Making A Difference® During National Suicide Prevention Week

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This year marks the 39th Annual National Suicide Prevention Week, from September 8-14th.  It is a week to reflect and to reach out to people close to you that are going through a rough time in their life.  People suffering from mental anguish that can lead to suicide may avoid speaking about their pain or seeking treatment.  It’s important to know it’s never too late to reach out to someone in need.

Suicide rates have risen in the United States over the past decade.  A study, published this spring, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed an increase in suicide among middle-age Americans, with the rate rising by almost 30 percent for people ages 35 to 64 between 1999 and 2010.  CDC researchers stated that many societal factors, including the long-term economic downturn and the greater access to opioid drugs, can explain the increase of suicide rates.

These seven days serve as a remembrance and a reminder of the lives we have tragically lost to suicide.  If you are interested in taking part of National Suicide Prevention Week, contact your statewide suicide prevention coalition or your local health provider and see their volunteering opportunities or visit http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.


Making A Difference® While Enjoying Recreation and Parks Month!

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July is Recreation and Park Month! July, with its tradition of beautiful weather that drives people to outside, has been recognized as Recreation and Park month since 1985.

To celebrate the month consider going to one of the many events put on by Chicago’s own Park District. Check out the family friendly play at the Theater on the Lake or enjoy some Latin Jazz at Midway Plaisance Park.  There are a ton of great events happening all month.  But don’t contain your enthusiasm for the parks to just July, the parks have great things going on all year round!  Check out the Chicago Park District Calendar for the very best the city has to offer.

As we enjoy the weather and events of Recreation and Parks Month it’s important to realize how the parks are Making A Difference ® in our lives and in the lives of their other patrons. It is also important to realize that by supporting the parks we are not only Making A Difference® for the park and all of its employees and staff, but for all of the countless people that enjoy the use of our parks, both in Chicago and around the country.

To learn more about donating to the Chicago Park District Foundation click here.  

To learn more about donating to the National Recreation and Park Association click here.  

Though these are great venues to show your support, don’t let these suggestions limit you; there are many ways and places to help out. If Recreation and Parks have touched your life, or the life of a loved one, consider celebrating this Recreation and Parks Month by finding a way to help parks in the manner best for you.

Happy Recreation and Parks Month!

Making A Difference® – Philanthropy in Chicago, and Beyond!

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Very few things rival summer in Chicago; between the weekend festivals and beautiful beaches, there is something new and exciting to experience each day in the Windy City!

Even though Chicago in known for its rich arts scene and thriving business sector,  just a quick ride around “The Loop” makes one thing very apparent – Chicago is a philanthropic city!

Yes, whether it is people volunteering in youth enrichment programs throughout downtown or participating in events like the Chicago Sun Times 2013 Home Team Charity Run on July 14, Chicagoans are enjoying this summer by giving back!

Summer is a great time to find a new cause close to your heart and give your time or resources to Making A Difference® in your community.  No matter where you live in this country, or even if you are just visiting a new city this summer, check out sites like http://www.volunteermatch.org/ to find opportunities around you to give back.  Who knows, you may even meet great new people in your neighborhood when you volunteer your time!

We all love spending time at the beach, relaxing, or catching up with family over the long summer holiday.  But giving back, in Chicago and beyond, is a great way to be Making A Difference® and building a brighter future for those around you. 

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.

What does philanthropy mean?

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Philanthropy means different things to different people. Some might consider donating money to a non-profit organization of their choosing or donating food or clothing to their nearest Salvation Army.  Some might consider baking cookies for their next door neighbor is their contribution to philanthropy.  All of these examples, in my eyes are forms of philanthropy.  Before I started my internship at Lisa M. Dietlin and Associates, I had a vague idea of what philanthropy really meant.

Many people have different ideas of what it means, so I did a little research on my own on what philanthropy means.  I came across many definitions and opinions; one definition I found stated philanthropy means the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes.  This is the type of definition that I first thought of when I heard the word philanthropy, but then I came across a second definition; philanthropy in Greek means “love of humanity,” in the sense of caring for, nourishing, improving and enhancing the quality of life or developmental potential for human beings.  This definition shifted my understanding on what philanthropy meant.  To me, this definition states that money donations is not the only way to contribute to society there are vast amount of good anyone can do.

Philanthropy is a way of promoting positive changes in society.  This can be done in the smallest way.  The way I look at it is philanthropy is giving in every way in order to better someone else’s life no matter your financial status.  The important thing to understand is to give without expecting something in return, only should the satisfaction that your giving helped someone.

Through my journey working with Lisa M. Dietlin and Associates, I have learned the importance of the work we do and how it affects so many.  This has shaped my view on philanthropy.

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!

Lessons Learned

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After entering the philanthropy world a little over seven months ago, I’ve had a wide range of experiences. Both good and bad. I’ve learned so much about a field I had little experience in. As the assistant and office manager here, I see about 99.9% of the things that go on and some of those things would shock you! My goal is provide you with some basic truths and advice to keep you excelling in any field!

There are so many tips and stories I would like to share with you it was very hard to pick a starting point, so I decided to start at point A: The Basics.

Point A: The Basics

1) Always Answer the Phone!
There was a client once where the entire department wouldn’t answer the phone. Their thought was “I know that call isn’t for me, so I’m not answering it.” They would sit at their desks and just let the phone ring! Are you kidding me? Who knows what client or person is at the other end of the phone and where that call could take you! If your client/customer is in crisis and can’t get ahold of you because no one will answer the phone, they probably won’t be your client/customer for much longer.

Example: We had an employee in the office before hours and instead of letting the phone ring seeing it was before our business day starts, she picked up the phone. That phone call led to a speaking engagement for our company. Who knows if that person would have left a message or called back if our employee wouldn’t have answered!

2) Always Check Your Voicemail!
We had another client that, unfortunately, had to let go of some employees. After being brought in, we started to gather information to see where business had been left. One of the employees that had been let go, had 29 unattended voicemails on his phone! Twenty Nine! Can you believe that? Days upon days of voicemails with some from the same people wondering where this employee was and what was going on. Take a tip from me, if you want to keep business going good, always check your voicemail!

I know these aren’t amazing revelations and are the basics to any business, but unfortunately from what I have encountered, we could all use a reminder sometimes!