BY JULIE A. PALM
The bedding industry has a time-honored tradition of charitable giving. Does your company want to continue its efforts? Start a new philanthropic program? Consider these benefits of generous initiatives and best practices for implementing them
“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” — John Wesley
After a series of strong hurricanes hit Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico in quick succession last summer, mattress suppliers, manufacturers and retailers rushed to raise money for victims and donate supplies—everything from much-needed bottled water and toiletries to the products the donors know best: mattresses, pillows and linens. One of the quickest responders was Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, the owner of Houston-based Gallery Furniture, who opened his stores as temporary shelters for displaced residents, an act that turned the well-known local philanthropist into something of a national hero.
The sleep products industry’s response was notable at the time because the scale of the disasters was so large, but the outpouring of help wasn’t unusual. The industry has a reputation for giving back, whether in response to natural disasters or as part of ongoing partnerships to combat problems like homelessness or support research into specific diseases. To wit: After Hurricane Harvey struck Texas, BedTimes devoted two pages to industry efforts to help victims, but in virtually every issue of the magazine, we report on good deeds.
Whether you’d like to continue your company’s long history of charitable giving or would like to start a new effort, we’ll tell you about trends in corporate philanthropy, outline some best practices, and offer a host of other ideas and resources.
(Before we go further, a note: Throughout this article, we offer examples of charitable efforts by specific companies to illustrate points, but doing so presents an admitted dilemma. The mattress industry is generous, with many companies involved in philanthropy, and it’s not possible to mention the good works of everyone.)
Give back—and get back
In 2016, Americans—as individuals, estates, foundations and corporations—gave more than $390 billion to U.S. charities, up 2.7% from 2015, according to “Giving USA 2017,” an annual report from Chicago-based Giving USA Foundation, a research and education group focused on philanthropy. Individual giving, which increased 4%, drove the overall growth, but corporate giving grew a respectable 3.5% and totaled more than $18.5 billion, the report says.
Such giving helps the recipients, of course, but also has benefits that ripple through the charitable companies. For instance, another report finds a link between companies that donate and overall corporate growth rates.
“Companies that increased total giving between 2014 and 2016 by 10% or more had higher median growth rates between 2014 and 2016 in terms of revenues (+4.1%) and pretax profits (+7.6%) than all other companies,” according to “Giving in Numbers: 2017 Edition,” a report from two New York-based groups, The Conference Board, a global independent business membership and research association, and the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy. “This does not imply a causation but an association of the intrinsic relationship between financial performance and addressing the needs and desires of societal stakeholders.”
Increasingly, workers seek employers that have an ethos of giving back, making corporate philanthropy both a recruiting and retention tool. More than 70% of respondents to a recent America’s Charities survey said it was “imperative or very important to work for an employer where mission and values align.”
“(This) underscores the growing importance that giving and volunteering at work have … to American workers. The data show that employees across all generations—baby boomers, Generation X and millennials—want meaningful opportunities to connect with their communities and their colleagues, and they want to make a difference,” says Jim Starr, president and chief executive officer of America’s Charities, a Chantilly, Virginia-based group that encourages companies to offer employees options for charitable giving.
The America’s Charities report, “Snapshot 2017: What U.S. Employees Think about Workplace Giving, Volunteering and CSR,” found that nearly three in five employees volunteer during a workplace-sponsored program and nearly half donate through company-sponsored giving programs.
“Perhaps the most encouraging finding is that companies recognize the philanthropic motivations of their employees—and they are taking steps to align their work with those motivations,” says a news release accompany-ing the report. “Eighty-seven percent of companies understand there is an expectation to support causes and issues that are important to employees.”
Doing well at doing good
If you’d like to revitalize your charitable efforts or launch a new philanthropic program, you’ll need to start by choosing a worthy cause to support. (For more on how to vet charities, see the story below.)
