Doing Good In The Neighborhood
There are many ways in which you can financially support issues, causes and communities you care about beyond the traditional ones we think of such as making a donation to a non-profit organization. Whether it's your corporate or your personal spending, wielding your checkbook wisely can help bring about change.
One of the ways in which the BlogHer '06 Conference was able to support a community was through the stuffing of the tote bags given to attendees. In 2005 the bags were stuffed by a handful of volunteers in Elisa's living room. Given that conference attendance nearly tripled in 2006, this option was out of the question if we wanted to maintain our sanity and leave any room in the house for Elisa's kitty, Samantha.
My suggestion to this dilemma was to use an assembly service and, specifically, to use a local company I had used previously called Contra Costa ARC (Advocacy, Respect and Commitment) and their Commercial Support Services (CSS) division.
Contra Costa ARC bills itself as a good neighbor in your community and is committed to providing only high quality services that are stable and sustainable. This isn't typical corporate sales speak and that's because Contra Costa ARC isn't your typical corporate organization. In fact, they are a non-profit organization that derives a significant portion of their funding through operation of businesses, including CSS. Their businesses additionally serve their mission of assisting people with developmental disabilities achieve personal independence and self-sufficiency by employing them in the businesses they operate.
Whatever quibbles there were about the tote bag contents, I don't think anyone could complain about the quality of how those items were packed into the tote. BlogHer received impeccable service and quality from CSS for a more than reasonable price, preserved a bit of our organizer sanity and saved Elisa's space all while supporting a worthy non-profit and community organization.
Some other BlogHers are interested in spending in support of their values, as well. Penny Nickel at Money and Values writes:
One of the important ways I try to involve my values in my financial decisions is by supporting locally-owned small businesses over corporations.
One of the ways in which she does this is by using a Community Development Bank. Clicking through Penny's links uncovers The Hometown Advantage which has the tagline: "Reviving Locally Owned Businesses."
Single Ma has a cautionary tale, though. She tried to support her community through banking at OneUnited, "...the largest Black-owned bank and first Black-owned internet bank in America." Despite her due diligence, OneUnited turned out to be a problematic disappointment and has (finally) lost her business.
Personally, I've found that if you can find a local business, especially one with which you can develop a relationship, and, even better, one in line with your values, it's often more rewarding than using bigger, impersonal, national options. For instance, a neighbor turned me on to a women-owned locksmith in our neighborhood. There is also a woman-owned bookshop I like to support because of their great service, terrific ambience and to help continue the dream of the late Debi Echlin who is described as "the perfect combination of big sister, mentor, and best friend." And, there is a fantastic local restaurant, which I can't wait to eat at again, owned by an African American chef who supports Black local farmers and who is renowned for his shrimp and grits. Hey, a girl's gotta eat, read and get into her house - might as well keep it all good in the neighborhood while I'm at it.
How do you support your community or causes with your spending power?