Business + Social Cause = Do-Gooder Company

The Hubs made a wonderful contribution to The Do-Gooder Mama today.  You see, he reads The Wall Street Journal, well, maybe not religiously, or maybe even at all, but he did come across this article that he thought would “speak to me,” and it did.  The article, titled, “With New Law, Profits Take a Back Seat” arrived in my inbox at an opportune moment, just as I am preparing to launch a series on Do-Gooder Companies.

Written by Angus Loten,  the article is fairly short and easy to read, even for the business and finance illiterate like me.  But, since most of you will not click on the link to check it out, I will attempt to provide you with The Reader’s Digest version of the article.   Loten reports on a new class of corporations called Benefit Corporations.  When a company incorporates as a Benefit Corporation, their governing board may consider social and environmental objectives above profits when making business decisions.   This new structure is designed to protect boards from investor lawsuits.  Under the law, Benefit Corporations must lay out social and environment goals in their bylaws and publish an annual “benefit report” to determine how well they are meeting those goals.

The article is objective and presents arguments for and against this type of incorporation.   Since I have absolutely no credentials to be judging the validity of these arguments, I am going to let the professionals who actually understand the world of finance focus on whether or not this is good for investors.  Feel free to thank me for refraining from diving into this discussion in the comments section.

What I am comfortable discussing, is my opinion as a consumer.  I am all for the collision of business and social causes and applaud companies who are willing to stand up and say that making a profit and doing good are not mutually exclusive principles.  There are plenty of companies that are profitable despite the fact that they choose to hold themselves to higher standards on working conditions for their employees or donate goods or profits in support of a social cause.   I do not begrudge these companies for their hefty profits – in fact, I celebrate them.  If a company can make a profit, which is, after all, one of the ultimate goals of any company, Benefit Corporation or not, and address a social need, then they have my support.  If the Benefit Corporation legislation leads to more companies forming with a focus on both profit and doing good, or if it provides protections for companies already doing so, then I think that is awesome.  If it leads to greater reporting on the social and environmental accomplishments of said companies, even better.

So, in sum, I am a consumer and a Do-Gooder.  Can I say that all of the money I spend is directed towards companies who share my desire to do good?  You bet I CAN’T.  Truth is, I try to support Do-Gooder Companies, but I am supremely ill-prepared for this task.  I am going to attempt to educate myself on companies that genuinely seek to address a social need while providing a product or service that is in demand.   What are your favorite Do-Gooder Companies?  Share them in the comments section or on my Facebook Page.

Charity in the dictionary

Charity in the dictionary (Photo credit: HowardLake)

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Poll: How Many Chores for a 3 Year Old?

Since I posted about Chores For Charity yesterday, I realized I have a lot to do before I can get it started on March 1st!  In case you didn’t get a chance to read the post because you were actually out enjoying your weekend, you can read it here.  If you read it or even if you didn’t, I need your help with Step 3:

“Create an age-appropriate chore chart for the month and assign earnings to each task.   Another variation would be to assign a daily rate or weekly rate for completing all assigned tasks.  What are “age-appropriate” chores?  Check out The Happy Housewife’s suggestions!”

I started by making a list of any chores or tasks that I wanted Josie to complete all by herself.  That list filled a page – clearly too long.  So, I am turning to you for help!  Please take a minute to answer the poll below and feel free to leave a comment with chore suggestions in case I forgot any!

Chores For Charity

SONY DSCI had an idea the other night when I was lying awake after dealing with a middle-of-the-night vomit explosion.  Lily caught that terrible stomach bug that has been stalking us all winter.  It is really hard to go back to sleep when you know that you’ll be awoken in a mere half-hour by the sounds of your one year old expelling the contents of her stomach yet again.   I suppose I have my dear, sweet Lily to thank for this Middle-of-the-Night Moment of Genius, or MOTNMOG in text-speak.

I have been struggling with some age-old questions of late.  When is the right time to start assigning my kids chores?  Should they be paid an allowance?  If yes, what is the going rate for, say, making your bed or cleaning up every last grain of rice you spilled on the floor after dinner?  In many parenting circles, the topic of paying allowance is  hotly debated.   The Pro-Allowance Parents believe that earning allowance for doing work around the house teaches the value of hard work and money management skills.  The Anti-Allowance Parents believe that chores build self-confidence and responsibility by giving them the opportunity to contribute to the household.  They are learning household tasks and it should not be tied to money.   I can see the value in both of these schools of thought and was waffling about what to do when I had my MOTNMOG.   What if you could teach responsibility and household tasks, while building compassion and money management skills?  Well, I say that you can!

