5 Tips to Avoid Holiday Charity Scams

Donation can, pinecones, holly

Be mindful of your personal information when donating this holiday season!
Image: Shutterstock

The winter holidays are a great time for charitable giving. Unfortunately, in addition to the many worthwhile causes out there around this time of year, there are also plenty of scam artists looking to use your charitable instincts as a way to get your personal information—and your money. Here are some important things to keep in mind when giving this holiday season.

  • You may be getting an increased number of charity-related phone call solicitations during this time of year even if you’re on the Federal Do Not Call List (charities are exempt from laws regarding this list). It’s tough to be certain of who the person on the other end of the line is and whether or not they actually represent a legitimate charity, so you may be better off donating directly to a charitable organization’s website where you can be sure your personal information is protected.
  • Always do your homework to find out how legitimate a charity is. You can look them up over at http://www.charitynavigator.org to find out where your donation will actually be applied and what percentage goes toward upkeep costs versus actual charitable programming.
  • Never give out credit card information via text or email! This is a common way for scammers to get ahold of your personal information. If you’re not already signed on to the charity’s secure email communications—such as a mailing list you signed up for—treat any communication from someone claiming to be associated with caution.
  • Not all charitable donations are tax deductible. If this is something you’re interested in, be sure to use the Exempt Organizations Select Check tool at http://www.irs.gov.
  • Be wary of anyone contacting you claiming to be the victim of a disaster and needing help. It’s far more likely to be a scammer than someone who actually needs your help. This was evident during Hurricane Katrina, when the websites http://www.katrinahelp.com and http://www.katrinarelief.com went up even before Katrina had touched ground in an effort to get personal information and money from those looking to help. The FBI ultimately reported over 4000 bogus websites related to the disaster.

Giving to charities, especially when you’re inspired by the holiday season, is a great thing and certainly nothing you should be scared of doing! But it’s important to be mindful of where your personal information is going. Plenty of legitimate charities would love to hear from you this season, so take appropriate precautions, but also get out there and give!

Philanthropreneurs Changing the Face of Corporate Charitable Giving

One set of hands giving another a handful of coins and a plant

Philanthropreneurship is changing what it means for corporations to give.
Image: Shutterstock

Traditional charity has often taken the form of large donations from wealthy benefactors like Carnegie or Rockefeller. These days, however, a new brand of philanthropy is rising in the ranks: Those who want to give back to their communities don’t just hand over a check, but provide funding over the course of their careers, as well as donating time, ideas, and manpower to making their philanthropic dreams become reality.

These folks are being called “philanthrepreneurs,” and you’ve probably heard of some of them. Microsoft’s Bill and Melinda Gates, Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson, and AOL’s Steve Case have all done more than just throw money at the social problems near and dear to their hearts; they’ve also brought their skills and networking abilities to the forefront of their giving.

A recent article in The Guardian describes “philanthropreneurship” as involving four elements:

  • Passion for making the world a better place, particularly for the underprivileged.
  • An element of giving, whether in time, money, expertise, or all of the above.
  • Creativity and novel approaches to problem solving.
  • High quality leadership to direct, organize, and influence others in positive ways.

Unlike previous modes of philanthropy, pilanthropreneurship involves working together as a team, sharing resources and skills across a host of organizations and individuals to reach a particular outcome. Bill Clinton’s Global Initiative, for instance, brings together thousands of world leaders to combat different problems and come up with sustainable solutions.

Philanthropreneurship is also changing the way businesses work from the get-go. More and more businesses are pursuing philanthropy and entrepreneurship at the same time, rather than waiting to amass a fortune and donate a percentage in their twilight years. The philanthropreneur business model involves working donations of time, effort, and money into the very core of how a business operates, such as Salesforce’s 1-1-1 philosophy.

Other examples: Pierre Omidyar, founder and chairman of eBay, along with his wife, donated $100 million to Tufts University to help develop the microfinance industry. This donation included bringing together government, business, and non-profit sectors to work together. Jeffrey S. Skoll, former president of eBay, founded the world’s largest organization dedicated to social entrepreneurship, which helps develop and fund revolutionary programs in over 100 countries.

The future of philanthropic giving is looking bright, particularly with a shift toward more sustainable philanthropreneurship.

Robert Enterprise Development Fund Releases Social Enterprise Gift Guide

REDF's Social Enterprise Gift Guide

REDF’s Social Enterprise Gift Guide has suggestions for holiday gifts that give back to the community.
Image: REDF.org

Wintery holidays are a great time to think about gift-giving, and what better way to honor the season of giving than to not only do something great for friends and family, but also for the people creating, packaging, and selling the gift items?

