The Washington Post

Amway campaign helps children

Who: Jesse Hertstein, senior corporate citizenship lead.

Company: Amway, a direct-selling company

Charitable giving highlights: Since 2003, the company has given $190 million in donations and in-kind services to children’s causes and 2.7 million volunteer hours.

Tell me about the company’s philanthropy?

Ten years ago in 2003, we were doing a lot of different things and realized that we couldn’t track the impact that well. We decided to focus. We’ve got millions of distributors and tens of thousands of employees around the world. The needs are different in every country. We built the One by One campaign as a way to focus our efforts on children’s causes but give each local group of distributors and employees the opportunity to find the issues that are most pressing and find a way to respond to them.

What programs do you have in the Washington region?

One organization that an Amway distributor introduced to us a decade ago was the U.S. Dream Academy, based in the District. They work with children whose parents have been incarcerated. We started to support it corporately and found other ways to support it besides money. Another one is Easter Seals, a national partnership in which we’ve given $30 million over the last 30 years. The office in the District also does programs to help local schools and works with WorldVision to provide backpacks and school supplies for Title I schools.

How did you decide to focus on children’s issues? What was the process?

We did surveys, focus groups and we looked at what we were already doing. More than half of what we were doing was supporting children’s causes. Amway stands for helping people reach their potential. It was a natural extension for us in our corporate social responsibility efforts to help children.

How has the campaign evolved over the years?

The biggest, single transition that we’ve had to make over the years was shifting from the idea of it being a corporate-led initiative to something that we truly respond to from the interests and passions of our distributors and employees.

How do you help local sites implement the campaign?

It’s different depending on the market. China is a good example. A lot of what we do there is top-down, organized, family-led. We helped them create a volunteer network and have everyone sign up to participate in community outreach activities and help each find different ways to volunteer and give. Now looking back several years later it has a volunteer base of 65,000 Amway distributors as part of that network. They do everything from blood drives to teaching classes at schools. But they had to build the infrastructure to make it work first.

How do you determine what nonprofits you work with?

They come to us in many ways. Many of us come from our employees. Once we get involved in a specific issue, we find the best organizations that are addressing that issue and engage in partnerships with them. Sometimes they’re brought to us. Sometimes we seek out the best.

What have been some challenges with having a global giving program?

The places around the world that have taken the longest to find success are the ones that are taking longer to find those causes that resonate with our people. For example, in Japan, there’s a big issue around child abuse but no one really wanted to talk about it. It’s a taboo subject.

How did you navigate through that?

We created an idea called the Orange project and started to raise awareness and support organizations to help prevent child abuse. We were able to take the lead on it because it really tapped the passions of our people there.

What books have been helpful for you?

Scott Goodson’s book “How to Build a Brand — and Change the World — by Sparking Cultural Movements.” It’s written by a marketer who is looking at the social space and saying that companies should be helping to define themselves to customers based on rallying people around a common cause. It resonated really well with us because that’s exactly what we’re doing.

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