02/01/2013 02:24 pm ET Updated Apr 03, 2013

Money Well Spent?

For JobRaising Challenge
by Beth Tiewater, Director of Projects and Resources, Baker Industries

When you donate to a charity, do you know how your money is spent?

Before you give, check out the charity you're donating to on Guidestar. Look at their IRS Form 990 for the last few years. If you want to contribute to local causes, contact them directly. Conduct a site visit and talk with the staff. Is the office fancy or functional?

Consider this: if a charity uses more money for salaries and operating expenses than it spends on those it exists to help, that could signal mismanagement and a loss of direction in meeting its mission. Beware of organizations that move from service to having an altogether different purpose: to persist.

Baker Industries, headquartered in suburban Philadelphia, was started by Charles and Louise Baker in 1980. Their son, Justin, has epilepsy as well as learning disabilities that prevent him from succeeding in the mainstream workplace. Unable to find a place for high-functioning people with disabilities to work, they decided to start Baker Industries. With two workers, they opened a direct mail and outsourcing business in their garage to fill the void for high-functioning disabled adults in the workforce.

The business soon found a market for its services and grew to the Malvern facility. A second Baker work site opened in Philadelphia in 1988 which employs ex-offenders and recovering substance abusers. Baker's work rehabilitation program offers segments of our population who have difficulty getting jobs a chance to learn a work ethic in an atmosphere similar to the regular marketplace. The premise is that there is no better setting in which to teach good work habits than a real place of work.

Back in 1980, Charlie and Weezie made two key policy decisions: they would not take government funds to support the operation and they would not personally gain financially from Baker Industries. More than 30 years later, that's how it works at Baker Industries: they don't take any government money. Nearly 70% of the budget comes from the work done for customers. No one on Baker's staff makes six figures. The executive offices are in a warehouse, which means staff interacts every single day with the people they serve.

"Public service, from the action of the humblest voter to the most exalted office, cannot be made a mere matter of hire and salary. The supporters of our institutions must be inspired by a more dominant motive than a conviction that their actions are going to be profitable. We cannot lower our standards to what we think will pay, but we must raise them to what we think is right."
~Calvin Coolidge

To learn more about Baker Industries, go to

To support Baker Industries in the JobRaising Challenge, go to