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Making A Difference®: The World of Giving – Remembering our military on Memorial Day

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Memorial Day.  What does it bring to mind?  Summer’s arrival?  Some people, including myself, believe that many have forgotten the meaning of this holiday.

 

Memorial Day is an important day on which to remember what has been done by so many to protect this country and others around the world.  Memorial Day started in the aftermath of the Civil War as a way to honor those who had died.  Over the years it expanded to include the remembrance of all those from all wars where Americans fought.  Originally known as Decoration Day, this day is truly a time to remember those men and women who died while in military service.

Some might be exasperated at that thought of being challenged to “do something” to honor this day after all it is a three day weekend and the start of summer, right?

 

I would counter that there are things, many of which are easy, you can do to appreciate the men and women who have lost their lives while serving our country and to help those who are still serving.

 

First, participate in the National Moment of Remembrance.  It is one minute of silence that occurs at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day in honor of those who have lost their lives in service to the Unites States of America.  This is a way to put the “memory” back into Memorial Day.  To remember it, try setting the alarm on your phone as a reminder to take a minute to remember those who have given their lives to fight for this country.

 

Another idea is to gather your family and friends to watch TV!  Annually, in Washington DC, the national concert to honor the military takes place on the evening before Memorial Day.  It is hosted by actors Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise.  Both of these men have committed their time year after year on this holiday to giving back via hosting this concert in our nation’s capital.  Check it out as well as the Memorial Day Concert broadcasted on PBS.  The concert will occur from 8:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. edt.  Tune in to learn about those who have made sacrifice for this country a way of life.

 

It should be noted that both hosts have also committed personally to giving back and helping those involved with the military.  Joe is the national spokesperson for the National Museum of the United States Army and its campaign to raise $200 million to honor and showcase the 30 million women and men who have worn the uniform since 1775.  He also supports the Act Today for Military Families which focuses on helping military families who have children affected by autism.

 

Gary has started a charitable foundation to raise awareness and money to honor those who have served our country and are in need.  As his website says, “While we can never do enough to show our gratitude to our nation’s defenders, we can always do a little more.”  Think about following the examples of Joe and Gary.

 

Memorial Day is an opportunity to make a difference to those who have served our country or to remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice – their lives. Here are five (5) recommendations and tips on easy ways to Make A Difference® (M.A.D.):

 

  1. Fly the American flag at half-staff until noon in honor of those who have lost their lives while serving for the United States; then again raising it high once again. 
  2. Visit a VA Hospital or senior center where they are veterans; listen to their stories
  3. Visit a cemetery and read the headstones of those who have died for our freedom; think about what their sacrifice means to you!
  4. Attend the Memorial Day activities in your community.  Go to your hometown’s website to learn about any activities that may be going on.  Most have a parade or some sort of commemoration; take the young people in your life with you to begin passing on the importance of this holiday.     
  5. Make a charitable donation to a nonprofit doing work with veterans.  I strongly recommend the Wounded Warrior Project, Operation Homefront.

Bonus Tip #1: Take time to write a letter or send a package to someone who is serving or take a veteran with you to the activities you attend on Memorial Day, such as a parade or picnic.

 

Bonus Tip #2: Are you considering taking one of the days to do spring cleaning?  If so, and you find old cell phones that are not being used in drawers and boxes, consider donating them to Cell Phones for Soldiers; for each cell phone donated, this organization sends calling cards to soldiers stationed throughout the world so they can call home.  

 

Serving in our military is a great honor but comes with much sacrifice for both the soldier and the family.  Freedom is a hard fought battle that occurs on daily basis.  Pay tribute to our military men and women, as well as their families by honoring and remembering those who have served and continue to serve.

 

Let’s make this Memorial Day 2014 a time to remember the more than 2 million men and women serving daily.  By taking action on any of the recommendations in this blog, you will join Joe Mantegna, Gary Sinise and thousands of others who definitely want to be M.A.D. (Making A Difference) for those who have done so much for our country!  Are you M.A.D. today?

 

Happy Memorial Day!

