Pamela’s Weekly Words of Wisdom: Thoughts on Starting A Non-Profit

Here are some questions I was recently asked regarding starting a nonprofit. I didn’t address the fact that this economy also presents a very, very challenging landscape in which to start a nonprofit and to attain solid funding. However, anyone with true passion will find a way to bootstrap their vision, at any time. Anything is possible!

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Pamela’s Weekly Words of Wisdom: The Value and Sincerity of Small Teams

Leadership is so personal, so intimate, and takes a huge amount of devotion. It’s about communication, trust and building relationships.  This article by Pat Lencioni is quietly brilliant. My favorite part is about small teams that are effective, are 3-8.  People need to be heard. They need to feel they can get across their ideas. As the team grows, the ‘space’ for their voice dimishes.

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Pamela’s Weekly Words of Wisdom: Connection to Life

We all remember a time when we were ‘hit’ with the importance of getting involved globally. For me, I was 12. We were on a family vacation in Mexico, near a traditional marketplace.  My father and I wandered off, just a few paces away, confronted with a cult-de-sac of unwashed, handicapped, begging children.  Having my eyes widened with just disbelief and overwhelming sadness, I simply remember the word UNACCEPTABLE flashing across my mind. I still feel it and see that word all the time. It’s simply “not ok” that millions are starving. Not only can we help, but we also have a lot to learn. I never realized how much I would receive when I first started giving!

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Taking Action to End World Hunger

By Kelly Ann Oxenham

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One of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) was to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. While extreme poverty rates have been reduced by half since 1990, 1 in 8 people remain hungry. That’s about 805 million people in the world. In America alone, an estimated 49.1 million households do not know when their next meal will be. Most nights, an estimated 15.1 million children in America go to bed hungry.

Mind-boggling, isn’t it? When the compost bin is stuffed with food that’s been carelessly discarded, how is it possible that millions go hungry every night? What kind of society do we live in if we continue to allow that to happen?

Thankfully, there are a number of organizations that are doing wonderful, inspiring work to alleviate world hunger.Take the Selamta Family project, for example. Your sponsorship of just $240 provides an entire Selamta family with nutritious food for an entire month. This gift provides eight children in Ethiopia with wholesome, filling meals so that they can have peace of mind and focus in school.

In a different part of Africa, World Food Program (USA) is working hard to stretch your gift dollars so that just $50 will provide an in-school meal to a hungry child for the entire school year and help the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) fight hunger in the most impoverished regions of Malawi, and other parts of Africa where aid is needed.

Much closer to home, Let Kids Be Kids Inc ensures that your donations are put to good use advocating for change. Through various activities such as writing articles, volunteering at food banks and purchasing food for homeless shelters in the area, they are taking action to end world hunger.

There are many ways you (YES YOU!) can join in the global effort to end hunger. For a start, explore the numerous giving and volunteering opportunities on UniversalGiving®. 100% of your donated dollars goes directly to the cause. Reach out to the various organizations in your community that are feeding the hungry. I am sure they will  be very appreciative of your kind offer of food, money and/or time.

What will you do this October ?

We’d love to hear from you!

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My Volunteer Experience with Embrace Tanzania

By Nicola Da Silva 

The phone buzzed and it was my mom. “Guess what? Nic, Andrew, and Lex booked a trip to Zanzibar and invited me to join. We wish you and Daniel could join to – any chance of that??” Sometimes you get invitations to events and you weakly offer to try your best to make it happen and other times you get an invitation to something and you know that no matter what you will be going! This was one of those. I don’t know why I felt so strongly about going on this trip, but as soon as I knew about it, I couldn’t think about anything else. I started making plans the very next day and everything fell into place perfectly in the 3 weeks I had to pull it off.

I also decided to contact UniversalGiving and see if they could set me up to do some volunteer work while on vacation. Amazingly they helped me find Embrace Tanzania. I emailed them and they got me in touch with Selestin, who is based in Zanzibar and manages the volunteer effort there. 2 days before I left on the trip I emailed Selestin and told him I was coming and would love to have a look at what they  were doing in Zanzibar and see if I could help and also get them connected with Universal Giving. Selestin replied straight away and gave me the address and his telephone number. By the time I checked into the hotel, he had already spoken to them to help organize a day I could come see the different volunteer sites.

On Monday April 28th, my mom and I stepped out of our hotel and into a cab and went to Bububu, Zanzibar. Selestin met us there and showed us around the building where volunteers stay and then Selestin, his colleague Edward, my mom, the cab driver, and I went for lunch. We chatted about the different volunteering options and how my mom and I could get involved. Next stop was the orphanage where Mama Suz looks after about 30 children. The house is a school in the morning; then some of the children go home and others stay at the orphanage. Some children are orphans and others have parents in the sober houses nearby.

