Pragati Palms
“Pragathi” is a Hindi word translated as “progress.” For the conscious western consumer as well as rural Indian villagers and artisans, progress is exactly what co-founders Adam Iversen and Pradeep Sharma are looking to create through their recently launched NGO, Pragati Palms.

After participating in an Acara course at the University of Minnesota, which challenges students to develop a socially and environmentally sustainable entrepreneur plan, Iversen received a grant from the university to travel to India and explore possible business partnerships.

Initially, Iversen and native-Indian Sharma planned to create a business focusing on Indian handicrafts. While visiting a rural Indian village, however, they stumbled upon a man handing out business cards made from palms. Iversen and Sharma were so impressed with the cards they thought they would order some for themselves as a way of representing Indian artisans. According to Iversen, “The reaction to our business cards was so positive, though, that we said ‘hey this could be a business in itself’ “ and thus the focused business of Pragati Palms business cards was born.

Pragati Palms is based out of Orissa, India, a rural state known for its elaborate palm leaf etchings. The business, therefore, offers villagers work relatively similar to art forms in which they participate. Pragati Palms honors Orissa’s culture and skill set while providing an alternative to the western print industry for environmentally and socially conscious western consumers. “When one ton of palm leaf waste is burnt, it produces 1.8 tons of carbon dioxide, contributing to global warming,” according to Tafline Laylin of Pragati Palms recycles these palms into a new product avoiding environmental damage and producing jobs.

Dead palm fronds are collected by villagers and sent to a local workshop where women employed by Pragati Palms’ NGO partner, Dedicated to People, are cut into 1.5” by 3.5” business cards. Consumers can upload their own design or chose from one of several templates on the Pragati Palms’ website. Once ordered, palm fronds are manually screen-printed one color at a time, resulting in unique business cards. The palms are waterproof and highly flexible. Consumers can purchase a set of 100 cards on the Pragati Palms website for $35.

In describing the rewarding nature of his new business, Iversen expressed his commitment to providing consumers with alternatives to products within industries like print that are not normally environmentally and socially concerned.

Heather Klosterman

Sources: Pragati Palms, Facebook, Twitter

A nonprofit organization is an organization that, pursuant to Section 501(c) of the United States Internal Revenue Code, does not retain its surplus revenue as profit. Instead, any surplus money is used to sustain the organization in its execution of a specific goal or set of goals, as designated by its bylaws and charter. In contrast to for-profit organizations, NPOs are largely project-driven ventures as opposed to product-driven ventures.

Before applying to be a 501(c) organization, a board of trustees must be assembled. The board will be committed to governing the execution of the organization’s goals. Once assembled, the board is responsible for drafting a clear and precise set of bylaws outlining the organization’s goals and the ways in which those goals will be pursued.

The bylaws must be recorded and, along with some necessary accounting paperwork (which varies according to different concessions granted by Section 501(c)), submitted to the IRS and the department of the secretary of state where the organization plans to operate in.

Once this paperwork is filed with the state, it may take up to a year for an organization to get approved as a 501(c). Most NPOs use this interim to prepare for launch immediately upon receipt of approval. Much of this time is spent identifying and communicating with potential donors, writing grants and taking other measures to secure funds for when the organization is approved.

Following state approval, a 501(c) organization must adhere to the bylaws it established in order to maintain its tax-exempt status. Its operation is limited by the bylaws it imposed on itself, and its tax-exempt status is contingent upon adherence to those bylaws. If an organization is not working effectively to accomplish its outlined mission, its tax-exemption will be revoked.

Under 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code, an NPO may receive one of 29 different designations according to its mission. These designations determine what kind of tax exemptions the NPO will receive, as well as the kind of economic activity it is permitted to engage in. These designations are determined by an organization’s goals, the parties it engages with economically, and the recipients of any aid the organization is providing.

Most NPOs involved in the fight against poverty are designated as 501(c)(3)s. By law, a 501(c)(3) falls under one of the following categories: religious, scientific, charitable, educational, literary, public safety, the fostering of international or national amateur sports or the prevention of cruelty to children and animals. Organizations that actively fight against poverty can fall under any number of these categories. As well as tax-exemption, 501(c)(3)s receive reduced postage rates, and are permitted to generate receipts to provide donors with tax write-offs. They are, however, prohibited from participating in any political campaigns.

For an  NPO engaged in the campaign against poverty, transparency is of utmost importance. Strict adherence to bylaws and charter are necessary. If the secretary of state perceives that an organization is straying from its mission, its tax-exempt status will be lost. This renders the organization far less effective in the abolition of poverty. Not only does this cost an organization financially, it costs the world’s poor.

