Archive of ‘Living & Giving’ category

Do A Little Good with Your Tax Refund

This year, I’ve placed financial responsibility at the top of my priority list. As part of this plan, I signed up for LearnVest, a pretty cool site that helps you with everything from budgeting to investing to setting financial goals. With today being Tax Day (dun dun dunnnn), I thought that I would share tips from a LearnVest article about ways to do a little good with your tax refund.

Here are a few of the tips below:

  • Donate your dime. Consider donating all or a part of your check to a charitable cause that you’re passionate about.
  • Shop with a conscience. Update your wardrobe with some of my favorite social good brands like TOMS and Warby Parker.
  • Take a volunteer trip. I’ve always wanted to get a little voluntourism under my belt. Maybe next year… NOLA, perhaps?

You can read the rest of the list here.

I plan to donate a few of my dollars to charity, but the majority will be going to credit cards and wedding expenses. What are your plans for your tax refund (if you’re getting one)?

Adding a New (Furry) Member to My Family

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting older or starting to nest, but I’ve decided that I am going to adopt a dog. It’s something that I have been thinking about for a few years now, and I think that now is the time! I’m obsessed with pugs (proof) so my original plan was to buy an adorable pug puppy. But, after talking it over with a few friends, I realized that 1) Puppies are WAY too much work for me and 2) there are so many great shelter dogs that need homes in Chicago.

So, I’ve been doing my research at on the sites below and I even got a chance to experience life with a dog this past weekend. As you can see, I thoroughly enjoyed my precious time dog-sitting Marley. My planned timeline has me finalizing an adoption in mid-October. Have any of you ever adopted a dog before? Do you have any tips to share with a soon-to-be dog mommy?

Chicago-Area Pet Shelters

PAWS Chicago – http://www.pawschicago.org/

Chicago Canine Rescue – http://www.chicagocaninerescue.com/

Animal Welfare League – http://www.animalwelfareleague.com/

Anti-Cruelty Society of Chicago – http://www.anticruelty.org/

 

Do You Have a “Do Good Bucket List?”

Lately, I’ve been all about creating lists and mapping out my life. Things can get a little chaotic, and I like to make plans (even if I change them later or never get started on them). The other day, I was thinking of the various volunteer activities that I would like to do one of these days. So, that inspired me to create a “do gooder bucket list.” It may sound odd, but I think it’s a good idea! I’m still in the process of adding things, but here is where I’m at so far.

Before I kick the bucket, I hope to…

1. Help build a house with Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans

2. Volunteer at a Special Olympics competition

3. Complete the two-day Capital Challenge Walk for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society

4. Make care packages for our troops

5. Read to a group of children at a local children’s hospital

6. Run in a charity race (10K or longer)

7. Sing carols at a nursing home or hospital

8. Spend a week at an AIDS orphanage volunteering with the children and learning from the medical staff

9. Serve as a volunteer baby rocker and feeder for infants in the NICU.

10. Host an amazing conference for teen caregivers.

Some of these things are probably going to happen before others, but at least it’s a start. What service project would you like to complete before you kick the bucket?

 

7 Charitable Gifts To Scoop This Weekend

While I know that many of you have already completed your holiday shopping, I know that many more of you probably haven’t even started. I planned to put up a gift guide with zillions of charitable items until I realized that many of you are going to just hit up your local mall or shopping center for these last minute items versus ordering online. So, I decided to just feature 7 cool gifts that you can pick up while out this weekend. No shipping anxiety here!

1. Kiehl’s Creme de Corps Limited Edition Products (Kiehl’s Stores) | 2. Tiny Grey TOMS Classics (Anywhere TOMS are sold) | 3. Belvedere Red (Your favorite spirits retailer) | 4. Heart of Haiti Metal Bowl (Macy’s) | 5.  Goofy Hooded Towel (Barney’s New York) | 6. Beats by Dre Red (Best Buy) | 7. MAC Viva Glam Holiday Set (MAC Counters + Stores)

Girls, Don’t Just Run the World…Change It

Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)” is one of my favorite songs. I’m talking one of my “dance until I fall down” favorite songs. Between the empowering lyrics and hypnotizing beat, I feel like I can do any and everything thing that I put my mind to. And, I suppose that was the point of it all. But, yesterday, I got to thinking. What good is simply running the world? Why not do something to change it?

Tell 'em, Rosie!

While many of us look to volunteering and service as a means to make a difference, the truth is that philanthropy still has a price tag to it. With the economy shrinking and grants drying up, I’m proud to know that women are stepping up to the philanthropic plate and putting their dollars where their hearts are.

In a recent Chicago Tribune article, the author talked about how women are exerting a new influence in the world of philanthropy and that makes me excited. Women care. We care about our families, communities, causes, neighbors, and future until it almost hurts. So, why wouldn’t we bring our power and influence into the world of “do-gooding?”

