Friday, January 27, 2012

The Gift of Life


Everybody has their own way to make a difference in the world. Some have the time to volunteer a regular amount of time every week.  Others give regularly to their charity of choice. Still others raise money for sporting events in which they participate. Some spend time on the computer clicking for a cause or e-mentoring.

My husband and oldest sister donate in another way. They give blood to help save lives. January is National Blood Donor Month because during the winter people give blood less often. 

Yet the need does not go away during the winter months.  In fact the Red Cross reports that every two seconds in the United States, someone needs blood and 44,000 units of blood are needed every day.  One pint of blood can help save up to three lives. Here are 25 more quick facts about giving blood.

My husband has tons of t-shirts from all the blood drives he does. Donors can give every eight weeks. However, he sometimes travels to places that delay his opportunity to give.

I have always been queasy about giving blood, especially since I have deep veins and it usually takes a few “sticks” until they can find a good vein. So I don’t donate very often but I’m glad to know my husband and sister do.

You can find your community blood center through this link on America’s Blood Centers or find a blood drive near you through the American Red Cross’s search link. Just put in a zip code and get a list of the centers or blood drives closest to you.

Another way to help is to sponsor a blood drive through your work, church or other community entity.  The Red Cross makes it easy by providing flyers and posters for you in a coordinator’s toolkit.  You just promote the event and sign people up to give. 

The Red Cross also has an online store where up to 50 percent of the cost of an item goes to the mission of the Red Cross.  The store has everything from emergency preparedness items to t-shirts.

During National Blood Donor month, think about giving blood to save lives. One day, you might need another’s blood, too!Anne Sanders website

Friday, January 20, 2012

Four Best Sites to Tackle Issues That Pull at YOUR Heart

During this time of new year’s resolutions, people look inward to discover what it is they would like to change about themselves and their lives. It’s a wonderfully revolutionary time that can mean goal setting and real change throughout a new year. Unfortunately, often people don’t have resources to support their goals which causes them to falter and fall away from their lofty intentions. 

For those of you that want to do more to change the world in the new year, I’m going to provide support for you. Throughout the year, I’ll give you ways to help nonprofits, find volunteering opportunities and take small actions that can make a big difference.

In that spirit, I’m going to provide four great sites for getting more involved in 2012.  These sites have lots of resources for making a difference and are also organized to help you find the best cause for you. They also have something in common. They all offer petitions that you can support or places that you can start your own drive to change the world. 

Care2.com gathers together petitions, volunteer opportunities, daily actions for change, news, and even a green job finder all in one place. You can also start a petition at the site and gather support for your own cause.  Care2 provides a gift guide with the kind of gifts that change the world and some daily deals that are ecofriendly and a bargain as well. It’s a great site to find out some of the issues that people are interested in and then do something about the ones that call to your own heart.

Already know what issue is your hot button? Then check out petitionspot.com. It has thousands of petitions on civil and human rights, the economy and business, education, entertainment and media, the environment, government and politics, health, animal rights, criminal justice and more. Or, you can start your own.

Another benefit is that Petition Spot has joined with change.org. Heard about how the Bank of America $5 fee for debit card use got turned on its head? From a petition started through Change.org. Another great thing about Change.org is that it has lists of victories from petition drives so you can see the light at the end of the tunnel when you have a cause you support.

GoPetition is another petition site that makes it easier to find a cause by providing 34 different categories of petitions. It also separates petitions by region and country, so if you are living in Germany, Australia or Israel you can see the petitions just for those countries. Another great feature of GoPetition is the link to YouTube videos explaining causes for which it has petitions. GoPetition offers Facebook networking with your petition also.  You can start a petition for free or pay for premium services.

So, whatever cause burns into your soul, be it a health issue, political movement or a belief in civil rights, you CAN find others who support the same cause, either through petitions already in play or by writing a new one and getting it out there.  Best of luck, everyone!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Resolution Kept!

In 2011, I made a resolution to exercise more, at least 2-3 times a week. It’s a resolution that I’ve kept throughout the year unless I was sick. It’s a popular resolution because we all know how good exercise is for us and many of us would like to lose a few pounds, too.

Two things helped me keep this resolution more than anything else. First, I made a friend who was my exercise buddy on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We ran/walked together using the Galloway method to prevent injury and increase running speed. My exercise partner is the best and I highly recommend getting one. Now that it’s too cold for us to run outside, we meet and work out together at a gym on those two days that we have set aside for our health.

