Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Guilt Free Vacations

Last summer I helped fund my friend’s daughter’s a trip to Tanzania where she would be teaching at a local village school. Tom Lithgow of Firelight Expeditions founded this school with the profits from his resort and safari adventures. Tom also involves his guests in supporting the school, by taking them to visit to school and providing opportunities to help fund the school’s short and long term needs.

Here is the Abby’s story and more information about this form of philanthropic travel as written by Abby’s mom, Sara Hunter, a writer for the Christian Science Monitor of http://www.sarahunterproductions.com/

"Abby and three other college students, who had previously traveled on safari with Tanzanian legend, Tom Lithgow, pioneered a program last summer to teach in the village across the water from Tom's new high end island lodge in the middle of Lake Tanganyika. Tom, one of only fourteen Caucasian Tanzanian citizens, grew up in Tanzania assisting his father, a Hollywood-style hunting guide. At a young age, he vowed he would devote himself to photo safaris if he followed in the family safari business. His African adventure company: www.firelightexpeditions.com is the glorious result. We were lucky enough to travel with Tom eight summers ago as a family -- staying at his private camp sites in Katavi and the Serengeti. One year ago, upon completion of a private airstrip, he opened a world class, elegant, beach resort: Lupita Island Lodge, not far from Jane Goodall's famed chimpanzee reserve. By special arrangement with Tom, guests can tour the village school, help with school supplies and current building projects, or tailor a longer term commitment to fit their goals. In our daughter's case, she lived in staff housing at the Lodge and commuted by boat to the village for ten weeks, teaching English to students aged 8-18, who spoke Swahili. It was a summer she will never forget for its beauty, remoteness, and submersion into the village life of an African seaside community. Best of all, were her students. I've attached a photo of three of them."

The New York Times, recently published a story about “guilt free” vacation. The article featured a variety of ways people are choosing to make their vacations more meaningful for themselves and for others. He travel options described were high end safari travel that included volunteering or giving back to the visited communities. Other vacation possibilities included helping with the environment in some way or getting out into nature.

Another option for guilt free vacations, is Social Impact Adventures, (which I wrote about in an earlier post), where one can learn about how microfinancing works, meet with the experts in the field of microfinance, and meet some of the local entrepreneurs that have been helped with financing. http://businessthatcares.blogspot.com/2009/03/vacations-that-have-social-impact.html
Communities benefit from tourism, but the why not add more impact by directly contributing to the places we visit?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Five Reasons Why Doing Good Helps Your Small Business Grow

Last week I attended a planning meeting at the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce for their “Shop Local” initiative. Not satisfied with the typical model of “Shop Local” efforts around the country, the planning group is adding philanthropy to the program. Using a voucher system, businesses will be able to offer a percentage of the profits from the vouchers back to the community.

The members voiced their concerns that small business owners, have a lot of heart, but have little extra profits to give away. Many felt that small business owners not aware of the benefits of a well planned giving program to the growth of their business.

So-here are five reasons that giving back to your community will help any small business grow.

1. Giving back to the community is an investment in the economic growth of your community which in turn generates more customers and clients.
2. You can use your advertising dollars more effectively. When you advertise your support for a cause you create more public awareness while creating great publicity for your business.
3. By getting involved in a local cause, you build better community relations and image of your business within the community. Customers and clients choose your business, knowing that they too are helping with the cause.
4. You build better rapport amongst your employees when they work together on a philanthropic cause.
5. You network with other businesses that support the same cause which in turn generates more leads for your business.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Putting a Face on Your Business Philanthropy

Have you signed up your business to be part of a fundraiser? Have you and your employees volunteered to walk or run for a charity? Now you can have buttons that are printed up with the face of a specific person that you would like pay tribute to.

A company in Charlotte NC, Buttons of Hope, sells custom buttons for the purpose of charities and fundraisers to make their volunteering more personal and to energize, motivate and inspire people.

