Sunday, December 30, 2007

10 Last Minute Ways to Give in 2007

One day left! Here are some last minute ways that you can end 2007 in the giving spirit:

1. Get online and make a last minute gift to your favorite charity. Don't have a favorite? Go to Network For Good, type in a keyword (hunger, cancer, children, arts, literacy... you name it!) and they'll give you some examples of great organizations that would be so happy to receive your donation.

2. Hosting a New Year's Eve soiree? Put out a jar, shoebox, or hat with a sign on top, inviting people to donate to XYZ charity. Get the ball rolling by throwing in a few bucks yourself.

3. Clean a couple of old sweaters, hats, or gloves out of the back of your closet and drop them off at a homeless shelter, place of worship, or your local Goodwill or Salvation Army.

4. Give $10 and save 2500 square feet of rainforest! Go to the Arbor Day Foundation right now.

5. Do you listen to your local NPR station every morning? Call them up and make a donation!

6. You know that panhandler that you walk by every day, without giving him money, because you don't believe in giving to people on the street? (I don't either, so no judgment here...) Maybe today, for just ONE day, make an exception. Or buy that person a snack. Or just look them in the eye and say hello - acknowledge them.

7. Give blood. Find a local blood drive (which might be happening in the next few days or few weeks) and sign up for it through the American Red Cross.

8. Visit someone you know who is sick. Or call them on the phone and wish them a happy new year. Visiting the sick is so healing - for the person who is ill and for the visitor.

9. Stop by a local nursing home and drop of a basket of New Year's noisemakers, hats, etc. Or just give a beautiful burst of color with flowers or balloons.

10. Give a special treat to yourself - you deserve it. Really, you do!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Huge Online Giving Efforts Launch Today

In today's Washington Post there is an article about two HUGE online giving efforts that are being launched today.

The Case Foundation (started by AOL Founder Steve Case) is launching America's Giving Challenge, which will challenge everyday Americans to go online, find causes that resonate with them, and give as little as $10. There is a sister effort launching today with Facebook, where users can donate to online through Facebook's "causes" application and can encourage other people in their networks to do the same.

Here's what really excited me:

The Case Foundation is giving away a total of $750,000 in the two online efforts, which start today and end Jan. 31. The people who attract the most friends from their social networks to donate to their cause will get $50,000 to give to charity. The top 100 charities attracting the most online donations will each receive $1,000.

I love this for several reasons:
1. It's good for charities - it will really spread the word about the work they are doing
2. It's good for donors - you can feel a huge sense of empowerment by giving as little as $10.
3. It's good for business - Facebook obviously benefits from this, because people who are publicizing a cause and trying to get their friends to give are going to increase users of, and traffic on, Facebook.

There's a great quote in the Washington Post article from GlobalGiving's Dennis Whittle: "It used to be that if you wanted to give and have an impact, people thought you had to be Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey. But because of the way the technology works, you can be an 'ordinary Oprah.' If you've got $10 or $100 or $1,000, you can come and find a school in Africa to support, and you can get updates from the field to get responses to your support."

It's a win-win-win! You can find more info at

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Obama and Dodd talk about volunteerism

I have NOT made up my mind about the next Presidential election, however... I was intrigued to read about Barack Obama's plans to expand service/volunteerism opportunities, including:

  • Expand the size of Americorps from 75,000 to 250,ooo positions
  • Double the Peace Corps from 7,800 to 16,000 positions by 2011
  • A tax credit to pay up to $4,000 in college expenses for students who commit to 100 hours of community service per year

Obama's not the only one talking about service. Senator Christopher Dodd, a former Peace Corps volunteer, has proposed making community service mandatory for high school students, doubling the size of the Peace Corps, and expanding Americorps to 1 million participants.

Read all about it in the Chicago Tribune.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Graffiti of the Philanthropic Class

I can't take credit for the title phrase - I just saw it in a New York Times article by Charles Isherwood (December 2, 2007). In his article, Mr. Isherwood describes how every nook and cranny of cultural buildings these days seem to be scrawled with a donor's name: the staircase, the coat check room, the balconies... are water fountains and bathrooms next?