The Robert Enterprise Development Fund (REDF), created by KKR founding partner George R. Roberts in 1997, has just released a social enterprise gift guide with suggestions for holiday gifts to purchase through companies and organizations that help provide job opportunities for the underprivileged.

REDF’s gift guide includes products from companies that hire the formerly homeless and incarcerated, as well as those that empower women and those with mental health issues or other disabilities. The highlighted companies include:

  • Homeboy Industries, which sells apparel, bags, and office goods created and distributed by formerly incarcerated individuals and former gang members;
  • The Homeless Gardening Project, which employs the homeless and produces organic products, including lavender, bath salts, and soy candles made with items from a certified organic farm;
  • The Women’s Bean Project, which offers handcrafted jewelry and gourmet food items in an effort to help women fight poverty and develop careers;
  • Thistle Farms, which offers natural bath and body products as well as helping women develop manufacturing, packaging, marketing, and sales skills;
  • The Casey Project, which sells a variety of gourmet cookies and promotes independence and increased quality of life for those with physical or mental disabilities

“For the first time ever, REDF has created a gift catalogue that offers you a simple and meaningful way to do your holiday shopping in style while also changing people’s lives!” wrote REDF President and CEO Carla Javits in the catalogue introduction. She also emphasized that all the products are American-made.

George R. Roberts founded REDF, a California-based nonprofit, with his own money to help end joblessness in the state. After great statewide success, the organization now hopes to expand to a national level, encouraging mission-based businesses to hire individuals who have a hard time getting jobs but are ready to work.

Online Education to Receive Boost from Gates Foundation

Three students in classroom with computer

The Gates Foundation has provided large donations to the study of the effectiveness of online education.
Image: Shutterstock


While online education may be hot in terms of educational trends and potential philanthropic donations, the jury’s still out on how effective it is. In fact, a recent Inside Higher Ed survey suggested that faculty:

  • are skeptical about how effective online learning really is
  • consider the instructor/student relationship essential and not necessarily provided by online learning environments
  • are concerned about the lack of support for online course development
  • don’t want outside companies to create their courses or curriculum

Obviously more research is needed to determine the most effective ways to run digital learning environments, or massive open online courses (MOOCs).

Cue the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has made several large donations specifically to studying the effectiveness of MOOCs and alternative education opportunities. Total donations have reached nearly $9 million, including $1.6 million to the University of Texas at Arlington for their Learning Innovation and Networked Knowledge (LINK) lab and $1 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s MITx program.

UTA’s LINK lab supports researchers looking into digital learning’s effect on modern education. The grant will allow UTA and nine other institutions, including Carnegie Mellon, the University of Michigan, and Stanford, to thoroughly study the most effective ways to use online learning in higher education. Research topics will include analytics, MOOCs, the global growth of higher education, and attaining credentials for online learning systems.

MIT’s MITx is a blended online/real time educational system. The Gates Foundation grant will allow for the development of a course that will serve low-income students in a “flipped classroom.” This means that students at partner colleges will watch the MITx video during what would normally have been lecture time and then use the rest of the classroom time for group work. While running the program, MITx will also test what percentage of the core course knowledge comes from the online portion to determine if the class should be run again and how to do so effectively.

With online education becoming more and more popular, donations such as those from the Gates Foundation are needed to make sure students are getting the best education possible.



5 Ways to Give to Charity This Holiday Season

Santa holding a red heart with snow

There are so many ways you can give this holiday season!
Image: Shutterstock

We all get into a rush during the holiday season; from rushing around shopping for gifts to hosting parties and potlucks, it can be hard to take a step back and consider if you’ve gone enough good this year. In the midst of holiday chaos, it is worth it to pause and think about those who have no one to give to them. Here are five ways to give back while still embracing the holiday season:

  1. Buy the Soccket for someone you care about. Described as an “energy-harnessing soccer ball,” this awesome invention plays like a soccer ball and then can generate enough electricity to power a lamp, cell hone or water purifier. Play for one hour and get a six-hour charge. Buy one for children in need or donate one a local gift drive.
  2. Going on vacation this year with the family? Pack For a Purpose encourages travelers to pack five pounds extra in their suitcase for local children. Things such as school supplies, soccer balls, clothing, and more which will be collected for donations.
  3. Donate a bicycle. We take for granted that ambulances will rapidly get us to the hospital here but in some parts of the world, it can be a five-hour walk to the nearest hospital. By donating to Canadian charity Bikes Without Borders (bikeswithoutboarders.org) you can help provide heavy duty bike ambulances to communities in rural Malawi.
  4. Think locally and head to a nonprofit in your neighborhood. Ask your local homeless shelter, clinic, school, cultural organization or house of worship how you can help by volunteering or donating.
  5. Donate to Rock + Rawhide. Sometimes when we are busy wrapping and giving gifts to family and friends, it can be easy to forget about our beloved pets. Each year over 6 million dogs and cats end up in homeless shelters. Rock + Rawhide sends them toys, blankets, rawhide bones and more to help with their stress and make them more adoptable. Learn more at rockandrawhide.org.

