Thursday, December 25, 2008

Recession Obsession Sale

Times are tough at America's non-profits. Donations are down, and, at many charitable organizations, the need for their services is up. To help non-profits through the crunch, I'm offering a 30% discount on "Grant Writing Quick Tips" - a focused, finely-tuned e-book that offers all of the highlights of a foundation relations and grant writing seminar in one, high-impact resource.

From tips to help your grant proposal stand out from the pack, to guidelines and a worksheet on proposal budgeting, to strategies for finding and keeping donors, "Grant Writing Quick Tips" is a great resource for any non-profit organization (or a great gift for your favorite charity).

Check it out HERE.

Monday, December 22, 2008

How about a non-profit "bailout"?

The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently reported that Independent Sector, a national coalition of charitable foundations, is working on a proposal to ask Congress for a loan fund to help non-profits deal with the current economic crisis. While non-profit donations are decreasing, their caseloads are increasing because of the crisis (for example, more people are in need of food, clothing, shelter, job counseling, health care, etc.).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ideas for Giving

The December 2008 issue of Washingtonian magazine is focused on giving. It features articles on great Washington-area organizations that need your donations; how to set up a foundation, donor advised fund, or giving circle; ways to use your skills through volunteerism; and inspiring stories of people who are making great impacts in small ways. Pick up a copy today and get inspired!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Go Jo-Bros!

Teen sensations The Jonas Brothers just topped Charity Folks' list of the biggest draws on its online charity-auction web site. They raised $450,000 in an online charity auction to benefit their Change for the Children Foundation.

Who else is on the list? Check it out here. I was shocked! Hint: Nary a Bono or Brangelina in sight...

(OK, you have to admit... they are sort of unbearably cute!)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Advice for Obama

In a recent edition of the Chronicle of Philanthropy (11/13/08, p.6), non-profit leaders from a variety of different fields (and with a variety of agendas) offered their advice on what our new President can do to promote and support charities and foundations. Here's a sampling of what they had to say:

  • Offer extra tax benefits for gifts to antipoverty charities
  • Create a cabinet-level philanthropy position
  • Help students pay for college, through Americorps and loan forgiveness programs tied to volunteerism
  • Streamline the process that ensures that charitable donations do not flow to terrorist organizations
  • Allow non-itemizers to deduct their charitable contributions from their adjusted gross income on their tax returns
  • Create a National Institute of Philanthropy, similar to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Require Americorps service for all college students who receive federal financial aid
Do you agree with these ideas? Have any new ones?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Inspiring Women

What's more glamorous than inspiring others?

Glamour Magazine just held its Women of the Year Awards. Where else would Hillary Clinton, Tyra Banks, and Jane Goodall appear on the same list?! If you are looking for a dose of inspiration, check out the award winners. You might be especially interested in learning about the Women of the Year Fund Honorees, Yemini trailblazers Nujood Ali and Shada Nasser who are crusading for rights for child brides.

What do you think of the list? Who would you add?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Reactions to the US elections from foreign friends

After the US election this week, I emailed some of my friends from other countries to get their reactions to the US Presidential election. Here's a sampling of what they had to say:

Jackie (London)

Congratulations! The coverage here in the UK was almost like it was a UK election. People here are just as excited and hopeful that it could happen here. But there's also a sense of about time America got it right and I think everyone would have lost faith in democracy had America got it wrong (again). I don't like getting all romantic about these things but I couldn't help shed a tear when they showed Jessie Jackson and I felt like I was floating to work after seeing the scenes in Washington. Very exciting. You are right, he has a big job, but the significance of the day is so huge. Yay America (never thought I'd be saying that :)

Katie (Toronto)

...We also danced in the street and lit sparklers. We felt extremely proud and hopeful for you guys... and for the rest of us who are so influenced (like it or not) by what happens in the US.

Ija (Oslo)

I think all Norwegians are SO pleased with the election. I've heard no criticism from none of the political parties, just the opposite. It's said that it will be easier to cooperate with the US under Obama. His politics also resemble the one we lead here in Scandanavia to a greater extent than the US regime over the last 8 years. We also think that the US image will increase, Americans will come forward as more "intelligent" (sorry...) and less narrow sighted. I'm so happy for you. You really need this change!

I'll share more reactions when/if they come in...

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Free Coffee for You!

Not that Starbucks needs any more publicity in this lifetime, but...

I saw their get out the vote commercial this weekend, and I loved it. To quote the commercial (which you also can watch on their web site):

What if we all cared enough to vote?
Not just 54% of us, but 100% of us?
What if we all cared as much on Nov. 5th as we did on Nov. 4th?
What if we cared all of the time, the way we care some of the time?
What if we cared if it was incovenient, as much as we care when it's convenient?
Would your community be a better place?
Would our country be a better place?
Would our world be a better place?
We think so too.

