July 01, 2011
Stampin’ Up!: Contagious Compassion
by Karyn Reagan
Spreading the desire to help people in need is at the core of the philanthropic philosophy of Stampin’ Up!
Shelli Gardner, CEO
Before the dream of Stampin’ Up! became a reality, Shelli Gardner, CEO and Co-Founder of the Riverton, Utah-based company, knew philanthropy would be part of its culture. Gardner wanted to give to those in need and relished being able to spread the joy of this generosity to those who would become part of the Stampin’ Up! family. Through the years since DSN last wrote about Stampin’ Up! Gardner has continued to set a high bar for personal giving as well as corporate giving.
“At Stampin’ Up! we often remind the demonstrators that they can make a difference with what they have, whether it is money, time or creativity,” Gardner says. And the demonstrators have embraced the opportunity with open hearts. In addition to supporting the corporate charities, demonstrators frequently support those who need help in their local community.
Giving is so important to the leadership of Stampin’ Up! that it was woven into the mission statement—the Statement of the Heart—which reads: “To love what we do and share what we love, as we help others enjoy creativity and worthwhile accomplishments … in this we make a difference.” And make a difference, they have.
Under the umbrella of the Making a Difference Program, Stampin’ Up! has donated more than $1 million to the Ronald McDonald House Charities® (RMHC), the organization that has been its main focus for the past seven years. “We decided to focus our philanthropic efforts on one main organization on an ongoing basis while giving to additional organizations as the need arises. We are especially interested in supporting causes that benefit women and children.”
Easing the Burden of Others
The Ronald McDonald House Charities provides housing for parents of children who are hospitalized. Sometimes, seriously ill children don’t live close to a hospital that can meet their medical needs, making it necessary for them to be away from home. Such an arrangement can be exhausting for the parents or guardians of the children so Stampin’ Up! encourages demonstrators to volunteer at their local Ronald McDonald House. “Offering a bit of relief to families who are experiencing such difficulty is rewarding to our demonstrators,” Gardner says. “They serve in a variety of ways, working one-on-one with each house and providing whatever that house needs.”
Shelli Gardner spends time with Stampin’ Up! Leaders at the Leadership Conference in January.
The Making a Difference Program connects each Ronald McDonald home with a local demonstrator called a House Lead, who facilitates a team of demonstrators to assist that particular home. The House Lead works with the local RMHC representative to provide services needed and help out wherever possible, even to hold stamping events. “The stamping events provide a break for the families and even the kids themselves, giving them a few hours of creativity,” Gardner says. At these events, the local demonstrators provide Stampin’ Up! materials to make cards to keep in touch with family members at home or send to medical professionals deserving of a thank-you. “The parents are usually too busy and exhausted to make a trip to the store for such items,” Gardner says. The demonstrators give of their own resources to do what they can to ease the burden of others in their time of need.
At the annual Stampin’ Up! Convention and at various regional and local events, demonstrators are encouraged to donate cards to send to the Ronald McDonald House. The cards are bundled into groups of 100 and distributed to houses throughout the world. “Over 3,000 cards have been donated to give to those staying in the houses,” Gardner adds.
At one Ronald McDonald home, local demonstrators were holding a stamping event and offered the children an opportunity to make cards for their fathers for Father’s Day. The stamp collection in use was called Word Play, and one of the young boys in attendance chose the stamp that said, “You mean the world 2 me.” He then asked if he could make two cards. The Stampin’ Up! demonstrator assumed the second card would be for the boy’s mother, but he surprised her when he said it was for his brother, the boy he had been sitting next to at another table. He had moved because he didn’t want his brother to see his card yet. The demonstrator was touched at this display of affection from one brother to another during a time of difficulty.
Another demonstrator tells of how her own battle with cancer interrupted her attendance at stamping events at a local Ronald McDonald House. “When I couldn’t organize the projects or attend the events, the other demonstrators stepped up to the plate. Now I’m glad to be back, so I can show a 4-year-old with leukemia that, yes, your hair will grow back! And I can renew the relationships with the demonstrators whom I’ve grown to love. I really do treasure the times I spend at the House.”
Women’s issues are also near to the heart of the leadership of Stampin’ Up! “At our organization, because the majority of our demonstrator base is female, women’s issues are very important to us,” Gardner says. In support of that bond, The Making a Difference Program gives generously to breast cancer research. In the past, it has donated over $82,000 to the Huntsman Cancer Institute and this year partnered with the Breast Cancer Research Fund to raise money for their efforts. “Through Aug. 31, all three of our markets—U.S./Canada, Europe, and Pacific Area—are raising funds through the sales of a designated stamp set called Strength and Hope,” Gardner says. Customers are offered a win/win proposition—they can buy fun, quality merchandise and give to a very worthy cause at the same time.
Stampin’ Out Need
Early in the development of the fundraising practices of Stampin’ Up! Gardner was inspired by an event that changed the course of many lives and influenced an untold number of decisions—9/11. A decade ago, Stampin’ Up! was a growing company with a big heart and promising future. On that fateful day in September 2001, Gardner was stranded in Washington, D.C., due to the grounding of all airlines. She rented a car and began her long journey home to Utah while fielding calls and reeling from the events of the week. One call in particular caused her creative juices to flow. Her assistant informed her that many demonstrators wanted to help the victims of 9/11 through their business efforts. Without hesitation, Gardner said, “Let’s make a stamp and donate 100 percent of the proceeds to the victims of this tragedy.”
Through that one stamp set, Stampin’ Up! raised more than $1 million for the September 11th Disaster Relief Fund. Since then, there have been numerous opportunities for customers to purchase a stamp set to benefit a cause, including the RMHC set (a new one is offered every year). For instance, the Making a Difference Program donated more than half a million dollars to Save the Children to help with tsunami relief in Indonesia through stamp sales.
In response to the earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010, a portion of the proceeds of a specified stamp set was donated to the Red Cross. “The Red Cross was already on the ground providing immediate assistance and long-term support to the people of Haiti, and we felt it was the most effective use of the money,” Gardner says. In addition to the monetary donation, employees at the plant in Riverton, Utah, assembled 5,000 hygiene kits that they sent to assist the people of Haiti.
Stampin’ Up! also responded earlier this year to the needs of earthquake victims in Christchurch, New Zealand, and gave financial support through relief organizations to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Demonstrators at Stampin’ Up! understand the importance of giving and are encouraged to do so in whatever ways they can. Gardner says, “Although we can’t all give to every cause, it’s a privilege to work with such charitable individuals who are truly making a difference in the lives of those they touch.”