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Some inspirations for giving have been hatched at a kitchen table.Now featured on the shelves at Whole Foods and other groceries in southern California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii, Margo’s Bark Root Beer is the brainchild of entrepreneurial dad Tim Youd.What started as his son’s school science project to create carbonation has grown into an all-natural microbrewed soda that saves dogs. The family dog,Margo, adorns the label. “I like my [giving] model because I’m working within my community,” says Youd, who lists 16 dog rescue groups and shelters on his website.“When you write a check to a big charity, you might wonder where it’s going…The Internet is about getting things where they need to be.” Another “kitchen table” product— musician, writer and political gadfly Kinky Friedman’s Private Stock salsas—supports Friedman’s Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch near Medina, Texas.

At over 700 Maurices stores nationwide, going to the dogs (and cats) is considered a good thing for employees and customers alike. Partnering with the ASPCA,Maurices—a division of Dress Barn Inc.—dedicated the month of September to “Rescues & Runways,” putting on pet-oriented fashion shows to raise money and collect supplies for local shelters and rescue groups.Maurices has pledged to raise $100,000 for the ASPCA and its national shelter outreach program.

“We are a 78-year-old company,” says Maurices’ John Schroeder, senior vice president of stores, headquartered in Duluth,Minn.“We think of this effort as hometown pride.” Schroeder notes the recent double whammy of falling financial markets and rising home foreclosures, which has caused a surge in pet surrenders at shelters.“Animal shelters are really struggling right now ... We knew this would be a great giving opportunity for our customers and our associates.”

This method of giving is a growing segment of the estimated $300 billion Americans donate to charities annually. As with any other type of donation, consumers who participate in embedded giving should use common sense, advises San Francisco attorney Gene Takagi, author and publisher of the Nonprofit Law Blog. “Anybody can put a sign up saying proceeds go to charity,” Takagi says.He encourages shoppers to call the designated charity to check that a joint program exists. They may also want to research how much of their donation ultimately benefits the charity.

For the nonprofit on the receiving end of embedded giving, it means more dreams can come true. As Jeanine Konopelski, national director of marketing communications at Canine Companions for Independence in Santa Rosa, Calif., says, contributing even a tiny part of the $45,000 price tag to train just one service dog is incredibly meaningful. “Not everyone can make a big direct financial gift, but if you can buy what you need and the charity you support benefits as well, you are making a difference.”

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 57: Nov/Dec 2009
Rayne Wolfe, a journalist, spent a decade covering philanthropy; she is currently at work on her first book.
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