I found this tidbit particularly hilarious - fundraising so that areas of a building would NOT be named for a donor:

As The Associated Press reported last month, the dean at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business couldn’t find anyone to pony up a cool $50 million to get his or her name on the school. So the dean switched strategies and discovered that several givers were willing to chip in to ensure that, for 20 years at least, the school would not be personally branded, but would instead simply remain the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business (a long enough handle, surely). The non-naming fund eventually reached $85 million.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Donate to your Local Food Bank

An article in today's New York Times (Food Banks, In a Squeeze, Tighten Belts, by Katie Zezima) highlights the severe shortages that food banks all over the country currently are facing.

Ross Fraser, a spokesman for America’s Second Harvest, which distributes more than two billion pounds of donated food and grocery products annually, said the shortages at food banks were the worst the organization had seen in 26 years.

“Suddenly it’s on everyone’s radar,” Mr. Fraser said. “Food banks are calling us and saying, ‘My God, we have to get food.’”

Why is this happening? According to the article, there is an unusual combination of factors: rising demand, a sharp drop in federal supplies of excess farm products, and tighter inventory controls that are leaving supermarkets and other retailers with less food to donate.

So, if you are looking for a place to direct your year-end giving, think about your local food bank! Or you could give to a national organization, like America's Second Harvest or Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Measuring Charity's Impact

An amazing study was just released by the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington and the World Bank. "Beyond Charity: Recognizing Return on Investment" measures the economic impacts of nonprofits on the Washington region. According to the study, nonprofits contribute at least $9.6 billion to the local economy, in terms of goods & services and cost savings. The study gives some great, specific examples, such as:

  • If 50% of elderly adults who receive in-home care from Jewish Social Services Agency (JSSA) inMaryland were instead placed in nursing homes, the total annual cost would be 15 times higher – or $96 million a year – than the $6 million it costs for JSSA to provide services and keep those 1,000 elders in their homes.
  • When the transitional housing program at Friends of Guest House helps a woman released fromprison re-enter society successfully, it costs the community 65% less than if she went back toprison for one year.
  • By providing housing for people with mental illness who might otherwise be in hospitals, Cornerstone in DC helps people retain their dignity while saving up to $100,000 per person each year.
You can download the entire study on the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington's website.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bono - a man on a mission

Nothing starts my Monday morning off right like a Washington Post article about Bono and his philanthropic involvement. From his lobbying activities in DC (DATA - stands for Debt AIDS Trade Africa... 75 employees in DC! Who knew?) to the One Campaign (a more grassroots effort), to his general hobnobbing and dazzling of the most important lawmakers and administration officials in the nation's capital... the man is an inspiration. And, really, that's the secret to his success in the corridors of power - Bono inspires people. With his knowledge, his commitment, and his "star quality." It's really the same with any advocacy and fundraising endeavor. If you inspire people, you can create change.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I just read about a new (well, maybe not so new!) web site called Changents. It's a social networking site, like Facebook, but for people interested in social change. You can nominate a "Change Agent" to be featured on their site, tell people about Change Agents on the site and start what they call a Ripple Effect, take quick action to support the causes you care about, etc. As they say on their site, they are: " The online stomping ground for Gen X & Y’ers asking tough questions about society and demanding a platform for action." For example, in just 10 minutes on the site, I learned about a woman who is harnessing the power of mobile phones for global change (did you know that in Africa only 5% of the people have internet access, but 60% - 80% have phone access? That's a lot of text messaging! Which people can use for everything from sending messages about elections, to sending educational info about HIV/AIDS, to informing people about elections). I also learned about a carpooling group on Facebook, where people can share rides and help save a few trees. Check it out!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

ED in '08

Here's a "candidate" we all can vote for:

ED in '08 is an organization that was formed to ensure that education becomes a top priority in the '08 presidential election. ED in '08 has been getting some press lately because of the ways in which it is reaching out to a wide swath of the voting public - everything from the traditional (buttons, t-shirts, TV ads, newspaper and magazine op-eds) to the tools of the digital age: bolds, email blasts, a web site, and videos on YouTube. They've also got some exciting celebrity endorsers that appeal to a younger market, including rapper Kanye West. Kanye has a short video on the ED in '08 web site that says that 1/2 of all African-Americans and Hispanics in the U.S. do not graduate from high school. Did you know that?

While most almost all non-profits now have web sites, not many of them are using the full array of new media tools at their disposal. Maybe it's not necessary for every market and every cause, but you never know who you will reach with a blog, YouTube video, or posting on Facebook - maybe you'll meet your next big donor.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hello, Dixie Chicks on line one...