Originally, Mike Gibbons made a button for a cancer run that he did a few years ago supprting a friend of his. The idea caught on and Buttons of Hope” started as a nonprofit. But with sales increasing the idea seemed more suitable as a social venture. Their mission is “to spread inspiration, one button at a time”.
Any business can order buttons for their cause. Why not include your customers and clients by giving them one too. Inspiration can be spread throughout the community, many buttons at a time.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Responsibility Project

I recently stumbled upon a short film on The Responsibility Project website, about a father going to extraordinary measures to find his six year old’s lost teddy bear. As the story unfolds a stream of complete starngers become involved in helping tis dad with his quest.
Having searched through trash bins looking for my child’s lost “blankie” this movie struck a chord with me. Although I did not have a taxi full of people helping me, I could appreciate what it meant to the father in the film to have the support of complete strangers. But, what struck me even more was the very unusual concept of the Responsibility Project itself.

The insurance company Liberty Mutual, has a website: “The Responsibility Project”, where they show short films about people and their acts of kindness, caring, and responsibility towards others. The site also has a blog with a variety of stories and discussions about responsibility to our families, communities and even strangers.

The Responsibility Project was originally inspired by a commercial that Liberty Mutual made about strangers helping each other. The commercial was about the “pay it forward” concept, where one person helped a stranger and each person subsequently went on to help another stranger. The commercial received so many positive responses that they decided to expand on the ideas by creating a website with more stories. The purpose of the website is to inspire people to think about their values, their ethics, and their caring about others in their community.

Liberty Mutual also has The Liberty Mutual Foundation: “Established in 2003, the Liberty Mutual Foundation supports communities in which our employees live and work by promoting ways to help people live safer, more secure lives. The foundation awards grants in education and health and human services, and invests in access to health care for low income individuals, mentoring programs, and cultural organizations.”

The word philanthropy, comes from the Greek: “phil” which means love, and “anthropy” which means mankind. Liberty Mutual’s philanthropy, through their “Responsibility Project” is an example of how to promote and foster acts of “love of mankind”.

Any business, small or large, can tap into their values and mission and create a project of any type, promoting those very values with hope of creating good for themselves and their community.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Volunteer for Business Networking

The best networking for your business is done by building relationships, not by "selling". What better way to meet people, connect with them and develop a relationship than by volunteering for a non-profit or working together for a cause.

I met one of my best friends while I was volunteering for a peer mediation program in our local public school. At the time this friend was working for a major high-tech company and she brought me in to do a team building workshop for an executive team of a new division.

The trust you gain by volunteering with others is invaluable to developing the kind of connections that will help your business grow.

Thursday Bram on Lifehacker.org,http://tinyurl.com included "Volunteering" as one of her tips for better networking.

"Networking is, in part, about giving back. As an entrepreneur, it’s useful to have connections to local non-profits far beyond the tax break you’ll get for any donations you make. You’ll get word of sponsorship and PR opportunities far faster, learn about projects that might help your business along — and you may even have the chance to do something good for your community. A non-profit doesn’t have to be related to your industry, either: if you’re ready to do some good in your community, why not work on an issue you’re passionate about?"

This next week, during national Volunteers Week,instead of spending time handing out business cards at your networking event or leads group, try to volunteer your time for a worthy cause. Better yet, bring your networking group with you.

Monday, April 13, 2009

National Volunteer Week and Your Employee Volunteering Program (EVP)

Points of Light, is a national organization that promotes volunteerism and community service that effects civic change. The theme of their initiative, National Volunteer Week 2009, is "Celebrating People in Action".

Points of Light has provided resources for National Volunteer Week which include a downloadable toolkit and logo. http://www.pointsoflight.org/programs/seasons/nvw/tools.cfm

You can also find tools for developing a successful EVP for small to medium sized businesses: "Eight Steps to developing a successful EVP for small to medium sized businesses."

An article on business benefits of family volunteering. http://www.pointsoflight.org/resources/details.cfm?ID=10121

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Giving More of Your Time

Next week, April 19-25 is National Volunteer Week 2009.
"Celebrating People in Action." is the theme that honors the individuals who take action and solve problems in their communities. Whether you participate in the specific events during that week or not, it is a great time to think about how volunteer efforts can become an important part of your business philanthropy. Your business and it’s employees can volunteer in a variety of ways for a cause, an event, or a specific organization.

Here are some ideas for ways your business can volunteer that will be of benefit to you and the organization or cause that you are supporting.

