Viewing entries tagged
social impact

Discover What's Possible

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Discover What's Possible

If you know us, you know we spend a great deal of time strategizing around ways to support social change. This past year, The Center for Social Impact Strategy at The University of Pennsylvania gave us the opportunity to join them in developing a new initiative. The result? A studio that tells stories of inspirational changemakers, and shares them alongside free tools so that anyone anywhere can take action. Not only is it exciting to put such incredible stories out into the world demonstrating progress is possible, but we love making education accessible, and this studio does exactly that.

Today, we launch, and we're so excited to see what you do with it! Let us know what you think, and feel free to reach out if you have feedback or ideas for additional stories.

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How & Why We’re Building a Culture of Kindness

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How & Why We’re Building a Culture of Kindness

“Being kind to our fellow human beings is a precondition to becoming truly successful. Goodness and kindness are the single most important factors when it comes to how successful we will be in our lives.”

- Stefan Einhorn, The Art of Being Kind

Too often, we hear that to be successful, we have to push ourselves (and others) to the edge. We need to work harder, study longer, sleep less, and sacrifice more.

Unfortunately, this mindset can lead to a disconnect with our loved ones, miscommunications with colleagues, impatient behavior, poor self-care, and a multitude of other issues.   

At WhyWhisper, we see success as a better world – one that is filled with opportunity, justice, and support. And we believe that making this happen doesn’t start with working harder or making more sacrifices – it starts with kindness. There’s a chain effect that occurs when we put kindness out into the world: it travels. And if we all commit to being kinder in our day-to-day lives, then as a society, we collaboratively achieve success. 

This year, our team is consciously working to develop a culture of kindness. We’re challenging ourselves to commit to, and reflect on, at least one kind act per week, with each of us defining for ourselves what kindness really means.

Here are some of our examples: 

  • Take time to stop and help someone who needs it. When someone asks for directions, or needs support crossing the street, stop and help them, kindly and patiently. Odds are, it’ll change their day.
  • Cook or buy a meal for someone who’s hungry. Instead of just brushing by the next person who asks for your support, take a minute to stop somewhere and buy them a hearty meal.
  • Write a Letter to someone who might need a little cheering up.  Too often, we forget how much it means to receive a letter of encouragement. Think of someone who’s going through a hard time (whether you know them or not), and write a note to let them know you’re in their corner.
  • Take care of yourself. When we’re busy or overwhelmed, self-care is often the first thing to go. It shouldn’t be, but it is. And the fact is, when we don’t care for ourselves, we also can’t take care of others. Think about how you can be kind to yourself, then set aside the time to do so.
  • Pick up some trash. How often do you walk by a piece of garbage on the street, slightly annoyed that people still litter? Next time that happens, instead of getting annoyed, pick it up (safely, of course).
  • Focus on your community. When we’re thinking about large-scale social impact, we can sometimes forget to consider our own communities. Who do you interact with everyday, and how can you show them kindness? Tip your local barista more than you usually would. Have a conversation with your neighborhood crossing guard. These seemingly small acts will likely have a chain reaction.

To be clear, we’re not suggesting that these small acts should take the place of working toward substantive, sustainable change. After all, providing a meal to someone who’s hungry does not solve a large-scale problem. But in that moment, it does make all the difference to that person, and that’s undoubtedly impactful.

If you’re inspired to be more conscious about kindness, we’d love for you to join us in our challenge. Follow us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram), and post your kind acts with #WhyWhisper #workonpurpose. You can also get in touch with us via email, or in the comments below. We look forward to seeing the good that we can accomplish together this year!

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The Ultimate Social Impact Reading List

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The Ultimate Social Impact Reading List

The Ultimate Social Impact Reading List

When it comes to the subject of social impact, we’ve done quite a bit of reading. As you likely know, there’s a lot out there – and it can be difficult to determine which resources are worthwhile.

As such, we thought it might be helpful to share some of our favorites – and some that we’ve written ourselves – with you.  

The following list is by no means exhaustive, but if you’re looking for some reading over the holidays, check these out:

Social Impact

To start off broadly, these are some of our favorite articles and blog posts that focus on social impact in a more general sense. 

Corporate Social Responsibility

CSR is a complex and ever-evolving topic, and one that is widely discussed. These articles will help you develop an understanding of what’s happening in the space. 

Social Enterprise

The concept of doing well by doing good is changing the way that social impact intersects with business. If you’re interested in learning more, these resources are a great place to start.

Personal Habits

We’ve been talking a lot lately about how important it is to take care of yourself if you want to be effective in supporting others. It can be easier said than done, but these resources offer some great advice.

Sustainability & Environmental Responsibility

Another element of impact that directly ties into social good Is sustainability. It’s an incredibly vast topic, but these are some great resources to get you started on living more sustainably.

If you’re looking for more general resources for staying on top of what’s happening in the social impact space, try these:

Have you come across an impact-focused resource that’s been particularly helpful or informative? Share with us! We’ll add it to our list. Here’s how:

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How You Can End the Year with Impact

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How You Can End the Year with Impact

by Kate Vandeveld

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, it’s time for many of us to break out the holiday music and start prepping for the next round of celebrations. While the holiday season is one of mass consumerism and indulgence – we’re guilty of it too! – it’s also a time when we tend to feel a stronger sense of responsibility to support people and causes we care about. 

The key is channeling these positive feelings into action – and because many of us are also pretty busy around the holidays, this might be easier said than done. But if we each take a few small steps to support others, we can make a huge difference… ending the year positively and starting 2016 off on a strong foot.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Shop responsibly 

We talk about this a lot, and for good reason: making small changes to your purchasing habits can have a hugely positive impact. Being a conscientious consumer is important all year, but especially when we’re spending an average of $805 per person during the holiday season.

