Creating lasting legacies through charitable giving and passion-driven support is a cornerstone of the channel
“It’s humbling to see the impact Reliv, our Ambassadors and the Reliv Kalogris Foundation (RKF) have had.” Scott Montgomery, President, Reliv
By: Jenna Lang Warford
Direct selling is a channel driven by passion: that of the founders, the executive teams, support staff and, perhaps most of all, the sales field. So it’s no surprise that charitable giving is a prevalent component in many companies. While a few companies may have brought their charitable foundations more to the forefront due to Millennials’ and Gen Z’s drive to have careers with a cause they’re passionate about, most were already active and vocal about their give-back positions—some of which directly align with the company’s products.
“Epicure is passionate about getting good food into people’s homes, so our giving initiatives are well-integrated into our overall mission,” Brittany Munk, Epicure’s director of sales, North America, says. “We believe everyone deserves good food—good food that fuels us, helps our children grow and learn, and that families can depend on. Good food is a necessity for every person, and the reason we established our ‘Buy a Meal. Share a Meal.’ program.”
Amelia Warren, Epicure’s CEO, adds, “For every Mac & Cheese purchased, we’re donating meals to Feeding America or Food Banks Canada.”
Warren, who began her career working with national and local nonprofits, launched the Epicure Foundation in 2007 at the request of her mother, Epicure’s founder, Sylvie Rochette. Last year, the company gave away almost 1 million meals and is on track to meet or exceed that in 2023. It also has a disaster relief program that makes in-kind donations to afflicted communities. The company has given millions to local grassroots organizations in Brand Ambassadors’ communities.
Epicure and its charitable foundation received the 2022 Business of Good: Community Involvement Award by Canada’s BCBusiness magazine for the work they do in addressing food insecurity.
Legacy Company, Legacy Giving
Another company whose charitable giving is closely aligned with its product mission is Reliv. A legacy company founded in 1988, its mission is “To Nourish the World.” Reliv’s president, Scott Montgomery, is also the former leader of its charitable giving foundation, Kalogris. The foundation, formed in 1995, is named for the formulator of the company’s nutritional shakes: Theodore Kalogris.
It serves approximately 3.2 million shakes a year, mainly to hungry children.
Uniquely, Reliv’s charitable giving is supported by volunteers, particularly in international locales that have ongoing, rather than shorter-term, nutrition programs. Some programs have been in place since the initiation of the foundation, such as that in the Philippines, which has 211 separate nutrition programs serving 12,000 children daily, with a total of 500 volunteers. In Haiti, there are 34 ongoing programs with 350 volunteers serving 9,700 children. These two countries have very consistent, deliberate and organized programs, with volunteer staff mainly from churches; they also have well-developed relationships with the government agencies. The foundation serves in eight other countries, with hundreds of volunteers.
Montgomery says, “We’re not disaster relief, where we show up because there’s an earthquake or typhoon or disease outbreak. We’re there every single day in those communities working with those volunteers. Because of that, I’ve had the privilege of meeting some of these children 10, 15, even 20 or 25 years ago. Now, some of these kids who found hope because of the nutrition Reliv was providing are now volunteering themselves. That hope made an impact on their lives. Some of these kids have gone on to finish high school where they probably would not have before. Some have gone on to college. One child grew into a young lady who’s pursuing her dream of being a flight attendant. It’s humbling to see the impact Reliv, our Ambassadors and the Reliv Kalogris Foundation (RKF) have had.”
Ninety-five percent of the donations to RKF come from the field, and a whopping 96% of those donations are used for nutrition, with only 4% going to administrative costs.
In addition to the efforts of the RKF, the company recently took a leadership contingent of 10 couples to help with relief efforts in Maui, Hawaii, after its recent fires. “The trip hosts were facing hardship. Some have lost their jobs and even their homes, and are now facing inflation that’s through the roof. The vibe is different in Maui now, but we know we were able to make a difference there.”
Expanding The Vision & Mission
Plexus Worldwide began as a company focused on a philanthropic mission—breast health. Still today, the company will make a matching donation to Cancer Support Community Arizona and other affiliates across the U.S. through the purchase of both Lean and Slim products. The company has also brought its mission of nutrition health to the forefront of its charitable giving. Beginning in 2018, with its Nourish One initiative, it formed a significant partnership with Feeding America® to help provide meals to Americans who experience food insecurity.