Engage your customers and clients -People love to be part of something meaningful and to make connections with others.
  • Invite your customers to join your efforts.
  • Put up a big sign about what you are planning to do and welcome them to join you. Ask them to sponsor your business in your effort.
  • Offer them a discount or freebies on your services or products give them freebies if they participate or support you.
  • Have t-shirts, mugs, buttons printed up with your business name and the cause as handouts for customers, or for your employees to wear.
Engage your employees- Involve everyone in deciding where and how the business would like to volunteer and the planning of the activities or event.
  • Create a “team” effort, with designated leaders and responsibilities and timetables.
  • Have everyone be part of the vision of what they would like to accomplish.
  • Give employees time off participate in the project, or better yet, allow them to spend a certain amount of their paid time working for the event.
  • If your business is experiencing a slow time and your employees are not working at full capacity, give them the opportunity to volunteer that time towards a cause. Offer their time as pro-bono service to an organization.
  • Have employees bring their families to volunteer with them. This is especially great for things like “beach cleanups’ or doing walks or runs for charities.
  • Make it fun-it builds morale.

Engage other businesses -Your business may not have enough employees to make a significant contribution, but if you send an invitation your local business community to join your efforts you will be able to have a greater impact.

  • Invite your vendors, suppliers, business relationships like your bank, insurance agents, or accountants to join or contribute to your efforts.
  • Build awareness of the cause with shared advertising shared with the other businesses supporting the cause.
  • Have t-shirts, button, mugs, banners printed with the names of each of the businesses that are supporting the cause.
  • Partner with local business in supporting local causes. Turn “Shop Local” efforts into: “Shop Local/Give Local”.

Volunteering is a great way to grow your business by gaining more visibility, building customer loyalty and employee morale, and investing in the very community that supports your business.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Vote For The Business With Most Promise

BusinessWeek is holding a competition online for America's Most Promising Entrepreneurs that are making a profit and a difference.
From now until April 26, you can take a look each of the 25 ventures profiled in their slide show, and vote for the business you feel holds the most promise.

The nominated mission-driven businesses are based on different models. Some businesses have designed innovation solutions to problems in areas of education, health, the environment. Some deal with global issues and others serve their local communities. Some donate portions of their profits others donate all of their profits.

I won't tell you my vote since I am biased. I posted the story about TOMS Shoes on my blog; I grew up in one nominee's community; and I currently live in the area of some of the other business nominees.

They are all wonderful stories and deserve to win.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Don't Let the C Word Stop You From Doing Good

David Coethica, has written an article "Top ten CSR Tips for small businesses and medium sized businesses, http://davidcoethica.wordpress.com/. As his first tip, he recommends taking the "C" out of Social Responsibility, so that the idea of being socially responsible, in whatever way one takes it to mean, is more accessible to small and mid-sized businesses.

I wonder whether small and mid-sized businesses think that philanthropy, social responsibility community relations, giving programs, and citizenship are not for them because those terms often begin with the word “corporate”. Does that mean that only a corporation can act in ways that really make a difference? If one considers the fact that small businesses account for 70% of the work force, it is easy to see that small businesses do have great potential for impact on social responsibility and philanthropy. Just consider the magnitude of the environmental impact of 70% of the people in the workplace.

One of his tips also includes volunteering for local community causes as a marketing tool and for building community relations. Here again, small businesses may think they cannot match the employee volunteer pools of big business. But small businesses have stronger connections with their employees and are likely to engage a greater percentage of them in volunteering. Small businesses are also closer to their local community needs and are better able to match volunteers to the right causes.

Although small businesses account for the majority of the workforce, they cannot match big companies in revenues. Large companies are able to endow foundations that can make huge donations to support nonprofits or social enterprises. Small businesses may not have the kind of funding that large businesses have, but they can generate funding by directly involving their customers and their clients in supporting a cause. Small businesses can more easily find inventive ways of collaborating with other small businesses, either through their Chamber of Commerce, local branches of associations, networking groups, or just in their local business community.

