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Forever 21 gives back to those in need, having carried products over the years in aid of a number of organizations. Purchases from the popular retailer have contributed to the donation of $11.5 million worth of merchandise throughout 2016 to global charities such as Soles4Souls, On Your Feet and the Feed Project.

Soles4Souls is a nonprofit that collects and distributes shoes and clothing to disadvantaged communities in 127 countries around the world and throughout the U.S. As a part of its partnership with Forever 21, Soles4Souls has donated more than 800,000 units of clothing. Initially founded as a disaster relief organization, Soles4Souls provided footwear to those affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

In many developing nations where walking is the primary mode of transportation, millions of people lack proper footwear to get around, and as a result, are exposed to unsanitary conditions that can lead to disease. These conditions contribute to the ongoing cycle of poverty, and the vision of Soles4Souls is to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, and its efforts to provide a new pair of shoes to each child in need help work toward that goal.

Forever 21 gives back through its collaboration with the On Your Feet Family Resource Center, which provides assistance to low-income or homeless families and individuals, shelters, missions, board and care facilities and other organizations. Forever 21 has provided nearly 700,000 units worth of clothing donations, which have reached victims of natural disasters in Nepal, Chile, Bohol and Haiti.

FEED was founded by Lauren Bush in 2007 and has transformed into a movement fighting against hunger in a tangible way. FEED creates handcrafted products, such as bags, pouches and bracelets, using eco-friendly materials and fair labor. Giving these products raises aid that is ultimately delivered in the form of school meals, micronutrients, mother-child nutrition, Vitamin A and emergency relief. Together, Forever 21 and FEED have provided more than 71,000 meals.

While designing and keeping up with the latest trends for consumers, it is also evident that Forever 21 gives back to vulnerable communities. By establishing alliances with such charitable organizations, great numbers of people in underprivileged areas have received the assistance needed to ease their poverty and hunger and move toward prosperity.

Mikaela Frigillana

Photo: Flickr

What is an NGO
What is an NGO? The acronym NGO stands for non-governmental organization. With only slightly more specificity, an NGO is any organization, usually non-profit, that operates independently of a government.  Contrary to common usage, the NGO title does not necessarily imply the organization works abroad; NGOs can be local, national, or international.

But apart from these literal definitions, what unique roles do NGOs serve that government aid organizations and corporations do not?

The innumerable NGOs that are working on international humanitarian issues suggest that NGOs can adapt quickly and respond to changing needs faster than government organizations which require executive and electoral approval for action. The Global Journal published a list of the top 100 most influential and effective NGOs, acknowledging famous groups such as OxFam, PATH, and Medicins Sans Frontiers.

These groups’ acclaim comes from consistent and well-organized delivery of critically important services such as medical care, environmental education and advocacy, and human rights protection.

But all NGOs are different and some are met with intense criticism for lack of transparency in budgeting or effectual action. When donating money or looking for work in the NGO world, it is always important to do your research about how much of the group’s budget goes to administrative costs and how much goes directly to the cause you care about. The website Charity Navigator is a useful resource for this.

Another important critique of NGOs is that all too often organizations staffed with Americans and Europeans come into developing nations with action plans that don’t fit the local context and end up adversely affecting their target populations. This, however, is not an inherent flaw of NGOs but rather a symptom of failing to acknowledge the importance of local expertise within the NGO framework.

Because NGO funding commonly comes from developed nations, a particularly effective model for NGOs includes using local in-country staff to plan and implement programs on the ground while working with an international board focused on fundraising, outreach, and strategic group planning.

It would be untrue to claim that NGOs are immune to political influence simply because they are not directly connected to governments; NGOs’ funding and even daily operations are subject to political approval.

For example, NGOs working to bring amnesty to political refugees will often face intense political adversity, and even violence during their in-country work. But unlike government organizations, NGOs typically have more flexibility to defy a political status quo to pursue what they believe to be important social change.

