Don’t call it a comeback….(instead, call it So You Think You Can Give)

It’s been a while, friends! My hibernation hasn’t been due to winter (which is officially my least favorite time of the year – even here in DC where winter is mild compared to my hometown….Godspeed, Boston!) – but instead, due to a combination of forces:

1)    Life stuff (holidays, winter workout challenges to help me beat the onset of winter blues….I’ll write about my 50 Day CorePower Yoga Sculpt challenge another day, but long story short – it helped!)

2)    Work stuff (my other work, that is – the one that pays the bills)

3)    And something else…..

….which I didn’t really pick up on until I had some down time post-holidays to think over this podcast, the direction it was moving in, and why I just wasn’t feeling it the way I was when it launched back in July, 2017. The reason, I realized, was both simple and complicated at the same time:

I didn’t like the name, The Broke Girl’s Guide to Giving.

Now let me be clear – I do LIKE the name on the surface – its fun, its engaging, it doesn’t take “giving” quite so seriously (because we all have enough serious – giving should be something we enjoy)….but its also limiting. The show isn’t just for “girls”. Its not just for people who are “broke”….and frankly, after doing a lot of money mindset work the past few months (again, another topic for another post) I’ve realized I don’t want to keep using the work “broke” or focusing on lack  - we all “lack” time and lack money of course, we all wish we had more of both, but we all also HAVE an abundance of time and money….it all comes down to how we choose to use it.

(Jumping down off the soapbox now….)

So instead – I crowdsourced (and by “crowdsourced” I mean “texted my sister who is brilliant and creative and puts me to shame”) and we came up with a new name for the show – one that is still engaging and fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously, but which also opens up the opportunity to pull in listeners who may not consider themselves “broke girls” – which is how So You Think You Can Give came to be.

The mission of the podcast remains the same: the show aims to highlight social issues we're facing both at home and around the world, as seen through the eyes of the people working on the front lines to try to solve them – the women and men leading nonprofits and social enterprises. We’ll continue to feature amazing organizations, dig into the work they do, and spell out the various ways anyone – and I mean anyone – can get involved.

So whether you're interested in taking action, starting your own cause-focused organization, or just learning more about important social issues you keep hearing about out there – So You Think You Can Give is the podcast for you.

If you’ve already subscribed to the show don’t worry – the show will change in your feed with no need for you to take any steps. And if you haven’t yet, be sure to find us on iTunes and subscribe to get new episodes each week! You can also sign up for our mailing list for sneak peaks of each episodes and more info at http://soyouthinkyoucangive.com/join-the-email-list/. And of course, check out the site to learn more.

The new season starts March 27th – looking forward to sharing it with you all!!

 

 

2018: The Year You Actually DO Donate More

Despite fears that the newly-passed tax bill will have a negative impact on individuals' motivation to donate to non-profits (don't get me STARTED...), I'm pretty confident that most of us will continue to give - and I'm hopeful that most of us will actually give MORE. Why? Because there's a zillion ways to give, and in this current political climate more and more people are mobilizing around causes they hold dear. And THAT is a good thing for non-profits of all kinds.

It’s clear that by starting “The Broke Girl’s Guide to Giving” I’m not someone who is a fan of excuses – “I don’t have the money to donate” is not something I’m cool with. Despite popular sentiment, giving/donating/volunteering/philanthropy are not luxury items for the wealthy – they’re totally accessible for everyday people with limited budgets and an excess of other obligations. Believe me, I’ve been there. I AM there. But I believe that giving is like a muscle, it’s a reflex, it something we can train ourselves to do (and train ourselves to see opportunities to do) once we get into habit of it – even (or especially) as Broke Girls. So with that, I present to you The Broke Girl’s Guide to Giving’s 10 Ways to Give, Even as a Broke Girl (subtitle: “Welcome to the No Excuses Zone”):

1)     Add giving as a line item in your monthly budget – Well duh. This one is obvious but also not – ‘cuz how many of us actually DO this? You probably have a budget each month – ok yeah, you may blow through it sometimes (NOT THAT I WOULD KNOW ABOUT THAT)….But whether you ignore it or not, you have one. You have to pay rent or a mortgage, pay car insurance, kids soccer fees, have money for gas or your cell, or Netflix, or Hulu Plus (or both. Like me. Safe space, here). So why not just add another line item to your monthly budget for giving? $20 each month? Over the course of the year that’s $240 to an organization that you love – not too shabby for a Broke Girl, right?