From today's New York Times:

...a team of women who represented the United States at the world bridge championships in Shanghai last month is facing sanctions, including a yearlong ban from competition, for a spur-of-the-moment protest.

At issue is a crudely lettered sign, scribbled on the back of a menu, that was held up at an awards dinner and read, “We did not vote for Bush.”

By e-mail, angry bridge players have accused the women of “treason” and “sedition.”

“This isn’t a free-speech issue,” said Jan Martel, president of the United States Bridge Federation, the nonprofit group that selects teams for international tournaments. “There isn’t any question that private organizations can control the speech of people who represent them."

Not so, said Danny Kleinman, a professional bridge player, teacher and columnist. “If the U.S.B.F. wants to impose conditions of membership that involve curtailment of free speech, then it cannot claim to represent our country in international competition,” he said by e-mail.

Ms. Martel said the action by the team, which had won the Venice Cup, the women’s title, at the Shanghai event, could cost the federation corporate sponsors.

The players have been stunned by the reaction to what they saw as a spontaneous gesture, “a moment of levity,” said Gail Greenberg, the team’s nonplaying captain and winner of 11 world championships.

“What we were trying to say, not to Americans but to our friends from other countries, was that we understand that they are questioning and critical of what our country is doing these days, and we want you to know that we, too, are critical,” Ms. Greenberg said, stressing that she was speaking for herself and not her six teammates.

I'm no lawyer, but I'd love to know whose opinion is legally accurate, Jan Martel's or Danny Kleinman's. It does seem true that a private, non-profit organization could control the speech of those people who represent the organization, while they are speaking as representatives of the organization (in this context, they clearly would be doing so). On the other hand, Mr. Kleinman's comments ring true - if the organization claims to represent the United States in international competition, can they inhibit free speech?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Socially Responsible Investing

Another gem from Yoga Journal (love that mag!), December 2007 issue:

Brent Kessell offers tips on Socially Responsible Investing. He says that "to create a sustainable investment portfolio, look for the following: (1) social screens aligned with your values; (2) inexpensive prices with an expense ratio (the amount charged by the investment company) that is as low as possible, ideally less than 1 percent per year; (3) ties to an index (which makes it an "index fund") or diversification among many companies." He also lists the following online resources:

Friday, November 02, 2007

I recently learned of a great resource: It's a search engine (just like where you can earn money for your favorite charity every time you search! From their web site:

GoodSearch is a search engine which donates 50-percent of its revenue to the charities and schools designated by its users. It's a simple and compelling concept. You use GoodSearch exactly as you would any other search engine. Because it’s powered by Yahoo!, you get proven search results. The money GoodSearch donates to your cause comes from its advertisers — the users and the organizations do not spend a dime!

I've designated BBYO, a youth leadership program, as my charity, and I'm using for all of my internet searching. I encourage you to do the same... maybe someday, instead of "googling" someone, we will all say that we are "goodsearching" someone!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Redefining the "bottom line"

I love this ad, which I saw in the most recent version of Yoga Journal. A great reminder of how we can redefine the "bottom line." It says:

Some of the richest people in life do not have money. What makes someone rich? Their bank account? Their savings? The bottom line? What if the bottom line was a tally of friendships made, of families gathered, of sunsets watched, of laughs shared or of communities helped? What if everyone tried to maximize that kind of bottom line? One thing is for sure. The world would be richer for it.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Giving also makes companies wealthier!

There must be something in the air! My last blog entry was about a Syracuse University economist and professor who found that giving to charity actually pushes people's income up (please see the blog entry below this one). I just saw an article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy about new research from Dover Management, a company that operates a mutual fund that invests in corporations that are committed to philanthropic giving. "Dover found that companies with a solid link between giving and operating earnings outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 index by 3.5 percentage points over five years. " (Wilhelm, Ian, "Companies that Give More to Charity are More Profitable, Study Finds," Chronicle of Philanthropy, October 29, 2007.)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Giving Makes you Happier... and Richer

This morning, I went to a fascinating lecture by Dr. Arthur C. Brooks, an economist and professor at Syracuse University and author of the book Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism. Dr. Brooks puts forth a amazing thesis, based not on instinct, but on hard-core economic number crunching (in fact, his findings were counter-intuitive even to him):

Giving to charity makes you richer.

Seems backwards, right? Well, not so fast...

