Information and news about philanthropy

hult prizeWhat would you do if you were awarded one million dollars? Winners of the Hult Prize use the money to help alleviate global poverty. College students compete for the prize by coming up with innovative ways to solve the world’s biggest problems. A student at Hult International Business School, Ahmad Ashkar, came up with the idea to have teams of students from around the globe attempt to come up with a solution for particular issues. For 2015, the issue is “early childhood education.”

Hult International Business School, having partnered with former President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative, held the first competition in 2010. The competition starts on a local/regional level with competitions being held in Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai and Shanghai. Winners then go on to a six-week program packed with seminars on innovation and entrepreneurship called “The Hult Prize Accelerator.” Afterward, six teams go on to the Global Finals, where one team with an impactful idea is decided on as the best. The winning team then gets the opportunity to put their plans into action.

Last year, the issue to focus on was “non-communicable diseases in urban slums” such as diabetes or heart disease. A team of students from the Indian School of Business were declared the winners for their business concept “NanoHealth,” where a group of doctors receive a “Dox-in-Box,” a diagnostic tool that will help identify those at risk of disease. The goal is for NanoHealth to help up to 25 million people currently living in slums. Other finalists came from the University of Pennsylvania, MIT, HEC Paris, ESADE Business School and York University, and many of them are known to continue going forward with implanting their idea despite not winning.

The Hult Prize has been referred to as the “Nobel prize for students” by Muhammad Yunus, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

“If you can create a real business, the beginning of a prototype, you can change the world,” he said.

This year’s winner will be decided on at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in the fall.

– Melissa Binns

Sources: Huffington Post, Hult Prize, New York Times
Photo: NPR

mobile banking
With populations in the developing world on the steady rise and technology becoming more user-friendly, there is no doubt that technology will make drastic changes to the developing world in the next decade.

In a recent 2015 Gates Annual Letter published by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates declared that innovation will play a vital role in improving the lives of people in poor countries in the next 15 years.

Moreover, Melinda Gates argues that an increase in access to mobile banking through cell phones will provide impoverished people with the opportunity to save what they earn or perhaps borrow what they need at a low rate.

One of the many benefits of mobile banking is its socio-economic impact. The country of Kenya was known to have an underdeveloped banking infrastructure, high poverty rate and a large population of migrant people. Since the introduction of mobile banking in Kenya, financial inclusion is reported to have increased to 80 percent. Along with significant changes and improvements in global health and agricultural production, increased access to mobile technologies in developing nations is the starting point to something greater.

Developing countries are limited by the physical infrastructure of financial institutions, which means that a large part of their population is not included in a banking system. Financial inclusions have an important impact on the lives of people. Reports indicate that when poor people receive access to financial services, their cash management improves and creates better infrastructure for business and development of markets.

This change in the infrastructure in developing nations is a start to change the way people live in these countries. A small technological innovation like the mobile phone has made huge impacts in providing the opportunity to build a more developed economy in these countries.

Other innovations in technology have become popular in benefiting the developing world as well. Telecenters are an example of how technology has  changed in order to suit those living in remote areas. Telecenters range from innovations in the education sector to the medical industry.

For learning, distance education developed by technology has the ability to make every child a scholar. For health, telemedicine has the ability to change dysfunctional rural health-care systems by providing clinical health care at a distance.

Other small inventions, such as the Soccket and Lifestraw, have been developed to help those living in poverty-stricken areas and to improve the lives of those individuals.

This shows how a simple change in technology can change the lives of people living in poverty. These types of actions should be embedded in all development efforts that aim to challenge poverty through innovations of new technology.

Although technology does not end poverty, it allows people to create connections and relationships that together can break down the systems that keep people poor, and then it is up to humanity to end it.

– Sandy Phan

Sources: Bill Gates’ Blog, Consultive Group to Assist the Poor

A premium skin-care company called Alaffia empowers local people in Togo by handcrafting beauty products prepared from Certified Fair Trade shea butter. Better yet, all of the sales from Alaffia’s beauty products contribute to the livelihood of West African communities.

Alaffia offers creams, soaps, lotions and hair-care products made from the indigenous shea tree. Alaffia operates at a local level, employing women in need and enabling youth to stay in school to complete their educations.

This company is essential to West African women because they have difficulty obtaining employment since they are oftentimes not able to access education. Exclusion from the workforce leaves them vulnerable and often unable to support their families. Alaffia directly employs around 500 women in co-ops throughout Togo to cultivate shea by hand. These women are compensated with fair wages for their work and they bring unique knowledge and handcrafting skills to the job.