2)     Monthly auto giving – Piggy-backing on #1, why not make life even easier on yourself and set up a reoccurring monthly donation to the organization where your heart lives most? Throw it on your debit so you don’t get yourself in credit card debt if that’s a weak spot for you – then set it and forget it (‘till tax time anyways when you can write those donations off).

3)     Give stuff not $$ (or sell stuff and give that $$) - So we all know that we could be donating items instead of cash – organizations like the Vietnam Veterans of America will come pick up your housewares or small appliances right from your front door; the Princess Project will take your dresses off your hands and Dress for Success will do the same for your work clothes, just to name a few. Prefer to give cash? Many orgs, especially those supporting emergency crisis efforts in the wake of natural disasters, prefer and frankly NEED your cash over your stuff…How about selling your stuff (Hi Ebay! What’s up, Amazon!) and using that cash to make a donation instead?

4)     Volunteer – see #1. Duh. We all know this, but not everyone does it….check out @thebrokegirlsgudietogiving for a zillion (well, getting there) ideas of organizations who need help and then reach out. Can’t make a steady commitment? No prob – how about a few hours a week? One Saturday a month? It all helps. No excuses, remember?

5)     Awareness raising via “slacktivisim” – This is a term used for people who primarily do things like use their social media accounts to raise awareness for causes, but maybe don’t donate or take other action. And while some people are down on this I say get after it. Sometimes a Broke Girl can’t get out to volunteer or spare the cash for a donation that month – but we’re all on social media ALL THE LIVE LONG DAY, no? So in between posts about your kid’s 32nd ballet recital or your snaps of your girl’s weekend in wine country, why not give a shout to an organization or cause you love? How else will people know about it unless someone (you!) talk it up?

6)     Use your bday, holidays, weddings, baby gifts (example)  - this is one of my favorites which I’ve done a bunch of times. Do you REALLY need gifts on your birthday, Broke Girl? You’re not a brat. And you’re not 11. Why not ask for a donation to XYZ organization in your name instead? I’ve done this on my bday, Christmas, and other gift-receiving dates (not everyone will oblige – HI MOM) but some will, and maybe you’ll even inspire someone else to do that same. What about donating to March of Dimes when your friend has baby #3, instead of loading her down with one more stuffed animal and onesies that will be useless in 3 months? Weddings are another one – those registries will get wiped out by various aunts and distance cousins, have no fear….But if you know the groom is a vet how about a donation to the IAVA? Is the bride a teacher? How about a donation to Donorschoose.org in her name? Do they REALLY care if you don’t get them that “Fold Flat Cheese Grater” and home-state-shaped cutting board from Crate & Barrel? (And if they do – I’m judging).

7)     Run/Walk/Soul Cycle – This one is pretty common but doesn’t make it any less important or meaningful. Brooke Girls are all about efficiency, and whether you’re training for the Marine Corp Marathon to raise money for the Semper Fi Fund, or supporting someone you know who’s doing the 3-day Susan Koman Breast Cancer walk, or joining a cause-sponsored Soul Cycle class to sweat for an hour to fundraise, this one lets Broke Girls support someone else while also checking off the day’s workout. Not a bad way for a busy Broke Girl to multi-task!

8)     Week-long “give up to give” challenge – Have a Starbucks addiction (like yours truly)? Or a weekly manicure? Or a standing appointment at the Dry Bar? Or just a habit of jumping in Uber a few more times a week that necessary? Why not choose one of these non-essentials and go on a “fast” for one week – give up that habit for just one week out of a month, and use that money for a donation? It’s just a week, Broke Girl. You won’t die if you have to drink office coffee for a few days in favor of a good cause.

9)     Use your tax refund, Christmas bonus, other monies-not-planned-on to give – Now I’m not insane, I’m not saying use ALL your “oooh yay forgot this was coming in!” money for donations – but how about 10% of it? Skim a little off the top for a good cause and then use the rest for whatever your little Broke Girl heart desires.