– Matt Berg

Sources: 501c3, Cornell Law, IRS, IRS
Photo: GuideStar,

BuildOn_EducationVenture into a forest, and the trees are a hard thing to miss. Trees come in all shapes and sizes, but even the giant sequoia tree had a small beginning. All trees are grown from minuscule seeds. How does something so expansive and enormous come from such an insignificant beginning? Just like any other great wonder, all things start from small beginnings. Trees had to grow, buildings had to be constructed, and people are grown from swaddling babes. Everybody and everything had a small beginning; it’s the decisions made and actions done that determine what grows from it.

Jim Ziolkowski is the founder, president, and CEO of buildOn, a non-profit organization established to build schools in developing countries while also running after-school programs for America’s toughest inner-city environments. The seeds for buildOn were planted on an after-college excursion into the Himalayan Mountains. Ziolkowski came across a village in Nepal that was celebrating the opening of a new school. During his trip, Ziolkowski gained first-hand experience of poverty-stricken areas and the conditions that lay therein. But in this village, Ziolkowski saw something that forever changed him. He saw a community that was hanging its hopes on the power of education.

Ziolkowski returned to the United States, and began his job in corporate finance at GE. However, the memories of his cross-country hiking could not be forgotten. 15 months into his job, Ziolkowski walked out forever, pursuing a life that would enlighten the lives of others throughout the world by founding buildOn.

In 1992, Ziolkowski traveled to Misolami, a village located in Malawi. Ziolkowski planned to build his organization’s first school here, but he soon succumbed to malaria. Ziolkowski barely escaped with his life, and had another life-changing moment in the process; barely anybody in the area diagnosed with malaria escapes with their life. Ziolkowski only survived because he was not entrenched in extreme poverty, unlike most of the people in the area. Ziolkowski saw education as a way to escape extreme poverty, and his fire to change the world’s education for the less fortunate was strengthened.

Ziolkowski returned to the U.S knowing he also had to impact the lives of the urban youth in a positive way. Ziolkowski was unable to connect with these kids on a deeper level because he had been raised in a stable small town in Michigan. To solve this problem, Ziolkowski moved into a rough neighborhood in Harlem, so he could experience the difference in person. He lived there for three years, and he learned the urban youth did not want to participate in the dangerous style of life, they wanted to change it. Ziolkowski wanted to assist this mindset to the best of his ability.

Twenty years later, the results from Ziolkowski’s experiences have helped launch buildOn into a successful program. On Ziolkowski’s return to Misolami in 2012, the village had constructed four other schools thanks to support from buildOn. Instead of 150 kids attending school, now well over 1,000 were enrolled. Ziolkowski’s success can be seen on the forefront of this village, and in neighborhoods throughout urban America. The tree (buildOn) started out as a small idea, but Ziolkowski’s drive and determination turned it from a seed into a giant sequoia.

Ziolkowski’s success has been printed in his book, Walk in Their Shoes, available on Amazon.

Zachary Wright

Sources: Amazon, buildON, NC State University
Photo: WorldOz

importance non-profits nonprofit organizations
It never occurs to many people who are not involved with non-profits how integral these organizations can be to the overall functioning of the economy.

To many, non-profits are just innocuous little entities existing in their own isolated corner of the economy. They do not hurt the economy, but they certainly do not carry it, either. Non-profits serve one distinct purpose – bettering the world while zeroing out their books.

In reality, non-profits do much more. Discussed below are three ways non-profit organizations enhance and bolster the economy.


3 Benefits of Non-Profits


1. Non-profit organizations are a steady source of employment. Just because non-profits are not allowed to carry forward does not mean their operation does not require specialized jobs to be filled. In fact, in terms of day-to-day operations, non-profits run very similarly to for-profit corporations. Non-profits, like for-profits, rely on computer programmers, accountants, graphic designers and other specialized workers to ensure smooth operation.

“Non-profits are businesses. They simply receive preferential tax treatment,” Sean Stannard-Stockton said in a piece for The Chronicle of Philanthropy. The piece was a response to a remark by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim in which Slim expressed distaste for non-profits. “Like all businesses, non-profits employ people. A lot of people.”

A 2012 report prepared by Johns Hopkins University showed that 10.7 million people were employed in the non-profit sector in 2010 – 10.1 percent of total employment in the United States.


2. Non-profit organizations, like any other business, consume third-party goods and services in their day-to-day operations. They require computers, internet and phone services, building materials, and utilities in order to run. This generates revenue for the companies that manufacture and distribute these goods and services, thereby providing added economic stimulation.


3. By providing employees with a source of income, non-profits, just as for-profits, indirectly stimulate endless other facets of the economy. When people have money, they spend it. They pay mortgages, utility companies and car payments. Discretionary income goes to restaurants, theaters and other luxuries and entertainments.