If global causes are more interesting to small business owners, small businesses can invest modestly in mini micro lending enterprises such as http://www.kiva.org/. Some small businesses have started their own social enterprise, directly supporting local or global causes, with part or all of their profits, (see postings about In Her Shoes and Mission Street Food). Another avenue of philanthropy that is suitable for small businesses is to donate their extra inventory to charities, that can be used for auctions or for resale. ( see Pearl Paradise )

Consumers are expecting more and more of big businesses to be philanthropic and socially responsible. That level expectation has not trickled down towards the small businesses, yet. With the current economic conditions and the need to increase non-profit support, customers of small business may be expecting the same. Maybe it’s time for small businesses to realize that collectively their impact can be as important as that of big business and their responsibility may be even greater.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

"Shop Your Values" Through E-Bay and World of Goods

This is a copy of an ecard from WorldofGood.com that I was able to send to others.

World of Good is a marketplace on E-Bay where sellers provide products that are good for the world, the environment and communities.

"Lalia Helmer wanted to tell you about WorldofGood.com, a site where your shopping shapes the world. WorldofGood.com offers a new and easy way to show the positive impact your purchase has on people and the planet. It allows you to shop by your values for products ranging from food & clothing to art & house wares.
Check it out!
I think you will like this shopping site. They have beautiful products from all over the world and every product benefits the people who made it.
-- Lalia
Note regarding this message: Please visit us at
http://www.worldofgood.com/ and join thousands of others who have discovered how shopping can create positive social change for people and the planet."

Buyers can spread the word by sending cards like this (with great pictures) by e-mail.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Strand of Pearls for the World

PearlParadise is the world’s leading online pearl company that is donating strands of pearls to charitable and non-profit organizations for their auctions. The causes they like to support are children with disabilities, animal rescue groups and volunteer organizations, environmental organizations, cancer research, and others. Non-profits must apply to Pearl Paradise to receive their donation.
The Pearl Paradise Giving Back Program began with the idea of donating their excess inventory, and has developed into total donations to charity amounting to $1,000,00.00.
Using excess inventory as donations is another way businesses, small and large can contribute to their local community and the world.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Clothes For You That Help the World

Armonk, NY (PRWEB) April 2, 2009 -- Boomerang.org launches using new technology to revolutionize the worlds of fashion and philanthropy. Boomerang.org is a new Brand for a new era. The Boomerang logo represents caring, concern and action for others. Boomerang.org's customers are members. They pick the clothes they want and then the cause they want those clothes to support. Boomerang's technology lets Corporate partners make a donation to the specific cause on the clothes when they are scanned at a partner store or event or B-scanned by a friend's cell phone.
Ongoing Support For Your Cause and Ongoing Rewards For YouBoomerang.org's Partners not only support the members specific cause but help reward them with merchant discounts, points and prizes. Boomerang.org's goal is a community of likeminded individuals and companies who help each other while helping others.
The Mission of Boomerang.org is to get everyone into the game of giving and keep them playing. For customers that means giving them a wide variety of clothing to choose from and letting them personalize it with the cause they support and with their name or initials. Boomerang.org keeps them playing by helping them progress through "Levels of Support" which are displayed right on their products, earning Boomerang points, voting on additional causes and offering a constantly changing variety of rewards, partner promotions and new clothing items. Earning ongoing donations for their cause and rewards for themselves encourages Boomerang members to wear their clothes on a more frequent basis and that helps raise awareness for their cause.
Boomerang.org's Corporate partners get recognition all over the website, in mailings, and with the newest technology on members cell phones. Most importantly, Boomerang members support and patronize companies that support the causes they care most about.
Charities get financial support, links to their websites and other educational sites, exposure to new demographic groups and an army of support.
Foundations, Individuals and Companies get their donations multiplied 3 or 4 times through the "Boomerang Effect"
Boomerang.org's initial causes are:Global Warning; For our planetSupport them Home; For our troopsKatrina Relief; For our people
Additional causes are being voted on including, Parkinsons, Diabetes, MS, Autism and Breast Cancer, and social causes such as World hunger, Education, Domestic Violence and Wildlife protection.
'Even in these harder times we still need clothes,' said David Nichols, Founder, "Why not clothing that gets you discounts, earns you rewards and supports your favorite cause." "And if our clothes have to make a statement about us, let it be that we care about something larger than ourselves.
Press discounts available.
For further informationContact:Gene LaVigne or David NicholsBoomerang.org914-205-3279http://www.boomerang.org/

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