Charity Spotlight: The $5 Project

People who belong to the Facebook community, know it’s a great place to track down childhood friends, keep in touch with distant relatives, stalk old high school boyfriends and play a game of Bingo Blitz with Grandma. Now they can also help a worthy cause (several actually) and it will only cost $5.00. This week we highlight the charity managed solely on Facebook, The $5 Project.

When Betsy Schauer, professor of music at University of Arizona, watched coverage of the earthquake in Haiti, she was struck by the magnitude of people who heeded the American Red Cross’ plea to make $10 donations via text message. Though people gave just a little, they felt empowered because they knew they were a part of a bigger movement. Betsy had a little epiphany for a future endeavor that night and after it needled her brain for a year, The Five Dollar Project became a reality.

As mentioned above, The $5 Project doesn’t have a traditional web page, it has a Facebook page and that’s where all the action happens. Betsy and her board members choose a local or regional charity to highlight for one month. Loyal followers of the project donate $5.00 to the cause and then use their own social networks to spread the word. At the end of the month, the donations are tallied and the group does a follow-up on the highlighted organization, showing how they were impacted by the influx of generosity.

Since The $5 Project launched on Facebook in January, they’ve helped a variety of agencies. Their idea was to champion local and regional causes across the United States that normally don’t get the exposure larger charities such as the Red Cross gets. Including their very first charity, PALS (Positive Activities Lead To Success)an after school and summer program located in an impoverished area of Colorado.

In August, the project rallied around, Beyond Balance, a New Jersey therapeutic riding center for people with special needs. Giving to this organization hit close to home for $5 Project board member, Dana Dwyer who has two children with Autism. Dana previously attended a Beyond Balance class with her son and remarked at the amazing difference it made in his coordination and physical awareness. The $5 Project was able to raise $660.00 for Beyond Balance in one month. Dana hopes the money will be used to sponsor other Autistic children who otherwise might not be able to have the same experience her son had.

The $5 Project is an example of what Love Drop has known to be true from the beginning of our adventure in micro-giving, that people are more apt to participate and donate if they feel like their portion is an essential ingredient in the big ole pie. Members of the $5 Project seetheir dollars go to work every month in a new and different way. We know how precisely how that feels. . . awesome!

Make your heart happy. Do good!

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Charity Spotlight: Freekibble

This week’s charity spotlight is so adorable I just can’t stand it. Are you an animal lover? Do you have pets? Does the mere site of a puppy or kitten make your voice go up 12 octaves and your dignity go out the window as you squeal, “It’s soooooo cute?” If so, you’re going to love Freekibble and its sister site, Freekibble Kat.

The Freekibble tail (do you see what I did there) began in 2008 when 11-year-old Mimi Ausland, a budding philanthropist, wanted to make sure dogs and cats in her local Oregon animal shelters had enough good nutritious food to go around. Freekibble partnered with the pet food company, Halo, Purely For Pets and now they deliver food to shelters across the United states. According to the kibble counter at the bottom of the website home page, over 600 million pieces of kibble have been donated since 2008.

Interestingly, Freekibble has a corporate sponsor so they don’t necessarily need donations but they do need people to show an interest in the cause. In order to show that people care about Freekibble and to keep their sponsorship, they’ve created a very clever way to keep people coming back to the site. . . trivia! Each day when you visit Freekibble or Freekibble Kat you will be greeted with a Bow Wow Trivia or Meow Trivia question. The questions are multiple choice but you don’t even have to get them right. Just by participating, Halo donates 10 pieces of kibble to animal shelters.

When you check out the site, be sure to visit Mimi’s blog under Freekibble Kids and the “Knews” section for fun posts about animals and other kids doing big things. The stories titled, “Unlikely Animal Friendships” are precious. A Cockatoo and a cat?A hound dog and a pot-bellied pig?It’s almost cute overload I tell you. Oh, and I almost forgot, pictures of dogs and cats galore.

