The Rickshaw Puller by Anshu Priya

I grew up in a household where giving and sharing was part of everyday life. And for that reason, UniversalGiving ‘s motto and overall objective really resonated with me. I was born in India. In one of the poorest states of India, in fact, Bihar. Poor not just in terms of people not having money, and basic food and shelter, but in terms of low access to healthcare, clean water and so on. We were fortunate to be born into a household that did not have to fight for survival, and where we could afford luxuries time to time.

My grandfather was part of the Gandhian movement, and that meant that he believed in equality and a minimalistic lifestyle. Also, sharing and caring for those around us was not something that was made a virtue out of. It was just something that was intrinsic to our lives, and the family went about doing it without expecting to be lauded for it in any way.

I had often seen my mother go out of her way to help those around us – even though she was a single parent of two children, and had to watch her spending continuously to make sure we had a reasonably good lifestyle. The message we always got from her was one about compassion, about counting our blessings and helping those that were less fortunate. One particular incident stands out for me, and I will try and retell it as closely as I remember it, since this happened many, many years ago.

It was morning, and we were getting dressed for school. That chaotic time in a household when everyone wishes they had those extra ten minutes – to sleep in, to finish their breakfast, to polish their shoes just a little better. There was a loud, urgent knock on the door. We were not expecting anyone, so my brother (who was little at the time, maybe six) and I looked at each other and wondered who it might be. My mom took the door, almost exasperated that the already chaotic morning schedule was being derailed somewhat. She opened the door to find this old man, looking exhausted, famished and just generally unwell. It was summer, and the heat and humidity in Bihar can take everything out of you. My mother first offered him a drink of water, which he gulped down at record speed, and then asked why he was there. He said in Hindi “ Joota wali didi kahan hain?” meaning “ Where is the shoe lady?”

Ma said she didn’t understand, and then they went on to have a conversation about it. Turns out, every time my mother would board a rickshaw (a manually pulled basic mode of transport used a lot by people who do not own/drive cars ) , she would be heartbroken at the sight of the rickshaw pullers who did not own footwear and who were forced to paddle their rickshaws barefooted in the scorching heat. Along with paying them for the ride, she would also give them extra money so they could buy themselves a pair of basic footwear. She later told us that she had done this for a lot of them. And this particular one had found out about Ma and came right to her door to ask her for help. Ma helped him out with some food supplies, a pair of clothes, and of course some money for him to buy shoes. She let him go after telling him that he should respect our privacy and not send any more strangers to our door for safety reasons!!

The old man smiled, nodded, thanked her profusely and left after showering his blessings on my brother and I.

I have never felt more proud of my mother. In all this, what struck me most was that she had not mentioned a word of this to anyone. In this world where we tend to scream out about every little thing we do, this selfless act of silence stayed with me forever.

I have used Google to pull up an image of a rickshaw similar to the one she used then to get around about town.



Anshu Priya is a part of the marketing team at UniversalGiving.

Taking Action to End World Hunger

By Kelly Ann Oxenham

*Background photo source:

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!

*Background photo source: 

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.

How No More Poverty Is Addressing Global Need

We’re highlighting one of our partners today, No More Poverty. Here’s what they had to share about their work:

Since its foundation in 2012, No More Poverty has been able to provide support and assistance to well over three dozen separate non-profit organizations that focus on poverty and poverty-related issues. Since the initial launch of No More Poverty efforts have extended to partnerships for charitable events and the funding of surgical missions to developing nations.

New-NMP-LogoFounders Michael and Julian Omidi started No More Poverty in order to help assist in the global crisis of poverty by providing charities that focus in this area with much-needed direct support. Michael and Julian recognized that poverty both in the United States and around the world does not just stem from one issue; there are a myriad of causes that contribute to impoverishment from lack of financial literacy to homelessness, lack of education to lack of clean water and sanitation, substance abuse to a need for arts programs and creativity. There are many incredible charities that have been involved in finding effective solutions to these problems for years, even decades, that need a little extra help to maintain and increase their efforts.