Even the most cursory economic impact study demonstrates the indispensable value of non-profit organizations in any economy. The jobs they provide help sustain the economy in the same way any properly-functioning for-profit organization does. The same Johns Hopkins report mentioned above even seems to indicate that non-profits have a certain resiliency in economic downturns that for-profit organizations do not have. According to the report, employment in the non-profit sector had an average annual growth rate of 2.1 percent from 2000-2010 – a period in which the United States experienced two separate recessions. On the other hand, for-profits saw employment reduced by 0.6 percent annually across those 10 years.

Non-profits’ vast economic contributions are evident in the United States’ GDP. According to The Independent Sector, non-profits account for 5.5% of the GDP – the equivalent of $805 billion.

The impact of non-profit organizations is indisputably far-reaching and vital to the United States’ economic well-being.

– Matt Berg

Sources: Grant Space, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Career Builder, Independent Sector
Photo: Slick Text


David Ortiz could take a shot at running for Massachusetts governor, and he would probably make the race a close one. Ortiz is the most popular baseball player in the New England area, and the most accomplished designated hitter (DH) in baseball history. Ortiz is known for his flair for the dramatic, pulling victory from the jaws of defeat with his mammoth home run power. However, Ortiz is not just another egotistic human with a knack for hitting baseballs. David Ortiz is a man driven by nature to help others less fortunate than him, in any way he possibly can. The David Ortiz Children’s Fund (DOCF) was founded to aid less fortunate children around the world to obtain the best supplies and circumstances they can.

The DOCF was founded in 2006 after Ortiz visited a local hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Ortiz was shocked by the resilience of the children who had just gone through heart surgery, and he vowed to help children throughout the world that could not have access to the facilities New England children could. Therefore, DOCF was founded to assist the other children worldwide.

Since its founding, DOCF has been making a difference through its partnership with two other charities, Heart Care Dominicana and World Pediatric Project. By joining forces with these programs that have similar goals, Ortiz is fulfilling his goal of benefiting children that would otherwise be faced to fend for problems on their own.

Heart Care Dominicana is a non-profit organization that provides cardiovascular care for families that cannot afford it in the Dominican Republic. Heart Care Dominicana has two main goals: providing the care needed and training personnel in communities to solve problems internally. The program began its first operation in 2006 and has been working hard to accomplish its goals. DOCF is one of the major financial backing forces behind the program, and with continued support the cardiovascular care program will continue to thrive.

World Pediatric Project (WPP) is focused on improving the quality of life and providing healthcare services to children in the Caribbean and Central America areas. WPP has four main goals: to send surgical and diagnostic teams to communities to provide care, to develop illness prevention programs, to provide transportation for children who need treatment in American facilities, and to build up the local healthcare workforce.

By aligning with these programs, DOCF is achieving its starting goals. Ortiz is helping the world’s children through the programs with which he has partnered, impacting lives in droves. The health programs have been successful for many years. With continued support from DOCF and other charities, WPP and Heart Care Dominicana can continue to change lives. Ortiz is living up to the vow he made in 2006, and he proves it every time a child receives healthcare that was previously unattainable.

– Zachary Wright

Sources: World Pediatric Project, Heart Care Dominicana
Photo: Boston Sports

definition of foundation
Nonprofits, charities, and foundations are often lumped into the general definition of “charity” when it comes to global poverty. That is to say, these three terms are used interchangeably in reference to altruistic organizations across the globe. Yet charities and foundations can be quite different from one another.

Nonprofits, or non-profit organizations, are organizations that operate on a not-for-profit business model. That is to say, nonprofits use whatever profit they may earn to reinvest in pursuit of the organization’s unique charitable interests. Within the category of nonprofits, however, charities and foundation take on very different challenges. We can most easily see the difference by studying these organizations side-by-side.

Whereas charities, such as homeless shelters, often bleed money and are constantly searching for new or continued sources of income to support their projects and programs, foundations are the organizations that supply those funds. In short, charities are nonprofits that either reinvest the profits they make or rely on outside sources of funding. Foundations, on the other hand, are the grantmakers that make such funding happen.

Foundations can be divided into two or three subcategories: private foundations, public charities, and private operating foundations. Private foundations and public charities make up the majority of foundations, while private operating foundations represent the remaining minority.

Private foundations are funded by individuals or families, often operated by the donor or family members of the donor themselves. Public charities, accounting for more than half of all 501(c)(3) organizations, derive their support from diverse sources, including individuals, corporations, other foundations, and even government agencies. Both kinds of foundations, however, as well the lesser-known private operating foundation, work to provide grants for unrelated charitable purposes, which is what very clearly distinguishes a foundation from a charity or the more general definition of non-profit organization.