– Shelly Grimaldi

Sources: Grant Space, Miratelinc
Photo: The Design Inspiration

Charity LawChina is now home to more billionaires than the United States and has experienced an annual economic growth rate of 7% since 2010. Despite this, the country is still ranked second to last in a list of 145 most charitable countries, according to the 2015 U.K.-based Charities Aid Foundation’s World Giving Index. However, China’s new Charity Law seeks to promote a model for greater domestic charitable giving within the country.

The law will also prospectively support the country’s sustainability in disaster relief, environmental protection, public health and anti-poverty efforts to lift rural residents out of poverty by 2020. As of 2015, 55.75 million of China’s rural residents were still considered impoverished.

What Will China’s New Charity Law Assist?

While China’s annual donations to charities have soared from 10 billion to 100 billion yuan in the last ten years, growth has remained stagnant within the last five years paradoxically alongside economic prosperity.

According to the Boston Globe, the China Philanthropy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center identified three reasons.

First, giving in China remains localized and focused on a single cause — six out of 10 renminbi was donated to the same province where the donor’s corporate headquarters was situated, leaving the poorest rural areas without financial support.

Second, three-quarters of the donors gave to a single cause: education, leaving out other realms needing support.

Third, the majority of donors gave through their corporations, a pattern “reflecting the range of legal, regulatory, and political challenges facing the development of a vibrant giving environment on a national level.”

China’s new Charity Law will encourage a more sturdy model of contemporary giving, allowing for more charities to raise funds from the public without a complex registration system or a need for approval from the supervisory board and China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The law will also allow for tax incentives for charities and make it easier for the wealthy to establish charitable trusts on their own. Moreover, with a track record of scandals in the past which have deterred success in charitable giving, transparency, as well as tighter management, will be incorporated. “From the philanthropy side and public policy side, it’s very well written,” Edward Cunningham, a scholar at Harvard University said.

The global community looks forward to the results from the Charity Law, not just in better services and poverty alleviation for Chinese citizens but a transparent and confident government charity program.

Priscilla Son

Photo: Gauthier DELECROIX

Effective Charity
Giving What We Can (GWWC) is an international society that works to eliminate extreme poverty. It recommends effective charity organizations and its members pledge to give at least 10% of their income to such charities.

Dr. Toby Ord Established Giving What We Can in 2009

Dr. Ord, an Oxford ethics researcher, claims the inspiration for the organization came from Peter Singer’s essay “Famine, Affluence, and Morality,” which argues that the affluent have a moral obligation to donate to the people less well-off.

The organization draws heavily on modern ethical philosophy, especially the effective altruism movement. This philosophical movement attempts to use evidence and analysis to determine the most effective humanitarian causes and charities to donate to.

Taking a Top-down Approach to Evaluating Charities

The organization begins with the big-picture, evaluating which areas — health, education, emergency aid, etc. — require the most attention. The group compares sub-areas within those categories, such as specific diseases. Finally, it analyzes the particular charities that work in this sub-area, such as the Against Malaria Foundation.

In this evaluation process, the organization focuses on three main criteria: neglect, tractability and impact. A neglected cause means the issue is not receiving proper attention from humanitarian efforts. Tractability defines a cause that has a workable solution that the sponsor can effectively implement. Impact focuses on the number of lives that can be improved by investing in a given cause.

GWWC’s website uses schistosomiasis, a disease involving parasitic flatworms, as an example of a cause that clearly meets all three criteria: “[Schistosomiasis] affects millions of people (impact) but it’s cheap and easy to treat (tractability) […] However, it is relatively underfunded (it is part of the so-called ‘Neglected Tropical Diseases’).”

For this reason, GWWC lists the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative as one of its top charities. Its other established, most effective charity is the Against Malaria Foundation. They list Deworming the World Initiative and Project Healthy Children as promising top charities.