Based on data from Harvard's 2000 Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, people who give to charity earn significantly more money than those who don't. Dr. Brooks asserts that the data doesn't just show that giving correlates with higher income - it "pushes" income up. He said that the "Personal Return on Investment" from charitable giving is 3.75 to 1. In other words, a person who gives away $100 can expect $375 in higher earnings. It is related, in part, to his second assertion, which psychologists have been making for years.

Giving to charity makes you happier.

Most people who have given a gift to charity can attest to feeling pretty good about it. Psychologists know that giving makes you feel better, and it actually depresses stress hormones in the body (lots of experiments are out there that back this up).

So, if you are happier, your earnings go up, etc, etc.... Dr. Brooks explains his statistical work much better than I ever could in this column on the Conde Nast web site.

Other interesting stats from today:
  • Americans are generous. We gave nearly $295 billion in 2006, more than the GDP of all but 33 countries. And that's not just from huge charitable foundations. Around 75% of that came from private individuals. 75% of American families give to charity each year, and 50% - 60% volunteer.
  • The wealthy are not necessarily the "biggest" givers. The working poor give a bigger percentage of their money away. And they also are the most "income mobile" - their income is most likely to go up (another argument for the idea that giving to charity makes you wealthier).
  • A person who gives at least one gift to charity per year is 43% more likely to say that they are happy than the person who does not give at least one gift to charity per year.
  • 91% of people who attend a house of worship weekly give to charity, versus 66% of people who don't.
  • Living in a community where people give is as good for your health as quitting smoking.
One valuable takeaway - if you are feeling sad or depressed, give some money away! Volunteer! At least give it a try. Statistics show that it will make you happier, and wealthier.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Motivational Values in Giving

I just received a great resource from an organization called 21/64. Their "Motivational Values Cards" are designed to help individuals and groups clarify that values that drive their philanthropic choices. Basically, it's a deck of cards, and each card has a value on it, like leadership, integrity, personal growth, family, responsibility, tradition, or freedom. 21/64 provides the cards and some guidelines for how to use them. For example, you can arrange the cards in the stack in order of the values that are the most important to you, and then you can pick out your top five and bottom five and think about (or discuss with family or friends) why you made those choices. There are no right or wrong answers - it's just an exercise to get you thinking, discussing, and reacting. I encourage you to check out this resource!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The "Czar of Unwanted Solicitations"

I love this article from the October 4, 2007 edition of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, which tells the story of Bernard Olson, an 80 year old retiree in Florida who has waged a "one-man crusade against the envelopes that show up at his door seeking cash... As a form of protest, every January he tallies how many letters he has received during the previous year from charities, noting which organizations they are from and how much he would have to give if he met the minimum of each request... he has sent a summary of his findings to friends, the news media, and charity watchdogs." The article goes on to describe the most intense object of his derision - address labels. "Last year I received over 2,600 address labels, which would take over seven years to use if I used one each day."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Man Found Not Guilty in Homeless-Feeding Trial

I found this in the Chronicle of Philanthropy today:

"A man brought to trial for allegedly violating a city ordinance when he fed a group of homeless people in an Orlando public park has been acquitted, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

Jurors acquitted Eric Montanez of the misdemeanor charge of violating Orlando’s ban on large-group feedings in public parks, a law that some say is meant to keep homeless people away from expensive neighborhoods and tourist areas.

The prosecutor said that Mr. Montanez knew of the law but ignored it. 'This is a young man who wants to prove his point,' city prosecutor Kimberly Laskoff said in her closing arguments. 'He wants to do what he wants, where he wants, and how he wants.'

After the acquittal, Mr. Montanez went directly to 'Ladle-fest,' a three-day event to feed homeless people. He is one of the plaintiffs in a Constitutional challenge to the law filed by the American Civil Liberties Union."

Friday, October 12, 2007

Who says what's charitable?

There's been some buzz in the non-profit community this week about recent commentary in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times that question whether or not arts institutions, for example, really are charities (and should be entitled to charitable deductions). For example, in the LA Times, Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton, says:

I'm all in favor of supporting the arts and our universities, but let's face it: These aren't really charitable contributions. They're often investments in the lifestyles the wealthy already enjoy and want their children to have too. They're also investments in prestige -- especially if they result in the family name being engraved on the new wing of an art museum or symphony hall.