Starbucks is giving a FREE CUP OF BREWED COFFEE to anyone who votes on Nov. 4th. So go VOTE, and then go treat yourself to a caffeine fix!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Library

I'm back with an old love. Kickin' it old school, so to speak.

I'm gonna stop buying new (and crazy expensive) books and start going to the library.

When did this madness begin? When did I start trolling the aisles of bookstores to buy $24 paperback books (that's right, the most recent paperback I wanted to buy was $24 at B&N!), instead of supporting one of the most fantastic, most steadfast, most democratic institutions that local government has to offer?

When I was a kid, my mom took my brother and I to the local library all the time. Not only were there all the books a young bibliophile could love, but there were fun kids' seating areas, art displays... and I'm pretty sure there were hamsters. And the smell - ahhhhh, the smell! Two parts musty, one part anticipation. I loved it!

My book buying habits must have started when I moved to Dupont Circle, where there are some pretty great bookstores, including the granddaddy of Dupont independent booksellers, Krammerbooks. There's also an amazing used book store, Second Story Books. (I'm not giving up on my used book buying - thrifty, perfect for overseas travel, and a great example of "recycling".)

It's now gotten to the point where I'm spending big bucks on books, and I don't have any more room on my bookshelves. So this weekend, I went to my local public library.

Heaven! They have an amazing biography/autobiography section (I'm reading a biography of Marie Antoinette now. I adore Sofia Coppola's movie about the teen queen, and this book is adding a whole new dimension for me). They also have notices about interesting local events - I found out about a hike through a local branch of the Underground Railroad that happens every Saturday. Who knew!? Plus, it's a true mixing bowl - every type of person in the community can be found in the library.

If you live in DC - please visit the main branch! The MLK Library is downtown, at 9th & G, and there's an area where you can buy books for $1! Why can you buy books there for $1? Because those books come from libararies that are under-funded and under-patronized, and DC is shutting them down. So that's the moral of the story - support your local library, or someday it might not be there anymore...

Monday, October 20, 2008

This is embarassing

"Despite major suppression and violence, and an almost-total boycott by Sunnis, Iraq still turned out a higher percentage of voters than we did last time around..."
-GOOD Magazine, "Why Vote?" Nov/Dec 08, p. 78


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tranquil Space Foundation Gala

I'm going to a terrific charity event tomorrow night - The Tranquil Space Foundation Gala. If you are in the DC area and have some time on Thursday, you should come on by! There will be a great crowd, live music, and some truly incredible silent auction items. Best of all, the Gala supports a wonderful cause. Find more info HERE.

Hope to see you tomorrow night!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Long Distance Salad

If you live on the East Coast and buy one of those pre-washed salads-in-a-bag at your local grocery store, did you know that your salad probably made a cross-country journey from California?!

The November/December 2008 issue of GOOD Magazine (p.62) highlights produce company Atlantic Organic and its sister packing company, Locally Known. Maine-based Atlantic Organic produces salad greens on the East Coast, thereby dramatically reducing the "carbon cost" of salad. In other words, significantly less fuel is used to transport the salad.

Most other pre-washed, ready-to-eat salads in your East Coast grocery store come all the way from California's Salinas Valley. That's an awful lot of mileage on my salad before it ever hits my dinner plate...

Thursday, October 02, 2008

May Those Who Help The Most Win

In honor of it's 10th anniversary, Google is sponsoring a contest called "Project 10 to the 100th." They are soliciting great ideas that will help as many people as possible, and they have committed $10 million to help put the top five ideas into action.

Submissions are due October 20th. So give it a shot... and may those who help the most win!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

MacArthur "Geniuses"

Each year, the MacArthur Foundation names 25 new MacArthur Fellows, otherwise known as the "Genius Prize." Each of these Fellows receives $500,000 over five years, no strings attached. There is no public nomination process - the whole thing is done in secret - and the winners have no idea they were even being considered until they get a phone call from the Foundation.

(side question: how do they know they are not being punk'd?!)

This year's winners include a writer, a farmer, a geneticist, a musician, a sculptress, and a stage lighting designer.

I LOVE reading about these folks! Meet the "Geniuses" here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Power of Positive Thinking

The Power of Positive Thinking - is there a bigger cliche than that? Well, there might be something to it...