Though it accepts donations, Giving What We Can does not ask for them. Instead, the humanitarian organization prefers to play “a complementary role,” asking members to commit to giving to effective charities instead.

So far, GWWC’s 1,696 members have donated more than $36.3 million to effective charities and pledged to donate a further $649 million over their lifetimes.

Steffen Seitz

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Athletes
Athletes spend numerous hours during the week training and preparing for their next matches, games and adventures. Through their unmatched hard work, they are able to capture titles while simultaneously building a career and global fame.

Going above and beyond, many athletes use their popular status and successful careers to improve the world around them. These four humanitarian athletes utilize their fame and the small amount of free time they have to contribute to global charities.

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Professional Soccer Forward)
    Ronaldo is known as one of the most generous athletes in the world. He often donates his bonus checks and portions of his salary to various charities and countries in need of reconstruction and help. For example, he donates millions of dollars to foundations like UNICEF and “World Vision,” which aim to enhance the lives of children in impoverished countries through the enhancement of health and education. When he’s not sweating on the field, he also takes time to physically participate in fundraising campaigns.
  2. Serena Williams (Professional Tennis Player)
    When Williams isn’t grinding on the court winning grand slams, she’s looking to improve the status of the world’s poor. She was named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2011 because of her commitment to helping the youth around the globe. In 2010, Williams announced the New Schools for Asia Campaign under UNICEF, which looks to provide children in the Asia-Pacific area with schooling. Around the world, there are 67 million people who are not enrolled in school. Of those 67 million people, 26 million live in the Asia-Pacific area. UNICEF’s executive director talked about Serena, explaining that she “isn’t just a tennis champion, she is a champion for children—and a passionate advocate for providing every child with a quality education.”
  3. David Beckham (Professional Soccer Midfielder)
    Beckham was also appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. His focus under UNICEF is the Unite Against AIDS campaign. After visiting Sierra Leone in 2007, he said, “In Sierra Leone, one in four children dies before reaching their fifth birthday – it’s shocking and tragic especially when the solutions are simple – things like vaccinations against measles or using a mosquito net to reduce the chance of getting malaria.” Beckham hopes to draw attention to the safety and health of children through his global presence.
  4. Jessica Watson (Sailor)
    Watson is known for circumnavigating the globe solo at the age of 16. Now at the age of 23, she continues to the explore the world as a representative for the World Food Program. This humanitarian athlete focuses her time and energy on Laos, saying, “At age 16 I achieved my dream. I want the school children in Laos to be able to achieve their dream. And stopping hunger is the first step in that process.”

Watson works with the School Meals program, making sure that kids in school are able to eat a nutritious meal every day. Global hunger affects 1 out of 7 people in the world. Jessica Watson, along with the World Food Program, aims to help 80 million people in 80 different countries combat lack of food.

These four humanitarian athletes have been able to use their global status to make a positive difference. By representing various foundations, they are not only able to raise awareness of global crises to fans around the world, but their use of fame also makes fighting global poverty a little easier.

Casey Marx

Photo: Flickr

Toronto_World Partnership WalkToronto was one of the many major cities that joined the 32nd annual 2016 World Partnership Walk to increase awareness and raise money for global poverty.

Each year the Aga Khan Foundation Canada, (AKFC), an international development organization and registered charity, hosts the event. AKFC is a nonprofit international development agency helping to find solutions to alleviate global poverty. The organization focuses on improving the living conditions of those living in poverty, regardless of faith, origin or gender.

On May 29, there were over 10,000 participants in Toronto, who gathered at the Metro Hall in David Pecaut Square. Last year, more than 40,000 individuals participated in the event from Montreal, Ottawa, Regina, Vancouver and Victoria, helping to raise over $7 million.

Canadians are motivated to mobilize and donate to the event because they want to see global poverty levels reduce even further. According to the World Bank, there are 1 billion fewer people living in poverty globally than there were 25 years ago.

