Say All the Cornball Stuff | A Guest Blog from Craig Jones

Whole Planet FoundationProsperity Campaign, Whole Foods Market Stores

This guest blog comes from Craig Jones, a Team Trainer from Whole Foods Market in Andover, MA. Thank you for sharing your thoughts during this year’s Annual Prosperity Campaign, Craig!

If you shop at any Whole Foods Market store during these first two weeks of March, in all likelihood you’re going to be asked if you’d like to donate to something called the Whole Planet Foundation. Full disclosure, I work for Whole Foods and I will be doing some of the asking.

Whole Planet Foundation provides microloans all over the world to people who are attempting to start a business and lift themselves out of poverty, feed their families and chart a future course. Here are few stats: The average first loan is $179, 88% of the recipients are women, the payback rate is 96%, 100% of donations go directly to loan recipients.

Whole Planet Foundation started in 2005, after Whole Foods Market’s CEO John Mackey met Muhammad Yunus at an entrepreneurship conference. You may remember that Dr. Yunus won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for creating Grameen Bank as a way to provide these small (micro) loans to the world’s poor. The announcement said “Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is one such means.”

It may be true that the “not today” or “no, thanks” or “I’m all set” comments are a higher percentage of register transactions, but plenty of people are saying yes to adding a dollar or even five or ten (or rounding up their purchase!). We only have a few seconds with each customer, so there isn’t always time for me to go into detail about how the foundation has existed since 2005, or how 100% of donations go directly to the mission of empowering women to start their own businesses.

Anyway, mid-afternoon, a woman came through my register and said yes, sure she’d throw in a dollar, and what’s it all about anyway? When I explained what the foundation was, she exclaimed, “Wow that’s really cool!”

I replied, “You know, $179 can change someone’s life, and you don’t see a 96% repayment rate even in the United States.” I was thinking about how a bad day for most of us is having to deal with snow shoveling or having to delay that weekend trip to the Cape or running out of ice cream in the fridge. Some might drop $179 on a single dinner.

As I was speaking, I could feel myself getting emotional, on the verge of tears. When the customer left, I had to quickly compose myself because there were more customers. I felt deeply grateful that I work for a company that could do something that moves me enough to make me nearly cry during the work day.

It’s hard to ask people that one more question, after saying thanks for spending your money here at Whole Foods today. “Would you like to spend a little more on something, the results of which you will never see?”

This isn’t meant to be a paean to Whole Foods Market. I’m just taking a moment to express personal gratitude that the place I draw my paycheck and my benefits also has plenty to be proud of. See, that’s the thing about gratitude. There’s writing about it, maybe in a more abstract way, and there’s genuinely feeling it. Most likely, just underneath where you’re looking, something can be found to be grateful for, if you just look hard enough, if you look with the searching eyes of gratitude.

A fellow Team Member said of Whole Planet Foundation, “This is almost too corny to say, but we’re not just selling groceries, we’re selling dreams.” Yes, I said, yes, say the cornball stuff! Yes, yes, I’m grateful, yes, thanks for another day of life never promised to me, yes, yes, and yes to all of it.

Learn more about the Annual Prosperity Campaign and join us in March.