Often, it seems like not a day goes by at Avalon Glassworks, a boutique glass blowing studio in Seattle that creates hand-made art and paperweights, without being approached for a donation.  Sound all too, familiar?

Even though, Avalon Glassworks would like to support every donation request, it is simply not feasible.  How could they possibly support all these causes?  How could they find some way to give back and increase brand loyalty at the same time?

Then owners Jon and Shannon Felix had an idea.  It all started a few years back at a fundraiser for the Museum of the North Beach, located in Moclips, WA, the most northwestern town one can reach in the continental United States.

Jon and Shannon were invited to host a table and vend at the museum as part of a fundraiser that included us making a special limited edition glass float. The special float was sold and the proceeds of the float sales were split between Avalon and the museum.   It was successful because the community is small yet strong and has many collectors of marine and maritime items.  In fact, it was so successful that they participated in the event again the next year and now, it has become annual tradition with a newly designed float for each year.

It did not take long for Richard and Shannon to begin working on similar program of special yearly limited edition glass apples benefiting the food bank shortly after meeting Richard Jump, the Exec Director of the White Center Food Bank.   And it didn’t take long to see the positive impact on brand loyalty.

Now, Avalon Glassworks  sells the apples in their gallery and online all year long dividing the proceeds with the food bank each month.   Jon says, “The hope is that the goodness and sense of wellness that goes along with making a donation and getting a beautiful object cements a bond with customers, causing them to purchase more, more often. Our business relies heavily on repeat customers and direct referrals so we’re also relying on the publicity that comes along with being known as generous merchants.”

The White Center Food Bank uses the funds to buy food to distribute to the hungry and to buy other supplies that supplement normal food donations.

Although there is no room for profit when donating half the revenue sales to a charitable cause, it’s been a great program for building customer loyalty and overall goodwill.   And it can make a meaningful difference to the charitable causes.  For example Food Lifeline purchased a number of apples last year, including 16 at at one time to use as gifts and awards. That many apples adds up to a large check for the food bank plus every apple given out by Food Lifeline includes promotional materials to encourage the recipients to buy other items.

As word spread, Avalon Glassworks found themselves inundated with donation requests from many worthy causes including other food banks in the area.  Food Life Line devised a plan to purchase the apples for resale subsequently buying 16 apples for an upcoming event.

Avalon tries to support every request from a school or 501(c)3 charitable organization,  if the charity or volunteer is willing to complete a formal donation request and bring it to the  store.  They have supported a variety of causes including:

  • Creating a series of cat shaped paperweights for Art For Animals Sake, a Seattle charity that teaches children compassion for animals through art;
  • Westside Baby, which is a resource for families in the White Center & West Seattle area that focuses on  filling in the gaps that the food banks can’t cover with such items as:  diapers, bike helmets, car seats, etc.;
  • Last year, Avalon Glassworks made small cupcake for a raffle event, benefiting WestSide Baby.  WestSide Baby essentially commissioned Avalon Glassworks to make a special item that would be included in the package of gifts attendees to their event would receive plus the additional potential reward of a pendant donated by Wyatt’s Jewelers for the lucky person whose glass cupcake box had a jewelry box inside instead of a glass piece. As is often the case, Avalon Glassworks collaborated with other business philanthropists, Weiss Jewelry, to sponsor the event.   This is a great example of the collaboration that takes place between local businesses.   This event, was also successful enough that Westside Baby has asked them to participate, again.  Next time, they will be using a petit four teacake type model for the glass art.
  • Creating a yearly Special Edition Ornament benefiting the Seattle Public Library Foundation. Every year leading into the holiday shopping season we make a slightly more elaborate and original ornament to be sold as that year’s Special Library Edition. The ornament gets hand signed and numbered and has become a collectible tradition with many local families. Even with margins extremely tight in the competitive ornament market,  the donation to library amounts to $300 each year.

Jon’s strategy to collaborate with the recipient charity and to encourage people to use these items as awards to the many volunteers that help make fundraising events, like charity auctions, possible has paid off.  Sometimes, they make some products, that fall in between their standard sizes and those are made available for donation, too.

Still, they do quite a bit of donating of product to local auctions, including many schools leading to continually being recalled for the next years’ event and being added to new charity events as volunteers spread the word.

To reduce the sheer volume of donations requests, however, Avalon Glassworks requires a formal donation request form be completed.    And, they try to get a live person to come down to the studio, which narrows the sheer number of donation requests.  Part of the key strategy in getting a person to come in the door for the donation is to encourage them to shop, hopefully offsetting some of the value being given away.   Surprisingly, half of the folks asking for donations won’t bother to come in to fill out a form.

Jon says, “Avalon Glassworks has a “Pay it Forward” strategy to their philanthropy.  We are not always stringent about requiring verification that the donated items actually made it to the fundraising auction.  What we hope for, though,  is the possibility that the donation will lead to more full-paying customers and broader awareness of our studio’s commitment to the community, not just more donation requests.”

We believe in the honor system and hope the donations are reaching the right hands and really making a difference.”

Jon’s “Pay it Forward” strategy is working… their business and brand loyalty is growing.  To purchase one of their custom glass pieces, visit www.AvalonGlassworks.com

About Avalon Glassworks:

Avalon Glassworks is a Seattle glass blowing studio, art glass gallery and gift store producing our own unique line of vases, bowls, paperweights, gifts, floats, glass pumpkins and art glass for the home. Our contemporary style of blown glass is bold, bright, and influenced by the Northwest landscape. The most popular signature items are available online here, or we would love to have you visit our West Seattle store to enjoy the amazing array of art glass produced by our team. We are located less than 10 minutes from downtown Seattle, near Alki Beach in West Seattle.

Our glassblowers have years of experience and have worked with the biggest names in the Seattle art glass industry. The art glass products blown at Avalon Glassworks are original, exclusive designs not found elsewhere. When you purchase art glass from us, you are directly supporting the artists in our community. We manufacture our own designer line of original studio art glass and sell directly to the public. Please contact us or phone (206) 937-6369 if you have any questions or stop by our West Seattle store, where you are always welcome to watch us blow glass.