Turn Your Living Space Into A Giving Space

7 08 2009

Everyday, we stumble into the world to work, play, eat, and everything in between. But, no matter how much fun we have in the streets, there’s really is no place like home (Thank you, Dorothy). On most days, there is no place that I’d rather be than my house. Yesterday, I was sitting around trying to think of little habits that I could introduce in order to make my household a giving household. And, to my great surprise, I created a list of 9 small yet effective ways that you (and I) can “turn our living space into a giving space.”

1. Place a piggy bank in your front hall or on your bedroom dresser and empty your loose change on a daily basis. At the end of the month, donate the funds to your favorite charity. This bank (right) even has a slot for your “charity change.”

Money Savvy Pig, $16.99

Money Savvy Pig, $16.99

2. Give back to the environment. Throw those water/wine bottles and pop cans in a bag, and recycle when it’s full.

3. Whenever you purchase a new item of clothing, automatically select something in your closet to give away. Put the items to the side and donate on a monthly basis or at the start of a new season.

4. Decorate your home with items that benefit a great cause, like the beautiful pillow below found on BuildANest.com. NEST provides micro-loans to female artists in developing countries, sells their crafts in the US, and recycles the money back.

Lotus Blossom EcoArt Pillow, $68

Lotus Blossom EcoArt Pillow, $68

5. The lotion that you never opened? The makeup samples still in the package? Gather those things and give to a local women’s shelter. You’d be surprised how new perfume or lipstick can help lift spirits of women going through difficult times.

6. Next time that you host a get-together, ask your guests to bring a canned good. Then, take the items to a food bank in your area.

7. Give back to yourself by placing motivational quotes around your house. One of my favorites:  “Everything you can imagine is real.” – Kimora Lee Simmons

8. Incorporate awards, Thank You letters, and other “gifts” from charities into the decor of your home. Last year, a 5-year old sweetheart made me a card complete with a heart, glitter, and my name. That beautiful piece proudly hangs on my fridge. It always makes me smile and reminds me of our fun time together!

9. Like fresh flowers, fruits, and veggies? Purchase your goods from a community garden or co-op. Your patronage will not only help to support the garden, but also any other programs/services provided.

If you have any ideas to add, drop them in the comments box! I’d love to know what you guys are doing!

-kb





Young Americans: Volunteer Enthusiasts

29 07 2009

Dreamers. Delusional. Idealists. Spoiled.

These are all words that some people use to describe the generation of young Americans. Well, it seems like the talkers can add “giving” and “volunteers” to the descriptions as well. In an article posted yesterday on The Nonprofit Times, the rate of volunteerism has increased in America, even as the economy worsens. And, these figures are being boosted by people between the ages of 16-24 years old!

The Corporation for National and Community Service’s (CNCS) Volunteering in America estimates that 61.8 million Americans volunteered last year, about a million more than the previous year, and more than a quarter of the U.S. population. Of the one million additional volunteers in 2008, about 441,000 were between the ages of 16 and 24, up from 7.8 million to 8.24 million and boosting their volunteering rate from 20.88 percent to 21.9 percent.

Am I surprised? Absolutely not. My generation has grown up during 3 of the most life-altering moments in history (at least, in my mind).

1. The 9/11 attacks

2. Hurricane Katrina

3. Barack Obama’s election

With each one of these events, I watched as many people united as one to rescue victims, gather needed supplies, make phone calls, and stand side by side to make a difference. In the article, Alan Solomont, chairman of the board of CNCS, said that young people started “on a path of community service much earlier than before. Young people serving is reflective of their earlier service learning experience.” I couldn’t agree more. In high school, we were responsible for completing 40 hours of community service before graduation. You could choose whatever you wanted to do. Some people tutored, others taught basketball to local youth, I volunteered at the MS Society.

Volunteering while young sets a stage for a very fulfilling and rewarding existence. When I hear about children donating birthday gifts to hospitals or raising money for needy classmates, I can’t help but smile! And, while smiling is good, there are some very tangible figures on the value of volunteering. It’s estimated that last year’s nearly 62 million volunteers contributed about 8 billion hours of service worth $162 billion. Volunteers are also more likely to donate to a charity, with 78 percent donating $25 or more, compared to 39 percent of non-volunteers.

That is INSANE!!! In the best way, of course! Kudos to everyone who takes time out to volunteer, especially to all of the young people out there. We really are the future, and our service will help lead the way.

Say It Loud!

Say It Loud!

-kb





3 Tips When Donating Items To Charity

16 07 2009

You know the routine…You look up one day and decide that you have too much stuff in your apartment/house and something must go! Maybe you’ll try and give the items away to family and friends. OR you may decide just to donate it to a charity thrift store. While you may think that thrift stores and consignment shops should just take whatever you give them, I’m here to warn you that is NOT the case. As a person who tried to donate a wooden table with a chipped top and a sofa with snagged ends, I want to give you a little advice on donating personal items to charitable stores.

Here are three super simple tips for donating:

1. Check the store’s website to see what they can and cannot accept. You’d be surprised at some of the things that can’t be donated. I once tried to give away plastic hangers and college textbooks and was denied! I couldn’t believe it. So, the hangers are still clogging the closet and the books are in a box until I find a good home for them.

2. Check to make sure that clothes aren’t dirty, ripped, or soiled. When the staff is sorting through the clothes, any damaged (or smelly) clothes are thrown out because they don’t have the resources to wash or repair each item. Remember, the goal is to get the goods immediately on the sales floor and make some moolah!