Making A Difference® While Giving Back To Musicians

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In the age of the internet, it’s almost impossible to protect anything.   Music, art and literature often can be easily duplicated without cost (and of course, without profit to the artist).    In some cases, it may even seem better just to make art free.   But if you do that, what’s left – relying on charity?  As it turns out, that idea may not be as risky as some seem to think.

Amanda Palmer is the first “big” artist to try this.  After an ‘unsuccessful’ release of her first CD, Palmer began her grand campaign online.  Instead of charging people for her music, she asked people to pay what she thought her money was worth.  It sounds crazy, but considering online piracy, and the massive amounts of money that record companies take from artists, she taught is was worth considering.

The music industry is all about connecting with the audience, and for Amanda, that means crowdsourcing (staying in homes instead of hotels, and inviting musicians to play with her when she needs a band) in order to build greater contact with her fans.

And how does she fund this?  She relies completely on charity.  Yes, although a musician is not someone we might normally consider for a charitable donation, the simple act of paying for the experience you received sure seems like giving back.   In Amanda’s case, nobody is making you pay, so by simply giving to fund the experience is an act of charity within itself.

But such acts are not confined to just musicians. Look at Aaron’s Last Wish.  It started when Aaron Collins, dies three weeks before his 30th birthday.  He believed that generosity and kindness were the ways that a person’s life left a mark on the world.  Moved by his generous spirit, his brother tips waiters and waitresses across the country $500 in an attempt to spread this kindness.  These tips, a single act of charity, have had a remarkable impact on the people they were given to.  One waitress was a twenty-one year old student, working three jobs to make ends meet.  Another was struggling to pay rent after a car accident kept her out of work for a week, yet a single tip (albeit a big one), had the power to change that.  It’s so hard to remember that something as simple as giving to a service you are grateful for, can be Making A Difference®!

Making a Difference® on Fourth of July

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Fourth of July is always a highlight of the summer.  Whether you enjoy a picnic outside with your family or catch a ball game with your favorite team, it is a time to reflect on the many gifts and opportunities we have been given in this great country.

In a day in age where all news stations seem to broadcast the very worst tragedies, it may seem difficult to find stories about the very best of the human spirit.  But, Independence Day is a great time to remember and build on the principles and the drive that founded this country 237 years ago.  The idea of giving back and helping your neighbor during times of great need is something that has been passed down through the generations in America.  The fight for freedom in 1776 gave us a shining example of why we must care for all of our citizens in order to provide “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for all in this country.

Each day, American nonprofits are finding ways to ensure all people truly have the opportunities described in the Declaration of Independence.  Whether organizations or individuals are providing food or healthcare assistance, helping to secure a better educational system or assisting the elderly, Americans across the country are Making A Difference in their communities.

There is no greater way to honor the history of The United States, or the brave men and women who defend it today, than by giving back!  This Fourth of July, reflect on the many freedoms and gifts you and your family have been given.  But, think about ways you can contribute to building an even better America for those around you and for future generations.  Consider donating to a charity close to your heart, or volunteer some time with an organization in your community.  No matter how you decide to celebrate this Independence Day, remember that you can be Making A Difference® by living out the words and legacy of our Founding Fathers.

Making A Difference®: The World of Giving – New Choices for Your Support

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Have you ever wondered if there are projects or organizations that are really just right for your attention or support … but you just don’t know about them?  Today there are many ways of learning about, and helping, great organizations, and you don’t even have to do much work!

This week the well-known company Tom’s of Maine launches their annual contest “50 States of Good:  Growing Good Works One Community at a Time.”  And the best part is that it is open to EVERYONE! Tom’s of Maine has already done the work to accept nominations and then selected one terrific nonprofit organization from each state that supports “healthy, human and environmental goodness.”  From now until October 9th you can visit their site at http://www.tomsofmaine.com/community-involvement/living-well/project-sponsorships and vote for the organization (maybe the one from your state?) that you think is most worthy.  The six organizations with the highest vote tallies share $150,000 with a top award of $50,000.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was one of the four judges for this year’s contest (along with the actor Ian Somerhalder of the IS Foundation, Laura Burge, the editor and producer of Care 2, and Sam Davidson, the founder and president of Cool People Care) and the organizations that were nominated were, simply, terrific.  I wouldn’t have known about most of them without this company bringing them to my attention.