Our first suggestion is to shop small business whenever possible. The ripple effect of shopping at small businesses, rather than opting for large corporations, is substantial. It makes an impact on  your local economy, and reaches as far as global supply chains. If you can’t shop small business, there are other steps you can take to ensure that the products you’re buying are ethically and/or sustainably sourced. If you know of any brands, stores, or websites that you’d like to share with the WhyWhisper community, let us know! We want to help spread the word about companies that provide socially and environmentally responsible options.

Support causes you care about 

Never underestimate how much nonprofit organizations need your support. For many, internal capacity is stretched thin, and budgets are notoriously small.  

As you may know, today is Giving Tuesday – perhaps more commonly known as #GivingTuesday. It’s a great opportunity to balance out all of the spending that you’ve done or plan to do this holiday season. Just check out the Giving Tuesday website or #GivingTuesday on Twitter to find out which organizations participated, and what they’re aiming to fund with this year’s campaigns. Even if you only have a couple dollars to spare, this is a time when even the smallest donation can make a huge difference, collectively. The end-of-year funds that these organizations collect will play a big role in determining their scope of work for 2016.

Also, any company or organization that focuses on social impact can greatly benefit from your support via word of mouth. Follow them on their social media platforms, subscribe to their newsletter, and share information about their work and any campaigns or events they promote. Simply acting as an informal ambassador can be an incredible form of support. If you have expertise in a particular area that you think might be helpful to these organizations, or want to use your time to help them further their missions, consider inquiring about volunteering. If you do it, be intentional about it: Make sure you provide concrete ideas for how you can provide support, and only commit to what you’re sure you can contribute, so they are able to properly plan for the year ahead.

Focus on your own community

If you don’t know where to start making a difference this holiday season, look at your own community. Do you live in a place where it gets pretty cold in the winter? Maybe you could organize a cold weather drive at your office, co-working space, or even your neighborhood coffee shop. This way, you can make a large-scale difference for those in need, while providing an opportunity for others to contribute. Even if you can’t organize your own drive, keep your eyes open for those who are collecting various items – from jackets and blankets, to toys, to canned goods – in your community. These types of drives have become ubiquitous in many areas, and for good reason – they’re relatively easy to put together, and their impact is tangible. 

Plan ahead for 2016

Maybe you don’t have a lot of time or resources to contribute at the moment, or you’re not particularly into the holidays, or you’re already taking action? No matter waht, the end of the year is a great time to plan for how you can make a greater impact in the coming year.

How will you be active in contributing to positive change? Will you volunteer? Plan to reduce your environmental footprint? Mentor others who need support?

Think about the resources at your disposal, your personal bandwidth, and how you can realistically use them to support the causes you care about. Then, make concrete and actionable plans. If you want to support a cause, but aren’t sure which organizations are doing the most substantive and sustainable work, do the research now. Once you’ve landed on one (or several!), take the steps that we outlined above to start learning more about them, like following them on social media and subscribing to their newsletter. If you have the bandwidth to lend your time or expertise, reach out to them with a proposal on how you can support them as a volunteer or consultant.

  

What are you doing to end 2015 in an impactful way? If you have a specific way that our community can help out, let us know – we want to do all that we can. Shoot us an email, connect on social – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn, or comment below.

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The Unusual Suspects: 5 Big Companies That Are Doing Good

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The Unusual Suspects: 5 Big Companies That Are Doing Good

by Kate Vandeveld

We talk a lot about businesses and organizations that are focused on doing well by doing good. These are social enterprises that have built their business models around social impact: doing good is part of their brand DNA.

Equally as important are the existing companies that may not have set out originally to contribute to social good, but have implemented programs and initiatives aimed at doing good as they’ve developed. Though social impact was not built into their business models, the work that some of these large-scale companies are doing is incredibly impactful as a result of their scale and global influence.

The Unusual Suspects: 5 Big Companies That Are Doing Good -- via WhyWhisper

What’s more, employees are an important part of the equation.  In a 2014 report, 55% of millennials surveyed said that a company’s involvement in cause-based work influences their decision to accept a job. So integrating social impact into a corporation’s strategy isn’t just good for the world, it’s actually becoming necessary for attracting and retaining talent.

Here are five of the many large corporations that are focusing on social impact, as well as how they’re doing it:

American Express

When you think of American Express, one of the world’s largest credit card companies, social impact may not be top of mind. But the company has actually developed a number of socially conscious programs in recent years. Their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs include a Leadership Academy, a historic preservation initiative, and incentivized community service.

In 2010, American Express even launched Small Business Saturday, which falls the day after Black Friday, a day that is well known for catering to large corporations. In contrast to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday supports small, local businesses by helping them spread the word about their own products and services, and encouraging consumers to shop there instead of going big. And shopping small business is important: small businesses are better for the economy, human rights, and the environment. As a whole, American Express’s efforts to have a positive impact both internally and on a global level have been huge.

Cisco

Cisco is a multinational technology company that designs, manufactures, and sells various types of networking equipment. Though its offering is not built around impact, its focus on social responsibility is one of its core values. As it states on its website, at Cisco, "any success that is not achieved ethically is no success at all."

