Simpler than a service trip

Sara Angle

Villanova’s campus is alive with the spirit of service, and students follow a call to help others through service break trips, Habitat for Humanity trips, volunteering with the Special Olympics, St. Thomas of Villanova Day of Service and the wide-ranging philanthropic efforts of Greek organizations. While not everyone has the time or means to take on these ventures, consumerism provides an easy way to do good while you shop.

Many companies have capitalized on consumers’ increased interest in philanthropic ventures and found ways to support good causes through sales of their products. Purchasing products with a higher purpose is a great way to make a contribution year-round. They are conversation pieces that inspire others to make similar purchases. 

Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoes, was recently on Villanova’s campus and shared his own experience of navigating the difficult world of philanthropic fashion.  

“The future of business will be a blend between a philanthropic mindset and environmental awareness,” Mycoskie said in his presentation. 

TOMS uses a unique marketing concept: for every pair of shoes bought, a pair is given to a child in need. 

Instead of creating a nonprofit organization, Mycoskie created a for-profit organization that sustains itself through the profits of its one-for-one program. 

Unlike nonprofit organizations, TOMS is not dependent on any kind of donations. In today’s struggling economy, many nonprofit organizations saw a drop in donations. TOMS, however, was not affected and continues to expand. 

“Great designers make sure they stay on the cutting edge of fashion,” Mycoskie says. 

Keeping up with current trends is always a concern with eco-friendly and philanthropic companies like TOMS. Mycoskie himself helps at the beginning and end of the design process, picking the theme of each season and approving final copies. 

Having a company that only produces one product can be difficult though, so the timelessness of TOMS is nebulous. 

“It’s classic and simple,” Mycoskie says, “not trendy.” 

For the consumer, when choosing to purchase from a philanthropic company like TOMS, it is important to research whether or not the purchase is actually helping the cause. Mycoskie believes that TOMS avoids this issue through its one-for-one campaign, which is very transparent. There is no hidden formula; it is clear what TOMS is doing, and it has a direct effect.

 While there are few companies that carry out programs as all-encompassing as TOMS Shoes, Mycoskie admires Charity: Water, a nonprofit organization that gives 100 percent of its proceeds from the sale of bracelets, water bottles and apparel to fund sustainable clean water solutions to areas of need. states that, “Just $20 can give one person in a developing nation clean water for 20 years.”  

There are also many companies that produce specialty pieces of jewelry that support various causes. Humanity For All jewelry and apparel supports several nonprofit organizations, but its most popular product is the leather wrap Humanity Bracelet. A quarter of the money made by this piece is given to the organization Children Uniting Nations. 

Satya Jewelry’s “EB Collection,” designed by celebrity couple Courtney Cox and David Arquette, gives 100 percent of its proceeds to the Epidermolysis Bullosa Medical Research Foundation, which is searching for a cure for this rare childhood skin disease. 

Satya Jewelry also produces a necklace that supports Housing Works, an organization that helps homeless and low-income workers living in New York City with HIV/AIDS. Produced in the city, the Tree of Life necklace is a timeless unisex piece.

Philanthropic purchases can extend beyond clothes and jewelry, however; the food industry is also taking on this trend. 

Newman’s Own, founded by the late actor Paul Newman, gives all of its profits to charities and has given over $280 million to charities in the United States and abroad since 1982. Its motto, “Shameless exploitation in pursuit of the common good,” says it all. At reasonable prices, Newman’s Own dressings, sauces, salsa, frozen pizza, popcorn, cereal, drinks and wine are the easiest way to give back day-to-day. It even offers an organic line that specializes in snack foods like cookies, pretzels, soy crisps and dried food. 

While we may not all be able to take a mission trip or volunteer regularly, there are still other opportunities to make a difference. Recognizing the power of your purchase leads to advocacy and awareness ensuring that your dollars are going toward a greater purpose.