The Cable Company's 16th Summer Against Hunger
Stein began his annual Summer Against Hunger campaign in his company's sixth year. "There were some tough times in our early days," he confides. "Whenever things seemed at their worst, and I felt I'd never make money in high-end audio, I would read about floods in Bangladesh and realize that things could be far worse. As bad as things seemed to me on a personal level, I realized I'd feel better if I made a donation to change things around on a larger level."
Once Stein began giving, and feeling all the better for it, he began to wonder if a company-wide campaign would benefit The Cable Company's overall morale. He soon decided to build in some charitable work annually, especially in the summer when business is slower.
"I sensed we'd feel betterour staff would feel betterand we'd be doing some good. It was about adding an additional level of fulfillment to what we were doing commercially."
In the first year, The Cable Company donated 5% of their sales in the month of August. Then, by convincing some of their vendors to match their donations, the 5% became 10%. By continually seeking more matching funds, the amount contributed grew exponentially, first to 100% or more of what people spent with the company, then even higher.
"In the last three years," says Stein, "we've been able to donate over $2 in care for every $1 spent."
In 2010, The Cable Company funded a specific program in Liberia. With an agrarian economy frighteningly over-dependent upon a single crop, rice, Liberia needs to import 80% of its vegetables. To increase production, farmers have resorted to slash and burn deforestation. C.A.R.E. presented an alternative by first educating farmers, then installing small-scale irrigation systems in existing fields that increased production and diversified crops. When The Cable Company donated $20,000 to the project, they were able to get the European Union to match those funds three times over.
The Cable Company has yet to choose which program they'll fund this year. Once they raise the funds, they'll ask C.A.R.E. what programs to consider. After receiving information on programs that fit the basic nutrition or agriculture or education models they favor, and that have matching funds available, the company's staff votes which to support.
"I feel like where we've fallen down is that we probably haven't telegraphed what we're doing very well," says Stein. "It's a little complicated, because in order to include all of C.A.R.E.'s small print in our ads, I think that sometimes the message is lost that this is a really good time to buy because we actually deliver on our promise.
"As far as I know, the way we use goodwill from customers and use matching funds to deliver far more than what we raise is unique. We've got a whole group of companies cooperating to do something good. I'll feel like we finally got the message across when one of our customers copies our model and starts doing what we're doing in whatever industry they're working in."
Miraculously, just like Heinz ketchup, Stein has signed on 57 varieties of vendors to participate in the program. For a full list of participants, see the ad in the September issue of Stereophile (p.80). Products range beyond a huge assortment of cables to include racks, room tuning devices, power products, fuses, preamps, phono cartridges, CD treatments, and a host of tweaks that, like purchases in August, really do make a difference.