Celebrate Valentine’s Day with Meaning; Include Volunteering or Donating to a Nonprofit

January 29, 2014 at 04:51pm Leave a Comment

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. I’m still rounding up stray pine needles stuck in the rug and eating the few remaining arms and legs of broken gingerbread men. I really don’t need a tempting box of fancy chocolates or a lavish prix-fixe meal out on the town.  How can I bring more meaning to a day that has become yet another opportunity to show affection and commitment through expensive presents and bouquets of flowers forced to bloom in the dead of winter? 

You don’t have to look far to figure that one out. People in our communities need help all year long.  We feel good about ourselves during the holidays when we buy a gift for a needy child or serve a holiday meal at a shelter. Why stop there when you can volunteer or donate to a local nonprofit or charity.

According to last year’s “Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey” by the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, the average annual Valentine’s Day spending reached $13.19 billion. The amount the average American spends on Valentine’s Day is $116.21. Think of how a local nonprofit might spend that money.

Here are five ways to involve nonprofits or volunteering to celebrate Valentine’s Day with meaning.

  1. Instead of going out to dinner, stay in and cook a special meal for your loved ones.  Consider donating the money you saved to a community meal program, like these 2013 top-rated nonprofits:

    • FOCO Café (Feeding Our Community Ourselves), Fort Collins, CO.  “This team is focused on providing access to healthy, delicious and sustainable food to all members of our community.
    • Widbey Island Nourishes, Whidbey Island, WA.  One of the volunteers says this program “…provides highly nutritious, ready-made meals at no cost to food insecure youth on South Whidbey Island. Meals are prepared with love by volunteers using high-quality ingredients, including produce from local farms and fruit gleaned from trees throughout the community.”
  2. Rather than a buying a bouquet of flowers, give to a community garden.  Your donation will continue to give back as the months go by; those flowers will droop in just a few days. Check out these top-rated nonprofits:

    • Square foot gardening, Ogden, UT.  Volunteers are enthusiastic: “I support this foundation because it saves the environment, promotes healthy lifestyles, reduces our carbon footprint (no more local than in your own yard!) and helps the poor cut their food bills.”
    • Generous Garden project, Greenville, SC.  Here’s a thoughtful volunteer’s comment about this project: “I have truly enjoyed the work and getting my hands dirty, but most of all it’s the people that make the difference. It is great to meet new people each week and to know that we are all working to help other people in need.
  3. Instead of a romantic weekend away, a donation can help people find a caring place to sleep during the harsh winter nights.  Check out these 2013 top-rated organizations:

    • Aurora Warms the Night,   Aurora, CO.  The mission of this organization is heart-felt: Preserve the life, health and stability of Aurora’s men, women, and children experiencing homelessness.  “Aurora Warms the Night is a compassionate organization that reaches out to help the homeless of Aurora with vital and life-saving housing assistance on the coldest of nights.”
    • Beverly’s Birthdays, North Huntingdon, PA.  All children need to be recognized and feel valued. This organization provides birthday celebrations for homeless children living in shelters. As one volunteer says: “I think the most rewarding thing when attending a Beverly’s Birthdays party is seeing the smiles on the children’s faces.”
  4. Set a wonderful example for your kids, showing them ways to embrace others.  Ask them to help you pick a need that your donation can fill. These two organizations were top-rated in 2013:

    • Camp Sunshine at Sebago Lake, Sebego, ME.  This camp provides respite, support, joy and hope to children with life-threatening illnesses and their immediate families from around the world through the various stages of their journeys.  Says one volunteer: “I have now had the opportunity to volunteer at camp four times and will be returning this weekend to volunteer again. As a former client served I cannot even begin to describe how much of an impact this organization has had on my family and my life.”
    • GlamourGals, Foundation, Commack, NY.  Teen volunteers in GlamourGals chapters around the country make regularly scheduled visits to senior homes to perform complimentary facials and makeovers.  This comment from one volunteer captures the spirit of this organization: “Joining Glamour Gals, I hoped to gain experience and give back to the community. I lost my grandparents a couple years ago and it was very hard because I was so close to them. It left a huge hole in my heart that I thought would never heal. Glamour Gals has healed that hole in my heart. Every month I’m spending time with grandparents who aren’t mine, and it’s a blessing.”
  5. Help someone in your own neighborhood.  You may discover that a senior living near by needs a lift to the doctor or help getting groceries.  Here’s one organization that matches drivers with riders:

    • Neighbor Ride, Columbia, MD.  This 2013 top-rated organization connects people: “volunteers drive – seniors thrive.” One volunteer summed up the experience this way: “While helping others, I get to meet some wonderful people who often touch my life with joy.”

For more inspiration, read through the descriptions of GreatNonprofit’s 2013 top-rated organizations here: http://greatnonprofits.org/awards/browse.

Contributing writer:  Big thanks to our volunteer writer, Kathryn Maclaury for her time and contribution to this article.

 

 

 

 

 

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Cultivating the Ultimate Board: Interview with Kay Sprinkel Grace

January 7, 2014 at 10:39am Leave a Comment

What’s the most common mistake organizations make when recruiting board members? 

