Here in our little corner of New Hampshire, Baudelaire is lucky to be part of a community in which doing well in business and doing good go hand in hand. No, this isn't a grammar lesson. It's us taking a moment to share what we've learned over the past three decades about making an organization successful by giving back.
Over the years, that has taken many different forms within our company. For instance, we have an active employee volunteer program, and we also donate thousands of dollars in product to groups working to improve education, healthcare, the arts, the environment, and more.
In recent years, there’s one project we’ve been extremely excited to engage in. It’s a program called StartSmart that grew out of a community-wide research project conducted by Monadnock United Way (MUW) to identify the greatest challenges facing our region.
Baudelaire founder, Joe Marks, says the results of that survey showed that, “We need to focus on the youngest among us, and if we can help get them on a level playing field, the whole community will benefit.”
MUW’s research determined that supporting children ages zero to five would have the greatest return on investment, because that’s such a critical period of development. “The very best data point for telling whether a child is going to go to college or not is just to ask their kindergarten teacher,” Marks says.
Since 90 percent of brain development happens before the age of five, it can be incredibly hard for young children to catch up later on if they’ve missed out on learning opportunities in the early years. With that in mind, a group of business leaders from across the Monadnock region gathered together to brainstorm ways to support the parents they employ, as well as their children.
They realized that they were already spending on gifts for employees when a new baby was born. Marks recalls the next thought was: “What if we could create a birth gift that was also a brain development tool?”
That idea grew into an initiative called Impact Monadnock, which provides families with specialized materials to stimulate the minds of young children. Not only did the original group of business leaders decide to do this for their employees, but they also wanted to take it a step further, providing the same care for at-risk children in the community.
“We thought, let’s add a little cost to this gift and have a portion go towards enrolling one of these identified at-risk children in this thing called Imagination Library,” Marks explains. That program, a nonprofit (created by Dolly Parton, of all people) sends children an age-appropriate book every month for the first five years of life.
“Not only are they hopefully learning to read and getting their brains stimulated, but they’re also getting some pride of ownership and a sense of continuity in their life,” Marks describes.
Enrollment is run through the MUW website, but the initiative also needed to address the practical issue of assembling and sending out materials. Since Baudelaire already has an extensive setup for assembling and shipping packages, we volunteered to become the hub through which everything is processed.
The packages children receive include items like classic board books and Vroom cards, which encourage conversation between family members. “That early brain development really builds to the desire to learn,” Marks says.
Getting these powerful packages ready for local families is something the whole staff at Baudelaire takes part in. “They’re hands-on involved in it, and I think it is good for us to have things we do together that aren’t just about making money…Every time I go out and grab one of those boxes to take it to the post office, everybody’s excited,” Marks describes.
For Marks, doing good in the community seems like a no-brainer. “If I see something and I’m like, ‘This is going to make the lives of a large number of people in our community better and easier,’ why wouldn’t I do it?”
That belief has led him to take on many community roles from past to present, including serving as president of MUW and being a founding member of the Monadnock Food Co-op. It has also involved efforts to make Baudelaire as environmentally responsible as possible by using all recycled packaging, as well as implementing solar power.
In turn, all these little ways of giving back are also good for business. Our aim is to continue to show other organizations the incredible return on investment they can see by taking on similar projects. “We have to find kind of win-win strategies,” Marks notes.
Right now, helping children across the region, StartSmart is an absolute win and one that Baudelaire is proud to be a part of.