Charity

Amazon Donates to Charity When You Shop Through Smile

The holiday season is the busiest time for shoppers, and that uptick in sales can be seen everywhere from local small businesses to online giant like Amazon. For charities, the season of giving is also an opportunity to raise much needed revenue for their causes as the year ends. The shopping giant Amazon now allows you to give back to your favorite charities while getting your holiday shopping done by using Amazon Smile.

The program, Amazon Smile allows you to make a donation to your favorite charity simply by shopping through their Amazon Smile portal. Every product you purchase through the portal will result in a 0.5% donation to the charity of your choice. There is no spending limit, and donations are automatic as long as the purchase was made through Amazon Smile. As of writing, the program has raised $105,515,619.04 in total for all of the nonprofits that are in the program.

Shopping through the portal does not cost you anything additional. The prices for the products in the portal are exactly the same as the prices on their main website. The only difference is the donation. It's a simple, non-obstructive way to give back to others while purchasing what you otherwise already would have.

Amazon Smile also showcases a selection of charities for given categories if you need help choosing which cause to support, which is helpful because millions of nonprofits are able to be donated to via Smile. They also organize nonprofits into categories like In addition, you are able to search the charities by location to see if there are any organizations helping your local area.

While 0.5% may not seem like a lot of money, it can make all the difference, especially for smaller charities. In some cases, that little bit could make the difference between life and death. Angie Gunter, who is on the board of directors for the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA had this to say:

Source:  Amazon

Source: Amazon

“Every little bit we get is… they're lifesavers. I mean, it's literally life-saving gifts, so every dime counts. It's the time of giving. This is the time of the year where people open up their hearts and their wallets typically and they want to give, and I can't think of better a way to give then to your favorite charity.” 

It's a rare chance to have the ability to make a difference without spending a penny out of your own pocket, but Amazon Smiles lets do that. Every time you make the purchases you had already planned to make anyway through the portal, Amazon will add that .5% to that charity’s tally and write them a check when they routinely pay out.

In the aggregate, with the help of millions of other Amazon customers, your donations can save the lives of shelter pets in need, feed the hungry, fight cancer, save the planet, or anything else you might want to support. What ever cause is nearest to you can receive the benefits of these donations.

Unfortunately, there is one down side. Since the money for the donations aren't coming out of your pocket, the donations are not tax deductible.Charities can also ask to be removed from the program, and have to be in good standing with the IRS to be eligible to participate.

All in all, bookmarking smile.amazon.com in your browser instead of going directly to amazon.com is a completely simple task that any Amazon shopper (you don’t even need Prime!) can do that, depending on their purchasing behavior, can have immediate and bountiful positive effects on a nonprofit or cause that they support. The benefits cost you nothing since they come out of Amazon’s pocket, and the program is worth your consideration.

You can learn more about Amazon Smile here.

Facebook Is Matching Donations Made on Their Platform This Giving Tuesday

The holidays are a time for giving, and this year Facebook is helping your gifts mean just a little bit more. On #GivingTuesday, November 27th starting at 8AM, you can start a fundraiser or donate to the charity of your choice. On this day, Facebook and PayPal will match donations by users up to $7,000,000 or the time reaches 11:59PM.

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That is $5,000,000 more than last years donation match of $2,000,000, and thanks to the global nature of Facebook and Paypal, that means donations can be sent to even the smallest of charities based in your very own community.

On November 27th, 5 days after Black Friday, generous users have just one day in order to double their donations for the cause that matters most to them. As with most donation matches, there are a few catches. Donations can only be made to US-based 501(c)(3) nonprofits, and those nonprofits have to be able to receive their funds through Facebook. There is also a cap of 250k per nonprofit, and 20k per donor for the match.

Now is one of the best times to give after the recent disasters that have been felt all over the world. The wildfires that have left over 10,000 people without homes, hurricane Michael that did over 14 billion in damage, as well as mudslides and flooding all over the states.

Giving Tuesday has a long history, starting in 2012. The 92nd street Y and the United Nations Foundation decided to hold the event as a response to the consumerism seen on Black Friday and Thanksgiving. The annual tradition that is supposed to mark how much we have to be thankful for has been overblown in many ways by the sales that have leaked from Black Friday onto Thanksgiving itself.

These two founders decided the Tuesday after Black Friday would be the chance for people to give back to the world, and to show the true spirit of the holidays. Their efforts were a big success, and now Giving Tuesday raises hundreds of millions every year for charity.

While giving money is the main way to donate, the Giving Tuesday foundation also encourages you to donate time and goods to local charities, and even has a convenient search bar where you can find local charities to volunteer at.

For most of us, time is something we can little afford to give, but we can afford to drop a couple dollars into a fundraiser when we're clicking around on Facebook—and thanks to the generosity of Facebook and Paypal, even a small donation of a few dollars will be doubled if you do it on Giving Tuesday.