The company was founded by Togolese native Olowo-n’djo Tchala in 2004 after he realized the need to combat gender inequality and poverty. Alaffia was founded on Tchala’s belief that everyone deserves equality, empowerment and beauty.

Furthermore, Alaffia uses its profits to sponsor philanthropic projects in Togo. One such project is called “Bicycles for Education,” which provides disadvantaged students with bikes to get to and from school. So far, it has helped more than 6,300 students in Togo. Alaffia donates metal roofs, seats, and school supplies to rural schools through its “School Supplies and Repairs” project to create a functional learning environment for youth.

Alaffia has also provided over 3,200 pregnant women with pre- and post-natal care, and has funded the planting of 25,000 trees to combat climate change.

While philanthropy and environmental benefits certainly set Alaffia apart from other major beauty companies, Alaffia products are also made with unrefined ingredients and contain no synthetic fragrances or genetically modified organisms. They are vegan, gluten free and an ideal alternative line for those with sensitive skin.

These products help Africans profit from their natural resources and create sustainable goods that help our planet, empower local communities, and improve education for students.

Alaffia products can be purchased at natural and organic food stores such as Lassen’s and Whole Foods.

– Jenn Hartmann

Sources: Alaffia, Thurston Talk
Photo: Hello Beautiful


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, along with his wife Priscilla, has donated $25 million to help eradicate the Ebola epidemic sweeping the world. According to a Forbes article that quoted Zuckerberg, the disease has already infected 8,400 people and is projected to infect over a million in the coming months if it continues at this rate.

The money donated by Zuckerberg will be put toward the Center for Disease Control’s Global Disaster Response Fund. The money will support safe burials, services for the dead, the training of more medical staff, medical supplies and more. Approximately 150 members of the CDC will be heading to West Africa to address the issue in person.

Zuckerberg posted on Facebook, “We need to get Ebola under control in the near term so that it doesn’t spread further and become a long term global health crisis that we end up fighting for decades at large scale, like HIV or polio.”

Ebola has quickly become a topic of concern, constantly permeating airwaves and worrying the majority of the world. Accordingly, there are other wealthy philanthropists reaching out in the campaign against this deadly disease.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated $50 million to U.N. agencies and other groups giving supplies to those suffering from Ebola. Bill Gates’ business partner, Paul Allen, initiated the Tackle Ebola campaign, setting an example by giving $20 million. Allen strongly remarks, “A winnable battle should never be lost.”

Zuckerberg is considered one of the top philanthropists in the United States, he is involved in various charities and willing to donate financially. With contributions like Zukerberg’s, Ebola relief efforts can advance.

Kathleen Lee

Sources: Business Insider, Forbes
Photo: Flickr

comedy as philanthropy
NBC announced recently that the network would partner with Comic Relief UK, a British charity, and Funny or Die, a comedy video website, to bring American viewers standup, music, short films and sketch comedy in May 2015. The network will raise money for charities both in the U.S. and across the globe through the television program.

Comedy as philanthropy? The idea might surprise Americans, but it is quite familiar to many British television viewers. Comic Relief has been around since 1985 and has promoted Red Nose Day, one of its two major fundraising campaigns, since 1988.

Red Nose Day is the brainchild of Richard Curtis, who will be an executive producer on the American special. Curtis’s name might sound familiar to fans of films like “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “Love Actually, ” because he wrote all three screenplays.

Curtis’s charity event takes place every two years. On the day of the event, the BBC airs comedy programs. The event has succeeded overwhelmingly in its goal to “inspire the nation to give generously.”

In 2013, Comic Relief featured Simon Cowell’s marriage in addition David Brent, with his own brand of awkwardness, who played the British version of Michael in “The Office.” In the end, the charity raised £100,331,808 (about $172 million.)

By channeling our desire for entertainment toward charitable purposes, Comic Relief has had a considerable impact.

The charity distributes viewer donations by awarding grants to projects that promote some or all of the following five concepts: (1) “better futures,” (2) “healthier finances,” (3) “safer lives,” (4) “stronger communities” and (5) “fairer societies.”

Grants are awarded both in the UK and throughout the rest of the world. Most importantly, the organization has had a great impact in the areas where it is involved. In the realms of education, HIV treatment and malaria prevention, Comic Relief has helped millions, according to their website.

