Gratitude and Giving

By Cheryl Mahoney

I don’t expect many people to read this post the day it goes up.  I don’t expect many people to be on the internet on that day either.  I won’t be–I’m typing this on Wednesday, not Thursday, though thanks to delayed publishing that’s the date you’ll be seeing at the top.  I don’t expect many people to be reading on Thursday because, as I likely don’t need to tell you, Thursday happens to be Thanksgiving.  And I expect people will be a little too busy to be reading.

Busy with turkeys, and football games, and traditions, and long-distance calls to relatives, and arguments over drumsticks.  Busy appreciating our blessings and being thankful.

Gratitude is an important theme in UniversalGiving’s culture.  We believe in giving to others and changing the world.  We also believe in appreciation and affirmation and being grateful for the people around us, for the accomplishments we achieve, for the blessings in our organization and in our lives.  So even if no one’s here reading on Thursday, I couldn’t let the day go by without an acknowledgment.

One thing I’m grateful for: having a CEO who puts a strong emphasis on gratitude.  Our founder and CEO, Pamela Hawley, has written some beautiful thoughts on gratitude for her blog, Living and Giving, in the past.  It only seemed fitting to share an excerpt today.

Right now, can I think a positive thought? What is going well?  No matter how tough it gets, there has to be some thing that is going well.  Thank you that the sun is shining. Thank you that I have a great father, or wonderful relationship with my sister.  Thank you that I have a wonderful new bed that allows me to sleep peacefully.  Thank you for the rosebush on the street, that blooms so radiantly, and is free for all of us to smell and enjoy. 

For the challenges that seem to keep you stuck, remember, it will pass. The mountain will pass and at some point, you get to start walking downhill.  So keep climbing, keep being grateful, and…. keep going.

My 97 year old Oma and grandmother, one of my best friends once told me,” Whenever I feel down I find something to be grateful for, and I find someone else who is in a worse situation and help them. It helps me be grateful.”

Gratitude gives us a humble confidence to continue pursuing our dreams, step by step.

Gratitude brings a sense of joy, peace and then confidence so that we can maintain our course. Go for it – – and be grateful along the path!

Whatever day you’re reading this, thanks for being here.  I’m grateful that you are.  I hope you have much to be grateful for in your own life, and, if you feel moved to do so, I hope you’ll think about finding someone else to help too.

Not my Problem (?)

by Anis Salvesen

Recently my husband and I attended a friend’s wedding in India – in Chennai (formerly Madras).   The foreign guests, like us, had met the groom in graduate school.   Our little group consisted of the following:  a Finnish girl who spent most of her life in Germany but was now living in Switzerland with her German boyfriend (also in attendance), a Japanese girl, a fellow whose parents were German but had been born in South Africa and had been living in Italy since the early ‘90s, a Hispanic-American (me) and my Norwegian husband.

As you may know, Indian weddings last multiple days, and our little international group attended two of those days.  Maybe because we already had a common denominator (our school), we focused on what was different about us.  We joked about the German (and Norwegian) need for precision, for detail.  We commented on the American propensity to smile a good deal of the time.  We teased the South-African born German guest when he arrived late, sporting designer sunglasses and a suit with no tie, about being more “Italian” than German.

After the wedding, my husband and I continued our travels in India by flying up north to tour the “Golden Triangle.”  I found myself continuing the trend of spotting the differences in my existence, in my daily life, from that of other people around me.  One morning, when the hotel lobby door opened, I could have sworn someone had just set a fire in the parking lot, the air was so polluted.  But I did not see it as my problem.  It was their air which was polluted.  It was their streets which were lined with refuse.  It was their people who were living in poverty.

And to some extent that’s true.  There are people here in San Francisco (near Union Square where we live) that stand on the street and ask for money, but they are not trying to climb into our rickshaw, grabbing at my husband’s clothes.  Or trying to snatch a guidebook  right out of our hands.  But that does not mean that my existence here is completely immune to the serious issues that plague developing nations.

Poverty, even somewhere far away from San Francisco like Peru, increases the number of people willing to risk jail time to transport drugs, which helps  increase the influx of drugs into the US.   The local drug addicts this influx helps create then join the ranks of people asking me for money every day on my way home.  Or worse, they become like the muggers who assaulted two of my friends  (separately) in the past year.  And the air I’m breathing?  “Some researchers believe at least one-third of California’s fine particulate pollution—known as aerosol—originates from Asia.” (China Environment Forum).