From the article,

Welcome to the world of female philanthropy – it’s not your father’s United Way. “Women are taking ownership,” said Andrea Pactor, associate director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University, which has found that female-headed households are more likely to give to charity than male-headed households; and that in nearly all income groups women give more than men.

Women are exerting a greater influence on how philanthropy is done as they accumulate wealth and use their clout to change the way funds are raised and distributed. Roughly 1 million women in the United States each have assets of at least $2 million, according to 2007 Internal Revenue Service data, the most recent available. Wealth controlled by charitably minded women can be expected to grow as they build careers and inherit money from their parents and their husbands.

Ladies, doesn’t that excite you? One of the things that I am obsessed with is creating a legacy and making an impact that will outlive me. No matter how you start, begin looking for causes to support financially. It doesn’t take a lot of money to make a difference. Whether it’s buying supplies for a back-to-school drive or making purchases from sustainable companies, there are an infinite amount of ways for you to make your dollars count.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Merle Chambers, creator of the Chambers Family Fund. She says,

“This work is so wonderful, and you always get so much more from it than you think you give. It’s always important to remind ourselves that we are doing something of tremendous value and worth in this world, and it’s all right to enjoy it as well.”

I couldn’t agree more.

-kb

Are You Focused in Your Giving?

This week, I am obsessed with “focus.” Mainly, I’m obsessed with strengthening mine and learning to be more effective with my time and to-dos. And, for me, the key to this is focus. I’ve spent way too much of my life being a mutli-tasker, and frankly, it has totally burned me out. I feel like a spaz more often than not, and the problematic avoidance of that overwhelmed feeling has led me to the point of paralyzation. Obviously, this is not a place where I want to be…nor desire to be.

What does all of this have to do with giving? Well, many people who I meet often say that they want to get involved with a cause or a nonprofit but have no idea where to start. Some have even described the process as exhausting or overwhelming. After further discussion, I realized that it’s because they aren’t focused and/or you may not have any idea what exactly it is that you want to do. So, they continue to put it off.

No more procrastination!

To get you going, here are three things you need to do in order to focus your giving efforts:

1. Determine what you are willing to donate. Are we talking time (volunteering), talent (planning/leadership), or treasure (your moolah)? If you just want to be involved in a financial way, that’s fine. Focus on doing that and then expand to volunteering or something else, if you feel like it. This is totally your call.

2. Decide what cause really gets you going. There are a zillion and a half important issues, worthy organizations, and groups making an impact in the world. And, when you decide to “make a difference,” choosing what to focus on seems like an overwhelming process. If you care more about inner-city literacy than saving the rainforests, that is okay. Focusing your interests will make you more valuable in that area and also help you stay active and interested.

3. Devise a plan to help the cause or the organization. I know what you’re thinking…Planning = Work = Stress. But, actually, this plan is designed to keep you on track and to help you avoid that overwhelmed feeling. In Step 1, did you decide that you’d rather donate than volunteer? Then, make a plan on how often you will accomplish that. Monthly giving, raising $500 in an annual walk, attending all of the auxiliary board fundraisers? This helps you see what you have to do and gives you the chance to incorporate into your lifestyle ahead of time. The same goes for those of you who only want to volunteer.  Do you plan on volunteering in the office for 1-2 hours per month or would you rather staff 3 events per year?

Hopefully, these three tips point you in the right direction! For more guidance, check out my post, “What Kind of Volunteer Are You?” It includes a great quiz from Oprah.com that will help you figure out your place in the world of making a difference!

-kb

Heart-Warming Acts of Random Holiday Kindness

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” -Arthur Ashe

I always love hearing about random acts of kindness, especially during the holidays. The season is about cheer and goodwill and the stories just reinforce that! This week, I’ve been particularly touched by the following three things:

1. A Twitter outpouring of love, support and money to helped a Chicago young lady who was struggling to pay for her mother’s funeral service. A week prior to her mother’s passing, the young lady’s aunt passed away and she had to use the funds allocated for her mother to bury her aunt. Several tweeps spread the word on Twitter and a PayPal account was set up. Within 30 hours, over $6000 had been raised and the goal of $7000 was reached in two days. Anyone who donated to her is an angel. I can’t imagine the feeling of losing two important women in my life within weeks of each other. Not to mention having to deal with the holidays and the stress of finding the money to give my mother the sendoff that she deserves.

2. The number of layaway Santa stories in the news. I am very familiar with the layaway process from my younger years. In case you’ve missed it, there have been people going around to various K-Mart stores and paying off the layaway accounts for families. In many of the cases, the final payments were no more than $50. These stories inspired my friend, Melanie, who collected money this week to take to K-Mart today. A group of us are going to a Chicago-area store tonight to help families pay for their holiday gifts/merchandise. I can’t wait!