The hope, then, is that Comic Relief’s successful methodology will resonate with an American audience. The charity has some notable friends in the U.S., which bodes well for the endeavor.

In fact, the most prominent American philanthropist strongly supports Comic Relief’s efforts. “I’ve been really impressed by how Red Nose Day in the UK has both raised large amounts of money and also engaged the public on the issues of poverty,” said Bill Gates, adding: “I hope lots of people from throughout the U.S. will participate.”

– Ryan Yanke

Sources: Deadline, Comic Relief 1, Comic Relief 2, Comic Relief 3
Photo: Mirror

cost to end world hunger
Unfortunately, there is no secret code to guaranteeing success in philanthropy. However, the following is a list of five tips for success in philanthropy.

1) Foster honest relationships between the donor and grantee.

Philanthropy is simply the love of humanity. The definition does not include any notion of wealth. However, wealth is often necessary to fund philanthropic efforts, and often times this creates a strange relationship between the donor and grantee. Kevin Starr, the managing director of the Mulago Foundation, describes how an imbalance of this relationship is created as a result of the inevitable focus on money philanthropic work calls for. However, clearly identifying the causes both the donor and grantee advocate for allows opportunity for a true partnership to bloom.

2) Have a business-like approach to your organization.

While philanthropic work is fueled by compassion and will, running a philanthropic foundation requires shifting mindsets and treating the organization like a business. “Business is about getting stuff done,” says Starr. In the end, applying the disciplines and practices of running a business to philanthropic efforts will lead to successfully and efficiently making progress.

3) Treat your grantees like customers.

This advice is strongly advocated by David Peery, the managing direct of the Peery Foundation. The organization(s) that a philanthropic decides to support is essentially the group he is investing in. Much like businesses invest in entrepreneurs to gain wealth, organizations invest in social entrepreneurs to achieve a lasting, positive social impact. Businesses value honest feedback and intentional communication, and nurturing this type of relationship between a donor and grantee will form a strong and honest partnership.

4) Have an adaptive philanthropy, not a rigid strategy.

Setting a vision and establishing targets are both necessary and wise. Adaptive philanthropy has a clear mission, but does not restrict itself to inflexible multi-year plans. All philanthropic efforts are dynamic processes, and none are immune to the tremendous number of factors that can complicate them. Risks and uncertainty should be expected in the process.

5) Measure the impact of your philanthropic efforts.

In the early days of philanthropy, people donated chunks of money toward a cause without considering the impact. Donors did not require their grantees to evaluate the impact of their programs, and grantees did not know how or what to measure. However, it is imperative to quantify the impact of an organization’s efforts, so that one can determine whether their philanthropic endeavors are working and creating a positive influence. This is often done through rigorous program monitoring and evaluation. For example, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has appointed Jodi Nelson as the Director of Strategy, Measurement and Evaluation (SME) to measure its impact and ensure that it is operating with maximum efficiency.

– Christina Cho 

Sources: Stanford Social Innovation Review, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Stanford Social Innovation Review 2
Photo: Huffington Post

emotional responses to global poverty

What is more valuable: $55 given now or $85 given in three months? Obviously, $85 has a higher monetary value than $55, but peoples’ perceptions of value take more into account than the number itself—for instance, people consider the value of getting paid immediately. What’s more, peoples’ emotional states also influence their perceptions of value.

For example, research has shown that people who feel sad tend to act impatiently, so sad people would more often choose the instant $55 over the delayed $85. As it might be in one’s best interest to wait for more money, sadness hinders one’s ability to make wise financial decisions.

So when making financial decisions, one should suppress all emotion! Right?

Not necessarily, argues a new study published in Psychological Science. One emotion, gratitude, actually improves our ability to factor long-term options into decision-making. This study found that people who felt gratitude chose the delayed $85 unless the instant payment was $63, rather than $55. By contrast, people who felt neutral or happy needed only the $55 to choose the instant cash option.

How do these psychological studies relate to philanthropy and emotional responses to global poverty, though?

Ending global poverty requires people to philanthropize, but philanthropy comes in different varieties. Consider two: On the one hand, a person can donate money to, say, have a freshwater well built for people who lack access to clean drinking water. This method of philanthropy—”direct aid,” for lack of a better name—gets real results quickly.