He goes on to note that: Charitable donations to just about any not-for-profit are deductible from income taxes. This year, for instance, the U.S. Treasury will be receiving about $40 billion less than it would if the tax code didn't allow for charitable deductions.

Mr. Reich goes on to suggest that we revise the tax code to focus charitable deductions on "real charities" - if a donation goes to help the poor, the donor gets a full deduction, and if it goes somewhere else, the donor gets half of the deduction.

Mr. Reich, where's the love?!

As someone who has helped raised millions of dollars for cultural institutions, I wholeheartedly disagree with Mr. Reich. For starters, who gets to decide what a "real charity" is? A few other talking points... oh, let's take the example of a gift to the Opera, what most people would term a "high brow" institution (full disclosure - I'm an opera fan):
  • Most opera companies offer programs where school groups can come to a performance to learn about music, history, a foreign culture, etc.
  • The opera is both a seeker of funds and a revenue generator for the community - in places like New York, DC, San Francisco, and other major cities, opera patrons are spending money in the city for dinners, transportation, even on hotel rooms.
  • A rising tide lifts all ships - communities that have a healthy cultural life tend to have multiple institutions that provide cultural, educational programs - museums, galleries, music venues, etc. A gift to any of these cultural institutions raises the level of cultural enrichment for the entire community.
  • Of course, all of this is predicated upon the notion that cultural institutions provide valuable educational services and act as a public trust... that's a whole other blog entry! I've seen it with my own two eyes, working at places like the National Building Museum and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum - children and adults alike are expanding their world views and learning valuable new skills when they visit cultural institutions.
Is it hard to think about giving a gift to the Opera when there are people in my community who don't have enough to eat? Absolutely. I think it's important to give to both cultural enterprises AND social services. If I have only $20 to give away, where should it go first?

Friday, October 05, 2007

Rubber Chicken - Friend or Foe?

Another day, another invitation to a "rubber chicken dinner." (they are a dime a dozen here in Washington. You go to a dinner, you eat bad chicken, you listen to a mildly interesting speaker, etc.)

I am staring at an invitation to a gala dinner being held by a local youth group - I'm on the board of the group, and I feel that I should support the event. However, I don't know many people who will be going (it's mostly for an older generation), and I can't get any of my friends to go with me. So, instead of attending, I will send in a sizable (for me) donation in order to place an ad in the Tribute Book - a book with lots of ads lauding the organization's successes.

In some ways, this makes me the ideal dinner participant! The youth group gets my money, and they don't have to buy me a meal. It's a common complaint that people have with these dinners - "Why waste money on an expensive dinner, instead of just getting people to give directly to the charity?" Well, here's why: If I had the deep pockets to buy a table of 8 or 10, maybe 4 or 5 of my guests would become so engaged by the event that they'd continue to give on their own. By bringing people to the event, I'd be growing the charity's pool of potential donors. In addition, the event might re-invigorate my excitement about this group.

As a fundraiser, I hate charity dinners - the charities spend so much money on the event that they often don't net a lot of money in donations. In addition, the cost of the monumental amount of staff time that goes into these events is rarely calculated! However, they have their place, and if they are used well (e.g. the charity does great follow up with the attendees), they can be worth it.

So... rubber chicken... friend or foe? Your thoughts?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I Want my MTV

A recent New York Times article highlighted a partnership between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and MTV that has angered some non-profit leaders.

According to the article, the Gates Foundation has spent $960,000 in contracts with MTV to learn how to better engage students. Some of those funds are being used for a social networking site called that is designed to encourage youth activism. Several other foundations have supported this effort.

On the one hand: if MTV is more effective at reaching great swaths of young people than some of the non-profits that run similar social networking sites, shouldn't the foundations invest in initiatives that are going to show the best results and have the most bang for the buck?

On the other hand: Are foundation dollars best spent on an initiative that is backed by MTV, which is part of Viacom, a gigantic media conglomerate? Shouldn't Viacom be footing the bill? Is part of ThinkMTV's design related to driving viewership and brand loyalty to MTV?

On the third hand: (yes, I know there is no third hand) This is a great example of the Golden Rule - He who has the gold, rules. The foundations can do whatever they want - if the non-profits complain about it, should that push them to be more effective, more competitive?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

2007 MacArthur Fellows

Ah, my favorite awards of the year. Not the Oscars, not the Grammys... the MacArthur Fellows, otherwise known as "MacArthur Genius Grants." Nominated and chosen in a completely secret process, the Fellows are leaders and innovators in their fields (science, the arts, nonprofit, etc.) They win $500,000 to use however they wish. Read about the current class of Fellows here. Always an inspiring group.

