NORTH ADAMS -- Brayton Elementary School visual arts teacher Erica Manville puts in one big order for classroom art supplies at the beginning of the school year, and hopes it will be enough to make it through the spring.
Her creative students tend to tear through supplies like candy though, and replacing the stock of costly items, like the popular Scratch Art paper (up to $50 per bulk pack), can be a challenge.
This spring, however, Manville won't have to worry as much. She received a mid-year purchase order of more than $500 worth of needed art supplies, thanks to a new funding agency that helped partner Brayton and other North Adams public elementary schools directly with neighboring Cascade School Supplies Inc.
The organization is called 1% for Public Schools, a national initiative which utilizes the trending "cause marketing" campaign concept.
An organization called 1% for the Planet is a successful example of the strategy. Founded in 2002, the nonprofit agency enlists businesses to commit to donating at least 1 percent of its net revenues to one of the thousands of environmental-cause nonprofits in its registered partner network. To-date, 1% for the Planet reports partnerships with more than 1,200 member companies from 48 countries who have given at least 1 percent of their sales, or more than $100 million, directly to more than 3,300 environmental nonprofits.
For the past five years, Edelman, a public relations firm, has conducted its signature global "goodpurpose" study, which "explores consumer attitudes around social purpose." According to 2012 findings, 76 percent of global consumers believe it's acceptable for brands to support good causes and make money at the same time, which is a 33 percent increase from reports in 2008.
"Consumers want to do business with companies that want to give back," said Cascade School Supplies Vice President Todd E. Shafer. In addition to North Adams, Cascade has also donated to schools in client areas of Taunton, Troy, N.Y. and Union City, N.J.
"I feel we're able to make a difference in education and now have a way to affect positively the schools we work with," said Shafer. "It's the kind of thing I'm seriously hoping for other businesses in [the Berkshires] to get involved in."
1% for Public Schools was founded by retired public school teacher Steve Boyd, who's based in the Live Oak area of Santa Cruz, Calif. The organization became incor-
porated as a nonprofit in 2011, and has since been building its brand and capacity.
Cascade School Supplies, which operates in North Adams and Clarksburg, was the first business to "really want to sign on the dotted line," said Boyd.
"We're really thankful for them to take a leap of faith" on this new idea, he said.
After more widely researching the cause marketing strategy, Shafer said joining 1% for Public Schools made sound business, philanthropic and personal sense.
"We do give to other things and causes, but this is one that's particularly exciting to me because we get to give back to the exact industry that we're involved in," Shafer said, which is exactly the kind of member business that 1% for Public Schools is going for.
Boyd said his group began researching and reaching out nationally to smaller and mid-size school supply and sport equipment companies. Now it's trying to branch out to larger corporations, like food and technology providers who market to families and schools. By doing so, Boyd hopes to see 1% for Public Schools grow to succeed in the same way 1% for the Planet has.
"It's such a beautiful model for giving back," said Boyd. "I think that we're going to be there. Education is in the forefront of people's minds."
The 1% for Public Schools pitch goes as follows: A business that makes $100,000 in profit, for example, donates 1 percent, or $1,000. Eighty percent of that contribution goes to the school(s) of the member's choice. The donor can choose what learning resources or supplies to buy. 1% for Public Schools then makes the purchase and ships materials directly to the school. Money cannot be used to supplement teacher salaries. Member businesses get to use the 1% for Public Schools logo in their own marketing materials, and can either write off their donation as a marketing expense or as a charitable contribution to the 501(c)(3) organization.
The other 20 percent goes to cover the operating costs and marketing expenses of 1% for Public Schools.
For Erica Manville and her students, having extra bottles of glue, boxes of markers and construction paper crayons on the art tables make all the difference.
"I feel really appreciative," said third-grader Alex Girard, while working on designs on donated Scratch Art paper with his classmates Emma Banister, Kelsey Trottier and Emily LaBonte. The three girls agreed.
"It helps us do more art stuff," said Trottier.
"When we have more, we can learn more things," Banister said.
Learn more about 1% for Public Schools at onepercentforpublicschools.org or by calling (650) 690-7430.