On the other hand, a person can donate money to policy groups that work to mobilize the resources of national governments. This is advocacy, a method of philanthropy that sees results less quickly but often sees bigger results than direct aid. Both methods of philanthropy have been indispensable in the fight against global poverty. Yet, advocacy seems to be a less favored method for givers; for instance, the revenues of the International Rescue Committee were roughly 29 times greater than those of the Center for Global Development, a major policy-shaping organization, in 2013.

Charitable donations are subject to the same time value of money questions that arose in the experiment on emotions and decision-making. “Is it more useful to take the $55 or $85?” becomes “is it more useful to build a well now or to shape policy that secures water for millions of people?” The answer to these questions depends on a number of factors: the desperation of those without the well, or the likelihood that policies will be changed, to name a few.

Philanthropists should probably consider both options, but certain emotions such as sadness seem to inhibit their ability to do so.

People are inundated with images or facts concerning poverty calculated to make them feel sad. To feel less sad, people then donate. However, by nature people want sadness to diminish quickly, which seems best achieved if their donations get quick results. Might this fact then cause them to overlook the potential of advocacy?

In the interest of preserving both direct aid and advocacy philanthropy, perhaps the potential philanthropist must approach global poverty in a certain way. Responding to the grim realities of poverty with gratitude for one’s own fortune might indeed be more useful than responding with sadness—to philanthropists seeking to make the best financial decision, at least.

-Ryan Yanke

Sources: PsyblogHarvard Psychological Science Magazine, The Borgen ProjectCenter for Global Development, International Rescue Committee
Photo: Huffington Post

When you think of Bill Gates, is your first thought Microsoft or astoundingly wealthy billionaire? How about philanthropist? The latter may have slipped your mind completely.

Through the joint efforts of the Philanthropic Research Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on creating philanthropic awareness, Forbes compiled a list of America’s fifty top philanthropists that have given the most money away. Below are the top five U.S. philanthropists.

Bill Gates falls into the utmost categories of the elite, leading the way as the world’s richest person with a net worth of an estimated $76 billion. Gates has lead the way as the world’s most wealthy man fifteen out of the last twenty years.

1. Not only does Gates’ hold the spot as the world’s richest man, but with the collaboration of his wife, Bill and Melinda Gates have snagged the spot as the U.S. top philanthropists donating $1.9 billion in 2012. The Gates’ lifetime giving is estimated at a whopping $28 billion.

2. Not to be outdone, Warren Buffet makes a close second having donated $1.87 billion in 2012 with a net worth of $58.7 billion. He fell short of the Gates’ by only $35 million. However, Buffet has committed to donating the remainder of his fortune before or upon his death mandating that it be put to use within ten years following the donation.

3. George Soros, founder of Soros Fund Management LLC and Forbes’ number one hedge fund manager, has donated $763 million with a lifetime giving of $10 billion putting him comfortably in third place.

4. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg secured the fourth spot. With an estimated net worth of $23.4 billion, Zuckerberg donated $519 million in 2012 thus extending his lifetime giving to $549 million.

5. The Walton family, most notably known for Wal-Mart, are brought in at the final spot as the top five U.S. philanthropists. With a net worth of $144.4 billion, they gave $432 million dollars in 2012 bringing their lifetime giving to $4.6 billion dollars.

The total amount of money given by these top philanthropists towards philanthropic work in 2012 was more than $5.48 billion. That’s nearly one-fifth of what it would cost to end world hunger with the annual shortfall sitting at $30 billion per year.

Of the top philanthropists mentioned, no one donated more than 3.2 percent of their net worth but the astounding amount given by less than ten individuals cannot be ignored.

Forbes has reported that there are currently 1,645 billionaires in the world. It will take more than a call to action by the elite philanthropists. In order to put world hunger to an end, it will take a small step from everyone capable of helping.

Just think, how much is 3.2 percent of your net worth?  How can a portion of the money you spend regularly be used to make the life of someone stricken by poverty more sustainable? The answers do not lie solely in how much the monetarily elite of the world are donating, but the efforts made by those with the power to influence those groups.

– Janelle Mills

Sources: Philanthropic Research Institute, Forbes, The Borgen Project, BBC, Forbes
Photo: Skunkpot

A hundred million people are estimated to be homeless in the world and the number is only growing bigger with the rise and fall of economies. It is estimated that there are another 100 million “hidden homeless” worldwide, a number which takes into account those living in abandoned houses, cars, or houses and apartments with little to no furnishings.

Dr. Mark Bergel, now deemed a CNN Hero, founded his organization after noticing the very few furnishings in the houses of those struggling to make ends meet.