10)  Ethical shopping (see #6) – Even a Broke Girl is gonna shop, right? Whether for you or someone else, sometimes you do need to buy “stuff” (despite what point #6 says). In those cases – why not give to a business that’s also a cause? Social enterprises are popping up everywhere – check out Krochet Kids, 31Bits, or the Consume With Love for very cool clothes and accessories (my collection of 31bits necklaces is bordering on ridiculous) and support their missions while getting your shop on. Wins all around, no?

Reflections on Launching The Broke Girl’s Guide to Giving Podcast

When I launched The Broke Girl’s Guide to Giving, I never imagined that one of the first blog posts I’d (finally) write after a year-long hiatus from blogging would be done while I was lounging back in a cushy leather seat flying business class on the way home from a 5-star trip to Argentina. But then, to be honest, I never imagined I’d do something like launch The Broke Girl’s Guide to Giving in the first place.

I never grew up thinking that being a creative person, an entrepreneur, or anything other than “normal” would be my future – and frankly, I strived for normal. I was a kid from a family of divorce, bouncing between my parents apartments’, growing up in a town where no one got divorced, and where no one lived in an apartment. All I wanted, and what I worked so hard for, was to be normal, to blend in, to be like everyone else. Little did I know that leaning into what made me different (“different” being largely in my own mind, for the record, as like so many things I’d grow up and realize no one cared about my home life or financial status except me) would ultimately be what would bring me success. Choosing a career that’s outside the norm, choosing a lifestyle that’s atypical, choosing to delay the more traditional path in adulthood (marriage, kids, home ownership), choosing to pursue – and make public – projects which light me up, no matter how scary…..To embrace being different. To be grateful for everything I have including the sometimes rocky road which got me here. Turns out the best decision I ever made was to be cool with looking “normal” in the eye and saying “Nah, not for me”.

So I ventured out, trying new habits and hobbies, dropping those which didn’t fit anymore, making big changes, making small tweaks, creating things which were a bust, creating some other things which worked. I’ve worked on film sets, I’ve run international marathons, I’ve written articles for major publications, rung the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange, loved my people super hard, traveled like crazy. And I’ve made massive mistakes, had my heart broken in ways which it will never fully heal from, struggled with depression and debt, missed opportunities, wasted time, and let myself down. But through the wild ride that has been my life thus far, I’ve been lucky enough to somehow develop just enough confidence - through what I believe is a mix of experience, encouragement from my people, and a slightly delusional and unsubstantiated belief in my own abilities – to decide that just going for it is better than not. Which is how I landed in a career where, more days than not an awe-struck “I can’t believe I get paid to do this” runs through my head. A job right now which involves working to provide more women with jobs, skills, and a voice by helping businesses and NGOs become more gender inclusive. A career which to date has focused on women’s economic empowerment in places where women typically have little opportunity for income independence (or any independence). And – when my work began to feel a little bit limited, like it wasn’t reaching enough people, like I could do more than carry out someone else’s vision – I had the resources and confidence to put The Broke Girl’s Guide to Giving out into the world.

I’ve wrapped the first season of the show and am making plans for the 2nd  - more slowly than I’d anticipated, but competing priorities plus an amazing vacation offer that I couldn’t turn down came my way (which explains the business class seat I’m in while writing this) so I’m cutting myself some slack on my deadlines. But I’m now at that moment that any entrepreneur, creative type, or fellow #girlboss can relate to: the “OK, now what?” moment. That moment when your project, your work, your thing is out there in the world and all the pre-launch build up and energy and momentum and shininess is fading and the thing is REAL and you need to actually figure out what to do with it….How do I make this show stand out? How do I take it to the next level? How do I make sure this show isn’t what I’d tried to be for so long as a kid – normal? 

My focus now is to take what I’ve learned in Season 1 – from the technical side, to my interviewing skills, to the lessons learned from each of the guests kind enough to take time to be on the show – and use it all to level-up the show in Season 2. More stories, more motivation, more resources, more evidence that philanthropy isn’t just for the wealthy, that everyone has a role to play, that voting with your dollar does matter….I’m focused on making sure these ideals are communicated to you all in every episode. So while I’m sitting here enjoying my business class moment, I’m also anxious to unbuckle this seatbelt and just get to WORK figuring out how to make Season 2 everything it can be, so you all can sit back, relax and enjoy the flight with me.