Today I did my usual Wednesday morning volunteer gig - I volunteer with cancer patients at a local hospital. It is, without a doubt, the best part of my week. I love chatting with the patients, usually about what's going on in the news or what they are reading or whatever silly TV show they are watching to pass the time. We don't necessarily talk about their cancer, unless they bring it up first.

Today, I was so inspired by a patient who I always enjoy "hanging out" with; we'll call him Mr. J. He was describing to me and another patient how, when he was diagnosed with a very serious form of cancer, his disease was so advanced that he was basically given no chance to live.

Mr. J. is such a positive, sunny person. I had no idea that his cancer was so serious. The way he chats and jokes around... he seemed like he was barely sick.

He was saying that his recovery has been so miraculous, so unprecedented, that the doctors at the hospital are bringing in specialists to study him and figure out what worked so well. He credits his recovery to 2 things: his chemotherapy, and his positive attitude.

Chemo does work wonders for many patients, but Mr. J's recovery is really above and beyond all logic. I asked him about his positive attitude, and he said he's always been a positive person. Of course, he has had his dark moments in dealing with cancer, but his overall disposition is just positive and sunny.

I think some of us are born this way, and some of us (like me) have to work at it a bit. But this "positive thinking" stuff really does seem to work. I'm not really sure why, or how, but again and again you hear stories about how important it is.

I think that the universe sent Mr. J. to me today to try to tell me something. (something along the lines of: "get over yourself, and think positive thoughts!") Even if I don't really understand its power... I think I'll keep trying to return my mind to a positive place.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Back to the Source

Look down at the shirt you are wearing. (and if you are not wearing a shirt, I don't wanna know about it). Touch the fabric. Look at the color.

Who made it? Who cut the fabric, sewed the edges, attached the tag at the back of the neck?

And... who made the fabric? If it's a cotton shirt, who picked the cotton?

Crazy to think about, right?!

The September/October issue of GOOD magazine highlights a guy in Brooklyn named Scott Ballum who has pledged to spend a year meeting the people who produce the things that he buys. For example:

To drink his morning coffee, Ballum first introduced himself to the owner of his local cafe, then to the man who roasts the beans and, finally, to the Nicaraguan woman who grows them (conveniently, she was visiting Brooklyn). A lot of work for a cup of coffee, sure, but for Ballum, the rewards are obvious and tangible. In a disconnected world, he actually knows where his stuff comes from. ("Consumer Connection" by Andrew Price, GOOD Magazine, Sept/Oct 08, p. 30)

While I would love to make another trip to India to meet the guy who picks the leaves for the tea that I drink, I don't see that happening anytime soon. However, I do think I can do this on a smaller scale, e.g. buy produce at the farmers market and meet the folks who pick my veggies.

What's the point?:
  • The more stuff I accumulate, the more fuel and resources it takes to get the stuff to me. There is some value in knowing where my stuff comes from and trying to stick to local sources.
  • In a world where we can sometimes feel disconnected or isolated (take it from someone who works from a home office!) it's nice to remember that almost everything I use and own has been touched by human hands.
Scott Ballum is blogging about his experiences - check out his blog to learn more.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Community Organizing - Why the bad rap?

If you were as disgusted as I by Governor Sarah Palin's derogatory, condescending remarks about Barak Obama's community organizing days - or heck, even if you think Gov. Palin was right! - please read on...

I can't figure out how community organizing suddenly became a derogatory term. Some of these organizers are true heroes, helping people with few resources and no political clout to obtain health insurance, job training, and safe neighborhoods - resources to which all Americans should be entitled.

Why would someone bash such a profession?

So I decided to do a little digging and find out just what Obama was accomplishing in his community organizing days. According to an article in The Nation ("Obama's Community Roots," April 16, 2007, by David Moberg), here's what Obama was up to:

"Obama and DCP [Developing Communities Project - which focused on black neighborhoods on the south side of Chicago] protected community interests regarding landfills and helped win employment training services, playgrounds, after-school programs, school reforms and other public amenities. One day a resident at Altgeld Gardens, a geographically isolated public housing project surrounded by waste sites, brought a notice about planned removal of asbestos from the project manager's office. Obama organized the community to find out if there was asbestos in their apartments. They persisted as officials lied and delayed, then took a bus--with far fewer people than Obama had anticipated--to challenge authorities downtown. Ultimately, the city was forced to test all the apartments and eventually begin cleaning them up."

Employment training? After-school services? Protecting residents from dangerous carcinogens? It takes a lot of ... ummm ... "guts" to stand up in front of millions and say that such work doesn't matter. I don't think the lower-income, minority residents with whom Obama worked would say he was wasting his time... Palin's comments about this work are insulting to those community members, and to me.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Obama and McCain to speak about public service on September 11th

Obama and McCain have agreed to speak at ServiceNation Summit, an event taking place on September 11th in New York City. The event is being organized "to celebrate the power and potential of citizen service, and lay out a bold policy blueprint for addressing America’s greatest social challenges through expanded opportunities for volunteer and national service."