(OK, it's my secret dream - well, not such a secret anymore - to win a genius grant someday. I'm not really sure how the heck that's gonna happen... I'd better come up with something geniusy to do!)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Getting Some Attention for "The Little Guys"

I just saw an interesting piece in The Huffington Post. Dennis Whittle writes, in "Markets for Philanthropy":

"Did you know that about 6% of non-profits in the US attract four-fifths of the resources?... The problem is, as Paul Brest puts it in his most recent Hewlett Foundation President's Letter , most donors "simply lack the necessary data to support informed decision making." This means that the philanthropy marketplace does not function well, and resources don't get allocated to their highest-impact uses.It also means that big organizations can get bigger based on their marketing and branding rather than on their results. And the little guys, regardless of how good they are, usually have trouble attracting the attention of donors...As Paul says, "diverse philanthropic investments do not have a single common measure [of return]." To that, I would add that diverse "donors" do not share the same measure of returns. As a result, no single set of data or information can or should inform - or motivate - all philanthropic decisions. The question is how to provide a mosaic of data suitable for different philanthropic investments and donors..."

So - what about the "little guys" who are not attracting the donors, because of all of the competition in the marketplace? Is the competition really telling us that the marketplace is too crowded, and some of these organization should go out of business or merge with others?

I think one flaw in Mr. Whittle's premise is that philanthropic investors do not necessarily make their decisions based on measure of return. Lots of people give to charities because they know someone who works there or has been helped by the charity, they are honoring a loved one, their parents/grandparents gave there, etc. People just don't make philanthropic investments with the same analytical minds that they use to make personal financial investments.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Time Magazine focuses on service

The September 10 issue of Time Magazine featured a cover story and lots of juicy articles about service/volunteerism, including a call from the magazine's editor for the federal government to create ways for every American to devote a year of their life to service.

If you go to Time Magazine's web site, you can connect to a podcast featuring Caroline Kennedy and author Jeff Sachs. They discuss lots of issues, including the notion of mandatory national service, the current surge in interest in volunteerism among Americans, and the value of serving abroad. A few highlights and questions this podcast raised for me:

Is it better to volunteer abroad or closer to home (and does "closer to home" mean in the U.S., in a neighborhood in your area that's less well off than yours, or right in your own backyard)?

Should national service be mandatory? How do we Americans feel about the word "mandatory"?

Did you know that 1/3 of Americans, around 65 million, say that they volunteer regularly? I wonder if this is more or less than other countries...

Jeff Sachs talked about the "shock and dismay" over the situation in Iraq leading Americans to ask themselves what they can do to contribute positively to the world. Do you think this is on the mark?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Tranquil Space Foundation Gala in DC

I'm on the Steering Committee for the Tranquil Space Foundation, a terrific new foundation that is an offshoot of my yoga home, Tranquil Space Yoga. The Foundation focuses on expanding opportunities for yoga, creativity, and leadership for women and girls. The Tranquil Space Foundation Gala will take place in DC in Thursday, October 11th and will feature a wine reception, silent auction, raffle, and mingling with some great, fun souls. Please join me there!

Monday, September 03, 2007

50 Ways to Give Right Now

This inspiring page was included in the article "what you get from giving," in the September 2007 edition of body + soul magazine (p. 134 - article by Terri Trespicio, attached page by Deblina Chakraborty) I hope it inspires you as it has inspired me.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Heads up for Bill!

Bill Clinton will be on The Oprah Winfrey Show on September 4 promoting his new book, GIVING: How Each of Us Can Change the World. I'm looking forward to hearing what Clinton has to say on the subject, especially in light of his post-Presidential philanthropic work (and the ways that his philanthropic work has changed is public persona... and his legacy).

According to the William J. Clinton Foundation web site: "GIVING: How Each of Us Can Change the World is an inspiring look at how individual endeavors can save lives and solve problems, and it offers compelling examples of both citizen and corporate activism at work in the world today."

I'll be posting interesting tid-bits from the book as I come across them!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Brad and Lucy and Drew, Oh My!

