Charity CHAMPs – get involved with microphilanthropy now!

How to maximize my postive impact on the world by sylvng
March 31, 2009, 6:03 pm
Filed under: General Charity Musings | Tags: , , ,

As a Business Intelligence (BI) professional with a bent towards doing good I’ve always this personal debate. What should I do to increase my positive impact on the world:
1. Continue in the BI field and donating the money I make to charity or
2. Switch careers to work full time on charitable works?

To make full use of my education and experience #1 has always seemed more attractive, especially since I would probably make a lot money doing BI for for-profits than I would doing anything else for non-profits. However, there is the question of how much money I’m willing to part with once it’s in my hands (I’d be first to admit weakness on this front). And as much as I love BI, I find less satisfaction and connection giving my money away than volunteering for charities. In case you’re wondering, that’s how Charity CHAMPS started – I decided to work on something charitable while still keeping a career in BI.

Of course, there’s lots of successful entrepreneurs who have made their riches and have set up foundations to give back; from the famous ones, like Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Omidyar Network, to less known ones, like the Roddick Foundation funded by The Body Shop’s founder Anita Roddick. While I don’t think I’ll ever have the fortunes that these people have to work with, their model has proven to work out. In general people give more time earlier on in their lives, and give more money later on. However, I feel that this model may be based on convenience (due to stage of life), and has less to do with maximizing impact. Time is money after all, and who can accurately compare the impact of my $1 dollar donated now towards disaster relief vs. what $10 can do 10 years from now if I wait and collect interest on the $1 instead of donating it now?

So the question remains. Should I follow in the entrepreneurs’ footsteps, amass some money and then give back? Or work on the front line?

I don’t think there will ever be a “right” answer to this one. Anybody out there with the same thoughts as me?

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How to find volunteers in Toronto by sylvng
March 29, 2009, 3:22 pm
Filed under: General Charity Musings | Tags: , , ,

I’ve been involved with a lot of non-profits to date, from the Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference (CUTC) to Wired Woman, and now Charity CHAMPS. Through all this involvement I have seen how running non-profits is all about getting good people on board (which is the case with running any organization), but finding volunteers is always a particular challenge. People volunteer for different reasons, and if the position you’re looking to fill is a more permanent one that requires something other than rote grunt work, my advice would be to find out what the candidate’s motivations are during an interview. But I digress – this post is about where to post for volunteers; I’ll have to write about volunteer motivation another time.

To find volunteers, I think word of mouth is still the best way to go, or even using MSN, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn statuses to let people know that you’re looking. But when that fails, I’ve found CharityVillage to be a very reliable source of volunteers. Postings are free for non-profits / charities, and although the site itself can use a face-lift, it works great. As the volunteer services lead for Wired Woman I almost exclusively used CharityVillage, and never had to branch out to find talent. For Charity CHAMPS I’ve branched out and posted on Craigslist and Kijiji but have yet to get a response from either site. I’ve also posted on Idealist, but I think the site’s users are mainly American and so still CharityVillage remains the best option for finding volunteers in Toronto.

Another site that’s come to my attention lately is StudentJobLink. It’s a new site and team has been very eager in trying to help Charity CHAMPS get volunteers. Of course, there’s always local events, like Timeraiser, which can be great for finding volunteers as well, but it’s tough if you’re looking for something more immediate since event only happens once a year.

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Where does social media fall in traditional charity categories? by sylvng

This blog is about microphilanthropy, and because everything “micro” has been hugely enabled by the Internet, this blog mostly is about online social media charities. What’s interesting is that if I try to find one of these online microphilanthropies by going to an established charity listing site, I always get stumped by what category to pick. For example, check out the list of charity categories at charitynavigator. If I’m trying to find, for example, charity:water, what would that be under? Public Benefit? Environment? Or take a look at the list of NGO categories at charityvillage. They have an Internet category, but that’s filled by charities that provide information technology to other charities, not charities that use information technology to fundraise.

Considering the growth of the microphilanthropy industry and the increasing use of social media in fundraising I would love to see a separate category for online fundraising movements. A home, if you will, for organizations like Charity CHAMPS, or, etc. So I wrote to both CharityNavigator and CharityVillage, and here’s what they had to say:

“We suspect that organizations like those would fall in our Public Benefit – Fundraising Organizations cause. Organizations in this cause have as their purpose to raise money in support of their chosen causes, but typically do not run any programs themselves.” – CharityNavigator

=> I agree, but maybe a sub-category would be nice, because social media does so much more than just fundraising. It’s public engagement, not just public benefit!

“We’ll be taking a close look at the way we manage the content on the website this year, and your feedback will most certainly give us something to consider as we move toward that project. Hopefully we will have some new categories for your organization in the near future.” – CharityVillage

=> Wonderful – I’ll have to check back and see if anything develops.

In general charity work is being done by a lot more for-profits now that companies are trying to increase social responsibility. As that part of the industry grows I’m sure there’ll be increased pressure on existing category frameworks to expand, not just to include internet-enabled philanthropy models, but to include for-profit charity programs as well.