I can't think of a better way to commemorate September 11th than to transform it into a day of service. Check out My Good Deed to learn about an organization of 9/11 families and friends who is working to do just that. My Good Deed also is asking for suspension of political campaigning on that day.

Start planning now for ways that you can volunteer or make charitable donations on September 11th!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Funds of Love

"Let us insist on raising funds of love, of kindness, of understanding, of peace. Money will come if we seek first the kingdom of God." -Mother Teresa

Monday, August 18, 2008

I'd rather be Bronze than Silver

The Washington Post's always-interesting "Department of Human Behavior" column has a great article today called "Happiness on the Medal Stand? It's as Simple as 1-3-2." Basically, the article notes that people who win Bronze medals at the Olympics tend to be much happier than the people who win Silver. The Silver medalists are caught up in "if only..." thinking (e.g. "If only I'd gone a little faster... jumped a little higher... tried a little harder"), while the Bronze medalists are just happy and grateful to be on the medal stand. In one study of Judo competitors, researchers found that Silver medalists were about as happy as those athletes in 5th place, while the Bronze medalists were about as happy as those who had won the gold.

Of course, this spills over into the life of us mere mortals, as well. So many of our moments of unhappiness come when we jump into "if only..." thinking: if only I had that job, that house, that spouse, those kids, that body, that money...

All of those self-help gurus who tell us that gratitude is a key to happiness aren't as cliche as we might think. This is where philanthropy and volunteering can come in. If you are not a person who automatically thinks about how lucky you are to have what you have, volunteering with those in need can really put things in perspective.

When I was volunteering at Georgetown Hospital last week, one of the cancer patients I was talking to said "My wish for you is that you never have to be at this hospital like the rest of us (fighting cancer)."

I'll take a Bronze medal any day.

Saturday, August 09, 2008


I found this "gratitude guide" in the September '08 issue of Body + Soul magazine. Being grateful for what we have can really put us in a philanthropic mindset!

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Olympics and Team Darfur

I LOVE the Olympics, and I am really trying to get into the spirit. In fact, I'm having friends over for dinner tonight to watch the opening ceremonies. But those Chinese government officials are really workin' my last nerve...

As you may have heard, they have revoked the visa of Joey Cheek, former US Olympic speedskater and founder of Team Darfur. While the government did not give a formal reason, it is most likely because he spoke publicly about China's involvement in the Darfur genocide. The Chinese government has revoked the visas of several other athletes who are involved in Team Darfur, an organization that encourages athletes to help raise awareness of the crisis in Darful.

There was a good opinion piece in the Washington Post about this on Wednesday. Sally Jenkins wrote:

Cheek has been exceptionally careful to frame his organization as more of a charitable and humanitarian endeavor rather than a political one, and unlike the most passionate Darfur advocates, he never has advocated a boycott of the 2008 Games. He's not a firebrand, he's just a do-gooder -- and an intelligent, committed one at that.

But when his visa was suddenly revoked Tuesday -- without a reason -- Cheek spoke out boldly. "The denial of my visa is a part of a systemic effort by the Chinese government to coerce and threaten athletes who are speaking out on behalf of the innocent people of Darfur," he said.

I wonder how this will play out during the rest of the games - and I wonder if our President, who is attending the Opening Ceremonies, will have anything to say about it.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Where's the love for Bono?

Evidently, there's an online petition and fundraising effort aimed at getting U2 frontman Bono "to retire from public life (so he'll stop leading misguided counter-productive philanthropy efforts)." As a huge U2 and Bono fan... I'm not even gonna tell you where this petition can be found! Whether you think he's a genius, a saint, a publicity hog, or just a big blowhard, you can't deny that he's brought enormous public attention to some of the most pressing needs of our time. Come on, where's the love for Bono!

Friday, August 01, 2008

What museums should be doing

On a recent visit to the National Gallery of Art, I had the good fortune of visiting a traveling exhibition called Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul. The exhibition was beautiful, informative, and surprising. Because of Afghanistan's key position along the Silk Route, traders from all over the world passed through this country and bought, sold, or left behind incredible objects - I saw jewelry, coins, earthenware, and other items from China, Egypt, India, and more.

It struck me that this is exactly what museums, and other organizations in the not-for-profit world, should be doing - helping us understand each other. Here's an exhibition about a country that I (like a lot of Americans) knew so little about, and yet our soldiers are fighting a brutal war there, with no end in sight.