Another innovative model for funding – and learning – is with a company like CREDO, which launched Working Assets with credit cards in the mid-80s and has had two goals that may seem mutually exclusive but have come together in one vision: to run a successful business and work for social change.  CREDO takes a percentage of the charges their customers make to support nonprofit groups that work on issues from global warming and economic justice to humanitarian aid and marriage equality.  Most importantly, they don’t make the decisions; their members pick the groups each year and vote on distributing the donations(http://act.credoaction.com/voting/login.html).  In 25 years they have raised more than $70 million with almost $3 million last year!

Donors Choose  is an online charity focused on helping students in need.  Public school teachers post classroom project requests (anything from pencils to violins) that individuals can review and fund.  When a project fund reaches its goal, the materials are donated to the school and the donor gets project photos, a budget report and a thank you letter from the teacher.  This type of crowdsourcing (see www.kickstarter.com for a major success story in online project funding) has grown so that organizational entities, such as public schools, can find new support and donors can learn about great opportunities – and people!  Donors Choose calls this “citizen philanthropy” and, as of September 1st of this year, they have raised over $122 million for public school needs and helped almost 7 million students.

In New York City a small but important organization called The Catalog for Giving  focuses on providing information for donors who “don’t have the time or the means to discover … organizations that provide invaluable services to New York City children.”  Every three (3) years the Catalog seeks out young (two to ten years old), small (budgets under $1 million) organizations that have innovative programs and are under the radar of major funders.  Donors can target their donations to the program of their choice.

You can even get access to hard-to-get concert and sports tickets while supporting charities and foundations that have been fully vetted for their effectiveness!  Charity Partners has a goal of generating $100 million a year so that identified charities can spend more time on their work, and achieving their missions, and less time seeking funds.  Tickets-for-Charity® has great seats for high-demand live events nationwide that wouldn’t otherwise be available, and their site notes the work of their partner charities (these snapshots are a highlight of most of these  collaborative support sites).

Well known corporations are getting into the act through Facebook.  While building attention and increasing business, these programs also offer a chance to learn about, and choose, projects for their support.  Once again, Toyota conducted its 100 Cars for Good Program which gives 100 vehicles to nonprofit organizations that need them.  Like Tom’s of Maine, winners are selected through public voting only using Facebook.  The Facebook fans of Enterprise Rent-a-Car (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Enterprise-Rent-A-Car/17003167554?ref=ts) vote on how some of its grants are chosen (this past spring over 1.5 million votes were cast over a seven week period).

With the growth of the Internet – and social media – there are new ways to discover where you offer your donations and your time.  Here are five (5) tips to keep in mind when exploring organizations for your commitment to Making A Difference® (M.A.D.):
  1. Read about the nominees on crowdsourcing sites or at Tom’s of Maine’s 50 States of Good contest; these offer lots of information in a simple format for your consideration
  2. Use Facebook to learn about organizations and you might post about those you’re excited by; spreading the word is one of the best ways you can help!
  3. Consider putting together your own “catalog” by telling your family, friends and community about what you’ve learned and the organizations that are worthy of support right where you live
  4. Check out social funding consortia like Network for Good (www.networkforgood.org), Causes (www.causes.com) and Crowdrise (www.crowdrise.com) to find out about dozens of causes and projects
  5. Ask around!  You might be surprised by what you discover when you ask friends, neighbors, teachers and more about the causes THEY support; you just might find exactly what you’re looking for!

Bonus Tip:  My friend Abby often tells me about her “loan” via Kiva (www.kiva.org).  Kiva exists to connect borrowers and people willing to make small loans via partner institutions to alleviate poverty throughout the world. It is also amazing to hear from Abby the transformations that have happened in the lives of people because of a relatively small financial loan…which all except one time has been paid back by the borrower!!

When I started researching other options, I found that there were so many new – and wonderful – things to consider and the time spent discovering was both rewarding and fun; take a look and you’ll be M.A.D. before you know it!