) toward building the first water well at a rural village outside Arusha, Tanzania. Children are among the beneficiaries of that project.

Alfredo and his wife, Lisa, have chaired charity events in Arizona including the American Cancer Ball, the Samaritan Foundation, Symphony Ball, the Arizona Heart Ball, Crohns and Colitis, Women of Distinction Gala and Childhelp. In Costa Mesa, CA, they’ve supported Candlelite, JDRF Dream Gala, Susan G. Komen, the Pacific  Symphony, Dodge College of Film and Media Arts and the Orange County High School for the Arts Gala.

Molina’s main problem when it comes to charity, he says, is that he can’t say no. “To protect me from myself, a charitable committee of eight was selected from our staff. They make a pre-selection of the things they want to support, which are presented to me along with all the things they have turned down. Often, I write a personal check for some of the things they’ve turned down that I feel are important.

“Our corporate vision is changing the world one jewel at a time. We believe that every human being is a precious jewel and it is our commitment and social  responsibility to ensure that they become brilliant.” In keeping with that philosophy, Molina hands out money to the homeless he sees on the street, an action for which he is often criticized. “Critics say they’ll use it for alcohol or cigarettes or drugs,” he says. “But it doesn’t matter what they do with the money. What matters is you recognize them as someone in need, as a human being. I’ve met homeless lawyers, physicians and businessmen. Most Americans are one paycheck away from
homelessness. It could happen to anybody.”

He never started giving with the intention that philanthropy was a business strategy. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been great for business.

“Our philanthropic giving has become our best voice,” he says. “When you advertise something, people don’t believe what you say but when you do things in the community and people believe that you have integrity and are doing the right thing against all odds, then obviously it has a very positive effect on your business.”



IN THE FIRST CHAPTER of Smart Giving, author Curt Weeden cites a 2007 survey of 721 executives undertaken to get a better perspective of what business benefits can be expected from corporate philanthropy. Only 12 percent said business goals should not be linked to philanthropic activities. What executives did expect were: Enhanced reputation for the company (70 percent), bolstering of employee skills (44 percent), improved employee respect and pride for the company (42 percent) and a differentiation from competitors (38 percent.) Consider your own philanthropic goals as well as the following points, when developing a plan for charitable giving.

1. A minimum cash commitment of 1 percent of a company’s anticipated current year pretax profits entitles a business to be labeled a “comprehensive corporate citizen.” The IRS allows corporations to deduct up to 10 percent of their pretax profits for qualified charitable donations.

2. Support only those special event requests that have business relevance. Identify the business advantages before an event is held and look for ways to measure the benefits once it’s over. A walkathon can build morale on your team and promote your brand.

3. Put together a “What if a disaster hits?” plan. Pre-screen nonprofit partners and respond early to crises. Companies that donate early have a better chance of being singled out in news about contributions.

5.The average citizen is more impressed with businesses that donate products or services because they are usually more memorable than money.

6. Do you need a foundation? No, but a foundation can be useful: to simplify records, to award certain international donations, to bring more attention to a company’s philanthropy or to serve as a catch basin for appreciated assets.

7.You set the tone. If the store owner sends out a sincere message that the company considers philanthropy a business opportunity as well as a responsibility, the entire staff gets the message.

8. Rejections should be objective. Don’t pull an excuse out of the air. Instead hand the fund-raiser a sheet of paper that explains your policy.

9.Find a proactive accountant who can outline steps to take to make the most of ever-changing tax-code allowances.

10. Empower support staff. Often, the administrative assistant or bookkeeper becomes the philanthropy manager by default. They can be competent gatekeepers if the boss allows them to act and is clear about priorities and exclusions.




JEWELERS FOR CHILDREN’S new initiative, March for a Cause, is designed to offer designers, manufacturers and retailers a promotion for a month that is traditionally slow.

Designers and manufacturers will pick a piece, collection or an entire line they want to promote in March and give a percentage of all sales for the month to JFC. The retailer can, if they’d like, match the donation.

“What we’re putting together,” says executive director David Rocha, is a whole program in a box, a whole series of materials — communications to their customers, to the media, instore signage, radio scripts, Facebook updates, a Web page, ads and brochures.” Marketing materials are donated by Fruchtman Marketing. “We wanted to make it as easy as possible for anyone to participate in the program. We’re helping to build traffic for the jeweler.”


GEMOLOGIST Alethe Clemetson founded Jewelers That Care after returning from a trip to Tanzania, where she had volunteered at a school. She was so moved to help rural villages ravaged by disease that she put her career on hold to form the nonprofit, which is dedicated to building water wells and boarding schools in Africa.

Besides donations, retailers can work with Jewelers That Care on instore events where a portion of the proceeds of the sales will benefit the organization.

Clemetson can provide guest speakers, images of projects and volunteer gemologists, who can offer sales support and training on gemstones to store staff. Jewelers That Care also honors industry companies and individuals with awards and holds a silent auction each year during JCK Las Vegas.