A natural starting place is an issue or group with a personal tie. This approach works well, in particular, for an individual or a smaller business with a close-knit team. Doug Krinsky, an independent sales representative for Phoenix-based Brooklyn Bedding who has a son with autism, founded Ante4Autism, an annual poker tournament held during the Winter Las Vegas Market in Las Vegas. The event draws dozens of mattress industry sponsors and participants and, this year, raised more than $137,000 for autism awareness and research. Similarly, former bedding retailer Roger Magowitz was driven by the death of his mother, Seena Magowitz, to start a fundraising golf tournament and later the Seena Magowitz Foundation to support research into pancreatic cancer. In 15 years, Magowitz has raised $12 million, and the annual tournament draws hundreds of mattress industry supporters.
But to sustain enthusiasm and encourage broad participation throughout your company, Fluxx, a San Francisco-based company that provides grant management software, encourages businesses to survey employees, looking for common concerns and interests.
“Listen to your people, and find out what they’re passionate about,” says the 2017 Fluxx white paper, “Harnessing the Power of Strategy in Corporate Philanthropy.” “If you’re going to ask people to give their time and money, they need to feel heard throughout the decision-making process. You may be able to find a common cause that aligns your employees’ natural desires and your company’s purpose.”
As part of your research, you can turn to umbrella organizations like the United Way or consult with social service agencies and government officials to discover which organizations in your community have the greatest needs. As Fluxx puts it, “Consider reaching out for expert help from the world in which you intend to give. Those who work within the community itself can fill you in on the needs and gaps in funding. … They can help you set up realistic goals and offer support that will help you meet those goals.”
Sam Malouf, founder and chief executive officer of Logan, Utah-based sleep accessories maker Malouf, felt that victims of human trafficking were getting neither the attention nor the support they needed and created the Malouf Foundation to support the efforts of law enforcement and nonprofits to free victims and prosecute criminals. The foundation donates sleep products and raises money—a Forging Freedom event during the Winter Las Vegas Market raised more than $115,000. Malouf plans a line of products that will raise additional funds.
More best practices
Find a focus.
It can be tempting to donate to every charity that asks for a corporate donation, but experts recommend a unified effort, putting most of your resources toward one cause or organization. Ideally, your social mission aligns with your business mission. Many sleep products companies naturally do this, directing product donations to organizations that have a need for new bedding—homeless facilities, shelters for battered women and families, fire stations or Ronald McDonald Houses, which give parents who are caring for hospitalized children a place to stay.
Through its retail locations, Charlottesville, Virginia-based sleep products manufacturer Savvy Rest donates new pillows to a domestic violence shelter, striving to give all the newly arriving women and children a safe place to rest their heads—and a new item to take with them when they move on to a permanent home.
Devoting your corporate energies to a unified cause not only allows your financial contributions, product donations and volunteer hours to make a greater impact, but it also can boost your company’s visibility as you become associated with that charity.
Another best practice, charitable giving experts say, is to team up with corporate partners, which not only multiplies resources but builds camaraderie and multiplies good publicity, too. We see such teamwork frequently in the mattress industry. In 2017, Atlanta-based mattress major Serta Simmons Bedding LLC teamed with other organizations, including sleep accessories maker Hollander, headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, and Atlanta-based retailer Havertys to donate 200 Beautyrest twin mattress sets and sleep accessories to needy children as part of the Dream Differently Project.
Get outside help.
You can work with experts in logistics to make sure your product donations get where they are most needed. For example, last year mattress major Tempur Sealy International Inc., based in Lexington, Kentucky, worked with Good360 to get $2 million worth of donated beds to hurricane victims in Texas and Florida. Good360, a nonprofit based in Alexandria, Virginia, helps companies direct excess product and other donations to charities.
There also are companies that will organize and manage your charitable efforts. Benevity, based in Calgary, Alberta, provides integrated online workplace giving, volunteering and grant management solutions.
