Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Featured Charity: Best Friends Animal Society

I was reminded of the great work of Best Friends Animal Society while looking for a charity to recommend to my 10-year-old niece. My wife and I bought her a TisBest card for Christmas and wanted to give her a starting point for her search. I thought of her passion for helping animals as I read about the group of animal lovers who founded Best Friends as a small animal sanctuary 25 years ago. Their pilot program rescuing dogs and cats on their way to "E-Day" (euthanasia) led them to build a haven for animals at Angel Canyon in Southern Utah. Today, their 33,000-acre ranch is the nation's largest animal sanctuary for homeless animals.

On any given day, the sanctuary houses about 2,000 dogs, cats, horses, burros, birds, rabbits, and an assortment of other creatures. Most of the animals have special physical or behavioral needs. Through the care of Best Friends' veterinarians, trainers, and caregivers, most of these animals - approximately three out of four - are able to go to good homes after just a few weeks. Animals who are unable to be adopted because of major trauma, age, or chronic illness find a permanent home at the sanctuary.

Best Friends Animal Society has been a leader in the "No More Homeless Pets" campaign: a spay/neuter, adoption, and public awareness program to bring an end to the killing of homeless animals in shelters. They have partnered with organizations across the nation to provide assistance and training to groups looking to create "no-kill" communities. And they are seeing results. According to the website, the number of animals euthanized in Utah shelters since 1999 has decreased by 30%.

Best Friends provides a whole host of other services including adoption, spay/neuter, and educational programs; the Best Friends Network; and Best Friends, the nation's largest-interest animal magazine. I encourage you to hop, trot, prance, or strut over to the Best Friends website ( where you'll find incredibly cute pictures of the animals they work with and important information on their work.

We at TisBest congratulate Best Friends Animal Society on 25 years of building a better world through kindness to animals.

Chad Edwards
Charity & Community Relations Manager

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Erik Marks, TisBest Founder, Honored as a Seattle Executive Recruiting 40 Over 40

Last week, TisBest founder, Erik Marks, was honored by Seattle Executive Recruiting as one of the 40 people they "admire for their influence and accomplishments and who have emerged from their experiences with integrity, style, and gravitas," over the age of 40 years old.

The team here at TisBest was ecstatic to see Erik honored with this much deserved award. You can read Gina Peckman's full article and interview with Erik below or click here to be redirected to the original article. Congrats Erik!

TisBest Founder, Erik Marks, Joins 40 Over 40
by Gina Peckman

I had the pleasure of interviewing Erik Marks as our newest member of our 40 over 40 group. It has been an honor getting to know the founder of such a great social enterprise as TisBest. He was a pleasure to speak with, and I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know him as I did.

Erik is a social entrepreneur, who founded TisBest Philanthropy and the TisBest Charity Gift Card —— a very timely and useful resource for gifts this time of year. . He is a member of Social Venture Partners, volunteers at his local Union Gospel Mission and supports the Nature Conservancy and Sierra Club.

Erik also serves as general counsel at EDG Commercial Real Estate, a medical real estate services firm.Prior to that, he was a business transactions attorney at Cairncross & Hempelmann and Perkins Coie. He graduated with highest honors from Williams College (Philosophy) and Harvard Law School, and is married living with his wife, 2 stepdaughters, 2 cats and a volatile quantity of fish in West Seattle.

How did you earn your first dollar?
My sister and I ran a lemonade stand. It was a great little business at a dime a cup, until our wholesale supplier (Mom) started invoicing us. Our mom wanted us to learn lessons about business, and we did. Among other things we learned that when marginal income decreases, hours worked also decrease.

What do you appreciate about being over 40?
I think the best thing is a changing perspective on time. I am more willing to take on long term projects. When I was 34, I decided to leave my career as a lawyer. At the time I gave myself 3 years to try out something new. Well, I am still trying something new 8 years later! I have made this interesting and counterintuitive observation: a 70 year old person is more likely to take on a 50-year project than is a 20 year old person.

What or who inspired you to get where you are today?
I had a couple of friends who started very small and grew their own businesses - Chris Martin at CleanScapes and Scott Shapiro at Eagle Rock Ventures. They both worked at large and respected organizations and then made a conscious choice to work for themselves instead. When I made the decision to leave the law practice, these friends counseled me not to just find a “job” but to do what I was passionate about. Today I am thrilled to have spent my time creating and nurturing the TisBest Charity Gift card concept.

What advice do you have for the under 40 crowd?
Opportunities are like investments - they both grow at a compound rate. We all know what that means for money - life is finite, so invest early. Opportunities follow the same growth curve. If you want to pursue something in your professional life, get started early so that the opportunities in your new field have an opportunity to grow. If you are in a career path that you want to change, change now so that you can start creating opportunities in your new professional field. Waiting to change careers has a major cost because opportunity follows a compound growth curve.