Bergel started his journey as a professor at American University and eventually took on his vision to help others as a full time job. He founded an organization called A Wider Circle in 2001, a nonprofit devoted to furnishing the homes of families living in poverty, free of charge.

Since it’s founding, A Wider Circle has furnished the houses of over 125,000 people, but Bergel’s mission does not stop there. He is also committed to providing an education for those who have asked for one.

Managers from the Greater Washington Area’s homeless shelters mentioned to Bergel that an education in “life skills” and how to cope with stress would be highly beneficial for the shelters’ frequenters.

So that is just what Bergel did.

He incorporated educational programs into A Wider Circle’s mission to help lift adults and children out of poverty by communicating the importance of life skills and helping to adjust the “whole person.”

“I want to help create the change that will enable people to rise out of poverty and enjoy the freedom and independence afforded to others. Poverty is a human problem, and human beings will solve it,” Bergel explained.

After many community service trips, Bergel came face to face with the truth that many people living below the poverty line often lived without beds, tables and couches. Bergel stated that “most apartments had nothing but a chair… There was nothing that would give these people a sense of hope, [or] a sense of dignity.”

With new furnishings and one less issue to worry about Bergel hopes to give families room to breathe and the ability to start fresh.

Currently, A Wider Circle has two full warehouses complete with donated furniture, toys, clothes and clean sheets. Families are able to stop in and choose what they need from the selection.

Since donating his own bed in 2008, Bergel has been sleeping on his floor or couch. He says he intends to do so until every family in the United States has enough beds for each family member.

Bergel’s foundation is not only helping people in the U.S. to live easier lives, but he is also bringing attention to a global issue — the “hidden homeless.” By helping the lives of the “hidden homeless” in the U.S. Bergel is one step closer to addressing this issue on a global scale, and by publicizing his work, we are one step closer to inspiring others to follow his lead.

– Becka Felcon

Sources: CNN, A Wider Circle
Photo: Brown University

National Volunteer Week, April 6-12, celebrates ordinary people doing extraordinary things to improve communities around the world. National Volunteer Week was established as a program of Points of Light in 1974 and has grown exponentially since then. This week marks the 40th anniversary of National Volunteer Week. Here are 40 things you can do this week to help your community.

1. Say “thank you” to a volunteer
2. Play with animals: volunteer at the Humane Society
3. Spend time at a nursing or assisted living home
4. Care for the environment by recycling, composting and planting trees
5. Volunteer with Autism Speaks by participating in a walk
6. Give blood
7. Host a bake sale for No Kid Hungry
8. Collect and donate DVDs, stuffed animals or books to hospitals and shelters
9. Write cards to soldiers, kids in hospitals and volunteer firefighters
10. Host an appreciation dinner for volunteers
11. Join Big Brothers Big Sisters in your community
12. Set up a web-page for a local non-profit agency
13. Make birthday cards for the elderly
14. Volunteer to clean up trash at a community event
15. Plant a community garden
16. Conduct an Easter egg hunt for needy children
17. Volunteer at a Special Olympics event
18. Read to a visually impaired person
19. Volunteer with the International Humanity Foundation
20. Organize a neighborhood drive for furniture, clothes and food to give to shelters
21. Offer to babysit a sibling, relative or friend
22. Collect unused makeup and cosmetics for women’s shelters
23. Make bird feeders for public places
24. Sponsor a child at Save the Children
25. Assist at an after-school little league or sports program
26. Be a friend to a senior citizen
27. Plant a tree for Arbor Day, the last Friday in April
28. Help cook and serve a meal at a homeless shelter
29. Have a Read-A-Thon for needy children
30. Use your cooking skills to volunteer with Culinary Corps
31. Volunteer at your local hospital
32. Volunteer at a food bank
33. Advocate for the arts
34. Teach yoga or gardening to young adults
35. Build a house with Habitat for Humanity
36. Volunteer at a local museum
37. Offer to mow the lawn for an elderly neighbor
38. Volunteer virtually with Zidisha
39. Make a gift basket for a volunteer
40. Visit Volunteer Match to find more ideas in your area

Volunteering is just as important as recognizing today’s volunteers. This year’s National Volunteer Week is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage their communities. It is about taking action and making a difference.

– Haley Sklut

Sources: Points of Light, Global Youth Service Day, University of Nebraska – Lincoln
Photo: Walkin