The exhibition is at the National Gallery through September 7th - if you are in DC, I encourage you to check it out. And while you are there, visit the National Gallery's many other treasures... it's FREE! Unbelievable! You can grab lunch in the museum's cafe - why not spend some money that ultimately will benefit the museum?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Extreme Makover? Extreme Debacle

Extreme Makover: Home Edition helps needy, often destitute, families by "making over" their homes and helping them to rebuild their lives. Local contractors and neighbors often donate hundreds of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of supplies and labor.

The biggest house that Extreme Makover ever built is now in foreclosure. The family received a new home, money to cover the taxes for 25 years, a home maintenance fund, and college scholarships for each of their kids. 1,800 volunteers came out to help build their house. The family used the home as collateral for a $450,000 loan, and they've defaulted on that loan. They said they took out the loan to start a business.

When non-profit organizations receive a gift, they are obligated to responsibly steward that gift. I think that individuals who receive a gift have the same responsibility. While I don't know all the details, it seems to me that this family acted in an incredibly irresponsible manner.

I've always thought that there's no such thing as having enough money, because whatever amount you have (whether it's a lot or a little), you'll always want more. Case in point.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Words to live by?

This ad is on the back of the September 2008 edition of Yoga Journal. It's an advertisement for Lululemon Athletica. I don't agree with all of it, but some of it is spot on. Some of the more provocative items:

* Your outlook on life is a direct reflection of how much you like yourself
* The pursuit of happiness is the source of all unhappiness
* Jealousy works the opposite way you want it to

What do you think?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Economic Silver Lining

In these challenging economic times, with gas prices going through the roof, I'm trying to focus on whatever silver lining I can find. Here's what I've come up with:

  • US manufacturing jobs that used to get sent to places like China are now coming back to the US - even though the labor in China still is cheaper, the costs of shipping the stuff back to the US is so high that it's better for companies to just keep the jobs here.
  • People are carpooling, biking, and using public transportation. Score one for Mama Earth!
  • Businesses like shoe repair shops are experiencing business growth - for example, folks who used to just buy new shoes are now repairing the old ones instead (...coming from the gal who just bought four pairs of shoes on a DSW run. But they were REALLY cheap! And I'm donating two old pairs to charity! It's all good!).
  • It's (finally) been a great summer for the movie industry.
  • I have the ability to buy the stuff I want and need and to continue to donate to causes I care about. That's a blessing.
I know times are REALLY tough for lots of people out there. Can anyone else think of any other silver linings to share?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

In your own back yard...

So many of us are moved by tragic events and circumstances overseas, but what about the people "in our own backyard" who need help?

On Sunday, I watched a piece on 60 Minutes about an organization called Remote Area Medical (RAM). RAM was established to bring free emergency health clinics to far-flung regions in the developing world. Now, they also are bringing free healthcare to Americans who can't afford it.

In the story on 60 Minutes, people drove all night and slept in their cars for access to healthcare, including general care, vision, and dental care. The man who has had a toothache for months but no health coverage to fix it (and who also had major heart surgery a few years ago but has not been able to afford follow-up care). The woman who had treatment for cervical cancer a few years ago but also has not had follow-up care. The woman who can barely see, needs new glasses, and arrived too late for a vision screening - she choked back tears as she talked about getting help from her church and insisted that "God will provide."

Here's the shocker: "In the expedition to Knoxville, RAM saw 920 patients, made 500 pairs of glasses, did 94 mammograms, extracted 1,066 teeth and did 567 fillings. But when Stan Brock called the last number, 400 people were turned away. "

In America... what a travesty. Please do what you can to keep healthcare on the agenda in this upcoming election. And please, when you are making your philanthropic plans, don't forget to help folks right here, in this country, who desperately need help.

Read the transcript from the 60 Minutes story here.

Monday, July 07, 2008

I Love GOOD Magazine!

I just picked up an issue of GOOD Magazine - and I'm definitely going to become a subscriber! According to them, "GOOD is for people who give a damn. It's an entertaining magazine about things that matter." I'd describe it as a magazine about social activism and philanthropy. This month's issue included articles on everything from unlikely tourist destinations (Pakistan, Kosovo, and America's five most spectacular natural disasters), to a halfway house for former teen prostitutes, to incredible and underappreciated director Hal Ashby (Harold & Maude, Shampoo, Being There), to some of the world's most infamous secret societies (Skull & Bones, Trilateral Commission, Bohemian Grove). My favorite piece is a hilarious, satirical essay about eco-friendly hotels, "Save the Earth with Dirty Towels," by Dan Heath, the author of one of my favorite non-fiction books, "Made to Stick."