My idea is in its infancy stages, but nonetheless I am going to run with it and I would love for your feedback as I get started.  As you might suspect by the title of this post, it is called Chores For Charity and I am completely in love with it.   Here are the basics:

  1. Each month, select a different charity to be the beneficiary of Chores For Charity.  The selection process will be dependent on how old your children are.  With my preschooler, I am simply going to offer her a choice of two different groups month.  Older children may be able to nominate charities based on some simple internet research.
  2. Set up a Chores For Charity jar and allow your children to decorate it each month to reflect the beneficiary charity.   This is the perfect time to talk about all of the wonderful things the beneficiary charity does, so you want to make sure you pick a charity that will be interesting to your kids!
  3. Create an age-appropriate chore chart for the month and assign earnings to each task.   Another variation would be to assign a daily rate or weekly rate for completing all assigned tasks.  What are “age-appropriate” chores?  Check out The Happy Housewife’s suggestions!
  4. Pay your child(ren) for the tasks completed and allow them to deposit their earnings in the Chores For Charity jar so that your child(ren) can see progress over the month.
  5. At the end of the month, empty the jar together and count the earnings.  [Aside: use this step to practice some simple math skills – counting, adding, subtracting, etc.] Write a check and either hand-deliver or send it to the beneficiary and make sure to include a letter about how your children earned the money through Chores For Charity.  And, parents, don’t forget to keep a record of your donation for tax purposes!

What do you think?  I plan to start Chores For Charity in our house on March 1st and will focus it on Josie, my 3 year old for now.  The “parenting experts,” you know those people who get quoted in articles about parenting or who get featured on news segments, all seem to think sometime between ages 2 and 3 is a good time to start introducing chores.  So, Lily is on the sidelines for now, but as soon as she is ready, we will add her to the chore chart.

It should be said that the act of implementing a “chore system” is an inherently hard one.  KJ Dell’Antonia wrote a wonderful piece about the societal importance of chores and the challenges that parents face when putting a system in place. I think it is so important to be able to relinquish a little control in order to allow your children to learn how to complete their “jobs.”   The results may not be perfect, and that is okay.  So, my mantra as I start this journey will be:  “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

March will be my “test month.”   I’m looking forward to seeing what works, and what doesn’t.  Inevitably some part of this elaborate plan to introduce my girls to charitable giving will be a complete and utter disaster.  But, at least it will make for a fun blog post…stay tuned!

Disclaimer:  Just as I was ready to publish this post I decided to Google “Chores for Charity” and found that my MOTNMOG was shared by others too.   Apparently the concept of Chores For Charity is not a unique one.  I do believe, however, that my idea for implementing Chores For Charity in the home is unique.   Below are some links to other Chores For Charity programs that I found.  I love that two of them were launched by teens!

http://www.choresforcharity.com/home.html

http://chores-4-charity.com/index2.html

http://www.fundraiser-ideas.net/school-fundraising-and-sports-fundraising-chores-for-charity/

Conquering Mount Toy

If your family is anything like mine, you have more toys than you, or your kids, know what to do with.  Every birthday and Christmas the toys, games and books pile up and I usually spend the week after culling the toy collection secretly so as not to upset the children.  How many of you have snuck into the playroom after the kids are in bed and boxed up old toys to give away?  When was the last time you surreptitiously squirreled away a toy or book that was once a favorite but is now cast aside most days?  My girls are so blessed to have such generous people in their lives and they are also spoiled.  There are very few things that they want that they don’t eventually get.  It may not be instant gratification, but delayed gratification still results in them holding the toy or book or game at some point.  And it is this blessing that leads to the formation of Mount Toy.

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Mount Toy

After this past Christmas, I snuck into the playroom under cover of night and started my usual sorting of toys into “keepers” and “second-chance toys.”   Second Chance Toys, aka SCTs, are the toys that need another opportunity to be played with in the way they were meant to be played with.  Sometimes, these are toys that never really got a “first-chance” with my girls –  the toys that Josie and Lily opened up and tossed aside never to pick them up again.  C’mon parents – you know that you have toys that fit in this category around the house.  Other times, these are the toys that saw a lot of action but have since fallen out of favor for one reason or another, most likely having been replaced by the newest fad.  In the midst of my sorting, a gigantic light bulb went off over my head.  And, by a gigantic light bulb, I actually mean it was like a neon sign that spelled out “Teachable Moment” blinking wildly with an arrow pointing at Mount Toy.

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The Mini-Kitchen Will Make Another Child Happy!