– Herman Watson

Sources: Grant Space, Minnesota Council on Foundations, How Stuff Works
Photo: Henry Lim

1. Charity Miles

Often the biggest obstacles in overcoming the challenge of getting off the couch and going for a run is the question “why now and not later?” We all know the importance of exercise, but the inability to find motivation to work out is what keeps us on that couch. Similarly, we all know the importance of giving and helping those in most need of help. The issue we often face regarding charity is the fact that we are often without extra cash.

Charity Miles has the answer to both of these problems. Founded in April 2012, the folks at Charity Miles developed a charity app where, with each mile you bike, run, or walk, a percentage of a dollar will be donated to the charity of your choice. And the best part is that the app is entirely free.

With a limit of one million dollars, each user can garner 10 cents per mile and walkers and runners will earn 25 cents per mile. With this app, users can get themselves into shape and put food on another person’s table. Charity Miles provides users with more motivated than ever to hit the road and feeling great about about themselves in mind, body, and soul.

2. Donate a Photo

It doesn’t get much easier than this. The developers at Johnson & Johnson have unraveled an excellent app that allows users to fight for the world’s underprivileged. For each original photo donated to Johnson & Johnson (up to one a day), they will donate $1 to a service of your choice. The beauty of the app is that users can donate a photo every single day and raise $365 a year for their cause without any cost to them. So far, Johnson and Johnson have declared 25,730 photos donated.

3. Volunteer Match

Volunteer Match is a free service that allows users to connect with volunteer opportunities both in their area and beyond. Users just need to download the app, decide what area they want volunteer in and hit connect! The service provides users with reviews of different organizations and allows them to build a repertoire to share with friends.

4. One Today

Google has entered the charitable arena with their new One Today app. The idea behind the app is to allow users to “Do a little. Change a lot.” The app allows users to donate $1 at a time to a cause of their choice, whether it be saving cheetahs or providing clean water to a village. This app has no fee for nonprofits so 98.9% of all donations go to their intended cause. For the users, the app tracks each and every dollar donated and provides updates on how that dollar was spent and the impact it causes.


While this is a website and not an app, the premise is very effective at fundraising. This Google Chrome and Firefox extension signals the nonprofit’s sponsors to donate a fraction of a penny to a charity for each tab a user opens. Through conducting daily business, useres, with no cost to them, can help fund and provide developing countries with clean drinking water.

– Thomas van der List

Sources: Donate A Photo, Volunteer Match, Android Police, Tab For A Cause, Charity Miles
Photo: The Guardian

Living Below the Line: Attempting to Understand
In an effort to help people understand what it means to live below the line of poverty, the Global Poverty Project organizes an annual campaign to raise funds and awareness for the 1.4 million people living in poverty around the globe. While the campaign strives to gain funding, it is also dedicated to helping people understand what a life of poverty means. Participants live for five days on the equivalent of about $1.50 USD. Since the beginning of this year, 20,000 individuals have taken the challenge alongside the GPP and a dozen partnered nonprofit organizations across three continents. This year the campaign took place from April 29 to May 3 in Canada, The United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and The United States. However, the GPP is taking donations till May 31 and the challenge is open to anyone that wants to do it year-round.

In the United Kingdom, living below the line means living on £1 for five days. One couple, Jenna and Stuart Wills, fine dining enthusiasts, share their experience on living below the line. In a country where one pound, approximately $1.50 USD, doesn’t even buy a bus ticket, a sandwich, or elderberry cordial, the couple knew it was going to be rough.

At the beginning of the week, the couple decided to buy the cheapest staple foods they could find, rice and noodles but realized that they had spent more than half of their five days budget. Consequently, it was difficult to spread the remainder of the budget over the rest of the week. The organic, fair-trade and costly foods that the Wills’ usually dined on were set aside and bargain buys that weren’t quite as delectable were their only alternative. The couple learned to plan grocery-shopping trips to stores and markets close to closing time in order to buy foods that were to expire soon and slashed in price. As the days wore on, lack of luxury food items as simple as coffee took a toll on the couple in high tempers and mood swings.

While the challenge was difficult at times, the couple admits that what they endured for five days is nothing compared to true poverty. They recognize that they have never once wondered when they would eat next, they bragged about their bargain finds on Facebook, and went about their daily lives. Whenever they felt a bit hungry, they had the option to put another piece of bread in the toaster. The couple raised £435 for their chosen charity, Oxfam, and have taken the challenge as an opportunity to appreciate what they have and spread the word about extreme poverty around the world.

– Kira Maixner

Source Birmingham Mail, Live Below the Line US
Photo MSN Food UK