It’s hard to believe that we’ve only had Tastefully Driven since April. It feels like it’s been around forever. The first year has been a mixed bag, but overall we’ve learned a lot and created a solid stream of revenue so it’s hard to look at it as anything but a positive experience. My #1 favorite feature of the site is the Commerce with Conscience program where we donate 5% of our pre-tax profit to local charities in the Albany area. The idea being that we’re pulling in revenue from all over the world and pumping some of it back into the community we live in.
When we started the program, we figured we’d pick a charity, mail a check, and that would be that. Boy was I wrong. This experience has been so much more than that.
It started rather innocently. In the midst of our warehouse move and all the work involved in getting Tastefully Driven up and running, we didn’t have a chance to sit down and pick a charity. Growing up I had always admired our regional food bank and had even done a little volunteer work there as a kid with my church. The fact that some people in our area do not have food to eat blows my mind. I absolutely cannot comprehend what it would be like to not know where your next meal will be coming from. It’s so very sad if you stop and think about it. So, I chose the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York as our first charity.
The plan was to make a series of smaller donations every quarter so that we made four donations to four different charities each year. However, when I sent an email to the food bank notifying them of our impending donation, I received a phone call back from director Mark Quandt, someone who I knew from their TV commercials, news segments, and articles in the local paper. That alone was really cool. He told me that he had never heard of such a thing and that he wanted to know more about us and our business. I told him how much I admired what he had accomplished with the food bank. The conversation was really awesome. Subsequently we decided to extend the food bank to the end of the year and give them our entire donation for 2008…especially because sales for a new site are so small for the first 3 months. We wanted to make sure we gave them a substantial donation.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I received an email from Mark about their annual auction event. They sell 150 x $100 raffle tickets to raise $15,000 for the food bank. Combined with the live auction, silent auction, and tickets to the event they planned on raising $90k. Unfortunately they were short quite a few of the $100 tickets. He mentioned that this year the demand is higher than ever before because of our hard economic times:
I know it’s a hard time to ask because the economic news is so bad. But it’s even worse for the agencies and people we serve (food pantries are being overwhelmed with a huge increase in requests and many people are seeking help for the first time). We are very concerned about the upcoming winter months.
I forwarded the email over to my partners and we decided to make our yearly donation in $100 raffle tickets. We projected our sales for the end of the year and then added a bit of a cushion in. I then contacted Mark and received the following response:
Wow! That’s great news. We would love you to make your donation through the sale of raffle tickets. The Auction is very important to us, and we want it to be a big success. Your donation will help immensely. We were worried about selling all the $100 raffle tickets in this tough economy. Now with your decision to buy tickets, I think we will make it.
That might be the best email I’ve ever received. We then inquired about attending the event and decided to purchase four tickets, one for each of us, at $85 each with proceeds benefiting the food bank. The event was Wednesday night at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Albany. The food was amazing (plus there was an open bar) and the people were amazing. I was so impressed with the turnout – there were over 40 tables with 8 people per table. Everyone was very generous in bidding during the live auctions. Greg, George and I all won silent auctions with all of the proceeds again benefiting the food bank. I got tickets to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY (one of my favorite places on earth, I’ve been probably seven times but none since the 2004 inductions), George won the entire series of Everybody Loves Raymond on DVD, and Greg won a very very nice mountain bike.
I just did a quick post on Tastefully Driven about the event:
With the struggles our economy is facing, more people than ever will go without food this holiday season. Our Commerce with Conscience program donates 5% of Tastefully Driven’s profits to local charities in the Albany, NY area. For 2008 we were proud to make our donation to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York a few months early so that they would be able to use the funds to help families in our community this holiday season. This past Wednesday night our team attended the 19th Annual Auction to benefit the Regional Food Bank at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Albany. In addition to the company donation, our team won several auctions to directly benefit the Food Bank. Thank you to all of our customers who were able to make this donation possible. The Food Bank estimates that for every dollar donated $10 – $12 of food is given to the hungry.
Here’s a photo. From left to right: George, me, Mike, Greg. It’s not exactly my favorite photo of me, I was kind of leaning back and slanted. I also never realized how much taller I am than Mike…
Of course, we all rocked our CwC wrist bands too:
When I take a step back I can’t help but think about how proud I am of our team. With our raffle tickets, event tickets, and auction winnings we contributed quite a bit towards that $90k goal. When I looked around at all of the faces and saw local business owners, CEOs, politicians, and local news “stars” I realized that we have no where near the net worth that these people do. But that didn’t stop us from giving all that we could. I really hope we keep that mentality as we grow.