Earlier this month I had the distinct opportunity to attend the Mass High Tech’s 2009 TechCitizenship awards in Boston. It was a pleasure to hear from the CEOs of local tech companies and why they continue to feel compelled to be philanthropic despite tough economic times.
The event’s conversation leaders included Martin Madaus (President of Millipore Corporate), Maura Banta (IBM/Mass. Board of Education) and Howard Kogan (President of Molecular). I also met Albert Calvo, chair of Social Capital, Inc. It was a pleasure discussing how the GENESIS Network and Social Capital, Inc. are using similar social media tools for philanthropic outreach. I was particularly impressed with their use of online communities to rally support for grassroots development projects. As you may already know, this will be a key component of the new GENESIS Network website set to launch in just a few months.
I left the event invigorated about the ways in which technology companies continue to support social development initiatives. I look forward to sharing the new site’s debut and its use of various social networking tools to engage more and more members of the technology community.
The GENESIS Network
p.s. Please share a news story about a company that’s using technology to support a philanthropic organization.
Despite a continuing economic recession, philanthropy is as popular as ever. As Giving USA 2009 noted “U.S. charitable giving [was] estimated to be $307.65 billion in 2008…[exceeding] $300 billion for second year in a row.” Despite tremendous public interest in giving, the number of charities and projects active always means that organizations need to actively raise support for their initiatives and work in making a better world.
As we are currently in a major fundraising drive to construct a new school in Chiang Mai, Thailand, we are asking for your donation. But what are the benefits for you?
One personal impact of giving to the GENESIS Network is apparent; our projects help build schools and provide economic development in some of the world’s most impoverished areas. As examples of what we can currently do with our funding:
- Send a child to school ($10/month)
- Build a schoolhouse for 80-100 children ($14,500)
- Provide a year’s supply of education materials to a school ($1,000)
- Housing and protection from child trafficking for an orphan ($5/week)
- Build and Develop vocational training center for 30 impoverished families ($23,000)
But can you receive tax benefits as well from a donation? Of course! As a federally registered 501c3 charity, giving to GENESIS allows you to claim these benefits on your return:
- Cash: Donation of cash can be deducted up to 50% of gross income.
- Property: Donation of property can be deducted up to 30% of gross income.
- Capital gains assets: Capital gains assets can be deducted up to 20% of gross income. More information about stock transfer donations, as well as advantages they can have over cash, are found here.
Should you feel limited, then, in how much you can donate? Not really. As ehow.com notes, “if you have been particularly generous and exceeded these limits, you are allowed to roll over part of your charitable contribution to the following year for up to 5 years.”
As a general rule for all charitable donations: documentation is critically important. Specific standards are explained taxes.about.com and ehow.com. Overall, it is best to have extensive proof. Keep receipts for all donations, especially with those over $250. Keep cancelled checks or statements for cash contributions, as well as notebooks recording gifts.
Any contribution you can make is more than appreciated, and goes a long way towards making sure we can continue our work. Thank you.
The Genesis Network is building its second primary school in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The new building, which will provide primary education to over 200 at-risk children in one of the country’s poorest areas, is the second being constructed under its Kid Launch project.
Currently in Thailand, almost one million children lack access to school, which leaves them vulnerable to the country’s extensive prostitution industry and human trafficking. Nearly 800,000 are employed as prostitutes. In response to the need for support, the Genesis Network initiated Kid Launch in the summer of 2008, with the goal of providing education and economic development in villages that ask for its assistance.
To complete this task, however, we need your support. Currently, there are two ways to give:
• We are currently accepting donations on our website. Make a donation.
• Thanksgiving/Holiday Cards: Businesses can purchase and send $50 gift cards as a way to donate. Give a card that helps.
Currently, we have raised 77 percent and making a huge push to achieve 100 percent funding this month, with the goal of completing construction by early December.
Please help us out in any way you can. Any contribution you can make is greatly appreciated and goes a long way towards guaranteeing a good quality education and stable future for children who are at risk of falling into prostitution and human trafficking. Feel free to email the Genesis team at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions.
It’s been a year since Barack Obama won the Presidential election, and chances are, if he was going to hand pick the sort of guy he’d want to represent our country on and off the battlefield, he’d choose Lieutenant Adam Swartzbaugh.
Too bad Swartzbaugh can’t say the same. It’s not that he doesn’t pledge wholehearted allegiance to the flag–of course he does–but he doesn’t agree with all of President Obama’s international policies. He’s not crazy about the continued asymmetric treatment of the Middle East or the recent undermining of the Kyoto Protocol in Bangkok. While politicians can wave the international relations wand, Swartzbaugh says, it’s the military, he believes, that has the ability to change people’s lives day by day.