You can also help spread the word about Giving Tuesday by using their hashtag, #GivingTuesday and sharing it on social media. Together we can make a difference, and help charities all over the US have a brighter and merrier holiday. This Tuesday, mark your calendar so you can kick off the giving season with double the impact, thanks to the generosity of Facebook.

Amazon's Founder Announces New $2 Billion Charity Fund

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has announced the creation of a new philanthropic fund. The Day One Fund, which got its name from Jeff Bezos treating every day like it is 'Day One' of running Amazon, will focus on two separate areas. One portion of the fund will go to helping homeless families, and the other to preschool education for underprivileged children.

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The funds are in response to criticism from people who feel that the richest man on Earth should put some of his billions toward helping others. Although Jeff Bezos has donated money to charity before, his philanthropic efforts had fallen short of others such as Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. Jeff Bezos listened to these critics, and asked for suggestions on what direction to go with his money from followers on Twitter. In June, he announced that he'd made a decision, and would reveal that choice by the end of summer. He fulfilled that promise, by revealing the Day One fund on September 13th.

The fund will be launched with 2 billion dollars, divided between two areas. The first part of the fund, called the Day 1 Family Fund, will focus on providing money to charities that assist the homeless. This includes annual leadership awards for charities that go above and beyond to make a change in the world, such as the shelter, “Mary's Place” in Seattle, who made it their goal to ensure no child sleeps outside. Bezos mentions that Mary's Place was the inspiration for this fund in his Twitter announcement.

The other half of the fund, known as the Day 1 Academy fund, will be directed toward creating Montessori style preschools in underprivileged areas, with full ride scholarships available. Montessori education allows learning through guided play, and uses the child's own interest to help develop their mind. It is one of the biggest gifts to ever be given to preschools.

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It isn't yet known how far along the Day One Fund is towards completion, or when the fund will be officially launched. 

This announcement comes with mixed reactions from the public. While some people praise him for his philanthropic effort, others criticize him because he has given so little compared to his huge fortune. According to David Callahan, the founder of a website called Inside Philanthropy, focusing on philanthropic efforts later in life is fairly normal.

"With big fortunes like that, the only thing you can really do is give it away -- unless you want the government to take half of it through estate tax,” Callahan stated recently.

This statement has been proven true with the very same people Bezos is being compared against. Bill and Melinda Gates did not focus on their charity until after they had stepped away from the business, and many others did not begin donating until much later in life. At 54, Bezos is just on time to join the mega givers, and is a welcome first step in his philanthropic efforts.

Action Hunger: A Welcome Step in the Fight Against Homelessness

Homelessness is a pervasive problem that effects everyone, and happens in every single country. Millions of people are forced to sleep out on the streets, where they endure treatment that should never be allowed with our fellow human beings. Spikes are put up to discourage them from finding places to sleep, and everywhere the homeless go, they are asked to go “away.” The unfortunate truth is, there is no away.

Dozens of charities have been created to help those who are homeless. They offer food, shelter, resources, and help in truly resolving the issue by preparing the homeless to find permanent shelter. While these amazing charities are doing a great job of assisting homeless, they can only go so far. Action Hunger's goal is to help fill in the gaps that even the best charity can leave out, by offering the homeless free vending machines with the items they most desperately need.

While it may not seem like much to a person with a roof over their head, free sanitary supplies, socks, fresh fruit, and other indispensable items can make a big difference to those going without. As an added benefit, items from these vending machines can only be gained with a key card, both insuring that the items go to the people they are intended for, and also that those who need it are checking in with the services meant to help them. 

Most of the fresh food items in the vending machine are foods that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill, effectively combating both the hunger of the homeless and food waste at the same time.

Source:  Action Hunger

Action Hunger strives to provide comfort and help to England's most vulnerable people, while at the same time complimenting other charities. The vending machine is designed to allow only 3 items to be taken per day, insuring that those who use them are not completely dependent on them. Since working with professionals and checking in regularly is considered the key to breaking the cycle of homelessness, making these vending machines dependent on seeing those professionals may help get them off the streets.

Homelessness has become more and more pervasive over the years. Funding for affordable housing has been cut, and the prices of rent and mortgages have skyrocketed, making rough sleeping the only option for many people. On top of that, the reaction of many cities isn't to provide help for those who need it, but to make homelessness a crime. This has resulted in desperate people with no where to go, and no other option but to keep walking. 

Action Hunger is an amazing charity that gives care and attention to the people who need it most. The homeless are often cast out by society, and are too often turned away rather than giving them the help they need. Thanks to Action Hunger and the many charities working hand in hand with them, there is hope that the cycle can be broken. 

Image Source: Action Hunger

 

Amazon's Latest Competitor: The Salvation Army?

The Salvation Army has just announced a grocery brand under the name DMG Foods by inaugurating their first location in Baltimore, MD. The charity is calling it, "The Salvation Army's first nonprofit grocery store," and is planning on opening future stores in underserved communities that are sometimes referred to as "food deserts."