Here's the cool thing about subscribing to GOOD Magazine - 100% of the subscription price goes to charity! They have a bunch of "charity partners" that you can choose from.

Check it out!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Red Cross Disaster Fund is Depleted

According to an article the Washington Post:

"The American Red Cross said yesterday that it has depleted its national disaster relief fund and is taking out loans to pay for shelters, food and other relief services across seven Midwestern states battered by floods... On the cusp of hurricane season, Red Cross executives said the charity has raised just $3.2 million for the Midwest floods and painted a dire picture of its overall disaster relief finances. They said many donors are giving less because of rising gasoline and food prices and the collapse of the housing market. Also, the absence of a major U.S. catastrophe since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 has made it difficult to galvanize donors."

If you are trying to think of someplace to give funds, The American Red Cross could be a great recipient!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Why so urgently in need of urgency?

I heard a great segment today on The Kojo Nnamdi Show, a public radio show that is broadcast here in the DC area on WAMU 88.5 FM.

One of Kojo's guests today was Shankar Vedantam, National Reporter and "Department of Human Behavior" Columnist at The Washington Post. The subject of this section of the show was altruism and charitable giving as a reflection of theories of human behavior (trust me, it gets interesting). The guest referred a number of times to the ideas of Peter Singer, a Princeton University professor and philosopher.

A few random ideas that came up during the broadcast:

  • Lots of people would be willing to jump into a pond to save a drowning child, even if they were wearing $200 shoes that would get ruined. But most people would be reluctant to write a check for $200 to feed a starving child on the other side of the world.
  • People lined up in droves to donate blood after the 9/11 attacks - so much so that many blood banks where overwhelmed and had to throw away excess blood that had been donated. However, today, many blood banks are facing critical, life threatening shortages of several blood types.
  • A typical American would be more likely to donate to a flood victim in Iowa than to a flood victim in southeast Asia, because the person in Iowa is perceived to be a part of the same group, or "tribe." However, both people are strangers! So what's the difference?
Two key ideas that came out of the broadcast - people are generally more likely to give in response to a crisis, even if ongoing needs are just as dire (but may not be perceived as "urgent"); and, people are generally more likely to give to others who are perceived as part of their group or "tribe."

I invite you to listen to the broadcast yourself by going here and clicking the links next to "Dept. of Human Behavior."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Money and values

I taught a class recently where we talked about money and values - specifically, the way that you can use money to express your values. So many people think "community, friendship, spirituality = good. Money = bad." But, as we discussed in the class, you can infuse the way you use your money with your values and your unique spirituality.

Of course, donating to charity is a big part of this, but there's so much more to it... What kind of choices do you make with your money? From where do you chose to buy things, and from whom? Where do you invest your money? Do you pay people (employees, vendors, etc.) on time, out of respect for the work that they do for you? Do you treat yourself from time to time, showing yourself some kindness? Do you treat others from time to time, for no particular reason?

This weekend, whether you're running errands, grabbing a latte, or celebrating Dad on Father's Day, I invite you to think about the ways that you use money (no matter how much you have) as an expression of your values and spirit.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon was started by Kevin Bacon and Network for Good about a year and a half ago. Lately, I've been researching ways to fundraise through social networking sites (like Facebook, MySpace, etc.), and through my research, I've come across once again.

I love it! As an avid celebrity watcher and enthusiastic philanthropy promoter, I say... kudos to Kevin Bacon! Way to take a little joke and then (1) make it your own, and (2) do something that benefits everyone.

I'm thinking of creating a badge to add to my own blog and web site. Has anyone out there created badges and had any success with them?

Friday, June 06, 2008

Your Mission Statement

I recently came across this page on the Franklin Covey web site: It's a tool for writing your own Mission Statement. Personally, I like the "Kickstart" Mission statement exercise, but the site includes a few other ways of writing your mission statement, plus some inspirational quotes.

I invite you to spend a few minutes today using this site to reflect upon what is most meaningful and valuable to you ... and then think about how you can volunteer or donate money to manifest those values in your community and our world!

(note: the site involves a "pop-up" box, so if you have pop-ups blocked on your computer, you might need to unblock them)

Friday, May 30, 2008

The 29 Day Giving Challenge

This is GENIUS! Wow, I'm so impressed with the impact this one person has made. Check it out at

Monday, May 19, 2008

How to Help Myanmar/Burma

When I first heard about the devastating cyclone that hit Myanmar/Burma, my first thought was "I want to make a donation to help the relief effort." But then, when I heard about how the government was restricting aid workers and relief supplies from getting to the victims who need them, I felt stymied. If I make a donation, will it even get where it needs to go?