Swartzbaugh is no army brat. There are no family war stories or hand-me-down fatigues in his closet. He enlisted in the ROTC on his own. Which was after he won the nationals as a competitive cyclist; and after he dropped out of Hobart College; and after he learned Chinese; and after he traveled to Viet Nam and met Ngoc Toan, a double amputee with pitch black eyes and a ponytail who painted so beautifully that Swartzbaugh taught him to make a living off his art; and after he witnessed child prostitution firsthand; and after he jumped on a Russian Army motorcycle and roared through Cambodia to Thailand to help Tsunami victims. After, really, that he realized helping others felt good, and that one individual can make a difference.
Swartzbaugh returned to the States to finish college and then some. He enlisted in the ROTC and graduated from Brown University. He recently launched the Genesis Network, an online networking platform devoted to helping grassroots human rights and social development initiatives all over the world. He’s building schools in Thailand and Burma and crusading against human trafficking in China, India and Africa.
Why all the good behavior? Swartzbaugh cares about being a leader. He’s learned the fundamentals: biking taught him discipline and commitment (He was chosen as one of Sports Illustrated’s “faces to watch” during high school), and the military educated him on how to observe, react and execute. He’s waiting to be deployed to Afghanistan, where he’d like to empower the local people to take control of their country. A model American soldier, you might say. Happy Anniversary, Mr. President.
The role of youth in charities vary from almost non-existent to limited roles where they can merely serve as a prop to communicate adults’ messages, to models where they have an equal role with adults or even run the organization entirely. The Jewish Teen Funders’ Network lists nine “degrees of participation” going down from maximum to minimum involvement.
9. Youth Initiated and Directed
8. Youth Initiated, Shared Decisions with Adults
7. Youth and Adult Initiated and Directed
6. Adult Initiated, Shared Decisions with Youth
5. Consulted and Informed
4. Assigned but Informed
Though a strong adult-controlled model may be favored by those unsure about giving youth a decision-making stake, not acknowledging the skills and ideas of young participants can damage a program. As was noted in a 2001 University of Wisconsin-Madison study “the mutual contributions of youth and adults can result in a synergy, a new power and energy that propels decision-making groups to greater innovation and productivity…youth and adults become more committed to attending meetings and create a climate that is grounded in honest appraisal, reflection, and ongoing learning.” Through taking an active role as contributors and leaders, youth naturally feel more of a stake in the program and desire to involve themselves in it.
Many “best practice” guides recommend the creation of youth boards where teens take a direct role in program administration alongside adult members. The James Irvine Foundation notes that “creating youth boards linked to adult-driven institutions exposes youth to the process of making important decisions, while also demonstrating to adults how youth can be a part of critical community decisions.”
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation recommends diversity as critical in forming a successful youth board, with members of all “age, gender, race, religion, socio-economical, and geographical [groups]…leadership ability is distributed across the youth population; dropouts have just as much potential to lead as members of the National Honor Society.” The Kellogg Foundation, among its recommendations, suggests that “youth participants should range in age from 14 to 18 with attendance optional until the age of 21” and that youth members recruit replacements.
For school-centered programs, though, initiation and implementation can be by default adult (teacher/faculty) led. Pennies for Peace is one example of this type of program. Established in 1994 as a program of the Central Asia Institute, Pennies encourages classrooms to fundraise for school-building and education in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Pennies expands by asking schools that want to start a campaign to register online, and provides them with a “toolkit” and other supplies such as videos and sample letters to parents and others. The campaign emphasizes that students should donate only pennies, as it believes this allows students of all economic backgrounds to be active contributors. One novel avenue Pennies for Peace emphasizes is direct implementation into class curriculum, such as teaching about Afghan and Pakistani history and culture.
The Genesis Network’s Change for Hope Youth Empowerment Program hopes to improve on the Pennies model through creating a platform where students can move into leadership roles. Concentrated on fundraising for school construction along the Burmese/Thai border, Change for Hope describes itself as “[giving] students an opportunity to apply themselves to real issues and develop real projects that make real differences…[and] the unique opportunity to build direct relationships with Burmese children.” Change for Hope’s goals include eventually establishing itself as a student-run group, as well as providing participants with opportunities including internships and volunteering abroad.
As concluding questions: If your organization runs a youth philanthropy program, what opportunities do you provide or wish to provide for young participants? More specifically, what are the different roles youth and adults have and how do they interact? What approaches work best for you and what additional points do you think charities can learn from? All answers, as well as other questions and comments are more than appreciated.