Thinking about things this way could potentially be a bit depressing.  But here is the good news.  It works both ways.  Sure the problems can cross borders readily, but so can the solutions.  You can take part in a development project in Peru.   You can help conserve wilderness in Central Asia.  You might not be able to single-handedly solve all of the world’s problems; but if you’re anything like me, you will be glad to stop feeling helpless and start feeling empowered.

All Together for Good

By Cheryl Mahoney

Lately I’ve had a lot to say about ways to volunteer from home.  And we all know that if you want to cross borders and travel to exciting places to do your volunteering, UniversalGiving is your best destination.  So how about if you want something in between?  You’re happy to go outside, but can’t commit to a trip to Kenya right now–where do you go for that?  Well, UniversalGiving actually does have some national opportunities…and I also want to share with you about one of our latest partner organizations that can help you find the perfect way to do good.

I’m talking about All for Good.  This website is designed to bring together volunteering opportunities from many different sources, to provide a vast database of ways to get involved with the community.  Inspired by President Obama’s call for volunteering and service, a group of engineers, developers and designers all got together to create the site.  They’re coming from cool places like Google, The Craigslist Foundation, YouTube and more, so maybe it’s no surprise the way this has taken off!

I feel like I should tell you how to use All for Good, but there isn’t much to tell–it’s all fairly straight-forward.  Just pop over to the website, put in your location, and scroll through the results.  Find one you like and click for more info.  That’ll take you to the organization that contributed the opportunity, and you can explore more there.  Then, start doing good!

One thing I love to think about is all the people and organizations involved at every stage of the process.  First you have the organizations contributing their volunteering opportunities to All for Good (UniversalGiving included!)  Then all the organizations with people working on the All for Good team.  And All for Good sends the volunteering opportunities on to other websites too.  Have you heard of Serve.gov?  If so, you might have heard about it from President Obama, or from Michelle Obama.  Serve.gov gets its opportunities from All for Good.  Did you notice your favorite TV characters talking about volunteering and giving to the community about a month ago?  That was part of iParticipate, an initiative of the Entertainment Industry Foundation.  And if you go over to iParticipate to look for volunteer opportunities, you’ll find out that they’re coming from–All for Good.  Another example: MTV is on board with this too!  Even taking the volunteers out of the equation, it’s exciting to think about all these diverse, high-power groups working together.  And of course, we can’t take the volunteers out of the equation–because they’re the whole point, people finding ways to give back and contribute.

It’s also exciting to think about how much All for Good has done in a very short time.  Which means…what else might be possible?

Transforming Philanthropy with UniversalGiving

By Sarah Keyston

Our Founder and CEO, Pamela Hawley, recently sat down with Teju Ravilochan of the Unreasonable Institute. She discussed the vision, model, and impact of UniversalGiving during the interview. To see a video of their talk, visit the SoCap Blog or the Unreasonable Blog–or both!

Continue reading for some of the content of the interview:

I learned at The Feast Conference in NYC that 60% of Americans think we will not leave the world a better place than we found it.

logo-onlyPamela Hawley is trying to change that.

Pamela is the founder of Universal Giving, a free, online marketplace connecting people with the opportunity to give and volunteer to the best, impact-driven projects from around the world. Her job, therefore, is to select the organizations that are most committed to and effective at creating social impact and support them through grassroots funding and service. Her ultimate goal is to make giving and volunteering a natural part of every day life.

What I love about interviewing people like Pamela and Elnor (of Innosight Ventures) is the opportunity to interact with people who come alive doing what they do. Pamela is relentlessly dedicated to Universal Giving’s mission and embodies the values she espouses in the video below with every fiber of her being. The remaining 40% of Americans who believes we will leave the world a better place than we found it ought to make their bets on her.