How do you plan on giving back this holiday season?

5 Top Tech Philanthropists

The Gates Foundation webpage

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one charitable organization started by a tech company giant.
Image: Gil C / Shutterstock.com

Tech companies are known for skyrocketing young, entrepreneurial spirits into the stratosphere as far as income goes, but they also increasingly provide a huge source of philanthropic giving for communities in desperate need. Here’s a look at five of the biggest tech names in philanthropy and what they’re doing to support their communities and the world at large.

Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft. The man who has held the title of World’s Richest Human for 15 out of the last 20 years has also given more than any other living person. In addition to co-creating the Giving Pledge—a campaign for billionaires to commit to giving away the majority of their financial assets upon their deaths—the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given away $28 billion to charities around the world since its inception.

Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce. Benioff’s company was founded on the 1-1-1 model (1% donation of all profit; 1% donation of employee time to volunteering; 1% of product donated to non-profits), which has resulted in donations of more than 650,000 hours to local charities. In addition, Benioff has made an effort to encourage the tech community at large to give back now rather than waiting until after their deaths. “I think the main issue is that tech has to be committed to giving back to the city,” Benioff told TechCrunch. “Every company needs to have a philanthropy strategy, even from the start.”

Brendan Iribe, CEO of Oculus. After Iribe sold his virtual reality company to Facebook for $2 billion, he immediately turned around and made a $31 million donation to his alma mater, the University of Maryland, to build the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation. A portion of this, the largest donation in the history of the university, will also go tward setting up a scholarship for Computer Science students. “What fun is it to make a donation at the end of your career?” Iribe said in an interview with Vulture Beat. “This way we get to make a bigger impact and participate in the success of [the University]. The name on the building isn’t going to be a deceased person, but someone who is still out there trying to pioneer this space.”

Eric Lefkosky, CEO of Groupon. Along with his wife Liz, Lefkosky has created a $1 million partnership with Google and Motorola to launch 1871 FEMTech, an organization designed to fund 10 to 15 women-owned tech start-ups this year. The couple are devoted to improving opportunities in their hometown of Chicago, particularly with regard to increasing the number of women in the tech field.

Anna Palmer and Christine Rizk, CEOs and Founders of Fashion Project. Taking their cue from brick and mortar stores, Palmer and Rizk created an online opportunity for shoppers to find high-end fashion resales and give to charities at the same time. Site visitors can both donate their old clothes and shop for “new” finds.

Study Shows a Way to Double Charitable Donations

Cupped hands holding coins

A recent study shows which part of a charity receives donation money can affect the amount donated.
Image: Shutterstock

New research published today has come up with a way to potentially double charitable giving.

In a study appearing in Science, University of California San Diego researchers, led by Uri Gneezy, determined that assuring potential donors that their contributions would not go to charity overhead costs increased the amount of donations.

The idea, Gneezy suggests, is to reassure donors that their contributions are going directly to the cause versus more general operating expenses.

The study focused on two unspecified charities, each starting with $10,000. The researchers randomly solicited 40,000 Americans for donations. Some of these letters promised none of the donations would go toward overhead, while others focused on matching donations or existing seed money. The dollar-matching letters brought in $12,210, while the overhead-free letters brought in $23,120.

Gneezy suggests those giving to charity want to feel they are directly affecting the causes they care about, rather than paying for background support.

It doesn’t seem to be the overhead itself has a negative effect on donors: a previous study showed that the percentage of overhead didn’t deter donors—they just didn’t want to have to pay toward it themselves.

However, Gneezy and associates warn that absolutely no support of overhead could be detrimental to charities even if they are receiving more donations for other areas. After all, basic operating costs are what charities have to deal with day to day to keep doing the work they do, and without financial support, they can’t accomplish their missions.

One solution might be to separate donations for overhead costs from donations that go directly to the cause. Charity: Water does this, letting private donors cover overhead costs while other donations go to clean water projects. However, in order to make this work, a charity would have to line up some dedicated private donors willing to entirely fund the overhead costs while others get to be in the spotlight.

A Wine Program that Gives Back

A cat walks across a counter near a wine bottle

One Hope Wine donates a portion of each purchase to charity.
Image: OneHopeWine.com

ONEHOPE Wine has been around for a few years and is a wine version of a social entrepreneurship community. With winter headed our way, what better way to entertain than to host a wine-tasting party that benefits the charity of your choice?

