The Season of Giving: Breast Cancer Edition

The Season of Giving: Breast Cancer Edition

Dec 09

‘Tis the season…of donating to charities. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation offers a great way to give to a community working hard to treat and ultimately end breast cancer. And there are many other nonprofits also working to educate the public and support research. Unfortunately, we live in an age where giving to a charity isn’t as easy as it ought to be. If you’re looking to support breast cancer research and survivors this holiday season, here’s what you need to know. Where should my donations go? The Breast Cancer Research Foundation is a great place to start. With high-profile donors including Owl Rock’s Marc Lipschultz, Discovery Capital Management’s Rob Citrone, and billionaire media investor Herbert J. Siegel, the BCRF’s work draws the support of big names from all walks of life. Other great foundations waiting for your donations: Living Beyond Breast Cancer, The National Breast Cancer Foundation, and The Breast Cancer Fund. (All of these organizations received a rating of three stars or higher from Charity Navigator.) Should I go pink? Every October, all manner of companies and organizations put out pink products and advertisements in honor of breast cancer survivors and those doing research on the disease. But how much good do these campaigns really do? Getting to the truth can be tricky. Gayle Sulik, author of Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health, notes that a lot of these companies don’t actually donate anything to breast cancer charities. Instead, they “raise awareness”—a pretty vague notion. And some of these companies, Sulik writes, simultaneously produce products that can cause breast cancer even while they paint the walls pink. “It doesn’t make much sense to buy pink ribbon products,” says Samantha King, author of Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy. “By doing so, you’re simply subsidizing corporate marketing campaigns. If you want to give, give directly to the breast cancer organization.” And as an added bonus, when you give directly, you get the tax deduction—not the corporation. What else should I look out for when donating? Use websites like Charity Watch or Charity Navigator to check on the credibility of the organization you want to donate to. These sites can also tell you exactly where your money will go. If you want to dig deeper, take a look at the nonprofit’s financial reports to get a feel for their health and...

Funding Leadership Training in the Nonprofit Sector

Funding Leadership Training in the Nonprofit Sector

Dec 08

Leadership training and education is an important part of keeping nonprofits healthy, especially when it comes to transitioning between CEOs or other major leadership positions. The problem is, different organizations take different views on what kind of training is needed and funders have different ideas of what kind of training is worth funding. But according to Bridgespan, a nonprofit organization that works with other groups to improve leadership and subsequent impact, there is a gulf between what funders fund and what grantees need. Much of this seems to come down to the ability of organizations to communicate their needs to funders, but in order to do that, the organization needs to understand what those needs are in the first place. Some might put the focus on individual training of leaders or even employees who could transition into such roles. Others might put the focus on larger changes to organizational culture, allowing them to instill certain leadership mentalities in employees across the board, hoping to improve the group as a whole. What works for one nonprofit isn’t necessarily going to work for another, and figuring out what works in a given organization may take time and effort, all of which needs to be funded in the first place. As with so many other aspects of the nonprofit sector, the key to doing so is transparency. Donors need to know how money is being spent, and if that includes exploratory studies to figure out the best way to educate an organization’s leaders in order to improve its ability to follow through with it’s mission, then they need to know that. Of course, once an organization knows what kinds of leadership training it needs to engage in to improve impact, that needs to be made clear as well. Funders want to help nonprofits achieve their missions, and if the argument can be made that leadership training will improve the chances of doing that, then those efforts should be able to secure...

Helping People Design Video Games

Helping People Design Video Games

Dec 07

Video games have become a huge business, bringing in billions of dollars each year. But it’s also an industry that’s really hard to break into. Even though there have been a number of very successful independent titles made on shoestring budgets that garnered massive audience appeal, there are still many, many more that never break out, even if they’re really well made. This is where a Minnesota based nonprofit called Glitch comes in. Glitch is basically an arts charity, only instead of helping fund artists who paint or sculpt, they’re helping people get into the gaming industry. Finding and making the kinds of connections that can land prospective game designers jobs in the industry can be difficult, but Glitch pairs young designers up with established professionals to mentor them. It helps young designers develop games that they can showcase and, ideally, use to get into the industry. So far they’ve helped designers from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Dakotas in the six years that the organization has been around. While helping people design games may not seem as important as, say, saving an endangered species or protecting civil rights, one could argue that it’s at least as important as funding a symphony. Perhaps even more so. 60% of Americans play video games and most of them are between the ages of 18 and 35. But the most popular games tend to be the most available, and those tend to be the same tried and true game over and over. More and more people are branching out and looking for new and different gaming experiences, but those can be hard to find, especially when the big companies aren’t interested in anything that can’t rake in millions. But organizations like Glitch help bring in new, unique designers interested in making games that explore something other than the standard white male power fantasy, and getting more diverse games out there is certainly a good...