RETAILERS CJ and Andrea Pounder, as part of their personal charitable goals, had supported a child in an orphanage in Ghana, Africa. But, as CJ puts it, orphanages are money pits. “They don’t support themselves, so the request came for more money. They needed more shoes, more clothes, more everything, and I thought, ‘I  guess I can give a little bit more.”

But then CJ, owner of Pounder’s Jewelry in Spokane, WA, came up with a plan to help the orphanage as well as the surrounding community in a more consistent  way. He and Andrea traveled to Ghana to find jewelers who could craft local jewelry that could be sold in the States to support the orphanage.

The Pounders have been selling the silver jewelry for $20 to $100 in their own store and a few others, and now have amassed enough inventory to expand the sell in multiple retail locations. “When we sell the products through the retailer, he can decide whether to keep or donate his margin.” The donation will be made, regardless of what the retailer does, by Pounder’s wholesale nonprofit.

Each piece comes with a card explaining the meaning of the symbolic jewelry and a thank-you card with the picture of a child in the orphanage who will benefit from the purchase.

“People want to help, they want to do good, and if they wind up with something in the process, all the better. Sometimes customers will stop me and say, ‘Thanks for doing that.’ Because they appreciate it. I think it’s a positive aspect for our business.”


NANCY SCHURING, owner of Devon Fine Jewelry in Syckoff, NJ, founded the nonprofit Devon Foundation in 2008 — a move that led to an increase in business  revenues of as much as 30 percent during the height of the recession.

When she signed on for a 2008 trip to tour mines in Madagascar with gemstone expert Jim Fiebig, she was struck by the poverty of the people who lived in the country’s mining regions. Schuring created a nonprofit dedicated to teaching the lapidary arts to people in the developing world by offering scholarships to the Institute of Gemology of Madagascar. The store highlights gems from Madagascar — including sapphires — and uses the proceeds of sales from special pieces to benefit the foundation programs.

Schuring has developed in-store fund-raising programs that can be used by other jewelry retailers.



“About 10 years ago I chose our local hospital as my charity project. We did several fund-raisers, and over a five-year period were able to purchase a diagnostic heart machine for the emergency room. The last several years I have been donating my time — park cleanup, planting trees, trail building, serving the homeless meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas.” — Nihala Halem, Halem & Co., Healdsburg, CA

“We are currently taking part in Breast Cancer Awareness Month by holding a raffle for a pink Vespa scooter parked at our store.” — Scott Kelly, Jems Jewels & Gold, North Wales, PA.

“For the 12 days before Christmas, I wrap 12 pieces of jewelry and watches in my packaging and place them, one per day, in conspicuous public places. I have heard the most wonderful stories about the found treasures. Last year, one gentleman called and asked permission to re-gift the piece to a volunteer who works tirelessly for a local charity. The resulting press brought more business than any ad I have ever placed.” — Elizabeth Breon, Coast Jewelers, Florence, OR

“We give to quite a few organizations, but our favorite is Shop With a Cop. Our police officers will take a group of needy children to Walmart, and each child gets to go pick out whatever they want for Christmas.” — Jean Hymel, Mere & Pere Jewelers, Smyrna, TN

“We have made charitable giving integral to our culture. Originally, it was considered a marketing outreach. Now, since we are successful, giving back to the  community is just the right thing to do. We give to just about every single request we receive, from the spaghetti dinner for a sick child to the big national charities.” — Mark and Monika Clodius, Clodius & Co., Rockford, IL

“We hosted the Bedazzled exhibit — 5,000 years of jewelry — at our museum of art, which drew 30,000 people.” — Susan Eisen, Susan Eisen Fine Jewelry & Watches, El Paso, TX

“In 2005 we initiated the Pearce Jeweler’s Excellence in the Arts Scholarship. Each year, the four regional high schools are asked to select a graduating senior with intentions of pursuing a career in the arts. A stipend is awarded to that individual during the graduation ceremony.” — Kate Pearce, Pearce Jewelers, West Lebanon,  NH

“Every October we give 10 percent of all sales to a local organization, Through Healing Eyes, that helps pay for women’s mammograms.” — Brenda Hefner, Oz’s  Jewelers, Hickory, NC

“Our free watch battery program has generated over $200,000 for the Boys and Girls Clubs as well as other charities. At a suggested donation of $5 each, that is a lot of batteries.” — David  Schowalter, Miner’s Den, Royal Oak, MI

This story is from the September 2011 edition of INSTORE



When the Kids Have Their Own Careers, Wilkerson Can Help You to Retire

Alex and Gladys Rysman are the third generation to run Romm Jewelers in Brockton, Mass. And after many decades of service to the industry and their community, it was time to close the store and take advantage of some downtime. With three grown children who each had their own careers outside of the industry, they decided to call Wilkerson. Then, the Rysmans did what every jeweler should do: They called other retailers and asked about their own Wilkerson experience. “They all told us what a great experience it was and that’s what made us go with Wilkerson.” says Gladys Rysman. The results? Alex Rysman says he was impressed. “We exceeded whatever I expected to do by a large margin.”

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