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!