The White Helmets

Katie Nelson

Since 2011, Syria has been paralyzed by a gruesome civil war between the Assad regime, the Kurds, and rebel groups. The conflict has displaced more than 11 million (both internally and externally) as refugees, and killed nearly 500,000. In 2017 alone, the United Nations requested $8 billion in aid to put towards “the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.” As the fighting intensifies, it is Syrians themselves who feel its weight on their shoulders.

The Syrian Civil Defense (SCD) is at the forefront of the conflict. What started in 2012 as a makeshift series of rescue teams evolved into a more cohesive volunteer-based unit, now colloquially known as the “White Helmets.” The White Helmets come from all walks of life, from students and artisans, to doctors, engineers, and teachers. Their mission is simple: “To save the greatest number of lives in the shortest possible time and to minimize further injury to people and damage to property.” The group primarily deals with the aftermath of governmental airstrikes, but at its core, the SCD is wholly dedicated to providing nonpartisan aid to nearly seven million Syrians. In addition to operating as a first-response unit, the White Helmets’ work spans across a multitude of sectors in the public sphere including distributing information, rewiring electrical cables, and checking the safety of affected buildings. The volunteers’ pledges to the pillars of “Humanity, Solidarity, [and] Impartiality” aligns them with the courageous values of the group, with one another, and adheres them to the betterment of Syria herself in her darkest hour.

In 2016, the White Helmets were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and won the year’s Right Livelihood Award for their service to the international community. That same year, Netflix released its documentary “The White Helmets” featuring the group, produced by the Oscar-nominated team behind “Virunga.” While key players in the battle have continuously flirted with peace negotiations, fighting in its current state seems to be at best an inconsistent ceasefire. Yet organizations like the White Helmets keep hope alive for millions and epitomizes altruistic volunteering.

To learn more about the White Helmets, please check out these links:



1. Durando, Jessica. “Syria’s civil war: Disturbing facts show cost of conflict.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, 14 Mar. 2017. Web. 06 July 2017.
2. “Syria: The worst humanitarian crisis of our time.” Amnesty International NZ. Amnesty International, 7 Apr. 2015. Web. 06 July 2017.
3. “Volunteers to Save Lives.” Volunteers to Save Lives | SCD. Web. 20 June 2017.
4. Campaign, The Syria. “Meet the heroes saving Syria.” Support the White Helmets. Web. 17 June 2017.
5. “Syria’s White Helmets win ‘alternative Nobel Prize’.” BBC News. BBC, 22 Sept. 2016. Web. 23 June 2017.

Impact Investing — Taking Off in Latin America!

So where is one of the greatest hot spots in Impact Investing? Latin America.

What I love about Impact Investing is its emphasis on supporting entrepreneurial people and teams. If you can put a small amount of money aside and invest in one of these enterprises, you can often see great results. However, be prepared that it is a risk and a worthy risk!   Investing is never a 100% guarantee.

Let’s take a look at how this industry continues to scale. In Mexico, we see the greatest leader; nearly $400 million in investments; Brazil nearly $190 million; Colombia: over $50 million.

Considering Impact Investing was coined in the 1990s, that’s a lot of money – showing a lot of awareness! Let’s be grateful for that. Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs showed the rise of Impact Investing in Latin America in their article The Impact Investing Landscape in Latin America.

What People Invest In

Let’s break this down a little bit. Within a two-year period, the number of Impact Investors increased by 25% in Brazil. The major areas they invest in are health, education, agriculture and financial exclusion, according to Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs.

It’s great to see Financial Inclusion, as we usually see more urgent needs such as food or shelter.  It’s nice to see people caring about providing financial training, access to financial services and helping people of the lower class move to the middle class. As we know, this strengthens the entire community.

Now let’s look at Colombia. Colombia’s average deal size is much larger, but the issues focus on mostly Financial Inclusion and Agriculture. These investments in financial and agriculture have the most opportunity to make a difference because they benefit the most vulnerable populations. Therefore, the most popular sectors of Impact Investing rest in Financial Inclusion and Agriculture.

Next up is Mexico, the “Mother of Investing.” Mexico now has 50 investors with 20% of them who invest only in Mexico. That’s impressive! It shows we’re not just exporting people from the US or other more developed countries to plant the idea of impact investing. People are investing on their own soil. It is exactly what we want to see, so they truly own their investments and participate in building their local community.

One of my favorite groups is the National Institute for Entrepreneurship  LINK which focuses on increasing Entrepreneurship in Mexico. Here is the astounding number: both from national and international investments, there is more that $7 billion dollars being invested. And true to the importance of local people playing a strong role, the local investors are the primary investors. That’s because the know their turf, they know their land, and they know what will work. A great example.

A success story from Impact Investing in Mexico is through a company called ClickOnero. Click Onero uses SMS messages and social networking to spread promotions of companies, such as Coca-Cola, to a wide list of users. The users clicked the “Like” button to companies’ promotions, and in exchange, received points that could be used for SMS or cellular prepaid airtime. Why is this important? Well, it helps companies advertise, but also helps the “liker.” They have their cell phone costs reduced, which is often important to their livelihood in selling crops in the market.  You’re reducing their cost of doing business, making their businesses more profitable and reducing their living costs. This makes for a more successful life.This company has done a great job and has been growing consistently since 2009.

So that’s your crash course in Impact Investing in Latin America. We are also seeing it grow and also increase in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua.  If you’re global and reading this, maybe you can set aside a small amount to invest in your local community. You might be the next investor!

Think Big and With A Big Heart,

Pamela 🙂


“The Impact Investing Landscape in Latin America.” Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs. Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), Latin American Private Equity & Venture Capital Association (LAVCA), and LGT Impact Ventures, Aug. 2016. Web.

Driving Change


Our team wouldn’t be half as strong without our staff who work so hard to train interns, manage finances and clients, and keep UniversalGiving running like a well-oiled machine! Below is a testimonial from our Senior Corporate Services Associate, Kristara Bring! We are so grateful for your work, Kristara!

“When I found UniversalGiving, I was intrigued by the idea that our work drives change through partnerships with NGOs, corporations, and individuals. It is amazing to know our team is truly making a difference on a daily basis and I love working with such diverse, inspiring individuals.”

-Kristara Bring, Senior Corporate Services Associate



Nominate A Social Entrepreneur

By Cheryl Mahoney

Do you know a company that’s passionate about changing the world–and turning a profit?  One of the most exciting trends I’ve been watching lately is the rise of social entrepreneurship.  Ideally, it’s combining the best of the for-profit world with the best of the non-profit world.

By combining for-profit business principles with non-profit-style goals, the result is an organization that is self-sustaining, while being focused on addressing social issues.  I’ll give you an example (and this might not be surprising): UniversalGiving.  We’re a non-profit, but we generate revenue through UniversalGiving Corporate, by customizing our services for companies to assist with their corporate social responsibility programs.  We aren’t trying to turn a profit, but we do set a goal of being sustainable.

Do you know another social entrepreneurship organization that’s doing great work, and turning a profit?  Well, now’s your chance to honor them.  You can nominate for-profit social entrepreneurships to be BusinessWeek’s Most Promising Social Entrepreneur.

They’re taking suggestions through the end of this week.  Once nominations close, they’ll select 25 finalists, and invite people to vote on their favorites.  Then they’ll present the top five.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to bring exposure to an organization doing good.  And don’t forget to come back and vote for the finalists this May!