Cisco’s CSR programs are numerous. The company leverages its tech focus to make an impact across the following areas: access to education, healthcare, economic empowerment, critical human needs and disaster relief, environmental sustainability, governance and ethics, and supply chain standards. Its Global Impact Map shows at-a-glance the incredible work that it’s doing globally, and its 2014 CSR Report details the impact that these programs are having. Cisco also has a strong focus on work-life balance internally, and works hard to foster a strong culture of empowerment, engagement and innovation among its employees.  As with American Express, Cisco has used its tech assets and scale to do immeasurable good, though social impact was not a goal of the company at its outset.

Patagonia

Patagonia, a high-end outdoor apparel company, has been making headlines for its social impact efforts over the past several years, specifically around sustainability. Patagonia has worked to increase transparency around its supply chain, giving consumers a glimpse into the environmental and social impact of developing and distributing its clothing through The Footprint Chronicles.  It’s made remarkable efforts to ensure that everything that goes into their products is traceable and responsibly sourced, as well as fair trade certified. Patagonia also gives 1% of sales to environmental organizations all over the world.

Beyond its efforts around sustainability, Patagonia has developed CSR initiatives to increase employee happiness and promote fair labor practices. As the company’s CEO Rose Marcario recently stated at the White House-hosted Working Families: Champions of Change event, Patagonia has seen a notable increase in employee retention as a result of its efforts to offer fair benefits and showing employees that the company cares about them. We’ve discussed the importance of fairness and compassion in business, and its results are made very apparent in this case.

Gap Inc.

Gap Inc. is a large-scale clothing retailer, with over 3,000 stores employing over 150,000 people globally. But producing and distributing clothing isn’t all the Gap is about. In fact, the company’s “Do More” programs are centered around its focus on positive social impact, including providing equal pay for employees of all genders, a focus on sustainability, and a commitment to maintaining safe and fair labor conditions in their 800+ global factories.

Gap Inc. also launched its P.A.C.E. program in 2007 to provide work and life advancement opportunities to the women who make their clothes. Using company resources and leveraging partnerships with local community organizations, the P.A.C.E. (Personal Advancement Career Enhancement) Program provides skills, education and technical training to the women who make up 70% of the company’s team of garment makers. To date, more than 30,000 women have participated in the program.

Microsoft

As most of us know, Microsoft is a multinational technology company that primarily develops and distributes computers and computer software. We may not be as familiar with the company’s noteworthy commitment to social responsibility. The company’s social impact efforts are both internally and externally-focused, ranging from developing a diverse, inclusive, and respectful work environment for employees to consistently working towards more sustainable operations.

Perhaps one of the most remarkable aspects of Microsoft’s social responsibility efforts is its expansion beyond Microsoft itself. Earlier this year, Microsoft issued a new mandate to its contractors: If they want to work with the leading tech provider, they’ll have to offer their own employees paid time off. This concept is somewhat revolutionary, and one that only a company with as much clout and power as Microsoft would be able to pull off without losing an egregious amount business. Right now, only 12% of private sector employees are given paid sick days, which is problematic in a myriad of ways. Efforts like this will go a long way to change that in the absence of federal policy change.


These are just a few of the increasing number of powerful large corporations that are working to build out their CSR efforts and have a positive impact on their employees and our world. Do you know of others? Tell us about them! We want to talk about them. Here’s how you can do it:

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Why Shopping Small Business Matters

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Why Shopping Small Business Matters

by Kate Vandeveld

Lately, we’ve been talking a lot about how you can make a difference during the holiday season – from making more sustainable choices, to purchasing gifts that give back, to shopping small business. And while most of us know that shopping at small businesses is a good thing, we may not entirely know why.

shopsmall

Here are a few of the key reasons why shopping small business is so important:

 

Boosts Your Local Economy

Buying from small, local businesses boosts the economy in smaller towns, and creates job opportunities in places that need it. In fact, small business job growth is huge: Over the past decade, small businesses have generated over 63 percent of the net new jobs available in the United States, and currently employ almost half of the nation’s workforce. Because small businesses are more likely to purchase their products from domestic manufacturers, by shopping local, you are supporting jobs not just in your own community, but in small towns across the country.

Economy

In addition, when you shop at small businesses, you are investing in your local community. When you shop at small businesses, around 68 percent of what you spend will stay in your local economy, versus the 43 percent that stays local when you shop elsewhere. If residents of an “average” American city shifted 10 percent of their spending to local businesses, it would mean an influx of over $235 million into that community’s local economy. Imagine what a difference that would make!

 

Takes a Stand for Human Rights

When you buy locally, you can take steps to make sure that the products you are buying are not being made by exploited or abused workers. You can ask questions about whether or not small business products were made locally, and where exactly they were made. In addition, 85 percent of small business owners pay all of their employees more than the minimum wage, so it is more likely that you will be supporting fair wages when you shop local. In a recent poll, two out of three small business owners supported increasing the federal minimum wage, as well as readjusting it yearly to keep up with increased cost of living.

humanrights

On the flipside, shopping small means you won’t be supporting large corporations like Walmart. When you shop at these large corporations, it’s very possible that you will be purchasing products that were made in inhumane conditions, where workers are overworked and underpaid, and sometimes forced to work in unsafe conditions. Walmart employees themselves are overworked and underpaid, so much so that this year, workers protested against the corporation on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. The union-backed labor campaign OUR Walmart launched a nationwide strike against the corporation, asserting that they aren’t paid enough to make ends meet. Their demands are simple and fair: they want the option of consistent, full-time work and a wage of $15/hour. These negative working conditions aren’t exclusive to Walmart; large corporations are more likely to pay their workers less than small businesses. 

