As a child, I knew a family who owned a body shop. Today, three generations work in the family’s business and repair our vehicles when hard objects get in the way.
The work is good. The prices are fair. The service is honest and personal.
But the soup labels were an unexpected surprise.
The widow of the body shop founder still dabbles in the family business. She manages the office, answers the phone and occasionally cooks a big lunch for the shop’s employees. Related or not, they gather around the dining room table of the family homestead adjacent to the body shop and share the noon meal.
Years ago, she was cleaning up after a big lunch when I dropped by to pick up a car that had been repaired. I noticed an empty can on the kitchen counter and mentioned that an organization I support was collecting soup labels.
A year later, I found myself back at the body shop. Lots of things were getting in my car’s way.
As I described the damage and left my keys in the shop office, the woman overheard and called me into the kitchen. There, waiting for me on the counter, was a grocery sack full of soup labels. She’d been saving them since the last repair.
Today, more than a decade later, she’s still saving soup labels. She gave me a bag a few weeks ago.
Philanthropy is a powerful force. One soup label won’t yield much money, but 10 year’s worth adds up. And beyond the value of the soup labels to the nonprofit organization, the woman’s gift positively impacts her and those who witness it.
Our nation and community are far from perfect. Families are homeless. Children are hungry. Lives are torn.
The difference that makes this the greatest democracy on earth is philanthropy.
In 2006 alone, more than $295 billion was given to U.S. nonprofit organizations, according to Giving USA 2007. That’s more than 2 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. What’s even more impressive is that nearly 84 percent of the $295 billion was given by individuals, the report says.
People just like the woman who gives me soup labels.
This column will explore the power of philanthropy. It will celebrate great benefactors, but it also will tell the stories of ordinary people. It will reflect on current events and encourage action. It will showcase philanthropy’s impact on organizations and individuals. And it will remind us of the joy giving brings donors.
Thank you for reading. Remember to save your soup labels.
Matt Beem is president of Hartsook Companies, an international fundraising consulting firm. He lives in Independence.