Elizabeth Woods, senior manager of corporate social responsibility, says, “Through this initiative, people can purchase products while helping children and families facing hunger; a monetary donation equivalent to 10 meals is made for every purchase of Plexus Lean and 3 meals for every purchase of Reset. To date, over 38 million meals have been donated in the U.S., with a target goal of 40 million by the end of 2023.”
Plexus’ corporate employees continue the company’s efforts through an annual toy drive in partnership with the Salvation Army as well a community walk that supports a long-time local partner, the Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
Kenny Brady, vice president of leadership development at women’s clothing brand LuLaRoe says fundraising at his company comes in many forms, anything to help families. “Our company is headed into its eleventh year, and because our mission is ‘To bless lives and strengthen families,’ we’ve had a fundraising program from the start,” he says. “And that has been something that really has touched lives even more deeply than bringing confidence through clothing, which of course is central to what we do.”
The company allows its sales field, called Retailers, to establish fundraisers for local or even individual needs within their communities. “One thing our CEO, Mark Stidham, always says to our Retailers is, ‘If it’s close to your heart, it’s close to ours.’ So the fundraiser might be for a breast cancer foundation, or for a customer who is experiencing cancer, or raising money for kids to go to camp. Whatever the Retailer raises, the company will match. So far in 2023, we’ve done over 400 fundraisers and raised more than $150,000.”
He adds, “Founder Deanne Stidham has always said, ‘Service is the price you pay for the space you occupy,’ and that’s the foundation the company is built on—whether the space is at an event, in a home or even on the internet. It’s about more than giving money; there’s something about serving. Because time and effort are way more valuable, because it’s always about the life that you’re impacting.”
The company has also created clothing collections for specific causes and donated a portion of the sales to organizations operating for those causes, including clothing lines that represented the fight against breast cancer or autism awareness.
Over the past 10 years, the life of the company, LuLaRoe has participated in 16,729 fundraisers and raised almost $12.2 million.
The Charitable Initiative that Founded a Business
While it’s common for direct selling companies to create a nonprofit organization to support its passion for charitable giving, Derek and Shelaine Maxfield founded direct selling company Younique with a singular mission—to support its partner nonprofit organization, Saprea.
Ana Paula Garcia, Younique’s director of global communications says, “Saprea, is a public charity dedicated to eradicating child sexual abuse and its effects. Younique donates 10% of its profits from product sales to Saprea, contributing to their mission of empowering survivors of child sexual abuse.”
Prior to the pandemic, in 2019 Younique’s support of Saprea helped create 40 support groups, sent 902 survivors to the Saprea Retreat, and provided 887 outpatient therapy sessions.
During its 2023 annual Convention, Younique hosted a benefit run aimed at supporting survivors of child sexual abuse and raising awareness about this issue. In a single week, the company and its Brand Ambassadors raised over $82,000 with 1,000 participants.
Younique shares this initiative with its field through events, social media, its website, email, and direct communication with Brand Ambassadors and customers.
“Our aim is to empower survivors of child sexual abuse, facilitate healing, and contribute to prevention efforts,” Garcia says. “We encourage our Brand Ambassadors/Brand Affiliates and customers to support Saprea by rounding up their orders during checkout, participating in recurring donations, and visiting the Saprea Facebook group/Facebook page for resources and ideas on incorporating Saprea into their businesses by donating, sharing information about Saprea within their networks, and re-sharing Saprea’s posts on social media.
She adds, “We also participate in #GivingTuesday. Looking ahead to 2024, we are excited about the opportunities to make an even greater impact in our community.”
Evoking a Sense of Community
Relatively new to the channel, Red Aspen was founded six years ago and since then has been introduced to many opportunities to give back to communities both locally and internationally. People Services, Philanthropy and Inclusion Council Manager Jazlyn Olmedo says, “This year we wanted to take a step back and start looking at how we can formalize a charitable giving program for the future that will be meaningful and evoke a sense of community, belonging, and fulfillment with our Brand Ambassadors.
