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Mar 2011
Altruism You Can Wear

At Fortune magazine, Julie Schlosser and Lee Clifford worked as writers and editors for nearly a decade. They covered philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and radical thinkers working to improve the world. “We couldn’t help but be inspired,” says the pair. In 2009 Clifford and Schlosser packed up and left Fortune to cofound Altruette, a business that sells “charm bracelets with a philanthropic twist.”

Every charm represents a different nonprofit, and 50 percent of net profits from the sale of each charm go directly to the nonprofit it represents. When you buy and wear an Altruette charm bracelet, you not only financially support different nonprofits, but also raise awareness of their work. Partner organizations include established nonprofits like the Humane Society and DonorsChoose.org as well as smaller and newer nonprofits like Girls Write Now, which helps nascent women writers develop their craft through a specialized curriculum that includes mentorship from professional writers. As the website puts it, Altruette offers a way to look good and do good: “Altruette was formed to create beautiful objects to further beautiful objectives.”

Each charm comes with a “cause card” that describes the nonprofit that the charm represents, and each charm is designed to symbolize the work of its organization: a sea turtle for the Sea Turtle Conservancy, or a star-topped Christmas tree for Toys for Tots. Says Schlosser, “We want to see granddaughters as well as grandmothers wearing bracelets loaded with the causes they love.”

And this is perhaps the most powerful aspect of Altruette: the charms help to tell a story of conviction. As journalists, both Schlosser and Clifford are familiar with the power of story. “For decades, women have worn charms to tell their personal stories,” says Clifford. Through Altruette, “they also have the power to tell the stories of the causes they represent.”