According to this article on SFGate (affiliated w/ the San Francisco Chronicle), there was a meeting of more than 50 philanthropists and financial advisers on Friday to figure out how to get aid to the people who need it. The article includes a list of the most effective organizations to which you can send donations.

Read the article, and the list of organiztions, here.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Volunteering Milestone

As some of you know, I volunteer each week with cancer patients at Georgetown University Hospital's Lombardi Cancer Center. I volunteer in the infusion center, which is where patients go on an outpatient basis to do their chemotherapy. I volunteer in honor of my mother, who died of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) in 1994. Mainly I'm just there to hang out with the patients - chemo can be many things: nauseating, tiring, and... boring. Some patients have to sit there for hours. So I chat with the people who want to chat, bring patients drinks and snacks, discuss what's on TV or what's going on with the news, hand out bagged lunches... and when the nurses need help, I help with paperwork, patient education handout and materials, and other good stuff.

I always say that I think I get more out of my volunteering than the patients do. It's my therapy. For 3 hours a week, it is completely, totally, and utterly not about me. It's not about my problems, my stresses, my concerns... it's all about other people.

One of the best things about volunteering at the same time each week is that I get to know the same patients. It's funny, because for some of them, we have pretty intimate conversations, but I don't even know their names. Or I'll really get to know a patient, and then their treatment is over and I don't see them again. I try really hard not to miss my weekly volunteer slot, and I've come to schedule my life around it.

I've shared some great laughs and some touching moments with the patients, and I've loved getting to know the nurses and administrative staff.

Last week, after my weekly volunteering, I went to Georgetown's annual Volunteer Recognition Event - a reception with food, an opportunity to mingle with other volunteers, and someone from the hospital talking about the volunteers' work. Then, they give out certificates that recognize us for the hours we've served. I got my 200 hour Certificate of Appreciation.

I feel like I've really accomplished something with those 200 hours. I'm proud of it. There were other volunteers there who have given thousands of hours, and maybe I'll get there someday, too. But 200 hours feels good. (I've actually given more than that, but they give out the certificates in 100 hour increments!)

I want to share my story to hopefully inspire someone out there to volunteer, and also to emphasize how great it is to volunteer on an ongoing basis with the same population, week to week. You really build relationships that way. I'm starting to feel that with the youth group that I've been volunteering with for about a year - I'm starting to really develop relationships with the girls.

I feel really, really grateful for what my Georgetown volunteering has given me. I've gotten so much more than I've given.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Where do the candidates stand on philanthropy?

The Chronicle of Philanthropy has created a great resource on its web site that outlines where the Presidential candidates stand on non-profit issues (including issues such as arts, healthcare, poverty, the arts, education, international aid, national service, religious groups, etc.) Check it out at:

Monday, April 21, 2008

McCain gave 26% of his income to charity!

Today's Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that John McCain gave 27% of his income to charity in 2006! "The senator’s campaign also said that Mr. McCain has donated to charity a total of $450,000 since 1991— money he received from increases in his Senate salary — 'because he opposed the Congressional pay increase at that time and pledged not to accept the pay raises.'"

I'm no Republican, but... wow! That being said, it probably helps that his wife is an heiress to a beer distribution company. She has a reported wealth of $100 million, and she files a separate return.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Charity Donors are Happier than Stingy People

This piece from today's Chronicle of Philanthropy web site says it all:

March 21, 2008

Charity Donors Are Happier Than Stingy People, New Research Finds

People who give away money are happier than those who do not, according to new research published today in the journal Science.

Elizabeth W. Dunn, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, started her experiment by trying to prove the ways in which accumulating money led to more happiness. She and two colleagues surveyed 632 Americans, asking about their level of happiness, personal spending habits, and how much they donate to charity, reports Forbes.

Ms. Dunn found that while people tend to think that spending money on themselves rather than giving it away will make them happier, the opposite turns out to be true. The researchers used a variety of settings and tactics to test the hypothesis that giving away money leads to more happiness, and the results held — whether on a college campus and in a corporate setting.

Friday, March 14, 2008

New film about the income gap

I heard an interesting piece on NPR this morning about a new documentary film by Jamie Johnson, young heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune. His new film is called "The One Percent," and it focuses on the concentration of wealth in the U.S. among a smaller and smaller group of families. I really liked his last documentary, which was about young heirs like him and their attitudes towards money, the world of work, etc. Check out the interview on NPR's web site.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Unmarried Women Give More to Charity than Unmarried Men

The web site of the Association of Fundraising Professionals reports the following: "Unmarried women contribute more to charity on average in every income category as compared to unmarried men, according to the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College University."