Finally, Fluxx warns, all your corporate giving should “build trust, not damage it” and points to examples of poorly thought-out philanthropy that backfired. Notably, KFC supported cancer research with a “Buckets for the Cure” campaign that instead drew attention to the less-than-healthy food choices at the fast-food chain, and a Walmart food drive in Ohio turned out to be benefitting a number of Walmart employees who were struggling to make ends meet. Both campaigns got plenty of attention, but not the good kind.
“Transparency is just as important for corporate philanthropy as it is for the organizations you give to,” Fluxx says. “You have to live up to the values you preach as a for-profit organization and as a giver.”
Checking out charities
There are plenty of sham “charities” out there and even legitimate ones that spend too much money on fundraising and executive salaries instead of actual services and programs. Before partnering with or donating to a nonprofit, check its reputation, operations and financial health to ensure it’s a well-run organization that will make the best use of your contributions.
Here are sites you can use to research and compare charities:
Ways you can give
- Product donations: Two out of three companies made a product donation in 2016, according to “Giving in Numbers: 2017 Edition,” a report from two New York-based groups, The Conference Board, a global independent business membership and research association, and the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy. The sleep products industry is well-positioned to help this way because mattresses, pillows, linens and other items are so important to people’s health and well-being.
- Matching gift programs: Through these programs, companies match donations by individual employees to nonprofits. Double the Donation, an Atlanta-based organization that helps charities and schools increase funding, says matching gifts are “the most popular form of corporate philanthropy.”
- Volunteer grants: “Also known as ‘dollars for doers’ programs, (these) are second only to matching gifts in popularity,” Double the Donation says. “These corporate philanthropy programs match employees’ volunteer hours with donations to those nonprofits.”
- Companywide giving programs: These allow employees to donate to charities at work, often by having a certain amount of money regularly deducted from their paychecks. The best known probably are those facilitated by local United Ways.
- Employee grant stipends: Less common are these programs, in which companies give grants to employees, who then, in turn, can donate to a nonprofit of their choice.
- Enhanced consumer relationships: This is a fancy way of saying that companies can offer specific products tied to charitable donations. Last year, Boston-based licensing group Spring Air International launched a special collection of Back Supporter mattresses in a partnership with Love Your Melon, a social benefit company that donates to pediatric cancer charities. With every sale of a mattress, a child receives a Love Your Melon hat and a portion of profits supports the fight against childhood cancer. “Consumers want to purchase goods and services from companies that are doing good in the world, especially those that support causes they care about,” Double the Donation says.
- Paid time off for volunteering: Nearly seven in 10 companies offer this benefit, according to the “Giving in Numbers” report. Slightly more companies host companywide days of service, which have the added benefit of building camaraderie as employees spend time together outside of work helping others.
- Events: Hosting warehouse/sample sales, fundraising galas and other events gives you an opportunity to raise money, interact with your community and have a little fun.
To dig deeper into everything from volunteer programs for employees to disaster-related
philanthropy, check out these guides, articles and e-books.
- “5 Key Steps to Starting an Employee Volunteer and Skills Giving Program,” a downloadable guide from Chantilly, Virginia-based America’s Charities
- “The Ultimate Guide to Year-Round Employee Giving,” another downloadable guide from America’s Charities
- “The Game Changers: Corporate Foundations in a Changing World,” part of the Giving Thoughts publication series from The Conference Board, a New York-based global business membership and research association
- “The Future of Disaster Philanthropy,” also part of the Giving Thoughts publication series from The Conference Board
- “Volunteering at the Office,” a free e-book from Causecast, a Burbank, California-based company that powers workplace giving and volunteering programs
We’ll help you spread the word
The sleep products industry has a reputation for charitable giving, and BedTimes wants to support those efforts by publicizing the generosity of companies, in print and online. When your company partners with a charity, makes a significant donation or takes on a volunteer project, let us know. Send news releases to Mary Best, BedTimes editorial director, at firstname.lastname@example.org and Barbara Nelles, content and digital editor, at email@example.com.