Honing Our Mission: Building A Fair Trade Marketplace

Question: What is our mission?

Board Member A: Eliminate poverty.

B.M. B: Sell, sell, sell!

Is it wrong for a nonprofit to focus on its financial growth? Is ‘marketing’ a dirty word in our line of work?

# # #

We concluded our annual board retreat this past Saturday. One of my big takeaways is that the ‘Why’ of Ten Thousand Villages is to eliminate poverty and the ‘How’ is by building a marketplace for fairly-traded goods.

None of us at Ten Thousand Villages spend any time worrying about how to:

  • Structure a micro loan program
  • Dig a well to sustain a village
  • Lobby Congress to send more aid to XYZ country
  • Align ourselves with Bono’s ONE campaign

Instead, we spend our time running a sustainable retail operation by:

  • Increasing volunteer recruitment & retention
  • Adjusting product mix & inventory tracking
  • Executing remarkable marketing programs
  • Keeping our financials in order
  • Improving customer experience
  • etc.

My Point Being?
A successful retail store in Austin helps eliminate poverty by providing a marketplace for unemployed and underemployed artisans to sell their crafts.

Our store is a job creation program for artisans in the developing world. Sort of like LifeWorks for skilled craftsmen.

Poverty elimination is ends. Selling handicrafts is the means.


ps: This is a shout out to Casa Del Luz. Both a wonderful macrobiotics restaurant and serene location for a board retreat.