I’m back at work after a brief holiday break with my wife and her parents – it feels great to eat too much and just spend time relaxing with family during the holidays! My mother-in-law (MIL), a doctor, is not usually conversant in social entrepreneurship, so she shocked me by letting me know about a social venture I hadn’t heard about yet! I thought that the hot socially-conscious gift this year was the goat, given to families and communities in need throughout the world through organizations like World Vision and Mercy Corps. However, according to the mainstream media that my MIL has been watching, the hot gift is actually The Giving Tree GiveCard™.
The GiveCard is a pre-paid MasterCard® gift card, with a twist. In order to activate the card, the gift recipient must go online and donate 10% of the value of the card to the charity of his/her choice (any non-profit listed in GuideStar). The Nashville, TN company Giving Tree, LLC seems to have hit a home run, garnering this much attention for its flagship product in the few months since an October press release announced both the product and the formation of the company. A for-profit company targeting socially conscious consumers, Giving Tree hopes to have a dual social impact: 1) It teaches gift recipients (often children and teens) the rewards of philanthropy, and 2) It raises money for non-profits. I give them kudos for great marketing, a name that’s easy to remember (and brings strong emotional associations with Shel Silverstein’s book), and a clever way to tap into the socially conscious consumer who wants to teach philanthropy to their kids in a way that won’t engender anger and resentment (e.g. “I wanted new games for my Wii, but my dad just gave me a card saying that I gave a goat to some family in Africa”).
Another conversation was focused on real estate, and the way that the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) and the Triad (Greensboro-High Point-Winston-Salem) continue to grow despite the national housing market slump. When my MIL asked about potential property investment in Hillsborough, my wife (who is much more up-to-date on such matters than I am) replied that all of the good investment property there has already been bought up by developers and real estate investment firms. Apparently, in order to be able to find a deal on property in the I-40/I-85 corridor between the Triangle and the Triad, you need to go west to Mebane or farther.
This confirmed for me the brilliance and foresight of my friends and colleagues involved in the creation of the Stone House, a project of stone circles. A 70-acre retreat offering space for spiritual renewal and strategic action, this non-profit social enterprise is a brilliantly conceived and well-planned endeavor including elements of environmental and financial sustainability. Still in construction (very green construction, at that), you can learn more about this facility at its website (including a download of their long-term strategy) and keep track of their ongoing efforts at their blog. I’ll be bringing some information on this facility back to the in-laws when we return this weekend for additional holiday celebrations with more extended family in town, including our beautiful nieces (who, despite living far away in Atlanta, have really enjoyed keeping track of one of my pet projects at work, the Museum’s Animal Department blog).