 

Has a Positive Environmental Impact

Environment

Small businesses have “a deep connection to their communities’ and environments’ needs, and therefore often have an incentive to be good stewards of their surrounding environment.” Because locally-owned businesses generally make their own purchases locally (or at least domestically) as well, they have less of a negative environmental impact when transporting their goods. On the other hand, large corporations almost always get their goods from further away. This means that they frequently rely on aircraft transport, which has greater fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions per mile than any other mode of transport.

Large food corporations also commonly use a great deal more (non-recyclable!) packaging than small farms and grocery stores. Every single day, the average American produces over four pounds of waste, much of which comes from food packaging. By buying food from your local grocery store, you can opt for foods with less packaging and therefore, create less waste. 

 

Builds Your Local Community

Local business owners are often more invested in your community’s future. So when you support them, you’re investing in the prosperity of your city.  Throughout the United States, only about 34 percent of the revenue from national chains is reinvested into the community, versus 65 percent from local businesses. This means that almost double the amount of the money that you spend at small, local businesses goes directly back into your community. Small businesses are also much more likely to give back, donating 250 percent more to local non-profit organizations and community causes than large corporations.

community

Beyond their economic contributions, small businesses also support and foster a sense of community that large corporations simply cannot. Small business owners connect and work with one another, and are much more likely to actually care about their customers and the products that they are selling them. Because of this, customer service is often stronger at small businesses. For us, and many others, shopping small business tends to be a much friendlier and higher quality experience. 

 

If you want to take a step further, you can shop at small businesses that are focused on social impact – we provide some great examples in our holiday gift guide.

So when you’re finishing up your gift shopping this holiday season, keep this in mind: shopping small business is worth it, for the environment, the economy, and your local community.

What are some of your favorite small businesses? We want to make sure the world knows about them! Share with us in the comments below, or get in touch on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram

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Our Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts That Do Good

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Our Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts That Do Good

by Kate Vandeveld

Holiday shopping is a notoriously dread-inducing task for some, but it really doesn’t have to be. In fact, it’s an excellent opportunity for you to make an impact – and you can do a lot of it online (phew).

As you may know by now, we believe in doing well by doing good, and we try to take every opportunity to support businesses that are promoting economic empowerment, equality, health, and sustainability. No matter what the people on your gift list are into, you can find the perfect gift for them and make an impact at the same time.

Here are our ideas for awesome and impactful gifts during this year’s holiday season:

 

The Gift of Empowerment

“How it's made matters. Empower people to rise above poverty through the gifts you give.”                                                                                                                                                                      – 31 Bits

31 bits.png

31 Bits is a social enterprise that uses fashion and design to empower Ugandan women to rise above poverty through a variety of community-based initiatives focusing on financial sustainability, physical and mental wellness, social support, and community impact. One part of their model is that they provide women with the materials that they need to make beautiful pieces of jewelry that 31 Bits then sells internationally on their behalf. Proceeds from sales go back to the women and into their empowerment program.

Not only is 31 Bits making a huge impact in the communities they’re working with, but the pieces that they sell are absolutely beautiful. See for yourself here – you’ll be glad you did.

If you’re looking for other fashionable gifts that empower communities and individuals, check out these other beautiful shops:

  • Sseko Designs: An ethical fashion brand that hires high potential women in Uganda to make sandals to enable them to earn money through dignified employment.
  • Rose & Fitzgerald: Social enterprise that sources handmade products from Ugandan artisans, empowering them by providing consistent business and opportunities for training and growth.

 

The Gift That Gives Back

“[Make] a conscious choice to do good by making not one, but two kids happy.”                                                                                                                                                  – Everything Happy

EverythingHappy

Another way that you can give back with your holiday purchases is by supporting businesses that subscribe to the “buy one, give one” philosophy. For every item that these companies sell, they give a similar item to communities in need. One such company is Everything Happy, a social enterprise that sells blankets, stuffed animals, and other items for babies and children. For each purchase, a similar item is distributed to children in hospitals and orphanages all over the world.

So instead of going to Toys ‘R’ Us to shop for the little ones in your life, you can make two kids happy by shopping at Everything Happy – check them out.

If you’re looking to purchase gifts for a different age bracket, here are some other companies who use the “buy one, give one” model:

  • Sackcloth & Ashes: For each high-quality blanket purchased, they deliver a fleece blanket to your local homeless shelter.
  • LSTN Headphones: Every pair of headphones that they sell helps provide hearing aids to a person in need.

 

The Gift of Health

“Investing in health is one of the smartest placed bets you can make.”                                                                                                                                       – Jenna Tanenbaum, Green Blender Co-Founder

GreenBlender

Making healthy choices is so important, and it can be especially hard to do during the holiday season, when food and fun are at the forefront of our minds. That’s why social enterprises like Green Blender that empower people to take control of their health are so important. If you purchase a weekly Green Blender subscription for someone on your list who lives in the Northeast, they’ll receive five smoothie recipes and the pre-portioned ingredients that they’ll need to make  each week for as long as you’d like. And if that someone lives elsewhere, you can opt for the Green Blender holiday pack, which includes ten holiday smoothie recipes plus a superfood sampler pack.

If you’re interested in giving someone a different kind of healthy gift, try these options:

  • Local CSAs: Deliver local, seasonal, and fresh raw foods to a person’s home or workplace.
  • graze: Delivers healthy snacks delivered to someone’s home or workplace. 

 

The Gift of Sustainability

BikeShare

When you think of eco-friendly gifts, recycled and upcycled goods might come to mind – but those aren’t your only options. One awesome (and different!) sustainable gift option is a local bike share membership. These days, many cities have affordable bike sharing systems for local residents to use to get around. You can purchase an annual subscription for the active city dweller on your list. This way, instead of driving to work or the grocery store, they’ll have the eco-friendly (and healthy!) option of biking, without having to purchase a bike and all of the things that come with it.