Questions Answered in the Video:

  1. What does Universal Giving do? (0:01-0:56)
  2. What are the biggest challenges to realizing Universal Giving’s vision? (0:57-3:47)
  3. How does Universal Giving measure its impact? (3:48-5:57)
  4. What is the difference between Universal Giving’s outputs and its outcomes? (5:58-11:06)
  5. What’s the key to achieving the impact Universal Giving has achieved? (11:07-12:13)
  6. What advice do you have for aspiring social entrepreneurs? (12:14-14:03)

Universal Giving Profile. Launched in 2002, Universal Giving provides prospective donors and volunteers an online platform for supporting a select group of carefully-vetted, top-performing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from around the globe. Visitors to the Universal Giving site can search by country and focus area (e.g. poverty, health, microfinance, etc.), navigating 685 opportunities to donate internationally and 304 international volunteer opportunities. By providing people the a platform to connect with carefully selected opportunities for giving their time and money, Universal Giving moves toward its ultimate goal: creating a world where giving and volunteering are a natural part of everyday life.

Market that Universal Giving Serves. In addition to providing individuals an opportunity to give or serve with vetted projects, Universal Giving conducts a 10-stage quality assurance model of its non-profit partners. This process involves the verification of financial information, a review of track records and management teams, and confirmation of evidence provided by the organizations’ partners and sponsors. Non-profits benefit tremendously from Universal Giving’s stamp of approval, which has enabled them to receive over $2 million in donations and 10,000 volunteers through Universal Giving’s online platform to date. Check out Pamela’s response to Question 1 for more information on Universal Giving’s customers.

Financial Model. Universal Giving is incorporated as a non-profit, enabling it to perform an important service for the vetted projects and non-profits in its portfolio: 100% of funds donated through Universal Giving’s online platform goes to the intended recipients of the donation. Because it does not take a cut of the donated funds, Universal Giving has developed an alternative revenue stream providing Global Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) consulting to for-profits, which in turn support the vetted organizations in Universal Giving’s portfolio. Learn more about this financial model in Pamela’s response to Question 2.

Impact Summary. In a short time, Universal Giving has demonstrated a model that is highly scalable. Within 9 years, it’s broadened the scope of its work from 25 countries to nearly 100, raising over $2 million in donations through its platform (donations range between $25-$75 on average). Learn more about Universal Giving’s impact in Pamela’s answer to Question 3 and hear her explanation of the difference between Universal Giving’s outputs and its outcomes in Question 4.

Pamela Hawley’s Bio. After witnessing extreme poverty in Mexico at age 12, PamelaHawleyHeadshotPamela committed herself to a lifetime of international service, specifically interested in strategically addressing global poverty. She spent time working and volunteering with microfinance institutions in rural India, participated in crisis relief efforts in the El Salvador earthquake, led digital divide training in Cambodia’s Killing Fields, and worked on a sustainable farm in rural Guatemala. Before founding Universal Giving, Pamela Hawley worked on VolunteerMatch, which connected over two million volunteers with non-profits. Now she serves as a guest lecturer at the USC School of Business and thoroughly enjoys improv, dance, and spending time with her nephews and niece.

One Web Day Is Here!

OWD3By Cheryl Mahoney

If you’ve been with us for a little while, you probably read my post last month about One Web Day, the day dedicated to celebrating the internet.  You may also have noticed our new page titled “Spread the Web,” with opportunities to do exactly that–spread the internet.

Now’s the day to take advantage of those opportunities, because it’s September 22nd, and One Web Day has arrived. 

One Web Day was founded in 2006 by Susan Crawford, President Obama’s current technology policy adviser.  She described Earth Day as her model for One Web Day, so as we consider how we might celebrate the day, let’s take Earth Day as our model too.  How do you celebrate Earth Day?

Step One: Appreciate.  Much of the message of Earth Day is simply to take a moment to stop and appreciate this amazing planet we have.  So let’s stop and appreciate this amazing technology.  I don’t remember how I did anything before I had the internet, and if it ceased to exist tomorrow, I would be at an utter loss.  Even knowing that, it’s so easy to take it for granted.  So it’s a good day to appreciate–and to remember that there are plenty of people in the world for whom the internet doesn’t exist, in terms of their access to it.

Step Two: Awareness.  Earth Day is about bringing awareness of the dangers that are confronting this Earth we’re working on appreciating.  One Web Day wants to bring awareness to the dangers that confront the internet too.  The internet is all about the free access of information, but some government regulators and powerful corporations may not want it to be quite so free.  (Maybe you heard the fuss a few years ago about China and Google?)  And there’s many people who don’t have access at all: in fact, three-quarters of the world isn’t online, according to World Internet Usage Statistics.  What I find sadder is that less than 7% of the population of Africa is on the internet, and less than 20% of Asia.