Many families are driven to participate in the annual event, as 100 percent of the donations go toward AKFC programs. In addition, the event offers memorable experiences through activities that inform, educate and entertain all participants from the young to the old.

Based in Canada, AKFC works to promote the discussion of global issues and works to build partnerships with Canadian institutions. The organization began operations in 1980 and kicked off its first walk in 1985 when a group of women from Vancouver raised $55,000. Now, the event is held in 10 cities each year and AKFC has raised $95 million since the first walk.

The 2016 World Partnership Walk is the largest event in Canada supporting international development in 14 countries. AKFC concentrates specifically on improving access to education and healthcare, food security, producing economic opportunities and constructing strong communities and local institutions.

Kimber Kraus

Photo: Flickr

Self_Reliance_Worldwide
The ultimate goal of charitable aid for the poor should be to help recipients become self-reliant. Teaching self-reliance worldwide means that individuals will no longer need to depend on outside sources to live without the immediate threat of disease and starvation. Achieving self-reliance leads to stability and sustainability.

Many programs try to accomplish this vision by teaching families valuable skills such as efficient farming techniques and literacy. Evidence has shown that these methods are less costly and have a more permanent influence on the communities where they are implemented.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints teaches self-reliance worldwide.  It attempts to help struggling families achieve this goal by teaching them effective ways to seek employment, manage their time and money, start small businesses and develop leadership qualities.

Volunteers travel to countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe to teach free classes and help their students achieve personal goals. These volunteers range from college students to elderly couples, each of them donating up to two years of their lives to support these struggling communities.

The success stories of this program are as diverse as its students. One participant from Ghana, Irene, is a single mother of four children. She uses an old hand cranked sewing machine as her primary source of income. Carrying the sewing machine on her head, Irene goes from house to house and offers to sew traditional Ghanian dresses.

Irene says the classes help her learn how to network and communicate with customers. It has also helped her learn new business strategies, such as going to a busier public place to advertise her services. Most importantly, the classes have taught her how to manage her money and set aside amounts for future growth.

Although she has not even finished the program, Irene has said that her income has already grown noticeably. The economic benefits of teaching self-reliance worldwide could be staggering.

Another student, Susy, uses a small van to transport neighborhood children to and from school. Her business is still small, but LDS’ Self-Reliance has opened her eyes to many aspects of business management, such as record keeping and improving capital. Susy now has plans to work toward buying a larger van to transport more children. She also hopes to expand her business to include day care services.

The employment techniques offered in the Self Reliance classes have also proved incredibly useful. One student, Rafael, had been unemployed for seven months before setting foot in the Self Reliance Center. Volunteers taught him the importance of accruing multiple sources of information, making as many contacts as possible and setting up interviews.

Within six days, Rafael had found a job. “It was a miracle,” he says in an interview produced by the Self Reliance program. “My wife is very happy… I can now provide for our home and our children.”

Emiliano Perez

Photo: Wikipedia

The Clinton Foundation
Bill Clinton will always be remembered first and foremost for his eight years in the White House, but he has another legacy that deserves just as much attention: The Clinton Foundation.

Founded in 1997 with a focus on Little Rock, Arkansas, the foundation has grown into an international powerhouse that has raised more than $2 billion to fund charity work around the world.

Like most ex-presidents, Clinton initially faded from the public eye. According to the Washington Post, he spent much of his time watching TiVo. Then, in 2002, he moved the Clinton Foundation to Harlem, New York, following Hillary Clinton’s successful election bid for U.S. Senate.

The foundation brought in consultants from Booz Allen Hamilton to give advice to small business owners in the local community, and the projects piled on from there. Using his celebrity power, Clinton was able to consistently recruit top-notch partners. Besides Booz Allen, he also brought in Princeton Review to bolster local students’ SAT scores.

It was not until 2002, however, that Clinton’s international work began. He met an old friend, former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, at an AIDS conference. Mandela reminded Clinton of a promise he made while still in office, a promise to help Africa after he left.