Although the site appears to be aimed at kids and tweens, the work they’re doing for shelter pets is clearly grown-up stuff. In July 2011 they were mentioned in an article featured in “O” magazine. You know “O” magazine is Oprah, right? If Ms. Winfrey is talking about you, odds are you’re a pretty big deal. I hope the site prompts adults to visit and answer trivia questions, and inspires kids to think about how they can help their own community.

Hey! Did you know the Tanzanian Tiger is not found in Africa, nor is it a wild cat? I didn’t either, but I do now, AND I just donated 10 pieces of kibble to a shelter just by answering the question. Visit the site today, answer a question to get those 10 pieces of kibble donated to an animal shelter and tuck all those factoids away for your next game of Trivial pursuit.

Make your heart happy. Do good!

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Charity Spotlight Series: Kiva

Lately we’ve been telling you about some unique charities and all-around cool people doing some pretty nifty stuff for mankind. . . and animalkind too. This week we want to introduce you to a nonprofit group with over 450 volunteers in 60 countries who span the world in order to provide lending opportunities to people without access to traditional banking services. Grab a beverage, sit back and let me tell you about our latest find, the micro-finance organization, Kiva!

Lawrence Mushabe is a 42-year old businessman from Kyenjojo, Uganda. He’s a married father of eight who owns a small successful roadside store where he sells local staples like maize flour, sugar, salt and soft drinks. Lawrence would like to expand his product line and purchase more inventory, but he’s unable to obtain a bank loan. In the past, this budding entrepreneur would’ve had little options to grow his business. Now, thanks to Kiva, Lawrence can request a small loan and people from Mississippi to Mogadishu can help fund it for as little as $25.00. That’s global giving!

Maybe you’re saying, but Dani, that sounds complicated. Not for Kiva. They’ve got a well-developed plan. Let’s break this new-fangled lending system down, shall we? Kiva works with Field Partners who meet with potential borrowers. After a vetting process, if the borrower is approved, the Field Partner distributes the small loan. Information about the borrower is shared with Kiva through a group of editors and translators. The borrower’s story is published on the Kiva site. Lenders then read through borrower stories and choose which loans they’d like to fund. They can fund a large portion of one borrower’s loan or small portions of several loans. The minimum loan amount is $25.00. The borrower makes repayments to the Field Partner who then sends it to Kiva. Kiva deposits the loan repayment in the lender’s account who can then use it to fund another loan or withdraw it.

Of course, that was just the quick version. If you visit the site you’ll find detailed information about how Field Representatives are chosen, what criteria they use to approve borrowers and if you’re like our resident fiscal-fanatic, J$, you can really dig deep and learn about the history of microfinance. Be sure to check out the borrower stories. They provide an interesting glimpse in to the trade and commerce of other countries, particularly impoverished regions.

Pop quiz! Name a top-selling retail commodity in Tanzania?If you said, charcoal, you’re RIGHT, and should probably be on Jeopardy. See there, now you have a little factoid to share with the kids at dinner tonight. You’re welcome.

Wanna see the impact of Kiva? Check out this great video that maps the flow of money over the last 5 years.

Intercontinental Ballistic Microfinance from Kiva on Vimeo.

We think Kiva is worth talking about because they believe in global empowerment. Their mission: “Connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.” Yep! Sounds like a good plan to me.

Make your heart happy. Do good!

EDITOR’S NOTE: I, J$, have been participating in Kiva for about 2 years now – they are hands down one of my favorite organizations! The beauty of the whole thing is that after you “invest” your money in these hard workers, you slowly get it back and can then RE-LEND it again over and over continuing to help people with that same original amount (for the most part – there are little fees here and there). I highly recommend checking it out if you haven’t heard about them before – they’re good people. And then join my Budgets Are Sexy team if you end up signing up! We have a small group of people giving together :)

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Charity Spotlight: TwitChange

Here”s an organization that set out to prove our grandparents wrong. Social media is not the end of civility today, in fact, it’s quickly becoming a philanthropic revolution. Read on to find out how TwitChange is using Twitter and Facebook to make an impact on the world.