We live in an age where opportunities for communication are increasing faster than ever. With the rise of Web 2.0 media such as social networking sites and blogs, it has become all the easier for philanthropic organizations to build new connections, as well as publicize their activities and needs.
And charities have responded, emerging as the surprising leader in the social media landscape. A UMass Dartmouth study released in June stated
“new research shows that charitable organizations are still outpacing the business world and academia in their use of social media. In the latest study (2008) a remarkable eighty-nine percent of charitable organizations are using some form of social media including blogs, podcasts, message boards, social networking, video blogging, and wikis.”
These figures are an increase from 2007, in which “seventy-five percent of the respondents…reported they use at least one form of social media.” However, one area where charities can improve is in leveraging these tools to raise funds. In 2008, the study notes, only forty-five percent called social media “very important” to their fundraising strategy, versus forty-six in 2007. “Somewhat important” answers received a small decrease as well, with thirty-six percent in 2008 versus thirty-eight in 2007.
These figures are an interesting anomaly in what is overall a strong push among charities to adapt to and take advantage of social media. As these new forms of communication take hold and break boundaries, it is important to explore what they can bring to fundraising.
Case Study: Facebook Causes
“Causes” is one of Facebook’s most popular applications, boasting almost 34 million active users and over 174,000 fans. Active since 2007, Facebook Causes is “founded on the belief that in a healthy society, anyone can participate in change by informing and inspiring others…We strive to build tools for people to mobilize their friends for collective action…eventually [launching] movements that span local communities or even the globe.”
The application enables users to create an advocacy group, or “Cause” on Facebook, on which members can “discuss the issues, share their experience, post media, and sign petitions” as well as solicit donations to be delivered monthly to an agency of the cause’s choice, processed by partner Network for Good. It emphasizes equal access and touts itself as a way for smaller charities as well as larger ones to build an audience. It links to a page with “success stories” of organizations that have maximized Causes’ potential to grow a support base and often raise thousands of dollars in funds.
Causes is not without its detractors or controversy, however. An April 22 Washington Post article (“To Nonprofits Seeking Cash, Facebook App Isn’t So Green”) states
“Causes…has been largely ineffective in its first two years, trailing direct mail, fundraising events and other more traditional methods of soliciting contributions. Only a tiny fraction of the 179,000 nonprofits that have turned to Causes as an inexpensive and green way to seek donations have brought in even $1,000, according to data available on the Causes developers’ site…fewer than 1 percent of those who have joined a cause have actually donated money through that application.”
Among its findings, the article noted that $25 is a median donation on Causes, vs. $50 through traditional methods, and that just 185,000 members have ever contributed via the application.
The Washington Post article has been criticized by nonprofit-related blogs, as advocates emphasize that building relationships with prospective donors takes time and effort by an organization, and that the raised awareness makes the effort worthwhile. Nonprofit developer Betsy Harman of Harman Interactive is quoted as stating:
“Any nonprofit who thinks they can simply put a donate now button on their website or simply create a “Causes” page on Facebook and wait for the money to roll in, doesn’t understand online fundraising. It’s still about building relationships, telling your story, and taking potential donors through the process of cultivation, stewardship and solicitation…Causes…is just a tool for peer to peer fundraising but in order to raise money that tool has to be used by someone who is passionate about the organization and proactive about telling the organization’s story.”
Joe Green, Causes co-founder, was quoted in the Post article as saying that “Causes raises almost $40,000 a day across its groups, up from $3,000 a day a year ago” and that “the biggest successes have been tiny nonprofits who don’t have the name recognition of the big guys.”
Lastly, the Post noted that online fundraising is still in its infancy, and that less than three percent of total nonprofit fundraising is done online.
The case study of Facebook Causes reveals some interesting points about fundraising through the use of social media. The takeaway for this is that, though it has much potential, it a very new field and not the instant, automatic money maker charities often hope for. But nonprofits should not discount the immense opportunites it can bring now and in the future.
The best route for charities is broaden goals long-term, talking advantage of new media in increasing awareness and building advocacy. Through convincing the global audience social networking sites can provide of the necessity of their work, organizations can help grow a support base for the future.
As final questions: How has your organization used or considered using social media to expand its audience? What have the results been? Is there any advice you would give to charities considering online fundraising?
Though oft-associated with older and wealthy donors, philanthropy transcends economic and age demographics. Especially today, youth are establishing themselves as a force in charity, holding strong promise for the future. As Philanthropy Journal noted in a November 20, 2002 article:
Americans who volunteer when young are more generous adult donors and volunteers than are those who don’t volunteer when young, says [a] report by Independent Sector and Youth Service America. Parent volunteers are more likely to inspire their children, and parents who volunteered when young are more likely to volunteer with their children.”
