Companies devote time, treasure and talent to charitable causes
By: Jenna Lang Warford
They want to have a bigger impact; they want to be part of something bigger than themselves.
—Stuart MacMillan, President, MONAT Global
“We believe our lives will be defined by how we made them meaningful,” says Dallin A. Larsen, founder of Vasayo. And while he is referring to his company’s goal of blessing a million lives with clean water by funding a thousand new wells in Africa, his words represent the direct selling channel’s commitment as a whole to causes close to their distributors’ hearts.
From the $14.3 million Scentsy has donated to sustainable programs focusing on children, families, and communities—including St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Mental Health America, and Canadian Mental Health Association—to Vasayo’s focus on increasing access to food, growing local economies, and improving overall health, direct selling companies’ charitable focuses embody the channel’s driving adage, “Leave them better than you found them.”
Long- and Short-Term
The charitable causes in the channel range from long-term commitments to specific needs to stepping up during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mary Kay Inc. initiated a substantial giving program to meet the urgent needs during the first year of the crisis.
While the company has been a strong supporter of ending domestic violence since 2017, COVID-19’s economic and mental health impact has been a recognized factor in the need for increased resources. “Now more than ever, the domestic violence shelters in our community need our support during this unprecedented and challenging time in history,” says Anne Crews, vice president of public affairs at Mary Kay Inc. and a board member of The Mary Kay Foundation. “It is imperative to support the first responders who are working tirelessly to help survivors and families during this ongoing pandemic.”
The company contributed nearly $10 million in monetary donations, product donations, and distribution support in the countries where it operates with a focus on communities in critical need around the world. David Holl, chairman and CEO of Mary Kay, says, “It’s our responsibility to help those affected by this virus—either directly, like our frontline workers, or indirectly, like women and children impacted by the alarming uptick in domestic violence cases.”
Charitable giving’s increased outward focus reflects the attitudes of the newest, and in some ways, the most entrepreneurial-minded generation joining social selling: Gen Z (1995-2015.) Digital natives motivated by security, they share millennials’ attention on environmental awareness and healthy lifestyles. Stuart MacMillan, president of MONAT Global, says that for these two generations, the appeal is no longer about flashy cars and trips.
“That almost repels them, actually. They want to have a bigger impact; they want to be part of something bigger than themselves.” He adds that MONAT’s focus on local charitable missions has also “created some stickiness in our customers. I know for me personally if I had to choose between two pairs of shoes, all things being equal, I’d take Tom’s, because I believe in their mission.”
A few years ago, MONAT Global began encouraging its Market Partners to create giving opportunities locally as “Gratitude Initiatives” on the chairman’s birthday in December. Within a year or two, the Gratitude time frame stretched into a week, and as of 2020, this initiative runs nearly the entire month of December. The initiative has expanded to include a giving opportunity during the most elite rewards trips the company offers at its national conferences. During a trip to Bora Bora for its Top Ten, incentive earners helped a local school with technology, including matching donations from earners. At the national conference several years ago in Washington, D.C., they funded barbers giving haircuts to the homeless in the area.
Gratitude Initiatives have become such an important part of the company’s culture that MacMillan says, “We don’t do an event without some element of giving in it.” During 2021, that effort looks different than it did in 2019, and now includes MONAT Gratitude Grants. This program is committed to ensuring children, families, and communities have the opportunity to thrive; it awards funds to eligible nonprofit organizations working to enhance and enrich educational resources in their area.
Organizations, including those for arts and culture, youth sports and recreation, and youth entrepreneurship can receive single-year financial support grants ranging from $5,000 to $20,000.
Company Culture Commitment
Like MONAT Global, Plexus Worldwide takes a strong stance on giving, not only encouraging it in the field, but supporting it with corporate staff. The company provides 16 hours of paid volunteer time to every team member and sponsors an annual “Week of Service” event.
This year, during the week of Sept. 20, the Scottsdale, Arizona, team members collectively volunteered 580 hours to St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix.
“In our mission to ignite Hope, Health, and Happiness, we support all efforts to combat food insecurity, so families don’t have to choose between paying the electric bill and putting food on the table,” says President and Founder Alec Clark.
During the company’s Plexus Global Giving Day, held on Sept. 22, Distributors, customers and employees in five countries were encouraged to support local nonprofits that provide assistance to families affected by hunger.
“Plexus cares deeply about children and families in all the communities we serve worldwide, so we mobilized our teams and encouraged our Brand Ambassadors to join forces with customers and serve together as a united community,” says Tarl Robinson, Plexus CEO and founder.