Season 2 of The Broke Girl's Guide to Giving Podcast launches in January, 2018!

39 Hours

At the time of this writing it’s been 39 hours since Donald Trump delivered his acceptance speech and officially became the President-elect of the United States. It’s been 39 hours since the House, the Senate, and the White House all fell under a tidal wave of red, diminishing the checks and balances system intended to ensure that far-flung, extremist, harmful ideals don’t turn into actual policy. It’s been 39 hours since less than half of the voting population in this country chose to elect Donald Trump to be the President and yet he still will become the President. 39 hours since reality hit and I broke down in disbelief, shock, sadness, anger, confusion, and despair at how far my country has shifted away from the place I was brought up to believe it to be. 39 hours.

And 39 hours is all that they will get from me.

39 hours is all the time I will allow myself to give to Donald Trump. To give to the Conservative agenda. To give to racism. To give to sexism. To give to homophobia. To give to Islamophobia. To give to xenophobia. To give to fear. To give to intolerance. To give to ignorance. To give to hate.

I gave you guys 39 hours of my life. You get no more.

From this moment forward, it’s different. Regardless of how helpless the last 39 hours have made me feel, the facts are this: I am an American, I am alive, and I am aware. And those facts afford me two things: a Choice and a Voice.

I have a Choice: I can choose to not accept what has happened here in America this week as a representation of fact, of the future. I can choose to use my emotions as springboard for action. I can choose to ensure that I do not live in a country that will accept the values put forth by the Trump campaign. I can choose to push past the disappointment, the heartbreak, the utter despair of this week and I can instead choose otherwise.

And this is where the Voice comes in.

Because since I have a voice, I can also choose to put my voice to use – and I can choose get pretty fucking loud with it. I can choose to volunteer, donate, write letters, protest, vote, and live my values. I can choose to speak the hell up and not be scared to offend someone just because I feel differently than they may. I can choose to talk and shout and help and cry and laugh and pray and donate and volunteer and shout some more on behalf of those who can’t. I can choose to KNOW that the country we saw on display during election night is not a true representation of the America I was taught to love.

39 hours, Mr. Trump. I gave you 39 hours which I can’t get ever get back. And that’s all you will ever get from me.

We all have a choice. And we all have a voice.

Let’s roll.

 

Cash is King (or, Rethinking that Well-Meaning Trip to a Help in a Disaster Zone: Others Ways to Be of Use)

In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, as is the case in the aftermath of pretty much a disaster, there was a surge of aid, in all forms, to the besieged areas, to help the storm’s victims. This is a very normal, very human reaction to seeking suffering - we want to help. And for many people that desire to help translates into action – we  donate money, donate items, volunteer locally to send items to a disaster zone far away, or even volunteer to physically go to the disaster zone itself to help.

This last one – the desire to get up and just GO, to be of use, to do something other than write a check (the act of which seems so small and pointless and impersonal and distant in the face of suffering) is a desire I’ve had many times over. We all have. I remember feeling a pull to rush to the scene after 9/11; the desire to jump in my car and drive to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; searching online to flights to Port-au-Prince after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. For various reasons, in each of those cases (and many others) I ended up not carrying through with the impulse to rush to the scene from my far away locale…..And while at the time I didn’t know that NOT rushing, and that making a cash donation to a reputable, local organization was the better move, was the smarter move, the years I’ve spent working in international development have solidified this notion for me. Because – as unsexy, as uncool, as seemingly lame and boring and basic and lazy as it sounds – making a cash donation to a reputable, local organization is, 9 times outta 10, the better move if you really want to help. It doesn’t feel as good – and it’s certainly not as exciting as the rush that comes from being seated on a plane as it touches down in a conflict area – but it typically goes a lot further towards helping. Here’s a few reasons why:

  • In a time and place of disaster and chaos, professionals are needed: This is not to say that volunteers aren’t helpful in a disaster zone – in fact, volunteers are usually beyond necessary in these areas and situations. However, navigating a disaster area is a tricky, complicated and frankly dangerous thing to do – by arriving solo in a disaster area, or by joining up to go work in a conflict zone when you’ve personally never before done the kind of strenuous and taxing travel and work that is required – often means you’re adding to the chaos, and in some cases, putting other people at risk as well. Leave the heavy lifting up to the pros – and if you do volunteer to go to a disaster zone, its best to have been prepared already. When I lived in NYC I was a volunteer for the Red Cross – in times of crisis we were dispatched to areas of need, however only after we’d gone through proper, formal training by the Red Cross on how to do so.

 

  • Local capacity is most important: This is a mantra often spouted by folks in international development work, but the same is true in times of crisis and disasters. Supporting local organizations already on the ground – who understand the geography, culture, and people in a disaster area far better than an outsider ever could – is the best means to impact. Additionally, while supporting well-trained experts to fly into a crisis area to help is a good idea and often necessary for a resource-strapped community, remember that itself costs money (it varies depending on the organization/work/disaster at hand, but expats typically stay in nicer hotels in a crisis zone, eat better food, or receive additional compensation for the risk) – none of these are inherently bad things (if you’re in the midst of chaos all day literally saving lives, no way will I begrudge you a decent night’s sleep or a hot meal) but just remember that supporting local orgs with local staff is typically the best way to ensure your donation is supporting the work – and people – most directly impacted by a conflict or disaster.

 

  • Donating “actual stuff” can be more wasteful than helpful: As noted above, and as we’ve all felt personally, giving cash seems like such an impersonal effort in the face of a disaster - and giving items, such as clothes, shoes, toys, etc., seems much more personal and useful. However the realities on the ground often prove this often just isn’t the case. For example, in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, report after report came out about the fact that well-meaning people sent or delivered item upon item to the besieged country of – frankly – useless goods….winter clothes, toys, sporting equipment, and other items meant to be helpful, or at least spirit-lifting, instead just added to the chaos on the ground. The work in packaging, shipping, receiving, and sorting these goods once they reached Thailand was a tremendous resource-suck for the already-resource-strapped NGOs and aid agencies receiving them, and many of the items, while well intentioned, weren’t useful or helpful, and added to the already-existing mountainous piles of debris more than anything else. Yes in theory sending toys to orphanages or clothes to people who have lost everything is a good idea. But the practicality of that is much more complicated and often not helpful. If a specific organization is requesting specific items (such as Street Hearts in Haiti, an NGO rescuing street kids in Cap Haitien, with a wish list on their website of needed items) and give explicit delivery instructions, than great – go for it. Otherwise donating cash, however unfeeling and impersonal it may seem, is always a better idea. Remember – this donation you’re planning to give is not about what makes you feel good, it’s about what method helps the most.

 

  • Giving to long term/sustainable projects matters too - so don’t forget about giving after the cameras move on to the next crisis. As posted about previously, @thebrokegirlsguidetogiving is as dedicated to supporting long-term sustainable development work (@TNS) as it is to supporting emergency relief (@Directreleif). As we all know, once the media is done with a crisis area/finds another, newer crisis to move on to, attention (and donations) fade. By mid-2010 the mainstream media wasn’t talking about Haiti much at all –but the rebuilding from that earthquake has gone on for years, literally. After the crisis has passed, the rebuilding begins – and that work is much more tedious, long term, and frankly not as interesting or exciting to donors. However those post-disaster funds are as important - or arguably even more so - than those given in the immediate aftermath of a nightmare disaster. The reason isn’t monumental - the stronger a country’s economy, infrastructure, and basic systems, the more quickly they can recover from a disaster. So don’t forget about donating to longer-term programs in the months after a disaster occurs – like programs supporting small holder famers, local small businesses, agriculture or trade development, value chain development, or investments in education or health systems. And if you still have a desire to visit a disaster zone then the less dire, less dangerous, but equally as important rebuilding time is a much better time for a well-meaning volunteer to give into that urge to jump on a plane and go help (although still – do your homework, get yourself trained, and go with a reputable, local organization who knows you’re coming!).

