Etsy Journal

Explore ideas and inspiration for creative living

Giving Thanks by Giving Back

by Karen Brown

Nov 27, 2014

Many Etsy sellers include giving back as part of their way of doing business, and the ways they do it are as unique as their talent and craft.

When it comes to giving back, one person can truly make a difference. That’s because individuals, not corporations or foundations, are the overwhelming source of charitable giving every year, providing more than 70% of all contributions. Many Etsy sellers have included giving as part of their way of doing business, and the ways they do it are as unique as their talent an craft. Often, contributions are based on sales of specific items rather than every item in a shop. Some sellers donate a percentage of sales from items she has chosen as part of her charitable giving program. Others donate a fixed amount per sale, rather than a percentage. Some contribute in kind, by making and donating handmade items.
For Jennifer Raish of rosetung, the idea of giving occurred to her as she worked to restructure her pricing with the goal of selling to retailers. “It dawned on me that if I can sell my work at a higher price, I'll share the extra earnings. I wanted to go with that good feeling,” she says. Today, she contributes a portion of her sales to The Africa Vulnerable Children Project, whose mission is to create a sustainable community and environment in a destitute area near Ndola, Zambia. Jennifer’s contributions help with nutrition, safe housing, health care, employment, clean water, and education. “It's really a heartfelt joy for me to have an opportunity like this,” says Jennifer.
For Lorna Watt of Knits For Life, the natural world is her inspiration for connecting with others. “I studied as a biologist out of a passion for biodiversity,” says Lorna, who donates to The Nature Conservancy, a global conservation organization. Lorna’s contributions help to plant trees in Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest, a threatened ecosystem. “I plant one tree for every handmade item I sell. I realized that the trees my customers donated were, in effect, creating a handmade forest. What if I dared to dream big? Could I organize a group of people to plant a whole forest?” So far, Lorna has planted hundreds of trees through her Etsy sales. “It makes biological sense to help one another if together we can reach things we couldn't reach alone,” she says. “It's no exaggeration to say that only together can we reach the moon.”
Not all forms of giving are financial. “After seeing a friend's family go through the extended experience of caring for a preemie, I wanted to give something handmade to them,”  says Laura Prill of lauraprilltoo. "Handmade items say, ‘You matter, you are unique, you are so worth the time and effort.” Laura feels deeply that handmade baby items help to make a hospital experience more humane and loving. Now, with each preemie hat she sells in her shop, Laura donates a hand-crocheted or knitted item to Stitches from the Heart,  a California-based nonprofit whose 17,000 members have donated over a million knitted, crocheted, and woven baby items to newborns nationwide. "It is tremendously satisfying and I hope to do much more in the future," she says. There are thousands of Etsy sellers who make giving back part of their business, and it's a gift to be part of a community that cares so deeply about so many issues in the world. Have you discovered any Etsy sellers who give back in extraordinary ways? Share your stories in the comments. Editor's note: If you are interested in learning more about charitable giving on Etsy, Etsy’s guidelines are a great place to start.
Karen Brown

Karen Brown is an award-winning designer and creative director of the Center for Ecoliteracy. Her work has been included in the Smithsonian Institution and Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and featured in The New York Times, Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, and on Today on NBC. She believes that the handmade movement is a fundamental force for transforming society and the economy.