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Squidoo – the version of Wikipedia where you earn money by sylvng
March 23, 2009, 2:20 pm
Filed under: General Charity Musings, Microphilanthropy | Tags: ,

Of all the microphilanthropies that I’ve covered so far, Squidoo is probably my favourite concept, although it takes more time to get involved than any of the others I’ve talked about on this blog.

So here’s how Squidoo works. You create a Squidoo webpage on any topic you want. And finding a topic easy – you can write about people you idolize or respect in SquidWho , or write a book review using SquidLit. Using the Squidoo engine it shouldn’t take more than 60 seconds to build a page,  although to come up with good content it will probably take much longer than that. Squidoo then collects revenue from ads and affiliates off of your page, as people flock to read what you have to say. 5% of the money goes toward charity, another 45% goes toward Squidoo to cover costs, and the rest is yours to do with as you choose. According to Squidoo, 35% of all their users donate their royalties to charity.

The good part is, the charity donations are handled for you. If you are a part of a US 503(c) charity you can add yourself to the Squidoo network, market your causes on a Squidoo page, and just watch as the microdonations come in. Very nifty! Too bad Charity CHAMPS isn’t registered in the US… yet. The only criticism I have  is that the site isn’t user friendly enough – to create a page is easy, but to understand what’s going on isn’t, and some of the pages are so cluttered it’s hard to tell what’s real content and what’s just noise.

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Looking for a “responsible” job? Or just something good to do? by sylvng

Well look no further than JustMeans. JustMean’s mission is to “provide best in class services that help companies communicate and implement their socially responsible efforts Online.” So think LinkedIn, but with a socially responsible twist. If you’re looking for a job that you can feel good about,  upload your resume, or a job search; all the companies profiled on the site have programs that are doing the world some good.

I just signed up with a personal profile, and what I like about the site is this Twitter-like aspect where you can state what good work you’re doing. The posts are featured right at the top of the homepage, so if your project can use a bit of PR, just post a link up! And on the flip side, if you’re just looking to support a cause, click on some of the links. As I write this there’s a post up about who is planting one tree for every user. Definitely worth a click.

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Where are the volunteer graphic designers? by sylvng

Charity CHAMPS so far has been run by a group of volunteers, of professionals who believe in the cause and are more than willing to donate some time to make things happen. To build the team we’ve posted for volunteers on several sites, including Charityvillage, Kijiji, Idealist, and Craigslist. What’s interesting is that while we’ve gotten a ton of responses for our business / accounting posts, we have yet to get anything for our graphics design posts. And the posts were all written by me so I can tell you  that they all describe Charity CHAMPS with the same text.

So where are the volunteer graphic designers?? I’ve connected with a few designers through friends and I had a very enlightening conversation with a soon-to-be Sheridan grad yesterday. She had volunteered for a big institution last year, and was forced into such slave labour with them that she’s entirely jaded. But what’s more, she told me that the industry as a whole frowns upon volunteerism – anything done for free is seen as degrading the value of all artists’ work! Apparently instances where the Olympics runs contests to get logos for free is making artists feel ripped-off, especially when a company like IBM would easily pay in the tens of thousands for logo development. So her word of caution, which seems in-line with everything that I’ve experienced so far, is that unless I can dangle some money in front of freelancers, they won’t bite.

This is all news to me, and although I’m very happy to get this context, it’s making me feel a bit depressed. How did the graphics industry become like that, to the point where even the students who haven’t graduated yet are already jaded? What’s so different between that industry and the software development one where there are contests galore and even open-source development? Perhaps it’s just the people I know, but it seems developers have much less aversion to volunteering than graphic artists. Not that there haven’t been very nice designers who have offered their help so far, but in general it’s been harder finding graphics help than help for other things.

I’d welcome any thoughts on this topic. And if you know of any graphic designers who may be interested in volunteering, surprise me and let me know. It will certainly brighten up my day. In the meantime, a contact at Sheridan informs me that it’s possible to get students to work on Charity CHAMPS as a school project. We’ll see if that pans out.

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Playgreen – tell the world how you live green by sylvng

Want to do a bit of good without viewing or clicking on any ads, or having to donate any money? Well how about contributing some of your knowledge? is building the biggest book on green living and invites you to take part by adding what you know to their wiki. They have some pretty cool articles – some teach you how to build a green computer and others tell you about local events that you can take part of, like going to have Green Drinks.

At home I try to do a bunch of green things, some that are normal and some that are not so usual. Normal things include using a programmable thermostat and drying clothes on a line instead of using the dryer. Not so normal things include saving styrofoam to recycle at the UofT campus, and placing a green bin specifically in our bathroom so tissues and other organics don’t end up in the garbage can.  I’m also placing plastic containers in my car so that if I ever do take-out I don’t end up getting styrofoam packages, but so far I’ve only done it once.  I keep forgetting to put the plastic containers back in the car to use again.

A quick search on styrofoam and clothes drying didn’t bring up any articles on playgreen, so it seems like they can still use a lot of input. So try it out and as usual let me know how you like it!

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