It takes a powerful imagination to elevate something as mundane as weekly grocery shopping to an altruistic level. Imagination and, in the case of Jasmin von Teichman, a heap of frustration with the fundraising status quo. She is the founder and operator of DonateNaturally.com, an e-retailer delivering natural and organic produce, meats, dairy, baked goods, and pantry items to the homes of Canadians nationwide. The company not only price matches if a customer finds an item cheaper at another store, but their raison d'être is its charity component.
What makes DonateNaturally.com different from other front-door organic suppliers — in addition to the fact that it also sells skin care, vitamins, pet food and household cleaning goods alongside perishables — is its business model: 10 percent of the value of each order goes to charity (it used to be 15 percent but their milk costs went up so they lowered their donation amount, rather than raise their prices).
And not just any charity, but the charity, sports team, daycare or local school of your choice.
“I’ve been involved in charity work my whole life,” Von Teichman tells Samaritanmag. “Just prior to founding this in winter 2011, I had done a school bake sale which created loads of goodies — cupcakes and cookies — and took lots of time. In the end we made only $35 or $40. I was talking with my husband that night and I said, ‘There has to be a better way to raise money for these charities. So that’s how we came up with DonateNaturally.com,” which carries the tagline “fundraise while you shop.”
Adds Von Teichman, “This is a great way of providing your family with healthy options for the same price as the organic grocery store but you’re also able to give back to charities, schools — any cause of your choice.”
To date, DonateNaturally.com has raised over $31,000 for hundreds of charities, among them Muscular Dystrophy Canada, Scouts Canada, Breakfast Clubs of Canada and Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, plus myriad private, Catholic and public elementary and secondary schools, daycares and sports teams.
As Von Teichman explains, allowing customers to direct where the charitable funds from their orders go promotes engagement and loyalty. And while cutting quarterly cheques to multiple agencies is a lot more work than simply writing a few, Von Teichman argues it’s worth it.
“We all have different causes near and dear to our hearts, so this way, it’s your choice where your money is donated. It does put more work on our plate logistically, but it’s not about that. It’s about giving back. That’s what this is all about.”
As Von Teichman explains it, DonateNaturally.com is as concerned with the quality of goods it sells as it is with the charitable component, which may help explain its success in a hugely competitive retail space with thin profit margins.
Every one of its roughly 1,300 products must be natural, organic, and free of additives or ingredients tallied on the site’s “no-no” list, which includes everything from artificial colors and flavors to nefarious — and in the case of foie gras, unethical — components such as microparticularized whey protein derived fat substitute, potassium bromate and sodium sulfite.
“The no-no list came about with just a little bit of research,” Von Teichman says. “There is tons of information out there about what is good and not good to be putting into your body or is not good for the environment. No pesticides, no herbicides — the list goes on and on. In many ways we are coming back to the old school way of eating.”
Von Teichman agrees that author Michael Pollan’s advice not to eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food or that contains ingredients you can't pronounce is an excellent baseline strategy for 21st century grocery shopping.
“Plus I am a big fan of friend-vetting and Mommy-vetting so we love those sorts of recommendations from customers and staff,” adds Von Teichman, mother to 11-year-old Conner and eight-year-old Chloë.
Von Teichman’s husband Matthew von Teichman, meanwhile, operates Grandview Farms, a humane, organic beef and pork farm in rural Thornbury, Ontario which supplies many of DonateNaturally.com’s animal products.
She continues: “As long as a product conforms to our standard and doesn’t violate one of our no-nos — ingredients that are words you can’t pronounce or are bad for the environment — then it’s good to go. We also strive to feature Canadian products. Plus things have to be yummy. You can be as healthy as you want, but if something isn’t tasty it’s not going to work. So local, organic, environmentally friendly, natural, these are all our concerns.”
At the moment, DonateNaturally.com offers its own next-day service of perishables and non-perishables across the GTA plus Oakville, Mississauga, Brampton, Richmond Hill, Vaughan and Markham. Customers outside those areas can receive non-perishables via Canada Post delivery.
“I would say most of our customers are urban, and their numbers really depend,” Von Teichman says. “Some people order on a weekly basis, some order twice a week or do a great big shop once a month. We have a variety of customers. Hopefully the more we get out there, the more people across the province and country will get onboard.”
Because DonateNaturally.com runs as an e-retailer — operating only a fulfillment centre and not a bricks-and-mortar store — costs are low. Advertising and marketing is strictly word of mouth. And while Von Teichman says she has considered franchising the business, nothing is firm at the moment. Besides, she is too consumed with DonateNaturally.com’s current fundraising drive.
“It’s a natural BBQ meat drive,” she says. “Same idea where you can buy organic meats — hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages — but in this case 20 percent of the order gets donated to the charity or school of your choice.
“We want to be able to give back to our community, to our schools, to our causes. The giving back is the important part. We’re just so excited about this. It’s a small big world out there if you know what I mean,” Von Teichman chuckles. “I am so happy to be able to be part of everything.”adidas NMD Human Race