At that moment, I came to the realization that my first-born child, while only three years old, is capable of fairly complex thought and even deeper emotion.  Why couldn’t I explain to her that she and Lily do not need all of their toys and that they could go to better use elsewhere??  The next day I brought Josie downstairs and got her started.  I explained that we were very fortunate to have so many toys and that it made me kind of sad that all of them did not get played with anymore.  I am pretty sure I referenced Toy Story 3 (an all-time favorite in our house!) in my explanation of the task at hand. [ASIDE:  If you are reading this, you surely must know the Toy Story franchise and, if you don’t, then go to the store right now and buy it. What a great trio of movies!] Assuming that you know the story, I used the example of how Andy’s toys were sad when they were neglected as he grew older and how excited they were when they were given a second chance when Andy gifted them to Bonnie.  Just then, the light bulb went off over Josie’s head!  She and I looked at each toy together and she did a truly phenomenal job of sorting out the toys.  When we were finished with the playroom and the girls’ bedroom, we had two full boxes of toys to donate.  Then, Josie asked how we would get them to Bonnie – OOPS!  I forgot that kids take everything you say literally.  So, I explained that we would give them to a group who would distribute them to children who would enjoy playing with these special toys.

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Beloved Toys Ready for Donation

I must say, this was a proud Mommy moment.  But, my pride in Little Miss Josie reached new limits when, a few weeks later, I walked into the girls’ bedroom and Josie told me she was cleaning out the toy box to give more toys to children who need them.  I couldn’t believe it!!  This was way too easy – my plan had worked like a charm.  Under my guidance, Josie had willingly sorted her unused toys to give to other children, had retained the lesson and now was applying it on her own.  I did my little proud mommy dance.  Need help picturing it?  It looks a bit like this.   Once my celebratory dance was done, I went over to give Josie a giant hug and then I looked in the bag she had packed.  It was full of Lily’s new toys.  So victory was not mine yet, but at least I knew I was on the right path.

The Journey Begins….

Walking 1I am a stay-at-home mom, a household manager, a CPO (Chief Parenting Officer) – call it what you want, but I have found it to be one of the most challenging roles I have ever filled.  My daughters light up my world on a daily basis, sometimes with the joyous grins on their faces as they put on dance performances or play tag and sometimes with the lightening that accompanies their hurricane-like behavior that leaves my world spinning.   Josie and Lily are 3 and 1 respectively and both are very loving and affectionate – true snuggle bugs.  And yet, these same snuggle bugs can tear a room apart in 3 seconds flat and make me question my decision to be a stay-at-home mom.   They are strong-willed which simultaneously makes me proud and makes me shiver in my boots– what will this mean when I have 2 teenage girls in the house???   For the record, I am not doing this parenting gig alone.  The Hubs, aka Jay, is a master at play and willingly dons princess tiaras and sips “tea” while sitting in tiny chairs at a tiny table.  The girls love him.  I love him.  But, as in most families, one parent bears more of the parenting responsibilities and, in our family, that parent is me.

Walking 2

Parents bear great responsibility to raise their children to be self-sufficient, responsible, and, hopefully, empathetic and caring individuals.  Growing up, I think my mom did a bang-up job of teaching my brother and me to care about others and try to make a difference whenever possible.  Many of the lessons she taught us were through church-sponsored programs and had some sort of religious tilt to them.  Now, let me be clear about this:  we were not a die-hard, church-every-Sunday, pray-before-meals kind of family.  Most times she herded us kicking and screaming out of the house to our place of worship or bribed us with breakfast out afterwards (yes, I was a sucker for New Jersey diners growing up.)   When I was old enough to make the decision, you know, the ripe old age of about 15, I stopped attending church.  I never went back – aside from the occasional funeral mass or baptism that one encounters in adulthood.  Sound familiar?  I know others exist out there.  The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has dubbed us “Nones,” a clever play on our answer when asked about our religious affiliation. Read more about their findings here.   So, Nones, are you out there?  And, are you feeling what I am feeling?

Walking 3

Lately, I have been feeling conflicted about the idea of raising my children without religion in their lives.  So, I began to think about what it was I thought my girls would be missing by not attending a church or other form of organized religion.  And it dawned on me that the most important lessons I learned were not at all exclusive to religion – in fact, I have been practicing them for my entire adult life without any “help” from religion at all.  EUREKA!  I do not need to feel guilty about raising non-religious children.   But, to be the best CPO I can be, I do need a plan to bring to life my dream of raising well-adjusted, civically-engaged, independent women.  Will you join me on this journey?  I will be searching for fun, family-friendly ways to teach my kids lessons about “giving back.”  Hopefully, I’ll learn a thing or two along the way.  And maybe, just maybe, I’ll inspire another family to take this journey too.  Wouldn’t that be amazing?!