According to their website the store is, "Named after The Salvation Army’s branding promise of doing the most good, DMG Foods aims to expand the food availability for the community while also meeting the immediate needs of our customers." The location is 7,000 square feet, and by partnering with the Maryland Food Bank, it features some of the amenities that consumers have come to expect- like a rewards program, daily meal solutions, and cooking demonstrations. What sets this grocery store apart though is that since it is operated by The Salvation Army, profits end up going to support programs like ending human trafficking or curing diseases. The nonprofit has been operating under this model with their thrift stores, but this first test store could mark the beginning of a new way for the charity to support communities.

Source:  DMG Foods

Source: DMG Foods

Their goal of opening grocery stores in communities that currently have no access to fresh food or grocery stores is worth noting too. According to The Food Trust, "A 2009 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that 23.5 million people lack access to a supermarket within a mile of their home... And a nationwide analysis found there are 418 rural “food desert” counties where all residents live more than 10 miles from a supermarket or supercenter— this is 20 percent of rural counties." In a city, where someone might not have either a car, access to public transportation, or time to use public transportation- not having a grocery store within a mile is a huge deal, and can mean the difference between having access to fresh food and having to settle for a convenience store that doesn't have as healthy of options. Even in a rural community where cars are more abundant, 10 miles is a long stretch- especially if your car is broken down and you're running out of food.

This gap in access to fresh food takes a toll on an individuals' health, and is a problem that needs to be solved. In that same study, The Food Trust states that, "A multistate study found that people with access to only supermarkets or to supermarkets and grocery stores have the lowest rates of obesity and overweight and those without access to supermarkets have the highest rates... In Chicago and Detroit, residents who live farther from grocery stores than from convenience stores and fast food restaurants have significantly higher rates of premature death from diabetes." This means that the simple fact of not having a grocery store within access to you directly impacts your health negatively, and is something that millions of Americans deal with daily.

Source:  Flickr

Source: Flickr

This comes at a time where the online giant Amazon who bought the high end grocery store chain Whole Foods, has also recently opened a lower cost 365 brand location in New York. While Amazon seems to just trying to occupy a more competitively priced level to compete in the heavily contested grocery marketplace and DMG Foods seems to be trying to alleviate a source of food insecurity in their first test market, it will be interesting to see how these two strategies operate in relation to each other. That is to say that if Amazon continues the path that the current national grocery operators are walking on, or not serving broad swaths of the country, it's hopeful to know that a well resourced organization like the Salvation Army is now attempting to solve a long standing problem. 

The importance of healthy eating has never been more in the public consciousness than now. Michelle Obama writes on the website for her Let's Move campaign, "In the end, as First Lady, this isn't just a policy issue for me. This is a passion. This is my mission. I am determined to work with folks across this country to change the way a generation of kids thinks about food and nutrition." If the former First Lady says that she's that committed to solving this real problem, then that's a phenomenal asset to the cause at large.

While food deserts do exist in America's underserved communities, there has also been a groundswell in information, awareness, and advocacy on the problem. Oscar award winning documentaries about food abound, healthy eating campaigns are happening, people know what kale and quinoa are enough to make jokes about it on late night television. Legislators are beginning to ask questions and submit bills. The Salvation Army is attempting to directly alleviate the problem by opening a new store in Baltimore. These are all great strides that are happening in an effort to bring fresh food to the communities that need them the most.

 

Image source: Flickr

Watch: Drake Gives Away $1 Million in His "God's Plan" Video

For Drake's new music video, his label gave him a budget of $1 million. While that seems like a lot of money for a video, for an artist with the profile of Drake's, production value can begin to add up. It costs a lot to fly people in, have extensive makeup and costuming, get permits cleared- and this is all before stage design, special effects, and post production come into play.

With this in mind, in Drake's new video for "God's Plan," he eschews the over the top productions that we have come to expect from major label artists and the videos that they release, and gives away the budget for the video.

Whether Drake is aiming for a grand statement on the topic of wealth distribution or just spreaking positivity, in a time where those with the most money are gaining more and more (and at a greater pace) than their peers who make less, this is a refreshing gesture- and something that we can all gain something from.

Giving back, paying it forward, donating your time, or even just staying positive and engaging with your community is something that we can all do. Even better still, we can never do those things enough!

Thank you, Drake!

In Kind Spotlight: The Empowerment Plan

The Empowerment Plan is a nonprofit that is located in Detroit, Michigan. The organization was founded by Veronika Scott when she was in a class studying product design, where the class was focused on finding actual needs. Already having noticed a population with needs, the homeless of Detroit, she was inspired to design a coat to help serve that community. It functions as a waterproof coat, sleeping bag, and over the shoulder bag.

Her organization is located in Detroit, manufactures its product in Detroit, and hires employees from the homeless shelters of Detroit. The organization accepts donations, makes the coats, and then distributes them to the homeless.

The Empowerment Plan is an organization that we'd like to shine a light on for the important work that they do to help an underserved population- the homeless.

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