Here’s to being smart while doing good. Carry on, Broke Girls….

Don't Give Out of Guilt, Broke Girls (aka your Pity is Pointless)

Part of the mission of The Broke Girls Guide to Giving is to throw down some truthbombs about philanthropy, non-profits, donors and giving....In addition to saying "Hey, the fact that you're a Broke Girl is no excuse not to get off your ass and do a little good", the Broke Girl’s Guide to Giving promotes not only the idea that you CAN give, but that you should also know WHY you are giving. The reason for this? It’s because if you know why you’re doing something - especially something that may be a challenge for you (like forking over your ever-limited supply of cash for a good cause) – you’re more likely to do it, and to keep doing it. It’s like working out – no one really LIKES getting up at 5:30AM to get in a pre-work run, but if you know WHY you are putting yourself through that torture (whether the “why” is because you’re training for a marathon to raise money for cancer research or just real freakin’ desperate to fit into your skinny jeans before next weekend’s party where your ex will be there with his new gal…no judgement, we’ve all been there) you’re more likely to get your ass outta that cozy bed and head out the door, right? Same applies for giving.

Look I’m not splitting the atom here – if you know you’re purpose, you’re more likely to take action. We all know this to be true. But the trick when it comes to giving is this: for a lot of Broke Girls, whether we want to acknowledge it or not (and mostly we don’t), the “why” in “why we give” is usually rooted in that big ugly G-word: Guilt. Ugh GUILT. I was raised Catholic….of guilt, I know. And while, as Broke Girls, we are, well, “broke”, we can feel guilt around giving as much as our Not So Broke Girl buddies do. We feel guilty all the time, right?

·        We feel guilty for what we have

·        We feel guilty for wanting what we don’t have because we should just appreciate what we do have

·        We feel guilty for feeling guilty

·        We feel guilty that we spent time or money on a cause that could have been time or money spent on our kids or family or friends

·        We feel guiltily for not spending ENOUGH time or money on a cause BECAUSE that’s time or money spent on our kids or family or friends…..

And when the guilt ties into the giving, when the guilt is the reason we give, or when the guilt keeps us from feeling good about our give, that’s when we have a problem. That’s when the giving will stop. That’s when the “why bother” syndrome sets in.

Guilt is all around. And guilt is toxic. Guilt is unproductive. Guilt is a fucking waste of time and energy and you’re a Broke Girl – you don’t have time or energy to waste. It’s easy to feel guilty, to give a donation to an organization online or toss a $5 bill to a homeless person on the street because you feel guilty for what you have - and pity for what someone else doesn't have. But here's the hard truth, Broke Girls: your serves no good purpose. Here’s another one: no one wants your pity. Guilt and Pity should be nowhere in your Broke Girl vocabulary. Empathy and Empowerment should.

Just because you're a Broke Girl doesn't mean you can’t give - there is always something for you to give. And when you give, don't do it because you feel guilty, or because you feel bad for someone else - do it because at some point someone did it for you. Do it not because you see all that someone lacks, but because you see all they have to give as well. Do it not because you feel guilty that you can’t do MORE, do it because you feel good that you can do SOMETHING. Do it not because you feel bad for people in XYZ seemingly-shitty-to-your-outsider-eyes neighborhood, city, or county, but because you know that XYZ seemingly-shitty-to-your-outsider-eyes neighborhood, city, or county is inherently good and that’s what you're aiming to support. Don’t come from a place of pity when you give, come from a place of potential. Don’t come from a place of guilt when you give, come from a place of empowerment instead. That’s what it means to be a Broke Girl who Gives.

“Why Can’t We Sell Charity Like We Sell Perfume?”….Yeah, why can’t we?

A few years ago I read a Wall Street Journal article which has stuck with me ever since, and which I wanted to post about here on the Broke Girls Guide to Giving site – because it addresses many of the issues Broke Girl donors, like myself, need to be thinking about as we look to lend our time, money and energy to nonprofits. The article, “Why Can’t We Sell Charity Like We Sell Perfume?”  argues in favor of treating non-profit organizations with the same allowances, structure, and fundamental operating principals that we treat for-profit businesses with. The crux of the argument is that we, as a society, are generous in our support of non-profits, however we place restrictions on non-profits that we don’t on for-profit businesses. As I’ve mentioned in other Broke Girl posts, we’re basically asking non-profits to solve nearly impossible problems – homelessness, disease, poverty, hunger – and then limiting how they can do it.