The joint paper, among its many findings, stated “44 percent of adults volunteer, and two-thirds of those volunteers began volunteering when young” and that “families in which adults and youngsters volunteer donate $2,895 a year on average compared to $1,576 donated by households in which no one volunteers.”
The opportunity to attract and openly involve youth in donating, and encourage a lifelong ethic of giving is one that should be taken seriously. However, this can only happen when children are actively involved in learning and taking leading roles.
The specific impact of youth involvement in charity on academics is an ongoing topic of research. A 2001 study by the James Irvine Foundation’s Youth Leadership Institute found that
“while there may be little in the way of empirical evidence that these activities lead to improved success in school, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that they do…many involved in the youth philanthropy field, including the youth themselves, make this link not only with academic achievement, but with success in their future careers.”
However, the RMC Research Corporation cited in a report (originally published 2002, updated with new information in 2007) a growing amount of studies pointing to improved school success for youth philanthropy participants, as well as growth of ethical values and self-esteem.
The Irvine Foundation noted in a survey of youth grant making board members, a high percentage gave an answer of “a lot” or a fair amount” when asked how their involvement helped them
• Learn how to make better decisions (95%)
• Learn about issues that peers face in your community (88%)
• Become better at planning and facilitating meetings (82%)
• Feel more comfortable sharing ideas in a group (83%)
• Feel more comfortable in a leadership role (86%)
• Feel more comfortable giving presentations in public (74%)
• Be more committed to helping out the community (89%)
• Develop positive relationships with youth that you would otherwise never have met (87%).
• Develop a strong, positive relationship with at least one adult (79%).
• Prepare for college or higher education (59%).
• Increase their interest in higher education (59%).
With the impact youth philanthropy can have both for giving and those involved, how could you see such a program helping your organization? How would you want to recruit children and teens and give them a voice and role in your work? For one example of a initiative emphasizing youth leadership and empowerment, check out the Genesis Network’s own Change for Hope.
In our next installment, we will discuss best practices in initiating and maintaining a strong youth philanthropy program.
By Gail McCarthy
A globally minded Rockport woman is hosting a musical benefit Saturday to raise money for a network working to help orphans in some of the world’s most impoverished communities. Alexandra Saville, 21, has pulled together three bands and food from local restaurants in an event for The Genesis Network at the Rockport Community House, starting at 6 p.m. The event features the music of Zach Comtois, the Jo Henly band and the BFs.
Global Network founder Adam Swartzbaugh, 24, will speak briefly at the event. The network, incorporated as a nonprofit last December and which uses all donations on its porjects, already has built two schools and helped 250 children in Thailand.
The mission of The Genesis Network is to develop international human rights projects to help at-risk children and communities. Projects include building schools, economic development and orphan protection. “I decided to try my hand at event planning in order to take advantage of the support and accessibility a small town has to offer,” said Saville. “It has really been a community effort and I would love for people to come out and support a great cause. Each ticket will make a difference in the life of a child in these impoverished villages. A little bit goes a long, life-changing way for these kids.”
Saville, a 2006 graduate of Rockport High School, is majoring in international communications with a minor in print journalism at Boston University. She took a year off from college to travel, working in an orphanage in Mexico. She had plans to work in Thailand but because of a violent coup, that trip was cancelled. But when she finishes her college degree, she plans to do community service globally again, likely through The Genesis Network. She came across the organization on the Web, and began writing grant proposals for it this summer. “Being by myself around the world for a year was definitely a catalyst for my desire to help,” she said. “It made the world seem smaller to me and allowed me to better empathize, and more clearly see the connection all people share. It made me want to help.”
Swartzbaugh, who grew up in Rockport, Maine, but has lived throughout New England, knows how to make things happen. He said he struggled to find his path through his college years but in the end earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations and a graduate degree in development studies from Brown University. He was the only ROTC student at Brown, which did not have a ROTC program. He traveled to nearby Providence College to take part in the program. He just received his commission in the Army, and will go on active duty in a few months for four years. “But I’ve built the organization to a place where it can be sustained,” he said. Swartzbaugh, who worked in construction in Maine, explained that the roots for the Web-based network sprouted from when he was working in Thailand with a tsunami relief construction project.
“I had the opportunity to see the abuses against children along the Burma and Thai border, where there was trafficking, child prostitution and slave labor, and I wanted to do something about it,” he said. “I really wanted to get something started, get student support. This evolved from a single project. But I realized it was going too slow and I thought how can we do more with less — and The Genesis Network evolved from that.” The network functions as a grassroots initiative and gives people a chance to reach out to volunteer, and reports on its projects for potential philanthropists.
