The holiday season is now upon us, which means finding that perfect gift – whether for loved ones, colleagues or clients – is top of mind.
Hunting down the latest deals just so we can buy more “stuff” is becoming a thing of the past. Consumers are smarter, more conscious and have greater access to information about where our stuff comes from, how it was made, and who made it.
As more of us realize the social and environmental impacts of owning all this stuff, we are starting to seek out gifts that have a feel-good story. We want to not only feel good about where and how things are made, but also who is going to benefit from the purchase.
Earlier this year, we launched The Art of Influence – an online store that features unique, local products made by members of our team here at Top Drawer, including posters, cards, fashion, mugs, pillows and bags – all adorned with an artistic image and/or message. Half of the proceeds go to charity and the other half go back to the artist. Now how’s that for feel-good giving?
Our team, particularly the artists involved, believes that giving gifts and enacting social change are not mutually exclusive activities. Creative Director Rachael Muir, who is also the Chief Curator of The Art of Influence, sees it as an extension of our mission as an agency: to be able to do “good” through the industry we work in.
Creativity together with social/environmental good is a match made in heaven, with as many possibilities as there are talented people and need in this world.
Because of its philanthropic nature, The Art of Influence is a thoughtful place to shop for corporate gifts as more companies are supporting the “give back” approach. Even if gifting is not in the budget, a simple yet artistic card can be impactful (it’s also one of our best-selling items).
So this year, give a gift that gives back and shop The Art of Influence for social good.
Although I do have a very busy day job, I still manage to add to it with organizing various charity events. The recently completed Ride For Exuma was an especially challenging yet rewarding project. Exuma is part of a chain of islands in the Bahamas where I have a winter home. As a part-time resident, it was only natural that I got busy giving back to the wonderful and welcoming community we have enjoyed getting to know these past three years.
Healthcare is a big issue in the Caribbean. With the advent of a new and much-needed hospital, my friend Ash and I, in partnership with Peter Nicholson of Grand Isle Resort, came up with the idea of doing a charity bike ride to fund some of its vital equipment. We reached out to our friends and fellow members of Les Domestiques cycling club, and rounded up a small group of committed donors to ride and support the event.
We drew riders from far and wide, including my friend Chris who owns Velofix and hails from Vancouver. We also managed to get some riders from the US and Nassau to join the fun. As word spread, Steve Bauer – one of the greatest Canadian cyclists of all time – signed on and even donated one of his signature trips, which raised almost $3000 for the cause.
So with an intrepid group of 20 riders, including four locals from Exuma, we headed out on a typically warm and beautiful Saturday morning under the escort of local police on a 70km jaunt. We rode along undulating roads that wound around the coast, giving us views of the unreal turquoise waters Exuma is famous for.
Tyrone Monroe, who hails from Nassau, was as excited as a school boy at having the chance to ride with the great Steve Bauer. He did an amazing job keeping up with the lead group, even though bad cramps near the end brought this burly grown man almost to tears!
We also had two young local men – Shannon and Gary – who, on 40-pound steel mountain bikes, rode the entire 70 kms with us much to our amazement. We were so impressed by their enthusiasm that we committed to donate a bike to each of them as a reward for their tenacity.
We managed to raise over $20,000 which was one of the biggest fundraisers in the islands’ history. The Exuma Foundation set up a hospital fund for us to ensure that the money will be used as the doctors need it, once the hospital is open. And of course you don’t come to the Exumas without enjoying the water, so some of us made sure we got plenty of time swimming with pigs (yes you read that right), petting nurse sharks, boating, paddling, and just lounging in the 85 degree crystal clear waters.
Check out www.rideforexuma.com and maybe next year you will join us!
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