The gift that keeps giving

Company asks clients to thank donation forward

A crisp $50 bill can buy 200 boxes of Kraft Dinner, a World Vision gift towards art and music for children or, as it turns out, even a goat.

In October dozens of staff from local businesses attended what they thought was a client appreciation breakfast at Auberge du Pommier on Yonge Street at William Carson Crescent put on by marketing research company Heads Up.

Once the meals were served everyone in attendance opened envelopes filled with cash and a mission to do something good with the money in the spirit of Thanksgiving.

“I had been inspired by someone last Christmas, where they told me they had given out money to each of their employees at Christmas time and asked them to pass it on,” Heads Up president Lisa Elder says, adding they called the concept thank it forward. “They all understood at this point they had $50 and we had all eight tables, about 35 people, came up with ideas of what they could possibly do with $50.”

By November her clients had started uploading stories to their website at While some people handed out umbrellas on a rainy day and walked people to their car, others doubled the money and contributed to dental care for poor rural villagers in Ghana or helped come up with a meal plan for a busy single mother going through chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

“One of my clients gave $50 to everyone at her thanksgiving table and said I got $50 to do this and I want to share that whole movement with you,” Elder says. “I love the diversity of it. We’ve seen people adding to it with their own money and doing more and making it go further.”

One of the tales that stand out in her mind is from Judy Flanagan and Maureen Plant-Richmond, who are both self-employed, and decided they were going to find a worthy candidate who couldn’t afford to go to school and pay for her education, along with further donations from family and friends, she says.

Her colleague Leanne James, director of operations at Heads Up, decided to use a portion of the money towards buying a goat for a young boy in Uganda.

“When a boy is gifted a goat in Uganda, his goal is to breed it and eventually accumulate enough goats to trade up for a cow, which can provide milk and food for his family for a long time,” James said. “We loved the idea of this gift because it gives a boy with no chance in life hope, a beginning. It also has the potential to make a huge impact on the life of his family.”

Her family put the remaining $20 into a thank it forward jar and will be asking their house guests to contribute loose change in hopes of keeping the tradition alive for the next year, she says.

“Every Sunday, we get together as a family to brainstorm ideas on what we can do that week to help someone else in our community,” James says. “This week, we were able to buy flowers for a new teacher, make dinner for parents of twin baby girls and send a card to a grieving friend.”

How the $50 was spent

I doubled the $50 by putting in $50 myself. Armed with $100 I went to find Kraft Dinner on sale and I bought 100 packages at $0.99 each. Each package will provide a meal for 4 kids. I gave all the packages to the Salvation Army Food Drive in Parry Sound Ontario.
Leslie Chester, Nestle Canada

My cousin is a dentist in Niagara Falls, Ontario, who in the past year has become involved in a venture in west Africa, whereby he travels to Ghana for a week, about once a quarter, to provide basic dental care for poor rural villagers. He purchased a mobile dental office in a box, such that along with a generator, he can go out into remote villages and provide the kind of basic dental care that we here take for granted, to people who have never even seen a dentist before. I wanted to use the money in a way that could have a multiplier effect.
Tom Mccullough

After much debate and deliberation I landed on donating the $50 through World Vision’s gift program and designated the money towards Art & Music for Children. Hopefully, this will bring a smile to some of the children in Africa and bring the joy of music and expression to their day.
Gary Batey, Nestle Canada

About this article:

By: Ann Ruppenstein
Posted: Jan 30 2013 12:33 pm
Filed in: Business
Edition: Toronto