That promise materialized into the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI). According to the Clinton Foundation Website, CHAI has helped reduce the cost of lifesaving HIV/AIDS medication from $10,000 annually for one patient to only $100 to $200. This has helped over eight million people in developing countries, many of them in Africa, afford medication without which they’d die.

CHAI was so successful that it became its own organization, but the Clinton Foundation actively promotes nine other initiatives: the Clinton Climate Initiative, the Clinton Development Initiative, the Clinton Foundation in Haiti, the Clinton Glustra Enterprise Partnership, the Clinton Global Initiative, the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, the Clinton Presidential Center and Too Small to Fail and No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project.

The Clinton Foundation is unique in that its initiatives are its own. It consists of over 2,000 employees that serve both as administrators and field workers. As such, it operates more as a nonprofit consulting firm than a grant-making agency. A New York Times story from 2015, for example, reports that the group’s work in Rwanda includes such diverse efforts as teaching farmers to double their yields, training nurses and specialists and supporting factories that turn soybeans into cooking oil.

Behind the power of the Clinton Foundation is Bill’s celebrity. As ex-President of the most powerful country in the world, he truly is a star among stars. With this power, he has been able to raise funds that few others on Earth could hope to achieve and partner with the best organizations to put the money to good use.

As the 2016 presidential election approaches, increasing scrutiny is being paid to the foundation. With Hillary as the first female President and Bill as the first “First Man,” some people would worry about influence-buying through the foundation. Still, the breadth and depth of the good work of the Clinton Foundation cannot be denied. Bill could’ve easily faded into the background after his presidency. Instead, he used his influence and recognition to benefit not just the United States, but the entire world.

Dennis Sawyers

Sources: New York Times, The Clinton Foundation, The Washington Post

Internet CelebrityVideo may have killed the radio star, but increasingly, internet celebrities are supplanting traditional actors and actresses, even in charity drives. PewDiePie, TotalBiscuit, Nerdfighters and others have paved the way for social media celebrities to make an impact, but a new platform is set to take internet celebrity charity to the next level: Reelio Cares.

Reelio specializes in linking companies with Youtube stars to promote their brands, and Reelio Cares specializes in linking charities with social media influencers to promote their causes. CEO Pete Borum believes that the time has come for Reelio Cares, as many nonprofits have difficulty reaching their target audience via traditional methods like mail and television.

Already, online celebrities have become a force in charity work. In 2013, PewDiePie raised over $160,000 in just two weeks for Charity: Water, a nonprofit that specializes in providing clean drinking water to countries all over the earth. LoadingReadyRun has raised more than $450,000 for Child’s Play over several years. Child’s Play brings toys and games to sick children in hospitals worldwide.

Internet celebrity charity is advantageous to all parties involved. For nonprofits, it provides a free way to contact a young, engaged audience willing to give. For online stars, it lets them change the world in a positive way. According to one such star, woodworking sensation Steve Ramsey, “Many have huge audiences that they weren’t really expecting. They start to think ‘Do I want to just keep making videos or do I want to do something with those videos, with this audience and really use it for good?’”

Besides promoting charities, the videos also promote the online celebrity’s site. Reelio reports that videos with a positive, charitable message receive two-and-a-half times as many views as normal videos. This is because of the way these drives usually work.

For the number of views a video receives, the celebrity will donate an ever-increasing number of dollars to a cause. As such, subscribers are encouraged to share with their social network as much as possible. As more people see the video, they also donate their own money to the cause. In the end, the online celebrity only contributes a small portion directly to the charity. It’s the audience who contributes the lion’s share.

Demographically, the shift to internet celebrities makes sense for nonprofit charities. According to CNN in November 2015, teens spend roughly nine hours a day on social media. Advertising agencies such as BrightRoll report that the majority of their customers find online advertising to be at least as effective as television.