“We connect the dots between people who need support and people who give it,” said Swartzbaugh. “So often you give to a large organization but you don’t see where the money goes, but the network allows people to donate to a specific project as well as interact with project leaders, see project plans, budgets and photographs.” The network, still in its infancy, is focusing on a few projects at present and will expand as the network grows.
“Volunteers come to us and say how can I get involved and they find it’s easy with the network,” he said.
IF YOU GO
What: A benefit concert for The Genesis Network, which helps children, featuring three bands and food.
When: Saturday, Sept. 26, from 6 to 9:30 p.m.
Where: Rockport Community House at 58 Broadway.
Who: The event features music by Zach Comtois, Jo Henly band, and the BF, and food from Latitude 43, Alchemy, Bracketts and the Fish Shack.
How much: Tickets can be purchased online at the Rock the Night for Children’s Rights event page at Toad Hall Bookstore, at Rockport High School’s DECA store, at the available at the door. For more information, visit www.gnetwork.org
The Genesis Network’s Kid Launch program continued to break ground on its education and development initiative in Chiang Mai Province, Thailand, with the opening of a new primary school in the village of Baan Phai Du.
The new facility will provide education to 150 children in one of Thailand’s most impoverished areas. It is the second following the opening of a 65-student school in the village of Sob Mae Stop in April. Currently, 15 Chinese students work there alongside four Thai teachers, with more helpers from other countries expected.
A mainly Karen-speaking village of 500 residents, Baan Phai Du was selected due to a direct request by the community for educational and development aid. Baan Phai Du’s existing educational infrastructure, including residence facilities for teachers, presented an advantage as it enabled resources to be concentrated exclusively on building construction and purchasing of school supplies.
Currently in Thailand, almost a million children do not have primary school access. Without the benefit of an education, they face the severe risk of becoming human trafficking victims, or being forced into the country’s extensive prostitution industry. These circumstances make engagement by philanthropists and NGOs a critical need.
The ultimate goal of Kid Launch’s initiative in Chiang Mai Province is to provide primary education to over 400 children per year, as well as enable further job opportunities. The project is active in ten villages.
Kid Launch is a project of the Genesis Network that aims to provide self-sustaining educational and community development programs in Northern Thailand’s poorest areas. It hopes to “[breach] the confines of the classroom to build an active community atmosphere, social collaboration, a mutual sense of responsibility among its members, and overall unity cohesion.”
More information about Kid Launch can be found at its page on the Genesis Network site.
Currently, the global movement to fight poverty looks to be succeeding. The World Bank notes that “the proportion of the developing world’s population living in extreme economic poverty-defined as living on less than $1.25 per day…has fallen from 52 percent in 1981 to 26 percent in 2005.” However, the Bank noted, this statistic “masks large regional differences,” especially in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Despite declining poverty rates, the number of total poor globally has remained unchanged, at 1.2 billion.
The first thought when addressing poverty may be to think on the macro-level; looking in terms of countries or regions. However, as Grantmakers Without Borders reminds us, the grassroots level must be a critical focus of development efforts, as there “are to be found those most acutely affected by injustice, and the experience and power to develop solutions.” There “a small grant can go a long way. There, the size of the grant often matters less than such important factors as need, timing and flexibility.”
GWB lists thirteen “Key Elements of Successful Grassroots Projects.” These are:
• Popular Particpiation
• Tackling of Institutional Barriers and Discrimination
• Energetic and Committed Leadership
• Resident Skill
• Community Motivation and Tenacity
• Community Resource Mobilization
• Social and Participatory Research
• “Outsiders” as Key Actors
• Historical Structural Economic Factors
• Single-Minded Project Zeal
• Sustainable Development
• The Role of the Outside Funder
The key to any successful grassroots project, GWB notes, is the focus on empowering local communities and their expertise, responding to their needs while creating self-sustainability. Indeed, a large-scale initiative, the Community-initiated Agriculture and Resource Management Project (CARD) active in Belize from 1999-2006 was plagued by disconnect between communities’ desired programs and project leadership. “In the isolated cases where community priorities had been supported,” the International Fund for Agriculture and Development noted, “the results were very positive, with groups demonstrating improved financial and organizational capacity, as well as recording increases in their enterprise activities.
In its mission, the Genesis Network emphasizes connecting grassroots projects with donors and volunteers as critical to promoting sustainability and growth in developing regions, emphasizing “the highest returns on human rights advancement to every dollar irrespective of the beneficiaries’ gender, culture, religion, or nationality.” Through creating growth and self-sustainability community by community, we hope to lift societies from the cycle of poverty and create a path to a better future.