“We are so appreciative to everyone who took time out of their busy day to contribute to those in need. The outpouring of support gives me tremendous pride because it reflects a shared sense of responsibility,” says Robinson.
Clark adds, “Making a difference is ingrained in our culture because we share a commitment to help those in need through financial contributions, volunteer efforts, and in-kind donations to community nonprofits that give families a helping hand during difficult times.”
Scentsy is another company whose charitable causes exemplify the shared philosophies of the company founders and the field.
“We pride ourselves on being a community of contributors. Giving is ingrained in our culture—it’s who we are and what we do,” says Kellie Floto, philanthropist manager.
“Scentsy co-owners, Heidi and Orville Thompson, see themselves as stewards of a great blessing rather than creators of a big business.” The Scentsy Family Foundation has donated more than $15 million to non-profits worldwide since its inception in 2010.”
Floto says the company’s charitable and business philosophy comes from a quote by Albert Einstein: “Try not to become a man of success. Rather, become a man of value. A successful man takes out of life more than he puts in. A man of value will give more than he receives.”
“This philosophy, combined with our values of authenticity, simplicity and generosity, has provided a solid foundation for Scentsy’s culture of “contribute more than you take,” says Floto.
While some direct selling companies choose to drive charitable funds through the sale of specifically designated products or distributor-organized efforts, others create a comprehensive menu of giving.
Isagenix’s Isa Foundation has established five ways for its distributors and customers to give. The company offers automatic monthly giving as part of its autoship program for distributors, allows for weekly donations from commission checks, offers one-time donation opportunity for any order placed through the back office, and allows customers to give through clicking to donate on the website or via email.
The company also organizes several service trips each year to its charitable partners in some of the most impoverished communities around the world.
While the Isa Foundation has awarded $470,000 in grants to U.S. nonprofits in 2021, the company has helped almost 10 million people worldwide since the foundation began.
Isagenix also has an annual Global Give Back Day focused on volunteerism and two products that gift a portion of sales to the Isa Foundation.
Founders Jim and Kathy Coover support a number of Isagenix-associated charitable efforts, including the Unstoppable Foundation, and Kathy says, “Giving back comes back to you. It makes you feel good about life, like you’re doing something with purpose.”
New Companies Creating Legacy Impact
Color Street, a beauty brand founded in 2017, prioritized giving in 2018 when president and founder Fa Park established the Color Street Foundation—pledging $1 million.
Since then, the foundation has created impact through 23 awareness campaigns, 49 charity partners, and a total of $3.9 million in donations, with $1.6 million of that in just the first three quarters of 2021. That figure includes pandemic relief provided to existing charitable partners for COVID-19 response.
Tricia McNamara, executive director of the Color Street Foundation, says, “Equally as important as our financial contribution, our network of Stylists and customers are raising awareness for the important work of these organizations—simply by starting the conversation.”
A Perfect Match
A product that has the potential to provide many benefits to people around the world is cannabis, and it is gaining support in order to become more easily available to those who may not have access to it.
Graciela Elizalde Benavides Grace (born in 2011) was the first person to legally receive medical cannabis in Mexico, thanks to the efforts of her parents, thus providing
hope for Grace and for many other families.
In 2016, Grace’s parents’ discovery of cannabidiol (CBD) took them on an incredible journey that transformed into Por Grace, the not-for-profit organization that educates people all over the globe on the responsible use of cannabinoids like CBD.
This organization’s focus on education and transformation captured the essence of the mission of Kannaway, a CBD direct seller raising awareness of the benefits of cannabinoids.
“We are dedicated to the ongoing support of families, and since 2017, Kannaway has donated over $3 million of life-changing CBD products,” says Blake Schroeder, CEO of Kannaway. “We are proud to continue making an impact through our partnership with Por Grace.” The company estimates that it has helped over 150 families.
Taking It Personally
Direct selling companies often select causes that reflect the heart of their mission. Norwex, a company dedicated to reducing chemicals and promoting non-toxic, sustainable household and personal-care items supports Washed Ashore™, a nonprofit that educates and raises awareness about marine debris and plastic pollution through art.
The Herbalife Nutrition Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of children by providing access to nutritious food that use quality ingredients.
The Scentsy Family Foundation focuses on the concerns of its consultants: children, families and communities.
While the diversity of causes is vast, companies in the channel are steadfast in their desire to provide distributors with the means to make a difference, not only in their own lives but in those of their families, team members and customers. This also extends to helping meet the needs of people in local, national, and global communities through compassion, commitment, and creativity.silver bullets.