© by Margaret Shuster; all rights reserved.
We all know that jewelry making is a craft that fully involves one’s mind and hands, but there’s a segment of artisans who are also proving that it can involve a great deal of heart.
We recently surveyed jewelry makers to find out more about how and why they contribute their time, talent, jewelry and money to charitable causes.
Nearly half of the artists who contribute jewelry or money to causes – 49.4% – have been making jewelry for between one and five years, with a fourth of them having done jewelry for six to ten years and the other fourth for more than ten years. Only 1.3% of respondents had made jewelry for less than a year.
Through the survey they shared their favorite causes, their reasons for supporting them, and the rewards such support has generated both for the charities and for the jewelry artists.
So here’s what we found out… (keep in mind that only jewelry artists who contribute to charities in some way are included in the results below).
Who They Help
All of the survey respondents used portions of their jewelry sales to support at least one charity; 77.6% supported two or more through their work; 56.6% helped three or more; 40.8% gave to four or more; and 22.4% supported five or more.
The artists contributed to causes ranging from animals to abused women to third-world villages.
“I believe that there are so many in need, and I like to give as much as I can to cover as many charities as possible. So I tend to spread it around to my local and state heartfelt favorites,” said Christina Moscone of Christina’s Crystals in Norfolk, Virginia.
Through her work, she supports the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Tidewater AIDS Crisis, breast cancer awareness charities, a local children’s scholarship fund, the Red Cross, and police and firefighters in her local area.
One jeweler, Pam Kenward of Australia, uses proceeds from her jewelry to fund micro-loans for people in developing countries.
“This is different from a charity in that the money I have paid out will be repaid me – however, I will simply re-lend that to another worthy entrepreneur in a developing country to help them in their micro business, thereby helping as many people as possible,” she said.
Many of the jewelers surveyed were moved by the illnesses of friends and family members to support charities that fund research to cure cancer, heart disease, diabetes and leukemia, and to help those with disabilities.
“I started supporting Windridge Therapeutic Equestrian Center because my nephew uses their facility, and I can see how it has helped him and other kids with a wide range of problems,” said Stewart Abernathy of Abernathy Studios, who became involved with two additional charities through requests from friends and customers.
Others, like Kat Tarbet, owner of Matrix Designs in Bradford, Maine, simply want to help the people around them who seem to need it the most.
“The local network for providing a safety net is always in need of help – so whether it is the visually disabled, abused women and their children, breast cancer survivors and their families, the homeless, families in need, or abused animals, each year I participate in events that help them provide more back to the community,” said Kat, who devotes nearly all of her creative time to raising an estimated $11,000 each year for those in need.
Wolf Walker, a Native American jeweler, hopes to not only increase awareness of his culture and its history through his jewelry and his website, WolfWalker Jewelry, but to help traditional artists, as well.
“I want to reach out to other artists – not only other native jewelers, but native peoples who are involved in every traditional art form,” Wolf said.
“Many do not advertise, and people are unaware of the beauty they have to offer. By helping them share their works on my website, I am sharing this aspect of our spiritual heritage with my customers and visitors, and I am also helping these artists to establish themselves financially. That, in turn, helps their families and the communities in which they live. As the families achieve a better financial status, they are then able to help more to address issues of their communities.”
Even with the generous level of giving among the artisans surveyed, exactly half of them said they intended to give even more in the future.
How They Help
The majority of those polled, 58.3%, donate a portion of all jewelry sales to a charitable cause.
Exactly 50% designed special lines of jewelry with a charity-based theme that they sell to the general public, and 48.6% design themed jewelry for a charity to either use or sell.
Just over 30% also gave by donating a portion of proceeds from a special-themed line to a charity.
Some, like Lisa Lehmann of Studio Jewel in Grand Rapids, Michigan, are brimming over with ideas for various charity-related jewelry lines.
“I have worked with the Vera Bradley Foundation designing and creating a bracelet to raise money for breast cancer research,” Lisa said.
“I have worked with the Make-a-Wish Foundation designing and creating a pendant to gift to their employees that I now sell and give proceeds back to them. I have an AIDS Awareness necklace/bracelet set, a heart disease awareness set, previously a colon cancer awareness bracelet, and a world peace pendant is a new design in my line,” she said.
Jody Fink of Los Angeles created her own special “Breast Cancer Woman” design to sell.
“I was designing a line of ‘sterling silver woman-shaped pieces’ and suddenly realized there was one way I could help. I removed one of the breasts from a piece I designed, added the ribbon and gem stone to symbolize the reasearch logo,” Jody said. She has since sold the piece at shows to raise funds and donated several of them to silent auctions.
Pat Moses-Caudel, owner of Wild Poppy Designs (and a former Lapidary Journal projects writer), is enlisting the help of many jewelry designers to create pink and black zebras (the symbol for carcinoid cancer) and beaded items to give for a silent auction planned at the end of a conference in 2009 at Louisiana State University.
“When I heard of the conference coming up, I wanted to help and offered to make some jewelry for the silent auction. The idea expanded with another patient, then I hit Beki Haley’s forum on Delphi All About Beads and got a big response. Many friends are getting together and sending pieces made in a pink and black combination. I even got two beaded zebras that are adorable!” Pat said.
How Giving Helps Everyone
More than half of the jewelry makers surveyed (58.4%) advertised their connection to the charity or themed jewelry line by participating in special events for the charity.
Other marketing methods included mentioning the charity in their marketing materials (36.4%); dedicating a special section of their table to it at shows (29.9%); creating a special page on their website (20.8%); and sending out press releases related to their connection with the charitable cause (11.7%).
Some reported that their customers were happy to be able to help support a cause.
“I have had several people notice that I donate a portion of my sales to this cause, and they like being able to purchase something and support a cause at the same time,” said Dawn Rhodes of Shades Jewelry Designs in Shade, Ohio, who has raised $2,000 for the American Cancer Society through sales of both her themed and regular jewelry lines.
Many of the jewelers said their connection with a charity not only helped the cause but also boosted their business and creativity, as well.
“There is always positive impact. You make friends for life. Your heart sings. You evolve into an even more creative individual. You are more recognized, respected, and it does help sales. I like to call it ‘doing the right thing,’” said Christina Moscone.
But according to nearly all of the respondents, the business benefits have nothing to do with their choices – they give because it just plain makes them feel good.
“The benefit is solely for my heart,” said Jody Fink. “When I stop feeling good about giving is when I stop giving … something I doubt will ever happen.”
Author Margaret Shuster is the associate editor of Jewelry Selling Insights – the monthly ezine that takes you into the minds of your customers and shares the secrets of selling more jewelry to them.