How TwitChange was born. In January 2010, the world watched as the impoverished country of Haiti was literally shaken to its core by a devastating earthquake. In the aftermath, Shaun King, a self-proclaimed, “techie humanitarian” launched a social media campaign to help raise money for Haiti’s people. It was so successful he raised 2 million dollarsand caught the attention of Microsoft execs. Microsoft advised actress and activist, Eva Longoria to partner with Shaun’s team instead of starting her own relief fund. When she heard the pitch about TwitChange (an idea that had been swirling in Shaun’s mind for some time) Longoria was not only excited nbso online casino reviews to join the mission herself, she invited a few of her closest friends. Perhaps you’ve heard of them, Demi Moore, Kim Kardashian, Demi Lovato and that master of tween suspense on American Idol, Ryan Seacrest. Not too shabby.

By the time TwitChange launched, over 100 celebrities had agreed to come on board and invited their Twitter followers to participate in a unique relief effort. Using the eBay auction site, fans bid on the opportunity to be followed, mentioned or retweeted by their favorite celebrity. Stars had fun with the campaign, often sweetening the deal by including tickets and autographs. In 10 days, eBay received over $500,000 in bids.

Since the Haiti campaign, TwitChange has teamed up with Pittsburgh Steelers, Troy Polamalu to help families of American soldiers, and a second time with Eva Longoria to raise funds for CARE, an organization committed to providing education to girls and women in 80 countries. Again, the idea was simple. Loyal fans bid for the chance to be followed, retweeted or mentioned by their favorite stars and maybe receive a little celebrity swag bag, as well. Again, both campaigns were a success.

In addition to managing their ongoing relief efforts and fundraising activities, the TwitChange site has a news section where they link to other charities and discuss social media connections people can get involved with. According to the site, their next campaign is “coming soon.” With Twitter and Facebook giving fans instant access to their favorite celebrities, it’s no secret why this is a winning formula. Thanks, Shaun King, for teaching us there’s more to social media than lunch tweets and Farmville.

For more information aboutTwitChange, visit their site: and follow them on Twitter @TwitChange and @shaunking.

Make your heart happy. Do Good.

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Charity Spotlight: Create The Good

Have you ever had one of those moments where you were really inspired to help but didn’t know how to make a difference? Like maybe after you watched the Blind Side? You know, the movie about the Tuohy family and how they adopted an at-risk youth and just by showing him trust, kindness and love, turned his life around? After the movie was over, did you put down your box of Kleenex and shout, “I WILL ADOPT AN AT-RISK YOUTH,” but then realized you shared a college dorm with 3 other people and that idea probably wouldn’t go over well with your resident advisor?

WELL, recently I discovered a website where you can find volunteer opportunities to fit any lifestyle, Create The Good.

Create The Good, sponsored by the fine folks at AARP is designed in a way that makes finding a good deed as easy as clicking the “Find Things To Do” tab. By entering your zip code you will be given immediate access to local opportunities in your area. On the day I searched, I found requests for gardeners, camp assistants, painters, animal lovers and emergency response team assistance. No money is required, just arrange with the project coordinator, show up and create the good.

Too busy to help in person? Maybe the “online opportunities” are better suited for you. Become a pen pal mentor, help someone budget their finances, edit a resume, or discuss career counseling. The site is a good reminder that help comes in many forms. It doesn’t always need a big commitment of time or even a money investment. A small gesture like donating used eyeglasses, buying batteries for the children’s ward at a hospital, participating in a book swap, and thanking someone in the military are all fantastic ways to make a difference.

On Create The Good, not only can you find opportunities for yourself, you can also recruit. Once you’ve registered with the site you’re able to create your own activities and invite volunteers to help. You can advertise for a one-time event or an ongoing need in your community. It’s like hosting your own festive Helping Party. Bring fun beverages, maybe balloons.

Create The Good – motto:  Be a force for good. . . whether you have 5 minutes, 5 hours or 5 days.” How will you create the good, today? Whether you check on an elderly neighbor, serve dinner to the homeless, read at a library or adopt an at-risk youth and teach him your love of football, the important thing is, DO something and pay it forward!

