15 September 13

10 years later

Ten years ago, I was occasionally making bags to donate to a handful of nonprofit organizations in Chicago to use as fundraising items at raffles and silent auctions. Sometimes the bags earned the organization $10. Sometimes the bags earned the organization $300. It was pretty hit or miss, but considering there was a large number of organizations that I wanted to support, but my budget didn’t permit many cash donations on my part, it seemed like a good way for me to use my skills to help organizations make money. But all of that changed at the end of 2003 when I realized I could sell bags online thanks to Paypal buttons, and then I could take the money I earned from selling those bags and give it to various organizations that I wanted to support.

First I registered my domain, this very one, then I created a rather hinky shop page (which was later redesigned by Naz Hamid and looked so much better), and I began selling bags of various types online and taking the money I earned and donating it to various organizations.

This was the same year that Amy Carlton and I started the DIY Trunk Show, which gave me even more sales that enabled me to donate money to nonprofits. And there were several other indie craft shows that started to pop up and I began applying and selling and 10 years later, I’m still doing the same thing.

20% of all profits I make from a bag are donated to nonprofit organizations and I’ve gone through various ways of determining which organization gets what. I used to pair up a bag and an organization. But that resulted in some organizations getting a lot more money while some got now. (Not every bag I’ve designed has sold well, sadly.) Then I picked an organization a month and donated funds that way. But that meant whoever was my November or December organizations got a lot of money, but others got little. Last year I chose 7 organizations to donate funds to. This year that number is less, because I wanted my donation to have a larger impact. And thanks to the increase in my sales, I think it will.

In the interest of transparency, and because I don’t think enough companies share how they determine what their donations will be, here is the formula I choose to determine what the donation will be.

Cost of bag – (cost of supplies to make the bag + PayPal/Ets fees) = profit
I think take 20% of that profit and add it to the kitty that will get donated at regular intervals during the year.

This year the organizations I’m supporting are Women In Media & News, Chicago’s Read, Write Library, Chicago Abortion Fund, and the Greater Chicago Food Depository. These are just a small handful of the organizations that I have desire to support, but they cover most of the various types of organizations I support emotionally as well as monetarily. There are also many other organizations that I donate to outside of my business, so these are but a drop in the bucket of deserving organizations.

But it makes me happy to know that 10 years into this business venture that began from a desire of wanting to help others, I’m still able to help others while also helping myself and slowly making the word more attractive.

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