AUSTIN (KXAN) — An employee known for his fundraising efforts at Whole Foods’ flagship store in downtown Austin is hoping to see a spike in donations this month, thanks in part to some spikes on his head.
The Austin-based grocery chain is raising money through March for their Whole Planet Foundation, which provides microloans to budding entrepreneurs all over the world, and part of the drive includes cashiers asking if customers want to donate.
Nathaniel Prosser is one of them, but his methods to encourage philanthropy are a little unorthodox.
“I thought, ‘This is going to be an interesting experience shopping today,'” Maria Montoya Hohenstein said. She waited at Prosser’s checkout while other customers came up to take pictures of and with the employee. “You see mohawks,” one shopper said, “but he’s really got a flair, shall we say.”
Prosser is hard to miss.
“I see this guy most times when I’m in here shopping,” Will Mederski said after checking out through his line. “I know I’ve seen the spikes; I don’t know if I’ve seen the full rainbow.”
His hairdo sticks out — literally. The foot-and-a-half-long multi-colored spikes rise above his coworkers’ heads and, like a beacon, draw customers to his line. “It took 45 minutes to do today,” he said of his hair. That time is not going to waste — he’s using the ‘do to his advantage, bringing in donations for the company’s cause.
Prosser has been in Austin the last couple years after a few at a store in Arizona. His first year soliciting donations here, “I raised $2,300,” he said. “And then last year I doubled that and raised $4,600.” His goal for this month is $5,000, one customer at a time.
“And then every dollar you donate,” he explained to one shopper, “you get to vote whether I shave the mohawk or let it grow.”
Prosser is in his fourth year of his “Hawk it or hack it” campaign. The idea started a few years back, when he was just a few hundred dollars shy of his goal. He started telling customers he would shave his beard if they donated, and it worked.
“And I shaved off my beard,” he said, “and then people voted if I grew a mullet or a mohawk, and thank gosh it was a mohawk, because I don’t know if I could do the mullet.”
Before Christmas, raising money for the Central Texas Food Bank, Prosser asked his customers, many of them loyal to him during fundraisers, to vote on whether or not to shave his mustache.
“So thus, the shave the ‘stache,” he explained to a shopper, pointing to his bare upper lip.
But the ‘hawk has stayed, getting longer each year. Last year’s vote tally was a landslide, and if the first day of fundraising is any indication, this year will be, too.
“It causes people to ask a lot of questions: What are you doing, what’s this for, why are you doing this?” David Hollie, the store team leader, said.
And it attracts people to his line to ask those questions, including Veronica Hernandez and her daughter, Reese, who turned three this weekend. “As soon as she saw the rainbow hair, she insisted we wait in line to see him,” Hernandez said. “So we did, even though all the other registers were empty.”
“It’s easy to kind of recognize and say, ‘Oh, that’s the guy who’s doing something,'” Mederski said.
Over the years he’s done a lot: Whole Foods clocks his contributions to various fundraisers at more than $77,000. He hopes to reach $100,000 — that is, as long as his ‘hawk can hack it.
“I love doing it,” Prosser said, “and it helps people around the world.”