‘Nelfie’ Wants You to Take a Nude Selfie for Charity

‘Nelfie’ Wants You to Take a Nude Selfie for Charity

Dec 01

How far would you go for charity? Would you strip naked for it? That’s precisely what Nelfie, a UK-based project, wants you to do. Here’s how it works. Participants take a “nelfie” (short for “nude selfie”) and post it on social media. Although that sounds absolutely terrifying, it’s actually not that bad. For one, the photos aren’t actually nude. Participants tactfully place an object over their private parts. It’s still risqué though, as it certainly leaves little to the imagination. Now here’s where the fundraising part comes in. When a participant first posts the photo, it is highly pixelated—too pixelated to even see anything. Participants incentivize their friends to donate to charity by de-pixelating the image as more and more contributions are made. The more people donate, the clearer the image gets. It’s fun, it’s spunky, and it’s definitely novel. Tom Wren, who founded Nelfie in 2015, is quite literally leading by example when it comes to his unusual fundraising technique. He posted his own “nelfie” in support of Amnesty International, a non-governmental organization centered on human rights. In an interview with Startacus.net, Wren said that he originally started the company as a way for normal, everyday people to raise massive amounts of money for charity. “I’m frustrated that typically the amount of money we can raise is limited to how many friends and co-workers we have, and they don’t have much fun donating to a static page. It’s sad that it seems only celebrities can raise huge awareness for what matters to them with a single tweet.” And that’s how Nelfie was born. Wren wanted to put the FUN back in fun-draising. And he’s done a phenomenal job so far; Nelfie is just now starting to take off, with countries from all over the world participating in the challenge. “For those not quite ready to nelfie, we’d really appreciate the support of this community in helping grow our impact and supporting our live campaigns, whether it be supporting with a donation, a share on social media or even just spreading the word,” Wren stated. Here at Philanthropic People, we’re not quite courageous enough to take a nelfie. However, we’re proud to say we did our part in spreading the...

The Nonprofit That Uses Scavenger Hunts to Test Life Skills

The Nonprofit That Uses Scavenger Hunts to Test Life Skills

Nov 30

Room to Read is a nonprofit that has been largely focused on global literacy since it’s inception. But since the year 2000, they have also developed a strong focus on girls’ education in countries like India, Cambodia, and Zambia. They operate programs in nine countries around the world, and they’ve come to realize that life skills such as negotiation, self-confidence, and persistence are important for girls who might have to struggle to keep their education going. To that end, they’ve developed a study to test their students for those skills. The study is actually built around a three-day scavenger hunt. The idea is that, by having each girl get at least 10 of 30 listed items, they can gauge where she falls on a number of these skills. Getting a toe-ring, for example, illustrates negotiation and trustworthiness, because for women in some parts of India, toe-rings are the equivalent of a wedding band. It’s a novel way of doing things. But by choosing items that wouldn’t be too easy or hard to find, they think they’ve struck on a system that will inform them about what level these girls are at in these critical life skills. Self-reporting by answering questions doesn’t always give an accurate accounting of something as ephemeral as self-confidence, especially in girls aged 11-13 who don’t necessarily have the life experience to gauge that. But by assigning tasks that use the skills in question, they can more accurately measure those skills by looking at the end result. The study involved 2,500 girls at 60 schools. The study will be repeated again in 2018 in order to build off the baseline data collected in 2016. Hopefully, it works as expected and becomes a tool that Room to Read can use to help instill these skills in their students. Maybe it will even allow the girls to continue their education after they age out of the nonprofit’s...