While households headed by unmarried men gave an equal amount to charity as households headed by unmarried women, "female-headed households earned just 71 percent of the income and owned only 55 percent of the net worth of male-headed households. Controlling for income, unmarried women gave slightly more than unmarried men at lower income levels, with the disparity growing wider as income levels rose." For example, in households earning more than $200,000, unmarried men donated an average of $6,526, and unmarried women donated an average of $28,171.

This should tell fundraisers something about where they should concentrate their efforts! Particularly because "there were 31 million households headed by unmarried women in the U.S. in 2004, compared to just 17 million households headed by unmarried men. On aggregate, giving by unmarried females exceeded $23 billion while giving by unmarried males reached just $12 billion."

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

10,000 Women

Today, Goldman Sachs announced a $100 million investment in an organization called 10,000 Women - a program that will offer business training to women entrepreneurs in developing countries around the world. What an amazing program! Through my travels in places like Uganda and India, I have personally seen the ways in which (uneducated or under-educated) women can take the most meager of resources and build small businesses to help their families and communities: from weaving tribal shawls to sell to visiting tourists, to running small home based bed&breakfasts, these women can be powerful drivers for the local economy. Some of the top business schools in the U.S. are partnering on this project.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Americans Volunteer!

One of the things that makes me proud to be an American... I just saw this in the Association of Fundraising Professionals' web site:

"(Feb. 25, 2008) The percentage of Americans who volunteer grew by 10 percent in 2007, according to a study by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and reported in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. The survey, which polled 1,000 adults across the United States, found that 74 percent of American adults said they participated in some type of volunteer service in 2007."

I think it's pretty incredible that approximately 74% of American's volunteer! We are a nation of generous people. Now, if only our foreign aid could catch up to the rest of our giving spirit... but that's a blog post for another day...

Thursday, February 28, 2008

I'm back!

Just back from an incredible, exhilarating, exciting, exhausting trip to southern India. Saw beautiful temples, amazing wildlife (elephants, bison, deer, boar, monkeys, etc.), sublime beaches, and some of the craziest drivers I have ever experienced. And the food... the food!

There's nothing like backpacking through a country like that for 3 weeks to really put in perspective the amounts of STUFF I haul around with me - what I need, and what I think I need. For example, do I really need that extra pair of sneakers, or would I rather give up the couple of extra pounds in my backpack? Do I really need to wear a clean pair of pants every day, or can I make due with less?

Don't get me wrong - I'm not a minimalist, and I don't think there is anything wrong with having nice things. If that makes you happy (and there are certainly plenty of nice things/possessions that make me happy), go for it! I'm just saying that carrying around everything you need on your back for a few weeks really helps you think about what you need and what you want... and it helps you appreciate the little things, like a nice clean skirt, a newly washed T-shirt, or that travel yoga mat that you weren't quite sure you should bring!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Clinton Comments on Nonprofits

A group called the Nonprofit Primary Project (run by the New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits) has been trying to get the Presidential candidates who were swarming the state of New Hampshire to talk about the non-profit sector in their public appearances. Here's an excerpt from the January 6, 2008 edition of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, "Nonprofit Leaders Question Presidential Contenders" (by Suzanne Perry):

(Sentator Clinton responded to a question at a campaign rally with a lengthy response...) “The whole nonprofit sector in America not only delivers essential services, but is a huge employer,” she said. “The number is close to 10 percent of people who work for the nonprofit sector.”

Senator Clinton, who began her career at the Children’s Defense Fund, praised what she called the “third leg of the stool” of the American economy (along with business and government). “It is essential that I as president do everything I can to expand the nonprofit sector.”

She promised to work to allow people who don’t itemize their taxes to get deductions for charitable donations, to help nonprofit groups compete for government contracts, and to highlight the work nonprofit groups do — for example, through White House conferences — and said she was looking for other ideas.

Here's hoping that the candidates, and the people attending their rallies, continue to keep the nonprofit sector on their radar screens!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

"Hell, Yes!"

Any museum that has the phrase "Hell, Yes!" splashed across its facade in rainbow colors is OK by me!

The New Museum in New York recently moved into a new, $50 million building on Bowery Street. They have created an exhibition, "Donor Hall," devoted to philanthropic giving to the arts. It sounds fascinating, and it includes all sorts of crazy imagery (pie charts made from images of actual pies, sushi rolls, etc.) and quotes from classic American literature, all of which cover the walls from floor to ceiling. If you are in NYC, check it out and let me know what you think!