Thistle Farms is an extraordinary social enterprise run by women who have survived lives of prostitution, trafficking, addiction and life on the streets. To sustain their recovery programs, the women at Thistle Farms create hand-made natural bath and body products. Purchases of these products directly benefit the women by whom they were made. Through its Shared Trade initiative, Thistle Farms is now also selling products handmade by women survivors worldwide. If you’d like to save a life while shopping for the holidays, visit the online stores for Thistle Farms and Shared Trade. The sites are humble, but the products are beautiful.
Last week, Forbes published its list of reputable nonprofit organizations working to end the spread of Ebola in West Africa. The list includes many names you will recognize, among them Doctors without Borders, The Red Cross, AmeriCares and Unicef USA. I want to draw your attention to Emergency USA, an international organization I personally know from my due diligence work with The Khaled Hosseini Foundation. Due to the Ebola outbreak, Emergency USA is operating the only fully functional hospital in Sierra Leone. They have also opened a treatment center in Freetown and are currently raising money to fund a larger 90-bed facility in the same location by November 2014. Though they are dwarfed in size by some of the others on this list, they deliver measurable impact and have proven themselves to be efficient and accountable with donations. At a minimum, $20 pays for a set of disposable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to help protect Emergency’s staff so please spread the word.
Every week, and I mean every week, I receive an email or Facebook post requesting that I support the walk, swim, ride or other personal activity of someone I know who is raising funds to help end an illness, injustice or social inequity. In the past two weeks alone, I have received invitations to support personal campaigns for breast and brain cancer, ALS, flood relief and the education of Rwandan girls. Though I cannot contribute to them all, these emails make me happy—each a testament to the generosity of the human spirit and the innate longing we each have to help make the world a better place. My thanks and a deep bow to all who are donning running shoes, bike kits, swimsuits and climbing gear for the greater good.
I am so grateful that I have, after 14 years as a volunteer and donor, been asked to serve on the Advisory Board of Nepal Youth Foundation –an organization providing freedom, health, shelter and education to Nepal’s most impoverished youth. It is a tremendous privilege for me to serve my role model, 89-year-young Olga Murray, and executive director in Nepal, Som Paneru. Thank you Olga for keeping me up all night all those years ago dreaming with you about your audacious plan to free 30,000 indentured girls and allowing me to be even the smallest part of your success.
For years I have been wondering why Foundation staff, particularly those at large foundations, seem so reticent to admit that while giving can be hard work, it can also be a heck of a lot of fun. Darren Walker, the new president of the esteemed Ford Foundation, has finally broken the “President’s Message” mold and expressed—in a video with a personal touch—the privilege it is to support great work that uplifts spirits. Thanks for the nod to the joy your grantees bring to others Darren!
Today, LinkedIn let me know that my consulting practice Wise Giving is having its 14th “birthday.” This is the first time I have been alerted to the age of my practice and I am grateful for the opportunity to express my gratitude to the incredible people who have helped me throughout the years and the hard working dreamers I’ve had the privilege to meet. When all seems lost, I think of the individuals and nonprofits I have met through Wise Giving and their tireless efforts to make the world a kinder and more just place. I can think of no better way to honor my own small milestone than by standing publicly in solidarity with the Parents Circle Families Forum, an awe-inspiring group of more than 600 Israeli and Palestinian families, each of whom have lost a family member or loved one to the conflict, yet continue to work together in support of peace, reconciliation and tolerance. My thoughts are with them and with all of you who have welcomed me into your workplaces and hearts these past 14 years.
My dear friends at The Khaled Hosseini Foundation shared this three-minute UNICEF video with me. It documents the recent relief efforts UNICEF began in response to the Badakhshan landslide in Afghanistan. I have to admit, I was stunned by this video. Whatever it was I was picturing when I read the words “landslide” in the news was far less devastating than this.If you watch it, you will see what I mean. Khaled’s foundation is raising funds for UNICEF through July 4 so if you or anyone you know might want to help, you can donate safely through his site.
The most dangerous day of a child’s life is the day of their birth. I learned this from Embrace, a nonprofit founded here in the Bay Area. Embrace explains that premature infants lack the body fat necessary to regulate their own temperature so even room temperature can feel freezing cold to them. In the developed world, these babies are typically placed in an incubator until they’re able to make it on their own. But parents and health care workers caring for hypothermic infants in developing countries are left with few options, among them hot water bottles, radiant warmers, hot coals, and light bulbs. In 2007, a group of grad students at Stanford were challenged to create an intervention for hypothermia that cost less than 1% of the price of a state-of-the-art incubator. Their solution was the revolutionary blanket seen in this photo. Embrace is saving thousands of lives by donating these blankets in some of the poorest countries in the world. What better way to celebrate mother’s day than by giving a little warmth to a newborn who would otherwise not survive? And as a gift to yourself, I hope you will watch this 2 ½ minute video of Nissima in Uganda.
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation announced today that their eight-year, $12 million effort to support the “effective philanthropy” movement did not achieve its goals. This effort aimed to persuade individual donors to give greater consideration to financial and short-term metrics; it also de-emphasized harder to measure impact such as influence on social and political change, hope and joy, mitigation of pain and suffering, and even donor satisfaction. The foundation admitted that while the effort “succeeded at producing more information about charity performance [think Charity Navigator and Give Well], it did little to change donors’ decisions: They continued to give with their hearts, not their heads.” Commenting on the news, Jan Masaoka, Executive Director of California Association of Nonprofits explained that using Charity Navigator and other simplistic ratings never was “using your head.” She said, “Your head ought to tell you that unproven, inaccurately calculated metrics for the wrong things are an un-smart ways to choose where to donate.” To be clear, I always review nonprofit tax returns available online at Guidestar when performing due diligence. But given the large number of worthy charities that have been unfairly tarnished by simplistic assessments, and the misconceptions these ratings have fostered, I am relieved that the research about their inefficacy is now available and being acted upon.