The efforts of No More Poverty have since expanded beyond just direct support and include increased awareness for charities they have partnered with, opportunities for new organizations and causes to apply for grants, and partnering with nonprofits and governments of developing nations to provide medical missions, such as the most recent trip to the Philippines that they co-sponsored. No More Poverty intends to eventually increase long-term sustainability through grants that would provide impoverished areas around the globe with business development and job creation to assist in long-term sustainability.

Instead of accepting donations, No More Poverty encourages you to make donations to assist the variety of charities NMP supports and work directly on specific issues associated with poverty that you may have a personal connection with.

You’re also invited to read No More Poverty’s blog post about UniversalGiving.  Or visit our website for our vetted ways to give, and address the problem of global poverty!

The Y Factor

Today’s guest post comes from our partner, Bright Funds.

Millennials. Gen Y. The Facebook generation.  Whatever you call today’s teens, twenty- and thirty-somethings, they certainly constitute an increasingly powerful demographic.

Now 80 million strong, millennials are the fastest-growing part of today’s workforce and the part responsible for much of the disruptive innovation that is forever transforming the way we conduct our daily lives.  Needless to say, with increasing political influence, expanding bank accounts, and sharpening technological insights, Gen Y has significantly impacted our world today and will continue to do so.

For those of us involved in the charitable giving and philanthropy space, our (80) million dollar question is, “How we can effectively engage the mighty millennials?”  The point at which we harness the power of these individuals as a source of support for the nonprofits will undoubtedly prove monumental.

Yet, both “charitable giving” and “philanthropy” — particularly the latter term — are typically associated with an older demographic.  Philanthropy is considered by many to be an altruistic act that comes at the end, rather than the beginning, of someone’s career.

But this is changing.

Gen Y has been characterized in many ways – some more flattering than others.  While they are often accused of being entitled and self-centered (hence the name “Generation Me”), there is actually significant reason to believe that millennials are incredibly generous and a force to be reckoned with in the realm of charitable giving.

In fact, according Causecast, which references a report by The Boston Consulting Group, Gen Y cares deeply about social issues and believes involvement in causes to be a “fundamental part of life.”

And, they don’t just care – they act.  According to the Millennial Impact Report, 75% of millennials said they donated to a nonprofit in 2011. Such findings are encouraging, but more can be done to involve Gen Y in charitable giving.

Here’s what you need to know about Millennials as donors.

1. They are connected

Millennials are constantly connected to information and to each other. They are online and social media savvy. With the proliferation of smartphones, laptops and tablets, it is rare indeed when a Millennial is disconnected.   Many have spent more time chatting online than in person, done most of their learning in front of a computer screen, and visited more websites than stores for their shopping.  What’s more, Gen Y is a “communal generation” – working closely together through social media to create change and coordinate collective action.

2.  They support many causes

According to the Millennial Impact Report, Gen Y gives to an average of 5 organizations a year.  In other words, this group, having grown up in an age of constant stimulation, multi-tasking, and involvement in more extracurriculars than can fit on a resume, is not content focusing on only one thing.  This group wants to spread their giving.  Why be involved with just one project, when you can support a handful?

3.  They want to see impact

This group is not driven to donate for tax deduction purposes or because “it is expected” of them.  They are most certainly not satisfied with simply writing checks.  Millennials are both achievement and feedback oriented, which means they demand not only frequent reports, but also results from their giving.  In other words, Gen Y is interested in learning about what their contribution has helped to create. Certainly facts such as how many children can go to school or how many water wells can be built from a given contribution are appreciated.  But beyond that, Gen Y wants to keep up-to-date on the project’s themselves: how the children are doing in school, and how the water well is benefitting the community.

The good news is that nonprofits and fundraisers can easily “plug in” to the very channels currently connecting millennials – email, social media, mobile apps – to educate, communicate with and engage Gen Y givers.  And, we can make the giving experience exciting, enjoyable and rewarding for millennials by providing a range of giving options and keeping donors up-to-date on the impact of their donations.

At Bright Funds, we created a charitable giving platform with Gen Y in mind. We believe that when we reach people where they want to be reached, connect them to the causes that they care most about, and show them impact of their investments, we can begin to unleash the full potential of this generation.

Image Credit: Life-Tuner