What are you passionate about?
Surfing and fishing. But you probably want a “serious answer.” I get pretty wound up about internal consistency in our legal and moral systems. An example would the state lottery. Supposedly the State regulates gambling because it is not good for people (like illegal drugs and prostitution). And at the same time the State runs the lottery - and not only that the State has now started ADVERTISING the lottery, and the message in the advertising focuses on the value of the winnings!!!! This makes me sick - the government is on the one hand saying that gambling is bad and regulating casinos and on the other hand the government is running its own lottery and ENCOURAGING people to participate. Yea, that gets me passionate.

How do you balance work and life?
Still trying to figure that out! I will go to my grave trying to figure that out! The best avenue is a continuum between your personal life and your work life, combining the two.

What other career would you like to try?
Navy Seal.

What other person would you like to meet – living or dead?
President Obama – he is intellectually and political honest. Rare in a politician.

What superpower do you want?
The ability to remain calm at all times.

Favorite books?
Anything by Hemingway or Steinbeck. I have read For Whom the Bell Tolls at least four times. And East of Eden is a great book - it teaches you to not complain about your life. The closing scene puts tears in my eyes just to think about it.

Guilty pleasure?
My gas guzzling camping truck -12 miles to the gallon is pretty hard to justify, so I try to use it only when a regular car will not work. It is set up so I can drive out on any river bar and have everything I need to camp right there with me.

What is your favorite quote?
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
—Teddy Roosevelt

Published by Gina Peckman

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Charity Gift Cards Changing Giving? We Think So...

Want to know more about why TisBest exists and why it matters? Read Erik Marks' thoughts on the topic in Kristi Heim's article in The Seattle Times entitled "Q&A with TisBest Founder on Charity Gift Cards." Read the full article here:

Erik addresses many of the common questions surrounding TisBest and the Charity Gift Card category including:
  • Why are charity gift cards better than direct donations?
  • TisBest has less than 300 charities to choose from, why not thousands or millions?
  • How does TisBest find organizations for the list?
  • What is the $1.95 transaction fee for?
One of my favorite responses is Erik's answer to the question, "How are commercial products like charity gift cards changing philanthropy?" He talks about the "democratization" of philanthropy that allows individual donors to have a greater direct impact on the causes they believe in. Plus, he says, "It's making philanthropy more fun and more accessible to more people."

The article reminded me of a great talk by Katherine Fulton entitled "You are the future of Philanthropy." If you have 12 minutes to spare, it's worth seeing:

TED plug: is a fascinating website with hundreds of riveting talks from leading thinkers and inspiring world changers.

Thanks for reading and giving a better world,
Chad Edwards
Charity and Community Relations Manager

Friday, December 11, 2009

We are in outstanding company according to

Yesterday, named its list of the Five Best Gift Cards in the United States. The best gift cards, by category, are:

Category-Best Gift Card

Retail: Costco


Bank: American Express

Restaurant: Darden Restaurants (Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Capital Grille)

Charity: TisBest Charity Gift Cards

We’re pleased to be included in such outstanding company. After all, this is only our third holiday season in operation. In that short time we’ve not only been instrumental in creating an entirely new category (charity gift cards) but we’ve been identified by as being the best in class.

Our dream of replacing gifts of “more stuff” with gifts of “more meaning” is really taking root. We have seen a tremendous increase in demand for our charity gift cards each year – we are tracking at 2.5x as many cards this year over last – and we have every reason to believe that growth will continue for years to come. That bodes well for the charities we support, for the landfills that don’t fill quite as quickly, and for all the important causes that are funded.

Best wishes during this wonderful holiday season,

Jon Siegel, executive director

Thursday, December 10, 2009

'Tis the Elves That Make The Cards

People often ask how TisBest produces and sends out hundreds or thousands of charity gift cards each day - each with a different image and code - and each packaged in a greeting card with a unique and personal message. (Our error rate is less than 0.1%)

The answer is elves hard at work.

Seriously though, we do it with hard work, attention to detail and a really cool technology system that we developed. We work in a loft space that Jim Phillips (on our Board of Directors and President at Berschauer Phillips Construction Company) provides to TisBest Philanthropy without charge. Thank you Jim!

The photo above shows our core year-around TisBest team. From left to right are: Erik Marks, Chad Edwards, Breanna Edwards and Jon Siegel. Chad and Breanna are not related - it’s just a really random coincidence that they have the same last name. During the holidays we expand our team a bit, and everyone works around the clock to get the right cards into the right envelopes and ship everything on time. In fact, at this point we have gotten so efficient that about 50% of the Charity Gift Cards ordered are shipping on the same day they are ordered!

If you are one of the wonderful people who have already ordered your TisBest Charity Gift Cards, Thank You! If you haven’t ordered yours yet, what are you waiting for?