Here are just a few of the bike share options available in U.S. cities:

If you’d rather opt for more traditional and tangible eco-friendly gifts, start here:

  • Hipcycle: Upcycled goods that are durable, stylish and priced fairly.
  • eartheasy: Carefully selected gifts with lower environmental impact. 

 

And if you have someone on your list who seems to have everything already, but you still want to get them a meaningful gift, check out DonorsChoose.org gift cards. Here’s how it works: You purchase the gift card (which is 100% tax deductible), and the person you give it to gets to choose a classroom project to support using the funds on the card. In return, that person will receive photos and thank-you notes from the classroom he or she chose to help.

No matter what kind of gifts you’re giving this year, we encourage you to shop small business and look for eco-friendly options whenever possible. Choosing to make a positive impact through our purchases has never been easier, and we promise it will be a huge hit (while also making you feel good).

If you’re looking for even more ways to make an impact this holiday season, we have you covered – check out our suggestions here.

Have other ideas for fun and impactful holiday gifts? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. We want to hear from you! 

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How You Can Make a Difference This Holiday Season

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How You Can Make a Difference This Holiday Season

by Kate Vandeveld

The holiday season is here! And with it comes an opportunity to reflect on the things that we’re most grateful for, and the ways we can make a difference in the lives of others.

According to Network for Good, more than 30% of charitable giving happens in December, with average gifts rising to $142 versus $91 during the rest of the year. While donations are extremely important, there are many other ways to give back. Here are a few to start, but we would love to hear your ideas as well! 

SmallBizSat

Support Local Businesses

For many, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday shopping adventure, kicking off on the infamous Black Friday. Last year, consumers spent $12.3 billion at brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday – largely at large corporations like Walmart and Best Buy.  This year, some stores are even opening on Thanksgiving Day to further increase their profits, even at the expense of employees’ family time. Instead of standing in long lines and fighting your way through the Black Friday crowds, we have an alternate option for you: Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday encourages consumers to forego making purchases from large corporations on Black Friday in favor of supporting small local businesses the following day. Small businesses have created 63 percent of new jobs over the past decade and employ half the nation’s workforce. Spending $100 at a local business means that roughly $68 stays in your local economy, versus the $43 that will stay in your local economy if you spend the same at a large business. Started by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday helps local businesses bolster business by spreading the word about their own discounts and sales, and provides consumers with an opportunity to make better holiday purchasing decisions.

You can find participating small businesses here, or promote your own business’s participation here.

GivingTuesday

Give Back

Have your own idea for giving back and want to spread the word? Enter #GivingTuesday.  With three days around Thanksgiving dedicated to deals and purchases, the #GivingTuesday team decided it was time for a day dedicated to giving. #GivingTuesday is a movement that encourages individuals, organizations, and companies all over the world to develop their own initiatives centered around giving back, to be launched on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving.

Last year, thousands of companies all over the world joined the #GivingTuesday movement. For example, Microsoft YouthSpark launched an initiative to raise $500K for their Give for Youth campaign that creates education, employment, and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people. On #GivingTuesday, they matched 100% of donations dollar for dollar up to $250,000. eBay Deals also teamed up with eBay Giving Works for one week to donate 10 percent of sales to benefit a variety of non-profits.

Find out who is participating in #GivingTuesday this year and how you can get involved here, and follow the movement on Twitter to stay in the loop.

volunteer

Commit to Volunteering Throughout the Year

For many who want to give back during the holiday season, the first thing that comes to mind is volunteering at their local soup kitchen on Thanksgiving Day. While this is a wonderful idea, soup kitchens and shelters are often totally overwhelmed by volunteers on Thanksgiving, only to struggle to find resources and volunteers during the rest of the year.

Rather than volunteering your time on one or two major holidays, think about making a commitment to volunteer regularly throughout the year. Sites like Volunteer Match and Idealist can help you find volunteer work that works well for your interests and location. 

Gifts

Purchase Sustainable Paper Goods

A lot of paper is wasted during the holiday season - from cards to wrapping paper, we use a lot of it without thinking about environmental impact. Half of the paper America consumes is used to wrap and decorate consumer products, and from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, household waste increases by more than 25%.

But there are ways to be more eco-friendly during the holiday season without giving up cards and wrapped presents. If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials -- newspaper, magazine, or old maps, for example -- it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. Or if you want to stick to traditional wrapping paper, try out these sustainable options. And when it comes to holiday cards, you can choose to go digital, or check out these eco-friendly cards made from 100% recycled paper.


As you prepare for the holiday season, take some time to think about the best way for you to make an impact. Whether it’s volunteering your time or simply making smarter and more sustainable consumer choices, now is the perfect time for you to make a difference.

What’s your favorite way to make an impact during the holiday season? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch on Facebook and Twitter. And be sure to follow us Instagram, too!


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How Everyday People Are Solving the World’s Biggest Problems

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How Everyday People Are Solving the World’s Biggest Problems

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Changemakers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are larger-than-life CEOs of social enterprises, some are fighting for policy change, some are doing on-the-ground work to provide healthcare, and some are just people who got tired of seeing a problem that seems fixable go unfixed. More and more, we’re seeing changemakers in the latter category – people who encounter a problem and just know that there has to be a way to change it.

