Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Here's a terrific example of combining social media with philanthropy. Tweetsgiving is a Twitter celebration of gratitude and giving created by Epic Change, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The project aims to demonstrate the power of the social web by raising $10,000 in 48 hours to build a classroom in Tanzania. Find out how you can participate at

I'll be tweeting thanks for a long & productive weekend!

Follow me on Twitter!

Fargo Lions at it again ...

I realize I'm a little biased, but the Fargo Lions are a real force for social capital building. They were at it again last night: leading the community in Christmas carols before the city's annual holiday parade. The group even got a nice mention in the Fargo Fourm today. I can't wait to see all my Lion friends on December 22nd!

Remington Vannet (front) and Anna Goffe of Fargo sing Christmas carols Tuesday led by the Fargo Lions Club before the Holiday Lights Parade kicked off. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Jon & Kate + 8

This week on one of my favorite shows, Jon & Kate + 8, the Gosselin Family had a yard sale. While there's nothing particularly 'philanthropic' about a yard sale, Jon and Kate put a unique spin on it - all of the money they earned from the sale went to a pediatric cancer research fund. Feeling blessed by the hundreds of people who have helped them and their 8 children (twins and sextuplets) with gifts, the Gosselins decided to pass on those gifts. Jon and Kate explained and talked to their kids for the weeks leading up to the sale about giving and its importance so that even the six pre-schoolers understand. I hope that more parents will follow their example and introduce philanthropy into the lives of their children!

The Gosselins epitomize serial reciprocity at its simplest and finest.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Altruism or consumerism?

Is the notion of giving a simple gift, no strings attached, becoming more and more passe? The NY Times reports on the growing phenomenon of "gifts with benefits" special events fundraising and charity auctions, where portions of every purchase are "donated" to charity. Is this creative fundraising -- a win-win for consumers and charities alike -- or dilution of philanthropy as an ethical and moral value?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Starbucks doing "GOOD"

I was sitting in the Starbucks at Monument Circle yesterday afternoon (awaiting fellow blogger LKM) and picked up the "GOOD Sheet." This mini-newspaper is a "weekly series breaking down an important issue to help make sense of the world around us." The GOOD Sheet is a publication of GOOD magazine (which I subscribe to), a magazine "for people who give a damn." You may be wondering, as I have, "give a damn about what?" But that's a discussion for another time. For those of you who are unfamiliar with GOOD, 100% of its subscription price is contributed back to partner nonprofit organizations.

Ok, back to this issue of the GOOD Sheet: this week's topic is National Service, something we've already covered in this blog. Naturally, it includes all of the latest volunteerism data available from the Corporation for National and Community Service. It also includes a handy "how-to" chart for determining the right service outlet for you. Can you pass a physical exam, commit two years, between the ages of 17 and 41 and want to help communities in the US and abroad? Then you should join the armed forces! Would you rather skip the physical, commit only 10 months and stay in your community? Then Americorps is right for you! I wish my post-graduation career planning was this easy.

I like the idea of the GOOD Sheet, I am just not sure how many people are sitting down with their friends at Starbucks and engaging in conversation based on its topic. Next time you're in Starbucks, pick up a free issue - next week's topic is "Holiday Economy". Timely. I may be wrapping presents this year in GOOD Sheets - it's cheaper than wrapping paper.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Charity (?), Hollywood Style

While I am allllll about the Celebs doing good -- it brings heightened awareness, most importantly -- for certain causes, an article highlighted in the Chronicle today cites an article in a recent New York Post. The article criticizes some of the foundations and organizations started by celebrities like George Clooney and Bono, have been somewhat misappropriating their funds.

In line with Laura's post below, there are upsides and downsides to Celeb Philanthropy. The upside, as previously mentioned, is an increase of awareness for a cause, leverage of increased funds, and proximity to pretty people with lots of money. While I am all for George Clooney (Hello, gorgeous.), the article points out how these celebs' organizations have not been the most careful in accounting for all of their funds or spending more on operating costs than actually on grants or their mission. George Clooney's foundation hadn't even turned in forms to the IRS!

Even though these celebs elevate the causes, are they above the legalities of nonprofit and foundation work?

I say absolutely not!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Corporate Social Responsibility in Question

Oh! This is my inagural post -- I'm SO EXCITED!! I am a total novice to the blogging world, but what better forum to discuss what we each see in our day to day lives regarding the study that we love -- Philanthropy.

Although from an issue in the Chronicle a month ago, the effect of Corporate Social Responsibility has peaked my interest. This article appeared around the same time that Target started running it's new (and super cute) commercial ad, touting the fact that 5% of every purchase goes towards Target's mission of community awareness and their community outreach program. They give money to education, arts and culture, and social services in the community, donating roughly $3 million a week. CSR is an admirable way for companies to funnel some of their profits back into the community that supports them.

However, the October article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy cited a Forbes article which asks, does CSR really pay off? Does knowledge of Target's 'giving back' really incline consumers to shop there instead of WalMart? Hass claims that convenience, price, and quality rather than ethical reasons motivate consumers to buy certain products, or in this case, shop at a certain store.

After an in-depth and elaborate consumer poll (consisting of Laura, my mom, and I...HEY! We are born shoppers), I concluded that it does indeed make a difference.

But perhaps we are predisposed. I mean, I AM blogging for the first time in my life on the issue of philanthropy.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"Extracting Good from Good Works"

An article in this week's Time magazine describes Corporates for Crisis (CforC), a consulting firm that assists multinational corporations working in developing countries. Created last year, the firm "assists multinationals in emerging, postcrisis countries, particularly in Asia and Africa, by getting them directly involved in local humanitarian, developmental or environmental projects." They do this by bringing together experts in global business, diplomacy and nongovernmental organizations who go to work in the field. Each unique team assigned to a client is designed to seamlessly think about the client's social and business interests. In short, the company is developing a new model of Corporate Social Responsibility. According to its website, "Corporates for Crisis is a new innovative and sustainable approach to corporate responsibility. Our aim is to build on the considerable commitment already shown by the business world by moving away from 'cheque book charity' and harnessing their strengths and motivations to make step changes in the world of community development and humanitarian aid." CforC "is a business for which profit isn't a dirty world."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Chronicle on the 'Cause Celeb'

A recent edition (October 30th) of The Chronicle on Philanthropy included an article on celebrity activism. ( In particular, it discussed Ashley Judd's involvement with YouthAIDS, a program of Population Services International. While Ashley Judd's involvement has brought positive attention and greater awareness to the mission of YouthAIDS, this mutually rewarding and beneficial (I'm inferring from the article) partnership does not always play out as well with other causes and celebrities. Helen Fielding's novel Cause Celeb offers a spot-on take of all aspects - both positive and negative - of celebrity charitable activism. Her questions are thoughtful, insightful, and certainly not easy to answer. For anyone interested in this growing fundraising and awareness trend, Fielding's novel is a must read!