The essay goes on to call out 5 key areas where we, society, set for-profit business up to succeed, yet that we deny non-profits access to – hindering their growth, and ultimately, their ability to achieve their goals of “doing good” (whatever that “good” may be):

1)     First, we allow the for-profit sector to pay people competitive wages based on the value they produce. But we have a visceral reaction to the idea of anyone making very much money helping other people.”

So true. I have caught myself doing this…. I am a great admirer of the work of the Acumen Fund, and consider Jacqueline Novogratz to be a pioneer in the field of social entrepreneurship – her organization has helped thousands of people increase their incomes, send their kids to school, afford medical care, and live with the security and dignity we all strive for….and yet when I came across her salary somewhere online, I remember thinking “OMG she takes THAT MUCH of her own organization’s funding for herself??” I thought her to be a bit of a fraud….but why?? She has dedicated her considerable talents and resources to helping the world’s poor when she could have used her ample skills in the corporate sector, helping the world’s wealthy….why should I frown on her for wanting to live a comfortable life herself when she has dedicated her career to ensure others know comfort?

2)     “A second area of discrimination is advertising and marketing. We tell the for-profit sector to spend on advertising until the last dollar no longer produces a penny of value, but we don’t like to see charitable donations spent on ads.”

Yep – agree here too. As someone who once worked in the ad sales space, this one hit home. I remember just how much my for-profit clients at Google would spend daily on their advertising, all in an effort to build their reputation, gain more loyal followers, and increase their reach…. JetBlue can spend millions of ad dollars so we know when we can catch a cheap flight to Vegas, but we don't think its cool to let the American Red Cross spend money promote a local blood drive.... (Nice, America).

3)     “A third disadvantage for charities is the expectation of a home run on every at-bat. If Paramount Pictures makes a $200 million movie that flops, no one calls the attorney general. But if a nonprofit produces a $5 million community fundraising event that doesn’t result in a 70% profit for the cause, its character is called into question.”

This point hits very close to home for me, having now worked for a number of organizations, some of which are really trying to break the mold and test new ideas when it comes to addressing poverty issues….and yet, these programs fight an even greater uphill battle when it comes to attracting donor dollars – “innovation” may sound cool but really donors want “proven”….But if we knew how to solve all the worlds’ problems, we’d have done it already. Innovation is essential – whether its in testing a new drug to fight disease or testing a new funding scheme to provide access to capital to low-income farmers – yet innovations are risky, and therefore not tolerated by most donors in the non-profit world.

4)     “A fourth problem is the time frame during which nonprofits are supposed to produce results: immediately. Amazon.com went for six years without returning a dime to investors, who stood by the company because they understood its long-term goals.

Donors want results NOW. And while program monitoring and evaluating and making sure dollars are spent efficiently are obviously important to any non-profit program, the reality is change is HARD. And it takes TIME….yet rarely do we allow non-profits the time they need to show progress towards changeYou couldn’t solve (insert “Highly Complex Social Problem”) in the 12 month time-frame of the pilot program? Well then we’re going to call you “inefficient” and we’re going elsewhere next funding cycle. See ya…..This prevailing attitude makes non-profits risk-averse – and yet risk is married to innovation, and innovative ideas are the only way to solve complex, deep-rooted, long-standing problems… (see #3).

5)     “Finally, the for-profit sector is allowed to pay investors a financial return to attract their capital. The nonprofit sector, by definition, cannot. Why shouldn’t an investor be able to take a risk—and get a return—on an investment that allows a charity to double in size? And why wouldn’t we want to encourage it to do so?”

This one is interesting to me having done some work in the impact investing space– where return IS given to investors for their willingness to invest in enterprises that serve a social need – so here I have a bit of a biased view, but I really do think that impact investing is the next great frontier in social change, as long as its current momentum continues…..