While it may be too soon for traditional celebrities to step aside, the time has come for them to share center stage with internet celebrities. Social media lets charitable organizations reach an audience that’s not only willing to give, but willing to share their message with as many people as possible. It lets them reach young people who are as familiar with Youtube sensations as they are with movie stars. As the information age advances, internet celebrity charity is destined to positively change the planet.

Dennis Sawyers

Sources: CNN, Financial Times, Marketing Land, Reason Digital, Reelio
Photo: Google Images

charitable_ideas_for_Christmas
According to the World Bank, as of 2012, 896 million people are living in extreme poverty or less than $1.90 a day. A staggering 77.8 percent of people in extreme poverty currently reside in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Holiday Christmas shoppers can find ways to help those living in poverty. According to the National Philanthropic Trust, the average American donation was $2,974 last year. For an average family of four, that number breaks down to about $743 per person.

Here are 12 charitable ideas for Christmas:

  1. Sign up for a site that gives part of the proceeds to charity. AmazonSmile is a great example. The e-commerce giant will donate 0.5 percent of eligible purchases to the customer’s chosen charity. The best part? There’s no extra charge to the customer.
  2. Enroll in a rewards credit card that “gives back.” Capital One offers a rewards donation option when a customer enrolls in their “No Hassle Giving” site. Customers can choose from up to 1.2 million charities and use their reward points to donate to their chosen charity.
  3. Do a one-time donation. Give a one-time donation without being obligated to contribute on a monthly basis. Many charities provide this option for contributors, like The Borgen Project.
  4. Donate shoes sitting in your closet. Have old shoes that are sitting in the closet? Donate them to Soles4Souls. Since 2006, the organization has “collected and distributed 26 million pairs of shoes to those in need in 127 countries around the world and all 50 states in the U.S.” Coats, shirts and pants are also important donations that can help those in need.
  5. Shop consciously. There are many charities that donate some, if not all of the proceeds to a certain charity or cause. A prime example is (RED) a campaign that is sponsored by ONE, an international advocacy organization started by Bono. ONE (RED) pairs with iconic brands such as Apple, Coca-Cola and Starbucks to create one-of-a-kind items that support HIV/AIDS grants in countries such as Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda. The companies involved contribute 50 percent of the profits earned to the ONE (RED) campaign.Charitable_Ideas_for_Christmas
  6. Look for donation “widgets” or “buttons.” On some sites, donating is as simple as clicking a button. For example, The Hunger Site advertises a free “Click to Give” button. Notably, last year the organization’s “click button” funded 52.8 million cups of food.
  7. Volunteer. Options range from participating in a soup kitchen, donating professional resources such as writing or marketing skills or assisting in a project such as building a community school.
  8. Email congressional leaders. Writing to Congressional leadership is another way to get involved in helping out those in need. Since each and every email is tallied, a simple email addressed will help get key global poverty legislation on leaders’ radars.
  9. Give up coffee or snacks for a week and donate the money. A $5 drink every day during a normal workweek can set you back $25. Giving up that Grande Peppermint Mocha with soy milk, no whip may be hard at first, but that money can be put towards something like a mosquito net, life-saving medication or clean drinking water.
  10. Share on social media. Facebook and Twitter have become increasingly popular ways for people to share raise awareness about global poverty issues.
  11. Select “Charity Gift Cards”. TisBet capitalizes on the gift card model, but gives it a charity twist. The recipients of these gift cards get to choose which one of the 250 listed charities to spend the designated amount.
  12. Make use of matching donations. Some employers match employee donations, up to a certain dollar amount. Others even match volunteer hours or gifts from retirees, board members and even spouses.

Alyson Atondo

Sources: World Bank, National Philanthropic Trust, Amazon, Capital One, Soles 4 Souls, One, Greater Good, Chicago Tribune, TisBest, World Vision
Picture: Pixabay, Flickr