3. Make sure that you get a receipt for the value of the items. Yes, of course, most of us donate out of the kindness of our hearts, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advantage of the tax benefits. When you donate items to a thrift store run by a charitable 501(c)3 organization, you can deduct the “fair market value” of the items when you prepare your taxes. “Fair market value” essentially means that you estimate the value of that item today. So, don’t list your 2000 Gap blouse with the missing button at the price you paid, especially since we all know it’s not worth that anymore! For more guidance, ask your accountant or visit irs.gov!

Okay, so you’ve given your stuff away and are probably wondering what to do with the unacceptables. Well, my suggestion is to look around for nonprofits or shelters that take items in and give them away, not sell them. And, if that doesn’t work, then just take them to the trash. I ended up giving my chipped table to the junk man. Hey, sometimes it happens…As long as you tried to donate, that’s all that counts in my opinion!

-kb





Just Volunteer. Period.

26 03 2009

Often, actually too often, I hear my peers tell me that they want to volunteer but don’t know where (or how) to get started. I won’t lie to you…When people tell me that phrase, my inner KB drifts to a land of confusion and skepticism. Why? It’s because I’m wondering if they are really telling me the truth!

I was talking to Luvvie last night at the Heineken with a Heart event and mentioned to her that people give me all of these “reasons” why they aren’t volunteering, instead of simply saying “It’s not a priority in my life.” The truth is perfectly acceptable for one main reason…

I am NOT the volunteer police!!!! I never ask people about their volunteer committments, nor do I talk about mine in a bragging sense. If you ask me what I’m doing this weekend or tomorrow, there may be a volunteer activity on there because that’s my passion (hence the blog). But, if you’re not a big volunteer, that’s fine! I am the LAST person to judge. Please trust that!

Now, that I got that off of my chest, I’m going to give a few simple tips for those of you who really do want to get involved with a cause or organization but need a little push or guidance in that area!

1. Start with a cause or activity that means the most to you!

My gateway cause was the multiple sclerosis because I have a personal connection. Think about what means the most to you. Love to garden? Look into helping out at a local greenhouse. Love to read? Maybe you spend an hour every week or so reading at a nursing home. Love watching sports? Shoot hoops with teenagers. Make sense?

2. Volunteer activities are more than you think.

Many volunteer opportunities are outside the box of traditional office-based or event-specific duties. Business professional? You can volunteer on pro-bono marketing and strategy projects with The Taproot Foundation. Former athlete/coach? You can volunteer to be a referee for community youth leagues. 

3. Let the Internet be your guide.

With a few key-strokes and a mouse click, you can discover websites looking for helping hands. National sites include Idealist.org, VolunteerMatch.org, or USAService.org.On a local level, many cities have organizations which promote volunteer opportunities on a local level. Some sites to check out are ChicagoCares.org, DC-Cares.org, NYCares.org, or HandsonAtlanta.org.

4. Just ask.

If you got through tips 1-3 and still feel like you don’t know how to get started, then you need to just start asking people. Ask your employer if there is a preferred charity. Ask your pastor/priest if they’ve heard of any community organizations looking for help. Ask your friends where they volunteer and offer to come along.

Hopefully, these tips are helpful! I want to see more young adults out there volunteering…It’s such a great opportunity to enhance the lives of others and further the purpose of an organization. P.S. Did I mention that volunteer experience looks great on resumes? Not that I’m trying to bribe you or anything… 😉

-kb





Pants for Goodwill…$15 off for YOU!

27 02 2009

When I got home last night, I noticed a stack of vouchers on the front desk of the lobby. The first thing that caught my said was something about 15% off. Upon closer inspection, I learned that the voucher was advertising the “Out with the Old, Save on the New” event that Ann Cares, the philanthropic program of the Ann Taylor stores, is hosting to benefit Goodwill Industries. 

From Monday, March 2 to Sunday, March 8, shoppers who bring in a pair of gently used pants to Ann Taylor LOFT stores will receive $15 off each pants purchase (full price items only). The donated pants will be sold in Goodwill stores nationwide and the revenues will help fund the various programs which Goodwill offers. 

So, start digging through your closets, grab “those” pants (you know the ones), and take them up to your nearest LOFT store. For details and to find the closest LOFT store, head on over to their website www.anntaylorloft.com 🙂

-kb

For Work!                                                  For Play!

PhotobucketPhotobucket





Piperlime Makes It Easy To Donate Your Shoes

25 02 2009

In talking to many of you, it’s very clear that you’re more than ready for spring to arrive. You’ve picked out new shoes or are planning to purchase some new pairs to usher in the warm temperatures and green grass. Well, as you buy new shoes, at some point you may have to think about what to do with your old ones. If you have a local shelter or thrift store, then by all means you can donate them there.

If you buy your shoes on Piperlime.com, they have a program where you can send them your old shoes within the same box. 

piperlime

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Piperlime’s charitable partner is Soles 4 Souls, a nonprofit organization committed to providing shoes domestically and globally to those in need. Soles 4 Souls has helped individuals everywhere from Appalachia to Southeast Asia. 

So, there you have it. Three simple steps to help you clean your closet and aid the world. And, who says that shoes don’t make the world a better place? 🙂

-kb





Is Your Favorite Charity In Good Financial Health?

25 02 2009

As we give our money to nonprofits and various charitable groups, it’s very important that you know how your money is being used. That is, unless you have an unlimited amount of money to give. As for me, I want my dollars (or at least the majority) to go towards programs and services, and not administrative/operating costs.

I posted an article on Examiner.com discussing how CharityNavigator.org can provide you with a picture of a charity’s financial health, and give you other great tips on giving.

Read the story here.