Who are you?
We are a unique nonprofit that provides toy-filled birthday gift bags so that less fortunate parents can give their child a birthday gift. This results in greater self-esteem and strengthened bonds in economically disadvantaged families.
Why Did you start your business?
Cheerful Givers was established in 1994, after Robin Steele toured a local food shelf and learned that parents would often try to find a favorite canned vegetable or boxed cereal to give their child as a birthday gift. Steele thought of what it must feel like for a parent not to be able to do what most parents take for granted – to recognize their child’s birthday with a gift, and the impact that has on their self-esteem.
The next day Steele returned to the food shelf with a donation of 12 birthday bags, each containing an assortment of small toys. All 12 bags were gone in just one day. Soon the Cheerful Givers nonprofit was formed and a Board of Directors established to ensure the organization had the talents and resources needed to address increased community demand. With a talented board sharing a passionate commitment, along with thousands of volunteers and supporters, the organization has since provided birthday gift bags to more than 700,000 less fortunate children. Cheerful Givers continues to work towards a vision that every child’s birthday will be recognized.
What makes your business unique?
To the best of our knowledge, we are the only organization that allows a parent to recognize their child's birthday with a gift, while the nonprofit remains anonymous to the child.
We operate with just one staff and 1% admin. expense. We developed 3 program models which allow busy adults (corporate groups), teens with disabilities (sponsored groups) and everyone else (community groups) to participate as volunteers who assemble our birthday bags.
Since we began, we've reached more than 700,000 kids with birthday gifts.
What's the biggest mistake you've made with your business and what did you learn from it??
Probably our biggest mistake was in thinking we could get large grants from foundations. While we get some support from foundations, we've learned that it's important to have a diversified fundraising plan. Our plan now includes corporations, individuals and events in addition to foundations.
We also learned that we don't need to limit the geographical reach in asking for donations. There are a lot of people who believe in a cause and it doesn't matter where you are located.
what big goal do you have for your company and how do you plan to achieve it?
Our big goal for 2014 is to provide 165,000 less fortunate kids with birthday gifts. We plan to achieve it by involving ten special education groups (teens with disabilities) in assembling at least 1,000 birthday bags each month in addition to corporate and community groups.
what advice or tips do you have for people wanting to start their own business or follow their dreams?
Don't hesitate to follow your dreams. If you are very passionate about a cause or a project, you will probably find a way to bring it to life. Believe in yourself -- and in others to support you.