Two lighting retailers were among the nominees recently announced for the Dallas Market Center’s  second annual Next Big Give  contest, which honors retailers who give back to their communities. Capitol Lighting  in Boca Raton, FL, was nominated for its recent work with Habitat for Humanity , while A. Dodson’s  in Suffolk, VA, was chosen for its “Round Up” program, which allows customers to round their purchase up to the nearest dollar and donate it to charity.
Capitol Lighting has been working with Habitat for Humanity for many years, says CEO Ken Lebersfeld, and it’s a cause close to Capitol’s heart.
“Being in a home-related industry, this is just a way for us to give back to those who are less fortunate,” Lebersfeld says. “We think home ownership is important for our society, so it just feels right.”
Most recently, the showroom started the “Making Lives Brighter ” campaign , where customers who brought in old lighting fixtures for Habitat were given a coupon toward the purchase of a new fixture. Capitol Lighting also got a little help publicizing the campaign thanks to a PSA ad  featuring Rob Van Winkle, aka Vanilla Ice. The campaign kicked off late last year, and Capitol Lighting recently celebrated its 100th fixture donation.
Showroom owners and employees also participated in a Habitat for Humanity build last fall, which Lebersfeld describes as a rewarding experience.
“With Habitat, the really nice thing is they show you who you’re building the house for, and it really makes you appreciate what it means for people without a home to get a home, especially the children,” he says. “It’s really gratifying to do this kind of work and see what this is adding to someone’s life.”
While Capitol Lighting focuses on helping one organization, A. Dodson’s gift and home décor shop takes a different approach by letting customers vote on which charity will be supported each month. Director of Marketing Kim Glover says A. Dodson’s has always been passionate about helping the community, but store owners felt like they could do more.
“Charities were always stopping by and asking for donations, and we’d be scrambling around last minute to find something,” Glover says. “We never really felt like we were making a big impact.”
That dilemma spawned the idea for “A. Dodson’s Round Up,” a program where customers are asked if they’d like to round up their purchase to the nearest dollar. The extra money, which is also matched by A. Dodson’s, is donated to that month’s featured charity, which is voted on in a Facebook poll.
“We have a phenomenal Facebook community of very engaged users,” Glover says. “So every month, we post a poll with three charities and our Facebook fans get to choose.”
A. Dodson’s Facebook page  has over 2,500 fans, and the monthly poll gets between 200 and 300 votes. Glover says almost all customers choose to donate, and the total amount donated by the program each month ranges from $200 to $500. But charities get more than just money, Glover says, including those that don’t get picked.
“Even if your charity doesn’t get picked, they still get a lot of attention on our Facebook page,” Glover says. “Another nice side effect of the program is that it gets the charity’s name out there, and we’ve had many customers become volunteers after hearing about an organization, which is greater than any monetary donation we could ever give.”
The two winners of the Next Big Give contest, which will be announced on Feb. 14, will receive a complimentary trip to the March market (Mar. 22-25, 2012) including round-trip airfare and three nights hotel stay. The winners will also be recognized during that market at The Inspired Event, a cocktail party benefitting a charitable cause. A full list of nominees is available on the Next Big Give website .