I could see that Mama Suz tries her best to look after all these children, but I also noticed that she was conscious about the state of the building and the lack of beds for all the children. We met the kids and then had a “business meeting” in the shade of the tree. I explained what UniversalGiving does and that I would get her connected with them and then asked what her ideas were. Wow – she has such amazing plans and knows what’s important. She said, “these children are orphans and the best thing for them is to have a stable home.” She wants to buy a house so that the children feel secure; buy a bus and have other children in other villages attend her school and pay school fees; and have the school fees as an income so she can afford to look after the children in the orphanage. I loved the idea and we started chatting about what she needed for that to happen. We figured out that the best thing would be for her raise money to buy a piece of land and have a volunteer project set up to build a house for her and the children.

The next step would be to raise money for the bus and get the new children from other villages enrolled in her school. She may need to get more volunteer teachers or hire some more teachers. I offered to do all I could to help her with this dream…and to be honest ever since I got back a month ago, all I can think about is how to help Mama Suz and the children have a home.

Inspired by this amazing story? Volunteer with Embrace Tanzania now!

Advice on Starting a Non-profit

By Alice Deng

I’ve learned many lessons throughout my journey of establishing RSVP Speech (, a non-profit dedicated to organizing free public speaking classes to students worldwide. These are my most treasured tips that I’d like to pass along to fellow entrepreneurs:

Identify problems. Good ideas come from seeing a problem and envisioning a solution. For me, it was a problem in my own life that I wanted to solve in order to make an impact on the world. Look around you and identify problems that you see yourself and others struggling with. What unique perspective do you have that might help you generate an innovative solution? Your organization could also be dedicated to raising funds for an important cause:

Look for mentors. They are everywhere! You can learn so much in life simply by asking others for advice when you need help. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely and demoralizing experience, if you don’t have mentors and role models to guide you through it. Don’t forget that mentorship is a rewarding experience for the mentor, too, and most people will be happy to help you if you ask.

Test your ideas. Ideation and market research are critical to the design of a product. Get feedback from everyone who will give it to you—this will help you understand your end user and make your product/ service better.

Do the math. It’s easy to get caught up in your idea and think it will work out no matter what, but you won’t really know until you write up a business plan and do some number crunching. There are some numbers you won’t know in the beginning, but once you pilot your product you can continuously revise your plan and understand your true cost vs. revenue breakdown.  For non-profits, especially when starting out, keeping track of the grants received and how they are allocated is crucial since the funds coming in may not be stable.

Don’t give up. You will want to throw in the towel on a regular basis. You will hit roadblocks that seem insurmountable, you will have sleepless nights, and you will wonder if it’s even worth it. The answer, in my book, is a resounding “YES.” Even if RSVP Speech failed, I would never regret a minute of the time I put into it. Starting a company and sticking with it through the challenges has made me a stronger person than I knew I could be.

Take a deep breath and enjoy! Managing RSVP Speech was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had! No matter what scale, the effort you have made will have positively impacted at least one individual. Good luck!


Spending the Evening in San Francisco?

Kurt Bodden

Kurt Bodden as Steve Seabrook

The hit solo show STEVE SEABROOK: BETTER THAN YOU is currently playing at The Marsh in San Francisco. This satire of the personal-growth industry has just been extended for the third time. Writer/performer Kurt Bodden is a UniversalGiving supporter, and will be making a donation to UniversalGiving. We’re encouraging supporters to attend the performance on Saturday, July 20th!

The SF Examiner raves that the show is “filled with laughs!” and calls the performance “pitch-perfect.” The Chronicle says, “Steve Seabrook is very funny — with perhaps a little enlightenment thrown in as well.”

You’ll learn things like how to embrace procrastination while it lasts, and the importance of living vicariously through yourself. Bottom line: you’ll get three days of self-help in a little over an hour.

Kurt Bodden warmed up audiences for “The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” trained in sketch comedy at The Groundlings, was a Company member at BATS Improv, and performed at the Edinburgh Fringe. Now he’s in this held-over run with a character The Contra Costa Times calls “a joyously inane self-help guru.”

And it’s at The Marsh, in the heart of the Mission district’s restaurants and bars, so you can make a night of it, too.

Saturdays at 8:30 through August 24 — July 20 is UniversalGiving night!

The Marsh San Francisco
1062 Valencia Street (near 22nd St.)
Parking at 21st & Bartlett; 3 blocks from 24th & Mission BART
Tickets $15 – $35 sliding scale
Info, tickets and a video sample at Or call The Marsh at 415-282-3055.