many native cultures of the northwest coast organized their communities around magnificent banquet gatherings called potlatches. at each potlatch, gifts were given by the hosts, and those who gave most lavishly earned the most respect and prestige in their societies. after all, the more one gives, the more one can afford to give, and the more value one usually confers to the people around.
we love that value system. we appreciate the genius of a society where great giving correlates with high status. but the motivations and social customs of potlatch giving are not the same as our motives for giving. our giving is not motivated by a desire for status or prestige. our giving, in fact, is not really “our” giving at all: the donations made from the glassybaby white light fund are actually donations from you. from the glassybaby community. just as each glassybaby votive is a beautiful vehicle for a glowing candle’s flame, so are we a vehicle for your giving.
our giving began in gratitude. lee was thankful for access to the great cancer care that was crucial for her recovery, and she wanted to help others receive that care, too. that was the motive for building the company, and now it’s our motive for growing.
in 1971, a philosopher named peter singer described the following scenario: you are walking, and you come upon a small child drowning in a shallow puddle. you could easily save the child, but you decide not to, because the puddle may ruin your shoes.
isn’t that terrible? if you’re reading this, we are sure that you would, in fact, save the child. but now, says peter singer, consider the millions of children in the developing world who are starving because of famines and wars, or contracting malaria or intestinal worms because of inadequate preventative healthcare. those children, like the drowning child described above, could be fairly easily helped if enough people made a small donation. therefore, peter singer says, not donating some of your income is equivalent to standing by while the child drowns, in order to save your shoes.
that’s a strong argument. it has the power to convince that not giving is morally wrong. but rational arguments, for most people, rarely motivate behavior in a lasting, positive way.
at glassybaby, we have stumbled upon a great way to motivate generosity: partner up giving with beauty. we sell gorgeous glass, and we donate 10% of our revenue, which is a good baseline recommended by the “effective altruism” movement that peter singer has inspired. we feel great doing it, and so do those who give and receive glassybaby as gifts, and so do the recipient non-profit organizations and the people and animals whom they serve. everyone wins.
10% from glassybaby revenue is not going to provide food or disease prevention for every hungry, vulnerable human. thanks to you, though, we were able to provide over one million meals to the hungry during the month of november, 2016. that’s a lot of food, and a lot of good.
giving is and always will be the main motive for our business. if it weren’t, we might be a larger company. we could have a higher profit margin, and we could afford to purchase more advertisements, but instead we donate 10% of revenue, and so far that has served us well. non-profit partners help us grow, through word-of-mouth and member engagement. we have come to learn that giving away 10% of revenue has given us a lot. doing good is good for business. so the question is not “why do we give,” but rather “why would we not give?” and the answer is yes, give. whoever you are, whatever your business, give. our glassybaby giving is just beginning: we hope and expect to help millions more people and animals heal in the near future, all because of you.
and perhaps one day our business model will catch on, and our society will bear more resemblance to that of the potlatch, wherein the greatest generosity earns the greatest honor.