In the past couple of days, I have read two articles about my favorite passions: philanthropy and celebrity. While those two items would previously have been thought of as a combination of the sublime and the ridiculous, the line is becoming increasingly blurred.

This Sunday's Washington Post included an article called Hollywood Stars Find an Audience for Social Causes. For example, when Lucy Liu appeard on the Oprah Winfrey Show in March 2006, shortly after visiting earthquake victims in Pakistan, donations to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF rose 91 percent in one day. A total of $500,000 was raised based on that appearance. The article also talked about Angelina Jolie's CNN interview with Anderson Cooper, after which donations to the U.N. High Committee for Refugees spiked by $500,000.

In my most recent edition of Entertainment Weekly, with Clooney and Pitt on the cover, the two stars talk about how Brad Pitt did something really savvy - he realized that the paparazzi cameras were following him everywhere, so he thought: OK, I'll go to Africa, and then everyone will see what's going on there. Here's what he said in the article:
So how do you get people to focus on the issues that matter to you — and manage to make a difference —without just distracting from the cause?

CLOONEY: It's interesting. Brad did it first and best — he went to Africa. Was it the Diane Sawyer show?
PITT: It was.
CLOONEY: You made this really interesting decision where you said, ''The cameras are going to follow me, so I'm going to go here. And wherever the cameras follow me they're going to see this.'' It was really smart. And I thought, Wow, here's a way to take this insatiable appetite and say, ''If you're going to take these photographs and follow us around, fair enough. But you're also going to have to go where it will provoke some thought about what else is going on in the world.'' It was a really smart play. And all of us have been taking a cue from that.
PITT: The idea was: We can't get out of the spotlight and they can't get in the spotlight, so let's equal that out a little bit

A few things that intrigue me:
(1) Why does it seem that so many celebrities are interested in international causes, rather than domestic ones? And why are WE, the American public, so interested in the international causes that capture the celebrities' imaginations? (is the international factor rolled up into the Hollywood glamour thing?)
(2) How are the celebrities connecting with the causes - is it happenstance? planned?
(3) How do associations with these causes impact the celebrities' careers (and, by the way, I have NO problem with stars, or even regular folks like you and me, getting a career boost from their association with social causes.)

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Happy grant writing...

Saturday, April 07, 2007

"Sticky" Messages

The April 5, 2007 issue of The Chronicle of Philanthropy has a terrific article, "A Time to
Thrive" (p. 21), that provides highlights from the recent annual meeting of the Association of
Fundraising Professionals (AFP).

The article highlighted an address by Stanford Professor Chip Heath who, with his brother
Dan, "studied urban legends, business ideas, and other concepts that have fired the public
imagination, such as President John F. Kennedy's promise to 'put a man on the moon within a
decade,' to understand what made those messages sticky." They have a new book called Made to
Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. Prof. Heath said that charity leaders succumb to
"the curse of knowledge" - the more they know about a subject, the less effective they are in
explaining it to others. While experts are fascinated by the complexity of a subject, it's simple
messages that stick. Prof. Heath gave the example of an experiment where an appeal to feed one
hungry child (who was identified by name) was more effective than an appeal to feed 21 million
starving people.

This was a great reminder for me, and for all of us: when we are telling our organization's story,
whether in person or through the written word, personalize it. Tell one person's story, tell one
story of change.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Making any event a charitable affair

I attended a very, very fancy family event this weekend. Black tie, exquisite decor, fabulous food, etc. The hosts of the event are a generous pair, giving lots to their family and giving lots of money to charity. The weekend also included brunches, casual lunches and dinners, etc. So it got me to thinking: how can we take events like weddings and Bat Mitzvahs and infuse them with a reminder to be generous and to give generously? What about:
  • Inviting guests to make donations in honor of the celebrant
  • Making a commitment as a family (and as the hosts) to make charitable donations worth 10% of the cost of the event
  • Donating a portion of gifts received to charity
  • At one of the casual events, have info about favorite charities available on people's tables - or include them in people's gift bags
  • Donating leftover food to the needy
  • Bringing leftover flower arrangements to a nursing home, hospital, etc.
  • Creating gift registries at the I Do Foundation, where the guests of honor can register at places like Linens n' Things or Target, and the stores will donate a percentage of what is spent to charity
  • Donating a gently worn formal gown (like a bridal gown) to a local organization that can pass it along to someone in need (organizations like women's shelters or places of worship can help you find an appropriate person to receive the donation)