 Make your heart happy. Do good!

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Charity Spotlight: Positively Positive

positively positive logo
Where can you find a master yogi, a super model, an Olympic gold medal winner, a shark attack survivor, a chef, a singer/songwriter and an author? If you said on the next season of Dancing With The Stars, I’ll give you points for creativity. And you know the yogi would totally dominate because, hello, flexibility. But no, actually, these accomplished individuals make up an organization dedicated to, “optimism and inspiration.” They’re known as simply, Positively Positive.

People, it’s tough out there. Open the newspaper (they still exist, really, go get one) and you’ll read about home foreclosures. Turn on the news and you’ll see pictures of the latest natural disaster or bickering presidential candidates. Even when the bad news is delivered by the dreamy Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News, it’s still depressing. Throw in a bevy of our own personal issues and it’s easy to get mired down. Positively Positive wants to make sure you’re uplifted, every day, and they’re doing it by providing inspirational quotes, short videos and blog posts.

Only have a few minutes? You can still fill up your happy tank.
  Positively Positive is chock-full of video and bloggy nuggets of wisdom, humor and insight. Do you have a little extra time? Order the Venti Pumpkin Spice at Starbucks and really settle in to check out the site in detail. Be sure to read through the contributor profiles. Psst – You might find a famous super model, best-selling author or celebrity fitness coach in the mix.

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life” – J.K. Rowling.

That’s just one bit of goodness taken from the Quotes section. I guess even an extraordinarily successful author with a gazillion dollars can have a bad day.

illustrated by Amanda Cass - Dodinsky "The Light Within"

The quotes, stories, poems and videos at Positively Positive are not just bits of cotton candy fluff to be consumed and forgotten. The contributors are real people dealing with real subjects people can relate to. Cancer, parenting, charity, weight loss, yep, you’ll find that here and so much more.

One of my favorite videos on the site was by author/social media expert, Gary Vaynerchuck. In his 2.5 minute video, Gary shares a story from high school. The take-away is this; Don’t worry about improving your weaknesses, instead, focus all your energy on your strengths. His last sentence is the title of the video, “A Penguin Cannot Become A Giraffe, So Just Be The Best Penguin That You Can Be.”

The Positively Positive team believes in, “lifting one another up to richer, more fulfilling lives.” That’s a message we approve of.

Make your heart happy. Do good.

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Charity Spotlight: Band Back Together

When you’re weary, feeling small, when tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all. . . I’m on your side.”

Those iconic lyrics are from the 1970’s classic, Bridge Over Troubled Water. After all these years it remains a tune of hope and feels like a snug radio hug whenever I hear it. The message of the song reflects the mantra of our latest charity spotlight, Band Back Together, “we are none of us alone.”

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting the Simon and Garfunkel of Band Back Together, Becky and Jana. Some of you serious bloggers might know Becky as Aunt Becky from her wildly popular site, Mommy Wants Vodka. I’m a big fan of her no-holds-barred persona and zany Twitter page so I didn’t know what to expect. During our interview she was reserved, making it very clear she was serious about The Band and all the goodness they provide, in spite of the often difficult subject matter.

Before The Band

Becky’s third child was born with a rare neural tube defect. The shock of the diagnosis and weight of the treatment involved to cure her daughter took its toll. Already fighting emotional demons from life as a child of alcoholism, she began to experience depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. When she wrote about these torrents of emotion on her blog she received many, “there-there” comments but also, “hey, I’ve been there too” responses. When I asked why she didn’t create a site based solely on her daughter’s condition she said, “I thought about it, but then decided it would be too exclusive. Everyone has a story.”

Band Members

It would be great if life were like an episode of the Cosby show with little Rudy Huxtable lip-syncing a jazz tune at the end but it’s not. Life has handed people some dark and twisty stuff that tests their resolve every day. Band Back Together provides a place for people to submit their story of struggle and also triumph, whatever that may be. The stories are categorized so you can find a topic with ease. BBT’s goal is to give people a safe place to read, share and talk. With over 100 subjects already covered under the site from adoption to eating disorders, to the loss of a child, nothing is off-limits.