Diversifying Nonprofit Income

Diversifying Nonprofit Income

Nov 29

The Business Weekly section of the Reading Eagle (based out of Reading, PA) did one of those things that local papers are so good at: they wrote about local news in a way that’s actually quite useful to people who aren’t local. In this case, they have a piece about two local charities: Bethany Children’s Home and Opportunity House. Both of these organizations have diversified their revenue streams in order to prevent a reduction in federal grants. It’s the “diversifying revenue streams” that classifies this as a business article. Their point, and it’s a good one, is that sometimes nonprofits should think like for-profits, which at a certain size, tend to look for multiple income streams in case one doesn’t do so great. It’s fine for a small business to focus on manufacturing one specific item, but if demand for that item drops, or doesn’t keep pace with growth, or material prices go up, it can tank the company. That’s why you diversify in such a situation. Nonprofits can benefit from the same thinking. Federal and state grants can dry up or be awarded to other organizations. Donations rise and fall with the economy. But thrift stores, which you’ll notice are frequently run by nonprofits, tend to weather economic downturns really well. That’s probably why Goodwill and the Salvation Army have been using them for so long. It’s also what Opportunity House is doing in Reading now, with their new OppShop store that allows them to keep items out of landfills while employing underserved people. Bethany Children’s Home, which helps abused and neglected children, has been operating a dairy farm since 1873. Bethany Children’s Home has also operated its own freshwater spring since 2012. It really boils down to this age-old advice: don’t put all your eggs in one basket, even if you’re a...

Don’t Forget to Celebrate Giving Tuesday

Don’t Forget to Celebrate Giving Tuesday

Nov 22

It’s incredibly ironic that immediately following Thanksgiving, people are willing to trample one another for the best sales deals. Here’s a better proposal: instead of participating in Black Friday, why not participate in Giving Tuesday? It’s certainly a lot more in line with the spirit of Thanksgiving. For those of you who’ve never heard of Giving Tuesday before, it’s like a national holiday for charitable donations. It takes place on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, which would be November 29 this year. Social media users created the “holiday” as a pushback against the greed and selfishness that’s displayed after Thanksgiving. #GivingTuesday is now a popular hash tag on Twitter. But the best part about Giving Tuesday is that there isn’t one specific charity that people are encouraged to donate to. Those who wish to participate can donate to any organization they choose. However, we at Philanthropic People always advise you to do your research before making any contributions. Readers should know that every year during the holidays, there is an increase in the amount of scam charities. Ken Berger, CEO of Charity Navigator, knows this all too well. “Because so much money is being given out during this time, by extension the scammers and the thieves know this is the time to exploit people the most,” Berger warned. “The causes that we find scammers are drawn to the most are the ones that the American public really resonates most powerfully with. So examples are charities that are meant to support the families and people themselves who have risked their lives for our country: police, firefighters, veterans. And in another group are charities that are meant to help children—children with cancer, children with disabilities.” The easiest way to protect yourself from fraud is to educate yourself on what to look out for. A complete list of scam charity warning signs can be found...

Showing Up for Racial Justice

Showing Up for Racial Justice

Nov 21

“We envision a society where we struggle together with love, for justice, human dignity and a sustainable world.” That’s the vision as quoted from civil rights organization Showing Up for Racial Justice. As the last decade in the United States has shown, this country still has a long way to go before achieving social equality. That’s why we need organizations like Showing Up for Racial Justice. Founded in 2009, Showing Up for Racial Justice has grown to become a national network of activism groups across the country. The goal of this specific organization is to help get white people involved the fight for racial equality. The organization operates on the belief that those who are privileged can use their position of power to be an advocate for the disadvantaged. By creating this large scale network of multi-racial people with a passion for equality, citizens can band together to improve the country “through community organizing, mobilizing, and education.” The advantage of having a network like this is being able to unify and orchestrate protests when injustices do happen. As the old saying goes, “There is strength in numbers.” The organization wants to make it very clear that white people don’t have to be the enemy; they can be allies. The organization seeks to lead by example by being inclusive, not divisive. Put in their own words, they want to “call people in, not call people out.” It’s inspiring that the leadership of Showing Up for Racial Justice has taken several steps to ensure that they are held accountable for their actions. They work closely with other organizations to make sure that their activities and endorsements are in line with the values and beliefs of their mission. Their transparency is a leading example of what honesty and integrity looks like in the nonprofit...