Not fully describing what’s expected in terms of their role and responsibilities. Too often we understate expectations because we want people to serve. That’s self-defeating. Full disclosure from the beginning will bring you amazingly dedicated and committed board members. By the same token, understating the requirements (“You only have to come to meetings – the staff does everything else”) will backfire and create resentment. (more…)

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Truist Integrates GreatNonprofit User Reviews into CSR Platforms

January 7, 2014 at 10:19am Leave a Comment

Here at GreatNonprofits, we believe in allowing people to find, review and openly share information as the best way to find the right nonprofits to support.  Our goal is to make it easy for people to share knowledge so that other people can benefit from it. With this in mind, we recently entered into a data sharing agreement with Truist, a leading provider of corporate social responsibility and philanthropy services. Truist helps companies manage their employee giving, matching, and volunteering programs. Over the coming months, Truist will be incorporating our user reviews into their various products so their users can leverage this information to make decisions about their charitable giving. (more…)

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2014 Golden Globe Nominees: Celebrities and The Causes They Care About

January 3, 2014 at 11:22am Leave a Comment


As the Hollywood awards season begins to rev up, all eyes are front and center on the celebrities who will be strutting their stuff at the Golden Globes.  Celebrities receive much critical acclaim for their work on the silver screen, but beyond the glitz and the glamour of showbiz, many of these household names are quietly serving on the sidelines as active philanthropists.  Many celebrities are doing far more than just writing a check or turning up at a gala or cocktail party – some of the headlining nominees at this year’s Golden Globes are passionate volunteers, advocates, or founders of their own nonprofit organizations.  Here are some of the 2014 Golden Globe nominees who are dedicated to causes far away from the lights of Hollywood.

(more…)

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How to Make Social Sourced Reviews Work for Your Nonprofit

January 3, 2014 at 07:03am Leave a Comment

Think about the last time you bought something online. Did you look at Amazon or Google reviews first? Did you use Yelp to find a great local restaurant? Did you use TripAdvisor to help coordinate your last adventure? Or go to CitySearch to find a hotel?

(more…)

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Resolve To Do Good

December 31, 2013 at 12:43pm Leave a Comment

For many of us, ushering in a new year means a chance to transform aspects of our lives. We do that by resolving to do things – lose weight, quit a bad habit, increase physical activity, call our moms more frequently and so on. While they are all great aspirations, all of which are on my list, there is something else that makes for a great resolution – doing good and helping others. (more…)

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Giving Wisely and Joyfully

December 27, 2013 at 09:24pm Leave a Comment

It’s that time of the year! There is just a couple of days remaining in the year to make your charitable donation. The stock market’s been good to many of you this year – so celebrate and give. As they say, “Only by giving are you able to receive more than you already have.”

This year you have so many great choices among organizations to give to. How do you choose?

Here’s a checklist –

1. What issues do you care about? You can make a difference on a wide array of issues. There are many ways in which you can give and make an impact. Your donations could…

  • Provide dental care in communities where no doctors took children under 7 or accepted Medicare: PRASAD
  • Build camp, latrines, provide food and water for families fleeing violence in the Central Condo Republic: International Rescue Committee
  • Bridge the gap between science and policy, provide interesting briefings to Congress, open to the public, about complex energy and environmental issues: Environmental and Energy Study Institute
  • Provide counseling, homework and SAT help: A Place Called Home
  • Match volunteers with people with HIV/AIDS to ensure that men and women do not have to face their illnesses alone: Shanti Project
  • Pay for fees for kids’ activities such as tutoring, summer camp, ballet lessons or ice hockey lessons while their parents are deployed overseas: Our Military Kids.
  • Provide creative writing classes at community libraries for the low-income: LOFT 
  • Rescue and rehabilitate ill and injured seals and sea lions: Marine Mammal Center
  • Help low-income people get medical care that they can afford: Access Partnership

These are just a few examples from the GreatNonprofits 2013 Top-Rated Nonprofit List.

2. Go with your heart – are you interested in having a local impact or national? National organizations tend to have more impact in raising awareness and policy-making, and therefore can have broader impacts. The advantage of local giving is that you can get more involved with an organization in addition to donating. There are thousands of nonprofits in each major city providing services ranging from meals for the elderly to legal aid for the low-income. Find your city’s list of nonprofits: AtlantaAustinBoston, ChicagoCleveland,Columbus, DallasDenverHoustonHonoluluNew YorkPittsburghPhiladelphiaPortland,San DiegoSan FranciscoSan JoseSeattleWashington DC and more.

3. Go visit the nonprofit and experience it for yourself. Many nonprofits have community outreach events – and you can drop by and talk to them at their table at the community fair, or at their open house. Walk around and see if you can meet some of the people they serve – talk to them and get a sense of what services they value and their experience with the organization. Sign up to volunteer and see first hand the work of the nonprofit. By volunteering, you will meet other volunteers, even some board members or clients and get to witness their program first-hand.

Just remember, you have just a couple of more days to make your 2013 tax-deductible donation count. Giving unleashes endorphins – so give to a worthy cause, and enjoy the true season of giving!

 

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Truist And GreatNonprofits Announce Partnership

December 23, 2013 at 01:25pm Leave a Comment

Leading Provider of Corporate Philanthropy Solutions to Source Data from Top Charity Review Site

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2013 –Truist, a leading provider of corporate philanthropy solutions, and GreatNonprofits, the largest social review site for charities, announced a partnership today to share data across their platforms. (more…)

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GreatNonprofits Unveils 2013 Top-Rated List of Nonprofits in Chicago

December 17, 2013 at 01:22pm Leave a Comment

How to Choose A Charity This Season Of Giving

Redwood Shores, Calif. – In 2013, an expected $375 billion will be donated to charities.   To help donors and volunteers find worthy charities to support this season of giving, GreatNonprofits just released the 2013 Top-Rated Nonprofits List for Chicago. (more…)

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GreatNonprofits Unveils 2013 Top-Rated List of Nonprofits in San Francisco

December 17, 2013 at 01:16pm Leave a Comment

How to Choose A Charity This Season Of Giving

Redwood Shores, Calif. – In 2013, an expected $375 billion will be donated to charities.   To help donors and volunteers find worthy charities to support this season of giving, GreatNonprofits has just released the 2013 Top-Rated Nonprofits List for San Francisco. (more…)

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