5Qs: Founder of Art Van Furniture Speaks on Importance of Charity Work


Art Van Elslander, founder of Art Van Furniture Inc. in Warren, says success often doesn’t happen overnight. Rather, success comes from delivering a consistent marketing and public relations program that, in the case of the Art Van Charity Challenge, helped raise more than $22 million for nonprofit organizations.

1. DDN: What prompted the Art Van Charity Challenge?

We were looking for a unique and special way in 2009 to recognize the 50th anniversary of Art Van Furniture. A member of my Brain Trust came up with a simple idea to give $1 million to 50 charities in Michigan, focusing on children, health, and human services — and the Art Van Charity Challenge was born. The impact has been significant; the matching component of the program has been enthusiastically embraced, with contributions exceeding  $22 million to date.

2. DDN: How has the Charity Challenge evolved?

In 2014, Cindy Crawford graciously agreed to becoame the Art Van Charity Challenge Ambassador. We also took the program online with CrowdRise; this has resulted in a friendly competition among the charities, and allows them to spread the word on social media sites.  Now in its eighth year, the program has expanded beyond Michigan to become a regional initiative, and in 2014 and 2015 alone, the Art Van Charity Challenge raised over $3.4 million for participating charities.

3. DDN: How can people others get more involved in the Charity Challenge?

Everyone can give something — whether it’s a donation, or sharing on social media and in conversations. It has been immensely rewarding to see the generosity of so many people, and it just keeps getting better every year.  I would encourage people to visit the Art Van Charity Challenge website to learn about the remarkable work being done by this year’s charities.

4. DDN: Can you describe how charities have benefited from the challenge?

Many charities really got their foothold by becoming part of the Art Van Charity Challenge family – — not with grant money alone, but though exposure thatwhich resulted in new donors. The Art Van Charity Challenge has really been a game-changer for some wonderful grass roots charities throughout the Midwest, and we are delighted to be a part of that positive change.

5: DDN: What would you recommend for other organizations planning a similar challenge?

A challenge is an effective and engaging way to make the most of every donor dollar. Use every opportunity to spread the word.

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