Step Three: Action.  People like to plant trees on Earth Day.  You can’t plant a computer, and most of us can’t actually hook-up a new broadband line.  But now that we’re appreciative and aware, what do we do?  You could sign One Web Day’s pledge to end the digital divide.  And you can check out UniversalGiving’s opportunities to Spread the Web.  And you can also visit One Web Day’s site for more suggestions on how to get involved, or see if there’s an event going on in your city.

Step Four: Announce.  Share your story of what you did to celebrate the web.  You can join My One Web Day, and you can leave a comment here.  Because we’d love to hear your story too!

Travel the World for Peace

By Cheryl Mahoney

Have you ever thought about traveling around the world?  Maybe, like me, you have a list of countries you’d like to visit.  But have you ever imagined traveling to dozens of countries on one trip, traveling with a group of dedicated activists, and doing it all to support a vital cause?  If you have, then maybe you’ve imagined the World March for Peace and Nonviolence.

Here’s the brief statistics: 90 days, 90 countries, 6 continents (Antarctica included), 99,419 miles.  The plan is to travel by land, air and sea, by bicycle, train, plane, canoe, and more.  There’s a base group of fifty people taking the entire trip, with a million total participants getting involved.  It all starts October 2nd.

World Trek

So now that I’ve told you there’s an insane trek going on, what’s behind it all?  As the name of the march suggests, it’s all about raising awareness in the interest of peace.  It’s launching on October 2nd because that’s Mahatma Gandhi’s 140th birthday.  I’m sure the man who led a march to the sea in support of Indian freedom would approve of this idea.  The marchers hope that by crossing continents and climates they’ll be able to unify a global peace movement.  They hope for the disarmament of nuclear weapons and for the signing of non-aggression treaties.  They hope to bring awareness to the many forms of violence in the world, and to bring a voice to the victims.  They hope to promote world peace.  It’s a beautiful and amazingly ambitious goal–but it’s a very ambitious trek too.

The march is put together by World without Wars, but they want it to be shaped by everyone, across race, country and religion.  There are many secondary websites for the march, arranged by country; find your country,  and look for events in your area to learn how to get involved.

You know I love stories about many people doing small things for big change.  Well, I wouldn’t call a global trek a small thing–but it’s going to take many, many people doing small things along the way to make this not just a crazy trip, but a movement for peace.  And I love that!

Mozilla Service Week

By Sarah Keyston

I would consider myself a pretty tech-savvy person, having grown up in the Internet generation. I find myself helping my mom out a lot with computer-related things… she swears sometimes that technology is out to get her! There are some things, however, like designing a website or dealing with a faulty wireless network, that even I cannot figure out. It’s often difficult to solve technical problems—first I face the question of what type of service company to call, then spend frustrated hours on the phone with unhelpful automated systems rather than real people—and a lot of the time, I give up before the problem is resolved!

Mozilla Service WeekIf this sounds at all like you (yes, I’m aware most of you are probably blog-savvy, but there must be something you can’t do!), check out Mozilla Service Week, which unites those in need of technical help with those able to provide their services. Mozilla, the developer of the Firefox browser, has based the initiative on its belief in the necessity of an easy and enjoyable Internet experience for everyone.

Individuals can register to both give and receive help in areas such as programming, developing, design, and writing websites. Sample projects include teaching senior citizens how to use the Web, installing wireless networks at schools, updating an organization’s website, and showing a nonprofit how to engage in social media. The service commitments will take place during the week of September 14-21. Over 5,200 volunteer hours have been donated already, and the number of registered projects grows every day!

UniversalGiving has partnered with Mozilla to promote and engage in Service Week 2009. Many of our friends are also involved: OneWebDay, Social Actions, and TechSoup—and we’ve posted about them here before! It’s very exciting to see all the work that these organizations are doing to encourage Web-based service. After all, UniversalGiving is a Web-based nonprofit. And we reach so many people via our online giving and volunteering opportunities!

Like Mozilla and other Friends of Service Week 2009, we have seen the potential for the Web to effect change. The Internet is a powerful tool—and vital to UniversalGiving’s mission and operations, as we are a web-based nonprofit. So… are you web savvy? Help someone! Or do you need help? Ask!