How The Band Helps

For many, writing down the words they wish they could say to their abuser or talking to cancer like it’s a living thing is helpful. Telling their personal story is cathartic. Others just want to know they’re not alone. Band Back Together provides both these opportunities and then they go one step further. For each category they also provide a resource page. Many bleary-eyed, sleepless hours by Becky, Jana and their volunteer staff went into creating it. From a suicide hotline to Asperger’s page, The Band not only allows readers to vent, they also let them know where to go for help. Becky considers this page especially helpful to patients who have just been diagnosed with a serious disease or condition. Doctors provide advice for the disease itself but not how to “live” with it. Band Back Together helps patients deal with the emotional toll.

Aunt Becky, Jana and the entire BBT team are incredibly inspiring and their work is tireless. Regardless of the burden you carry, Band Back Together wants to be your bridge over troubled water. Everyone is welcome and you are never alone.

Make your heart happy. Do good.

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Charity Spotlight Series: Dream Foundation

When a child is diagnosed with a terminal illness, parents want to make precious memories in the time they have left, often enlisting the help of the Make A Wish Foundation to grant a final wish. In 1993, Thomas Rollerson discovered no such organization existed for terminally ill adults. One year later, the Dream Foundation was created.

For families struggling to make ends meet, granting the final wish of a dying loved one can be difficult, if not impossible. Astronomical hospital bills and care-giver fees can drain a family’s budget very quickly. The Dream Foundation focuses on easing this burden by catering to the specific needs and desires of its dreamers.

Located in California, the Dream Foundation manages three different programs, Dream Granting, Flower Empower and the Toy Program.

Dream Granting – The website refers to this program as the, “heart and soul of the Dream Foundation.” They pose the question, “If you had one year to live. . . what would your dream be?” Then they try to fulfill it. Potential dreamers are encouraged to fill out an application telling a little about their illness and then describe their request. For the Dream Foundation there is no “want” that is too farfetched. In the past, people have asked for a garden in their name, a book of poetry published, a loved one flown in from far away and many would like to meet a favorite celebrity or take one last vacation with their family.

Flower Empower – Based in Santa Monica, this program was started by local volunteers who wanted to brighten the day of critically ill people in their city. Every Saturday morning a group of volunteers meets at a local farmer’s market to assemble bouquets of donated flowers. The arrangements are then delivered to hospitals, hospice facilities and homes. In addition to the flowers, deliveries may also include fresh-baked cookies and chocolate.

Toy Program – For dying parents with young children, the emotional and financial strain on a family can be overwhelming. Volunteers from the Toy Program send parents age-appropriate gifts for their children. The gifts are pre-wrapped and sent directly to the parent to give to the child. This partnership with Ty company and Hasbro is wonderful because it gives children a momentary respite from their parents’ illness and everything it brings with it.

It was an emotional experience to read through the current dreamer requests and past wishes granted. Paul is battling a brain tumor but wanted to see the final installment of Harry Potter with his 16-year-old son. Zoh, a mother of two young children whose breast cancer returned, wanted to spend some quality time with her family. Amie, almost completely paralyzed from the neck down from her battle with ALS, wants to attend a Rick Springfield concert. Sweet, spunky 91-year-old Jeannie told her doctors she wanted to die in her home and then promptly asked the Dream Foundation for a lobster dinner and coconut cream pie. The wishes are different but the sentiment is the same. They each want something they can savor, that their families can savor, to take some sting out of what’s to come.

The Dream Foundation accepts monetary donations, mileage vouchers and other unique ideas individuals have that could help the dreamers.

“I know if we could step away just for a few days we could put some punctuation on this time and move forward as a family, lighter and less wounded. My wish is to be just myself, for my family.” — Zoh – Dream Foundation dreamer

 Make your heart happy. Do good.


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