“We continued our partnership with Boda Girls, a program based in rural Kenya, and contributed to 5,000 free rides given to women there and a 74% increase in safe hospital deliveries with the sponsorship of Boda Girls. There was also a 2,008% increase in pregnancy ultrasounds to women there who did not have that access before.” Specifically, in 2022 Red Aspen donated $35,000 towards a new ultrasound machine and training for five additional Boda Girls as motorcycle drivers for the taxi service; and in 2023 gave $10,000 to sponsor more Boda Girls.
“We also showcased our support by sponsoring and providing first-aid kits with fanny packs to their 4 cohorts and now 18 male allies,” Olmedo says. “They’ve been able to use this in their everyday work as first responders there. This year we really tried to find opportunities where we can use our platform to make a difference in the lives of women. As our mission emphasizes, we care deeply about supporting and empowering women; knowing that our audience of 16,000 Brand Ambassadors are all women, each with their own unique experiences, we wanted to be sure that they felt seen, valued, and part of our philanthropic efforts.”
To accomplish that, Red Aspen makes its 20 member Beauty Inclusion Council a significant part of its decision-making processes, including that of charitable giving. Council members are selected from Brand Ambassadors through an application process to help ensure that all women feel well-represented at Red Aspen.
When the company reached $100 million in lifetime sales achievement this year, it revisited its mission of inspiring women. Olmedo says, “It also happened to be Sexual Assault Awareness Month. To show our support for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, we used our platform to discuss the facts, remove the stigma, and provide resources to women who may be or have been in that difficult position.
“We were able to get our Beauty Inclusion Council involved, which this year encompassed 20 different Brand Ambassadors across the nation, by sending them kits and providing them with resources to visit their local women shelters and organizations.”
The company also partnered with the Women & Children’s Alliance in Boise, Idaho, which provides shelter and services to women and children healing from domestic abuse and sexual assault. Red Aspen made a product donation, got involved with the organization’s Denim Day initiative, and invited them to provide training and resources to its corporate team in Boise.
Olmedo says, “We also made a donation of $10,000 to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, [a resource] that our Brand Ambassadors nationally could access in case they would ever be in need.”
Over the next few years, Red Aspen plans to choose a specific cause to focus on, to create impact in areas that affect women.
These are just a few of the direct selling companies that do so much to help those in need, providing for consultants, customers, and communities in tangible ways that make an impact.
“The AdvoCare Foundation is committed to helping children and families in need to live healthy, happy and safe lives. Since 2015, the foundation has contributed over $1 million to improving the safety and health of families and children throughout the United States. Their philanthropic efforts extend to various initiatives, including donations to local RISD schools (Richardson Independent School District – Richardson, Texas) during Teacher Appreciation Week, demonstrating their dedication to supporting educational institutions and educators.
“Recently, AdvoCare made a substantial contribution of $150,000 to two local non-profit organizations in Hawaii. This generous donation was aimed at supporting emergency medical care, improving food accessibility, providing shelter and aiding in the rebuilding process after the devastating fire. We are proud of the commitment to bettering the lives of children and families across the nation and look forward to what AdvoCare can do in the years to come.”
“For 60 years, Mary Kay remains steadfast in its commitment to enrich women’s lives around the world. From grassroot non-profit partnerships at our market level to our four global corporate foundations, hundreds of thousands of women’s lives have been positively impacted as part of our philanthropic support,” said Ryan Rogers, CEO, Mary Kay Inc., and Vice President of Mary Kay Ash Foundation Board of Directors. “In the United States, the Mary Kay Ash Foundation has donated $92 million since inception to find cures for cancers affecting women and ending domestic violence. Giving back is in our Company DNA and we will continue to find meaningful ways to create a safer, healthier world for women everywhere.”
“Most recently, we’ve focused our efforts on a goal of donating $1 million to specifically help narrow the achievement gap in underserved communities around the world through our Gratitude Grants program. These grants, totaling $850,000 to date, allow eligible nonprofit organizations to create and execute transformational projects that support and nurture youth education, recreation, and culture.
“Since our founding, The MONAT Gratitude Foundation has given more than $9 million. This tremendous impact wouldn’t be possible without the help of thousands of Market Partners across the globe who share our dedication to making a difference every day. We are so grateful for the impacts we’ve been able to make together and look forward to continuing our efforts to create positive change in communities everywhere.”