ONEHOPE has always donated a portion of each purchase to charity, but the company’s Hope at Home program is especially unique in that it will allow you and your guests to choose a charity to sponsor that is close to your heart. That charity will then receive donations from any bottles you purchase.

The idea for ONEHOPE came to Jake Kloberdanz after a close friend of his had a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis. Kloberdanz wanted to launch his own venture in order to give back to causes like this. “I had thought about the idea of building a brand that all-year-round was making an impact,” says Kloberdanz of his efforts to create a charitable program that gives back all the time, and not just during brief campaigns.

Starting with just $10k in the bank in 2007, ONEHOPE Wine received national distribution and sold over 100k cases. Soon after, ONEHOPE signed on with Whole Foods and partnered with well-known winery Robert Mondavi Jr. “There were eight of us and we all came from Gallo Winery, which is a distributor of wines here in Los Angeles,” ONEHOPE Wine president and co-founder Tom Leahy tells Samaritanmag from his office.

Now American Airlines offers ONEHOPE customers who are traveling onboard transcontinental or Hawaii flights can sip a glass of wine for a good cause. Offering ONEHOPE wines inflight allows American Airlines to bring people together for three worthy causes, while at the same time, providing our customers with the finest wine possible,” said John Tiliacos, Managing Director – Onboard Products. With so many major companies like American Airlines and Whole Foods offering selections of ONEHOPE Wine, it has been able to give more than $1 million to its partner nonprofits.

So grab some friends, taste some wine, and give back to a good cause. Every bottle makes an impact.

5 Creative Ways Businesses Can Give Back

Close up of business suit with red heart in lapel pocket

Here are 5 ways to encourage philanthropy in a business setting.
Image: Shutterstock

It sometimes can be hard to find a way to give back, especially for start up businesses that are just getting off the ground. Even in structured work environments, we all get sucked into our day-to-day responsibilities. Below are five unique ways your business can give back.

Lead by Example with the Top Execs. If the top execs at a company are showing their involvement in the community and encouraging their workers to come to future opportunities, it is likely some will. It can be a great team building and networking activity for a business.

Sponsor a Local Charity Event. If your company sponsors a local charity event, your team will get involved with supporting the organization of the event or maybe any initiatives to market it. This is a good way to bring value to charity organizations without asking your employees to front money.

Make Philanthropy a Part of the Company Culture. There are many ways to make giving back a part of your organization. A couple options are giving employees a full day each quarter of company time to volunteer for an organization of their choice or allowing them to create partnerships with local nonprofits to donate time every month or quarter.

Give out an Annual Grant Stipend. If you give your employees money to use for philanthropy, they will likely feel obligated to put it to good use. This encourages employees to get involved without fronting their own money and researching areas they would like to be involved in.

Provide Incentives for Employees to get involved. There are many incentives that a lot of people will get involved for. Maybe it’s a day off for every $100 donated, or every $15 you donate to a charity, you get a business casual week. Make it fun, and don’t be afraid to get a little creative!

Teaching Your Children to Give Back

A child's hands holding a black and white heart

The holiday season is a great time to teach kids about the gift of giving.
Image: Shutterstock

With the holidays just around the corner, many of us have gift-giving and family time on the mind. That also is followed usually with overeating and over-shopping. However, there is a positive side to the season that doesn’t involve overindulging:  It’s an opportunity to give back to the community and start teaching the children in your life the importance of charitable giving.

As a parent, you have an obligation to teach your kids about more than just wanting. It’s a habit you can instill year round, but you can start with the holidays as a base point. By doing so, you are helping the future world along with your children. Giving can be shown to help raise self-esteem, develop social skills, foster an introduction to the greater world, and encourage kids to appreciate and recognize their own lifestyle.

Start simply. If you strip your kids of all the money they’ve ever earned or force them to volunteer for an entire day, they will burn out quickly. The more realistic the act, the easier it is for them to do. Maybe start by having them send a card to a friend or go through the closet for cleanup and to donate to charity. Help them see these acts in a new light of helping out.

Let them choose their own causes, too; don’t push them to donate to the American Heart Association just because you do. If they find it more interesting and are connected to the cause, they will be more interested and understand it better.

Incorporate giving into activities they enjoy, like birthdays or playtime. There are many ways to do this. It can be as simple as each birthday they choose one gift to donate to a local children’s hospital. Or even have each kid at arts and crafts create “giving certificates” where they promise to help out in volunteering some way.

Have you started teaching your children about how to give back? How did you begin instilling charitable values?



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