Author Timothy Pina once said, “Philanthropy is not about money…it’s about feeling the pain of others and caring enough about their needs to help.” In other words, philanthropy, to effect real change, must go deeper than throwing funds at the surface of a problem; it must attempt to address the roots of an issue. But how does someone—whether an individual, a small business, or a corporation—find the act of giving that makes sense for them and effects the kind of change they would like to see in the world?
At Mountain Rose Herbs, that was one of the first questions we asked ourselves when we were just a fledgling herbal company. The answer, for us, comes back to the heart of Pina’s statement. Rather than asking, “What is a good cause?” we ask, “What pain can we address, what makes sense for us as a purveyor of herbs?” Put like that, the answer became clear for our company. We are plant people at Mountain Rose Herbs (MRH). Botanicals are more than our business; they are our passion. We give in ways that take care of the plants. To do so, we necessarily invest in the clean water and healthy soil those plants require, which means the changes we fight for are good for people and the planet in general.
Philanthropy has always been part and parcel of our company model, but it has evolved as we’ve grown, and we think there are some lessons we’ve learned along the way that might be useful to others. First, this is a very individual process; the pain that we can address may be dramatically different than what you, your family, or your business cares about. The most effective philanthropic actions are usually those that are the truest to who we are. For instance, in 2020, we were a recipient of a Corporate Philanthropy Award from the Portland Business Journal and when you look at the five winners, you will see a wide array of charitable giving going to health, education, youth, housing, research, and more, all of which make excellent sense at a personal level for the companies doing the giving.
We have found that local community organizations have served our philanthropic goals better in many cases than national ones. We now have remarkable working relationships with local nonprofits like Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild because we have seen evidence in our own backyard over many years that they share our values and goals, and most importantly, that they act on them in tangible ways.
Whatever passion, time, and wisdom you have to give this world, it is infinitely valuable.
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