Secondly, I began using a website dedicated to helping others. You might ask how this would help me keep up my workouts. That’s a good question. The site is Plus 3 Network. It’s a place to log your exercise time and sponsors give money to a charity of your choice when you do it. It’s that easy and doesn’t cost you a penny.

I’ve already earned 26 cents this week for the Breast Cancer Fund from my two workouts so far. That may not sound like much, but Plus Three is coming up on half a million dollars in giving now.  

Besides inspiring you to exercise because you know you are helping others when you do, Plus 3 is also a social networking site that motivates you to exercise when you see your friends are doing it, too. 

After I signed up initially at Plus 3, I immediately searched for people in my town using the program and found another person (yes, just one, I live in a small town) who was also on Plus 3. I asked her to become friends and soon after found out that she does Kuk Sool Won (a Korean martial art)with my husband’s group nearby.  Seeing her workouts posted frequently on Plus 3 and the money going to her cause getting higher made me want to work out more, too.

I also shared the Plus 3 Network on my other blog for Working Mother magazine and soon my sister had signed up, too.  I just recently looked again and found 59 people near me that are working out and posting their workouts on Plus 3. Looks like I need to connect with some more people to keep the motivation going.  

For even further inspiration to work out, Plus 3 also presents challenges to its members to do a certain kind of workout, (like 99 yoga sessions) or just to work out a certain number of times each week. Then it provides prizes for the people who follow through.

Plus 3 calls the whole process Making it Count. You can make your own workout count not just for you, but also for charitable organizations needing your donations. It truly is a great encourager to keep you working out. It worked for me so that’s why I’m sharing it with you!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Mentoring and Microfinancing

January is National Mentoring Month. When most people think of mentoring, they think of volunteers spending time with young people and helping them become adults. That is an important form of mentoring, but there are mentors that help adults as well. When mentoring is partnered with microfinance in the poorest parts of the world, people learn how to make their own opportunities to succeed. 

The newest mentoring opportunities in business are set up by organizations that want new businesses to bloom and grow. Business leaders can volunteer to share their knowledge with young entrepreneurs building their own businesses across the world.

MicroMentor provides small businesses with mentors who are willing to share their experience owning or managing businesses. Through telephone calls, MicroMentor mentors work with entrepreneurs so no in-person meetings are required. Agora Partnerships is another mentoring organization that focuses on young entrepreneurs who are addressing social and environmental problems in third world countries.

What’s great about these relationships is they don’t cost the new entrepreneurs anything but they can be invaluable. Struggling young businesses that have limited resources need knowledge to push through to the next level. These partnerships provide that knowledge. 

Sometimes businesses cannot move to the next level without money. Microfinance is the solution for many of the world’s poorest people.

Microfinance companies like Kiva ask people like you to lend as little as $25 to help companies start or expand a business. Since Kiva was founded in 2005 it has used 673,580 lenders to give $274 million in loans at a 98.9 percent repayment rate. Kiva presents the story of each business through it owner so you can choose where your money is going.

Microplace provides financial services to the poor as well but your money is an investment which you will be repaid with interest as well.  Microplace gives more general information about the people in a country that you will be helping, rather than their individual stories.

Opportunity International (OI) combines microfinance with training and peer mentoring through Trust Groups of entrepreneurs who help each other and learn at the same time.  The groups of 10 to 30 entrepreneurs become eligible for loans after a training period. Then they meet to continue to learn and help each other develop skills as well. OI allows you to pick a person to whom you will loan, support a project or donate more generally.

The oldest instances of microfinance started in 1976 through Grameen Bank which works together with the Grameen Foundation to provide microloans.  Started by Professor Muhammad Yunus with $27, Grameen has a monthly $27 donation program although people can give any amount as a onetime gift or more often.

The U.S. Department of State has even gotten in on the mentoring act with its Women Entrepreneurs Network through Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas. Through the Department of State, women-owned businesses can also get certified through WeConnect International to provide materials for major contracts. 

If you own a business, you can share your knowledge with people who need it through mentoring. But, even if you don’t have the business knowledge to mentor a young entrepreneur, you can be a fiscal mentor by providing money to the most in need.