Here are a couple of those inspiring changemakers: 

The Ocean Cleanup

At just 16 years old, Boyan Slat was bothered by something that he encountered on a dive in Greece – everywhere he turned, he saw plastic bags floating around in the water. He was frustrated by the problem, and set out to solve it. During secondary school, he spent a year and a half researching plastic pollution, and learning about the problems associated with cleaning it up. He developed a passive cleaning concept called The Ocean Cleanup that would attach floating barriers to the sea bed that would concentrate plastic before extracting it from the ocean. With this concept, the collection process would be entirely driven by natural winds and currents. The concept also uses solid barriers, rather than nets to avoid capturing sea life. Slat led a team of 100 through a feasibility testing process, and the concept was proven to be likely feasible and financially viable. He then launched a crowdfunding campaign that raised nearly $2.2 million – money that will allow The Ocean Cleanup to begin the pilot phase. 

FreshPaper by Fenugreen

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When Kavita Shukla drank some tap water while visiting India, her grandmother gave her a mixture of spices to keep her from getting sick. Shukla realized that this same concoction could be used to do something that would help many others. After extensive research and testing, she found that her grandmother’s remedy could also be used to keep food fresh, and she founded Fenugreen. Fenugreen is “addressing the enormous, yet often overlooked global challenge of food spoilage with a simple innovation – FreshPaper.” FreshPaper gives the 1.6 billion people in the world without refrigeration access to fresh food, and prevents food spoilage at food banks and pantries that have otherwise struggled to keep fresh and healthy food. Shukla’s innovative solution to this problem is mitigating the 25% of our global food supply that is lost to spoilage each year.

Eco-Fuel Africa

Or take Sanga Moses, a man who revolutionized the fuel industry in in Uganda because he was frustrated by the fact that his young sister was spending so much of her time tracking down wood for the family’s cooking fuel. At the time, Moses was an accountant in Kampala, the country’s capital, but he promptly quit his job and used his $500 savings to develop a source of affordable and clean cooking fuel. Eventually, Moses came up with a machine that converts charcoal into briquettes that replace the need for wood or other makeshift fuels that have negative effects on the environment and health. Moses developed this concept so that women in his village would no longer have to use their valuable time in search of wood, but the positive effects of the concept actually extend far beyond that. Now, thousands of Ugandan farmers use the system to convert agricultural waste into charcoal, augmenting their incomes and creating jobs for thousands more. 

These changemakers didn’t initially set out to change the world, but they saw a problem and were tenacious in their efforts to fix it.  And because of that tenacity, people like Boyan Slant, Kavita Shukla, and Sanga Moses are changing the world.

Do you know of an everyday changemaker who is solving a large-scale global issue? Let us know! We would love to write about their accomplishments.

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Creating Sustainable Social Change: The Ashoka Model

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Creating Sustainable Social Change: The Ashoka Model

by Kate Vandeveld

For those who are looking to get involved in the world of social entrepreneurship, there are plenty of potential issues to consider – funding, the existence of an adequate support network, and how to build a team that can help you turn your ideas into impact, just to name a few.

It can be difficult to create sustainable social change on your own – but luckily, you don’t necessarily have to. Organizations like Ashoka exist to provide creative social entrepreneurs with the support they need to implement their ideas for social change. Ashoka is a global non-profit organization that identifies and invests in leading social entrepreneurs across thirteen focus areas, including Venture and Fellowship, Empathy, Nutrients for All, Youth Venture, Changemakers, and Social Investment Entrepreneurs. 

To ensure that the social impact ideas they support are both fully developed and sustainable, Ashoka offers ‘critical intervention’ on three levels – the individual, the group, and the sector: 

Supporting Social Entrepreneurs

One of the many things that sets Ashoka apart as a leader in social change is its strong emphasis on the individual social entrepreneur, rather than on specific projects. Each Ashoka entrepreneur, or Fellow, must have a new idea that is focused on social impact and changes the pattern in a field. Their vision is to “advance an ‘Everyone a Changemaker’ world, where anyone can apply the skills of changemaking to solve complex social problems.”

This approach empowers individuals to create substantive and sustainable change, and evolve their ideas as they learn, rather than implement pre-determined programs and systems. Once selected, Ashoka Fellows are given a stipend for three years, and connected to a global network to support them as they put their ideas to work. 

Promoting Group Entrepreneurship

The next level of support involves connecting Fellows to a global network of peers, as well as partnerships with professional consultants. If an individual Ashoka Fellow is able to create social impact, imagine what happens when a team collaborates. Ashoka refers to this as a “network of incalculable power,” and supports it by connecting fellows all over the world so that they can share insights with one another. Through these connections, fellows are able to identify global trends and best practices, and use this knowledge to be even more effective in implementing their ideas for social impact.

Building Infrastructure for the Sector

In order to best support the social entrepreneurs they’ve invested in, Ashoka also works to build sector infrastructure that helps their ideas become more sustainable. This supporting infrastructure includes “seed financing and capital, bridges to the business and academic sectors, and strategic partnerships that deliver social and financial value.” Ashoka recognizes that social entrepreneurs need capital and partnerships in order to succeed, and this level of Ashoka’s support ensures that entrepreneurs have access to them as they’re implementing their world-changing ideas. 

Ashoka’s multi-level approach to supporting the social entrepreneurs is both effective and sustainable, due in part to the fact that each year, Ashoka measures the impact their Fellows have on creating substantive systemic change.  Their annual Measuring Effectiveness study surveys Fellows that were elected 5 and 10 years prior, with a goal of determining whether or not they have revolutionized the fields in which they work. They do that by identifying 5 paths to social system change:

  1. Market dynamics and value chains
  2. Public policy and industry norms
  3. Full inclusion and empathy
  4. Business-social congruence
  5. Culture of changemaking

Each path asks questions designed to determine the effectiveness of the Fellow. Ashoka is then able to apply this data towards improving their approach, going forward.