3. An anonymous donor donates $25,000 to a local Toys for Tots, after a board member allegedly stole that amount from the organization. Without the money, Toys for Tots would not have been able to provide toys for many families, as they do each and every year. When I saw that someone replaced that amount, it literally made my heart smile.

I could read stories like this for hours and hours…Contrary to what the news and Republicans say, there is still plenty of good in this world!

What random acts of generosity and kindness have you done this holiday season? Have you heard about any other stories that you would like to share?

-kb

20 Ways to Spread Holiday Cheer ($5 or Less)

During the holidays, it seems like there is an abundance of good cheer almost everywhere you look. With the exception of a few crazies who get into fights at shopping malls and refinance their homes for Christmas presents, I believe that most of us really look to this season as a demonstration of goodwill. This holiday season, I’m committing myself to do 30 acts of kindness so I sat down and brainstormed a list of holiday-themed charitable acts that cost $5 or less. And, looking back on the items below, most of them actually don’t cost anything but time! I may not be able to personally do all 20, but I promise to complete at least 12 of the items listed below!

Ready for the list? Here we go…

  1. Head to Macy’s and write a letter to Santa. For every letter received, Macy’s will donate $1 to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, up to $1 million dollars. Bonus: Purchase 10 stamps and grab ten cards for family/co-workers to mail in.
  2. Buy a cup of hot cocoa or coffee for someone who you know or don’t know.
  3. Purchase a few cans of non-perishables the next time that you’re grocery shopping and donate to a local food drive.
  4. Buy a couple of pairs of magic stretch gloves and donate to a warm accessories drive.
  5. Dress up as Santa and visit a shelter or nursing home.
  6. Break out the construction paper and create homemade cards for family and friends.
  7. Bake cookies or cupcakes for a special someone.
  8. Volunteer at a local pantry or soup kitchen.
  9. Can you carry a tune? Join local carolers as they bring Christmas cheer to others.
  10. Participate in Hanes Virtual Sock Drive. Log on to Facebook.com/Hanes and help them donate 250,000 socks to the Salvation Army.
  11. On a weekly basis, gather all of your loose change and drop it in the red Salvation Army kettles.
  12. Offer to watch your friend’s children for a couple of hours so they can run some holiday errands.
  13. Did your office Secret Santa give you another body wash or lotion? Donate it to a local women’s shelter.
  14. Download beautiful holiday stationery and write a heartfelt note to five people in your life who would least expect it.
  15. Sign up with your local senior center to do wellness check and to deliver warm meals to those most vulnerable during this cold weather season.
  16. Donate $5 to Feeding America. All donations are being matched until December 31st. So, it’s really like you’re giving $10!
  17. The next time that you spot someone doing good, tweet about it and tag the tweet with #goodspotting. The Case Foundation is giving you do-gooders a chance to win up to $500 for you and $5,000 for your favorite charity! You can also upload a photo to the Foundation’s Facebook page.
  18. Host a potluck at your house and ask everyone to bring $5 to pool together and collectively donate to the organization of your choice.
  19. Buy some candy canes, tie little note tags around them, and give to neighbors, co-workers, students, etc.
  20. Offer to put up your grandparents’ holiday decorations. I’m sure that they deserve the break.

What simple acts would you add to this list? Have any of you done any of these things already? As I complete the tasks, I will share photos on my Facebook page. Feel free to do the same!

-kb

P.S. How do you guys like my favorite ugly holiday sweater?

Ugly Holiday Sweater = Win

Don’t Count Out Slacktivists!

Last week, Mashable published a story that took a look at “slacktivists.” You know…folks who do “easy” things online like sign a petition, like a Facebook page for a causes or add retweet a charitable tweet. The article titled, “Why Slacktivism Is Underrated,” showcases research from a 2010 national survey demonstrating the value of this core group. The survey shows that those who take small social actions for a cause are more likely to take meaningful action in the real world too.

Slacktivists are twice as likely to volunteer their time and participate in charitable events, AND are more than four times as likely to encourage others to sign a petition or contact political representatives. While some downplay their contribution to social causes, I don’t. Think about how many brands donate money or goods to worthwhile charities for every Facebook “like” or retweet…That’s a big impact being made by a bunch of folks simply clicking a button.

When I think about it, my baby The Red Pump Project was essentially birthed by “slacktivists.” We asked women bloggers to put a badge on their sites in recognition of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and a movement was born. Social media has given us another way to learn about and support important causes, and influence social change. I’m happy to be part of the “social media for social good” generation…We’re doing some great things. For those of you who doubt our impact, just wait and see where this goes. It’ll definitely blow your mind!

-kb

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