While I don’t agree with every point in this piece (no, I don’t think capitalism can solve ALL of the world’s problems), in general I am very much in support of increasing efforts which model the operations of non-profits much like those of for-profits, and of allowing non-profits the kinds of freedoms to spend on talent, take risks, and promote their work which we allow for for-profits. Because the fact is that the Professional Me who worked in the corporate world had the same objectives as the Professional Me working in development world does now: to reach the maximum number of people, and have the largest impact possible, in the most cost-efficient way.

 

Orgs That Will Give You All the Warmy Fuzzy Feels

I am writing this post in September, 2016. Which means our beloved country is barreling at mock speed through an incredibly contentious (ok fine, fucking terrifying) election season and we, as a people, are on the verge of electing to the highest office in the land a man who is categorically the least qualified to hold that office in history. And that should be the worst thing we’re facing….until we wait a beat and look at the next headline – or ugh, the next few headlines – pronouncing more unarmed black men shot dead by police officers in the US. With video capturing the horrific events. And with no confidence that these men will see justice served. And then wait – there’s more – because last weekend 2 bombs went off in the NYC area and 5 people were killed shopping at a Macy’s on a Friday night near Seattle. And that dude is still on the run.

Everything is awful, basically, and all I really want to do is climb into bed, eat Nutella by the spoonful for dinner, and watch whatever marathon Bravo is running about real housewives sleeping with top chefs while Andy Cohen “mazels” them all the live long day. Because, enough already.

HOWEVER before I succumb to the calories and reality-star-cavorting, I need to remember my place in this (sometimes very shitty) world: I am a Broke Girl who Gives. And in that vein I offer to you, my fellow Broke Girls, a handful of organizations which – despite all odds – are guaranteed to put a smile on your face (and mine) and make you not feel not COMPLETELY sure that our human race is definitely doomed:

@YMCAChicago’s Urban Warriors Program: An amazing organization bringing together military veterans to help mentor at-risk youth in the Chicago area. As explained on the#UrbanWarriors page of the@YMCAChicago site: "These two groups share common life experiences–surviving in hostile environments and striving to cope...Of the 41 youth who participated in a recent cohort pre-assessment, 22 answered "yes" to a question "had they ever been in a place where a war was going on around them" and 36 responded "yes" to a question that asked whether they had "seen or heard about the violent death of a loved one. In many youth, these experiences cause reactions that parallel many of the post-traumatic stress symptoms that veterans experience." As gun violence in America dominates the news, and as our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans roll home with scars both seen and unseen, its amazing to find an organization which unites and supports those impacted on both ends of these current day national challenges.

Magic Wheelchair: Not every kid has the chance to run from house to house on Halloween - but every kid should - and that's the idea behind Magic Wheelchair, a nonprofit organization on a mission to provide wheelchair-bound kids Halloween costumes that transform their wheelchairs into "magic". Founded by parents who have three children born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which requires the use of wheelchairs for the entirety of their lives, this organization strives to "put a smile on the face of every child in a wheelchair". Last year#MagicWheelchair turned 8 wheelchairs into creations such as dragons, swans, jet planes, boats, and thrones in time for these kids to get out for trick-or-treating....The all-volunteer design and construction teams truly worked some magic for these kids, and they aim to do more so in 2016. 

 

The Princess Project: A volunteer-run organization dedicated to promoting self confidence in young women from all economic backgrounds by providing prom dresses to girls who couldn't otherwise afford them. I love this. While my own prom days are long (long) gone, my 30's have ensured I have enough bridesmaids dresses and wedding formal wear to sink a ship - enter #theprincessproject. Based in CA, they take dress donations in person, or you can mail in your dress to Wedding Way (info on their site). Already purged your closet of all that taffeta? You can make a monetary donations as well to support#theprincessproject's work in helping more girls shake it on the dance floor without a care in the world - at least for one night- like all kids should be able to.

…..better now, right? Told you, Broke Girl. Now seal the deal by giving a few bucks to one of these orgs and then, by all means flop right down on that couch to watch Skinnygirls in their 50’s get drunk and scream about boys…..this is a safe space and a judgment free zone here. (Unless you’re supporting Trump. In which case I am judging the hell outta you now and forever).