Whether or not you want to work with an organization like Ashoka to achieve your social entrepreneurship goals, you can apply their principles to your own plan: start with a social impact idea that changes the pattern in a field, develop and utilize a strong support network, and evolve based on consistent assessment of your progress.

Do you know of other similar organizations that are making sustainable social impact? Let us know in the comments below or reach out via Facebook and Twitter.

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Using Social Media as a Catalyst for Social Good

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Using Social Media as a Catalyst for Social Good

by Kate Vandeveld

At this past week’s Social Good Summit in New York, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter made an important statement on the subject of social media:

“Today, social media is one of the most powerful tools for mobilizing communities across the oceans and generating collective solutions to challenges in peace and health.” 

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While some may disparage social media as being a hindrance to productivity and a medium for narcissism, the reality is that social media can and should be used as a tool for creating real, substantive change.  Last week, we discussed using Twitter as a catalyst for global discourse, but that is just one of many ways that social media can be used to break down socioeconomic, cultural, and political barriers that hinder conversation and impede progress. As a generally unrestricted, and widely available means of communication, social media provides all of us with feasible ways to contribute to social good.

Here are some of the ways that social media acts as a powerful tool for change:

Spreads Awareness About Preventable Illnesses & Diseases

With social media, we have the opportunity to reach people across geographic and social boundaries and spread the word about pervasive issues to domestic and international audiences.

At the Social Good Summit, President Carter went on to speak about the effects of social media on global health, specifically the Guinea worm disease. Social media has played a significant role in the movement to eradicate Guinea worm disease, raising awareness about the waterborne parasite. The Carter Center even developed an app called “Guinea Worm: Countdown to Zero” that allows users to follow the progress of the Center’s eradication program, and provides information and other resources to those who are affected by the disease, as well as those who are contributing to its eradication on the ground. As a result of this effort, the Carter Center asserts that Guinea worm disease will soon be the second human disease to be eradicated.

Mobilizes Resources in Times of Need

Social media allows for the rapid spread of information, which is a crucial element in times of need. When a natural disaster strikes, natural or man-made, social media has proven to be an effective way to spread the word about how individuals can provide aid to those affected.

For example, when bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon killed three people and injured an estimated 264 others, people in the Boston area remained ready to assist in the recovery efforts, despite their personal fears and the obvious devastation.  Social media platforms became the favored method of disseminating information. As the city watched social media for more information, the American Red Cross used Twitter and Facebook to encourage Bostonians to donate blood. The bombings took place on the afternoon of April 15th, and by that very evening they had enough blood to treat all victims

Calls Upon Communities to Identify Criminals

With 271 million active monthly Twitter users and over 1.2 billion active monthly Facebook users, these platforms act as an effective means of securing information that could have taken months or even years to obtain in years past. Now, when a question is posed on these social media platforms, engaged users are often eager to respond with their knowledge and opinions, much of which is useful from a practical standpoint.

On occasion, social media has even helped authorities identify alleged criminals. On September 11th, a group of Philadelphia residents allegedly attacked a gay couple in what has been widely acknowledged as a hate crime. Authorities were able to capture an image of the attackers from surveillance footage, and shared it on social media in an attempt to identify them. In a matter of days, word spread across Twitter, and the alleged attackers were identified and arrests have now been made

These are just a few of the many ways that social media can act as a catalyst for social good. How do you use social media to further social good? Let us know in the comments below or reach out via Facebook and Twitter.

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How to Spark Global Discourse through Twitter

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How to Spark Global Discourse through Twitter

by Kate Vandeveld

Have you ever wished that you could engage with global thought leaders and experts, but weren’t sure where to start? You’re in luck – Twitter is here to bridge the gap between amateurs and experts and provide a platform for global discourse.

Twitter is often used as a platform for reactive discourse: Individuals and organizations use it to learn about what’s going on in the world, respond to global events, and share information they find to be of interest. But Twitter can also be used as a proactive platform for engaging and galvanizing audiences to take part in movements that are changing the world.

Here are some of the many ways that Twitter can be used to encourage proactive discourse:

Moderate a Twitter Chat

Twitter chats are a fun and engaging way to foster communication between experts and interested individuals. Twitter chats are live Twitter conversations that are usually centered around a particular topic, and promoted and moderated by an individual or organization. The host selects a (generally short) time period and a hashtag that is relevant to the chosen topic, and then promotes the upcoming chat to their followers. Anyone who wants to participate can do so simply by following and using that hashtag within the specified time period.

Givology, a social enterprise that connects individuals to grassroots education projects and student scholarships around the world, hosts and moderates weekly Twitter chats, called #givchats. Each week, Givology invites one of its partner organizations or another non-profit that they admire to participate in a #givchat. The chat is promoted in advance, so that interested Tweeters can mark their calendars to participate in the live sessions. They also encourage interested parties to submit questions beforehand. Givology acts as a moderator during the live chat, selecting questions and posting them on their own feed throughout the hour-long session, and the participating organization answers questions posed by other Tweeters, providing input on the specified issue.

 

Host a Global Twitter Conference

These days, many of us are able to use the Internet to engage with others who share our interests without having to actually be in the same place. The Twitter conference takes this concept to the next level, opening the conversation on a given topic to anyone and everyone who is interested in participating. These digital conferences are not just one single Twitter chat, but a series of chats focused on a particular topic that are led by field experts and leaders.

An incredible example is the MDG500 event that took place on August 18th, the 500-day milestone before the target date to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. For this online-based event, the United Nations Development Programme hosted a day-long Twitter conference using the hashtag #MDGMomentum. The day’s schedule was available to the public, so anyone with an Internet connection and Twitter account could take part in conversations of interest to them by following along with the hashtag. UNDP staff joined the conversation from all over the world, hosting and participating in crucial conversations about global issues like maternal health, poverty, and gender equality.

 

Create a Twitter Party Fundraiser

Twitter allows individuals and organizations to quickly capture the attention of an audience. Because each Tweet is only on a Twitter user’s radar for a limited period of time, each message carries an inherent sense of urgency that is extremely helpful in getting people to take action. It is therefore an ideal platform for promoting fundraisers.

Each year, Campbell's Soup hosts a fundraiser and awareness campaign in conjunction with the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women Movement called Address Your Heart with Campbell's. To promote this year's fundraiser, they put together the Address Your Heart Twitter Part, during which time they donated $1 to the AHA for every tweet posted with the hashtag #AYH for an hour on the evening of January 27th. This Twitter party fundraiser both boosted awareness of their brand's affiliation with the AHA and gave people an easy way to contribute to the AHA through Campbell's. For more information about legal considerations in cause marketing, read Kyle-Beth Hilfer's recent post

No matter where you are geographically or what you’re passionate about promoting, you can use Twitter to as a tool for encouraging proactive conversation and engaging other passionate parties.

Have you used Twitter to engage with others in this way? Let us know in the comments below or reach out via Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Social Enterprise Models for Making a Sustainable Impact

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Social Enterprise Models for Making a Sustainable Impact

by Kate Vandeveld

One of the biggest challenges non-profit organizations face is finding funding for their operations. Often, small non-profits are forced to spend significant time and resources in search of funding, thereby taking time away from their ability to focus on the work they set out to do. For a long time, it seemed like a thick line was drawn between business and philanthropy, and it was difficult for non-profits to find alternate means of sustaining themselves.

With the rise of social enterprises, this line has been blurred. These days, companies and organizations with socially conscious missions are being built on for-profit business models, and the concept of “doing well by doing good” continues to gain momentum.

There are many types of for-profit business models that socially-focused companies and organizations use to create sustainable change – here are just a few:

Engineering for Affordability

In the developing world, there is an extreme need for basic products and appliances that have a huge impact on health, safety, and day-to-day living. Social enterprises that design and engineer these products in a simple, inexpensive, very effective manner subsequently sell them in places where they are needed at very affordable prices.

Clean Cookstoves is a social enterprise whose goal is to mitigate and prevent health issues that develop from cooking over an open fire. By designing and producing simple cookstoves that eliminate this problem, and selling them at very low cost to individuals in places that are lacking them, they are on track to foster the adoption of clean cookstoves and fuels in 100 million households by 2020.

E-Commerce Platforms

One very effective way to empower communities in need is to provide them with a platform for selling goods that they are able to make themselves. These businesses generate revenue through sales, a portion of which goes back to the makers and a portion of which funds their own operations. 31 Bits, a company that sells jewelry handmade by a team of Ugandan women, is built on this model. Their jewelry is made from 100% recycled paper sourced in Eastern Africa, so they are able to consciously expand production, according to demand.

Similarly, e-commerce company Rose & Fitzgerald sources handmade, locally-sourced products from Ugandan artisans, and re-sells them on their website. The company invests in machinery and assists with design, empowering these artisans by providing them with consistent business and opportunities for training and growth.

Buy-One Give-One Model

The one-for-one model is perhaps one of the best known in the social good for profit realm because of companies like TOMS and Warby Parker. In this model, whenever a customer purchases an item – in this case, shoes and glasses, respectively – a pair is given to a person who needs it in a developing country. This model is highly successful, because it relies on asking people to purchase items that they would likely have purchased anyway.

Another great example of this model is Kno Clothing, a clothing retailer that for every purchase made, provides an article of clothing to those in need here in the United States. Additionally, they only keep 50% of proceeds from every purchase, giving the remaining portion of the other 50% to their partners, who work to provide housing to homeless populations. All production materials are fairly traded and organic, so the whole operation is socially and environmentally conscious.

Service Providers

Social impact doesn’t always come in tangible forms; many social enterprises provide services rather than goods. These organizations and businesses provide a range of crucial services that collect revenue while making an impact on the world.

 One example of such an enterprise is Bright Funds, which helps individuals decide where they should donate their money. Often times, people are interested in making donations, but they don’t know enough about relevant organizations to feel comfortable making substantial donations. Bright Funds provides analysis of organizations’ work and efficacy, thereby informing prospective donors. A portion of each of donation is then allocated toward Bright Funds’ operations.

Products for a Cause

Another social enterprise model is a combination of service provider and buy-one give-one. Companies like Janji, a clothing company that designates a portion of proceeds from specific items to mitigating a problem, fall into this category. With companies like Janji, customers can choose where their money is going by purchasing a unique piece of clothing.

 Some of these companies even give individuals a chance to choose where the proceeds go. Drink Give is one such company, donating ten cents of every beverage sold to the local charity of the purchaser’s choosing. So every time you buy a Drink Give beverage, you make a difference in the community of your choice.

The social enterprise model is opening the door to a whole new way of creating social change by  developing sustainable solutions to some of the world’s most pressing and difficult problems.

Know of another social enterprise model that is making a big impact? We’d love to hear about it! Comment below or reach out via Facebook and Twitter

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