Nonprofit

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Helps Raise $340,000 for Trans Youth via Twitch

In a recent Twitch livestream, the newly elected Democratic congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez helped raise over $340,000 for trans youth in partnership with a streamer popular on the platform. One might not immediately think of a congressperson in the same thought as a livestream platform known to host gaming content, but it gives insight into what the future of American politics holds. The newly elected Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t been wasting any time modernizing her party- in addition to the livestream fundraiser, the representative from New York has also been holding social media boot camps for legacy Democrats.

While Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has risen to almost ubiquitous prominence as of late, you might be less familiar with Twitch. Twitch.tv is the current place for gamers who want to join thousands of people all over the world who broadcast themselves playing their favorite games or even just talking. Streamers can monetize their output, and some including the most notable example, ‘Ninja,’ have gone on to earn millions of dollars in ad revenue and gifts from their subscribers. The platform as of recent has been expanding into fundraising for nonprofits.

Harry Brewis is a rising star of the Twitch platform, and like many streamers dedicates certain broadcasts and their proceeds to benefit charity. So when outrage over government funding a UK based organization that supports Transgender youth called Mermaids led to that funding being withdrawn, he realized he could use his fame to make things right. Little did he know that his play-thru of the Nintendo classic Donkey Kong 64 would not only generate well over $300,000 for the organization, it would also have a special visitor.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and her time on the broadcast just went to show how in touch she is with her constituents. During her time there she conversed with Brewis about the importance of fighting trans discrimination and how it stands as a driving force behind income inequality. She stressed the importance of his work and the difference he was making and made effective use of her fame and ability to intelligently connect with her community without becoming overbearing or trying to take the focus off of the work Brewis was doing.

She even spent some time chatting with the broadcaster and her fellow viewers about the N64 platform, as well as sharing that one of her favorite games on the platform was Pokemon Snap!. It was remarked that she was friendly, conversational, and genuinely engaged with the community in a way that other politicians just haven’t been able to match.

The importance of Ocasio-Cortez’s work and her ability to connect to the community cannot be understated, and it’s a primary reason that so many of her opponents are nervous. From the moment she took office she’s been under fire for her youth, enthusiasm, and free spirit. These same traits, combined with her competence, charisma, and unrelenting drive to fight for her cause, are what make her a force to be reckoned with, and one that the people on the hill are utterly unprepared to manage.

You can learn more about Mermaids here.

Inside 350.org and Why They Rise for Climate

Most people know 350 as the worldwide climate action network that has sparked a generation of environmental activism. It’s the organization behind the People’s Climate March, Exxon Knew, and Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice. Every year, its influence grows as hundreds of thousands of people across the globe join in on its actions and show up for its chapter meetings. 350 not only networks people together at the grassroots level, but connects fellow climate change activist groups and unites them for major conglomerate projects and demonstrations. It helps smaller organizations make big changes together. There may not be a more significant presence in climate change activism than 350.

What many people don’t realize is that 350 is relatively young. Ten years ago, it was the infant brainchild of a famous author and a handful of young recent college graduates. It was dedication, hard work, and a commitment to social organizing that brought 350 to where it is today.

Starting a Movement

Bill McKibben was an active environmentalist long before he founded 350. In 1989, he’d become famous for his first book, The End Of Nature, which introduced millions of readers to the concept of climate change. In 2006, he led the “Step It Up” campaign, which included nationwide protests and his own personal walk across the state of Vermont. The enthusiasm that grew out of this action was momentous. Step It Up expanded, and in 2008, changed its name to 350.

Bill was the face and focal point for the young organization, but without a small group of dedicated Middlebury College alumni, 350 would never have become a reality. According to McKibben, who was a scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College at the time, the recent grads took his ideas and turned them into a revolution. Step It Up had surprised everyone with the range of its success; now it transformed into a policy and grassroots organizing engine prepared to withstand the challenges ahead. The group’s new name referenced 350’s mission to reduce atmospheric carbon levels to 350 parts per million, the maximum safe level according to NASA scientist James Hansen. 

The founding group included May Boeve, who is still the executive director of 350, and Jamie Henn, who remains strategic communications director. The nonprofit’s success drew help like a magnet as people who had sought a focal point for climate action joined in spades. Bill McKibben’s appearance on The Colbert Report in 2009 caused the group’s popularity to rocket, and with awareness came support. Today, 350’s board of directors includes Naomi Klein, bestselling author of This Changes Everything. Hundreds of thousands of people participate in 350 climate actions in the over 188 countries where 350 is active.

350 is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. CharityNavigator.org, which tracks the honesty of nonprofit groups and rates them according to transparency, gives 350 its highest score for accountability and conscientious use of funds. In fact, 84.9% of 350’s funding goes to “program expenses,” meaning the services, activities, and actions that 350 uses to make a difference in the world. It’s entirely supported by donations and gifts, and its revenue in 2016 was around $13.7 million. As director, May Boeve gets a little less than $100,000 per year in compensation. That’s a little low for someone running a global nonprofit - the president of Earthjustice nets more than three times that per year - and 350’s financial footprint is fairly light for a group that makes such a large splash. This efficiency is a credit to 350’s adherence to its ideals and the enthusiasm of the volunteer community that has rallied around it.

Part of the reason that 350 has become such a success is that it leverages technology very well. Online marketing is one of its principle strategies, and that strategy has paid off in a huge way. The people who started 350 were young and tech-savvy, willing to leverage social media and aware of the power of digital connection. That awareness has translated into a global network of partners and volunteers that has given 350 an amount of influence disproportionate for a company with less than 200 official employees. 

A distributed organization

350 has one clear, overarching mission: reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million. This is the maximum safe limit for atmospheric carbon, as stated by NASA’s James Hansen in 2008. It’s a big goal, especially considering the fact that our air currently contains over 400 parts per million of carbon. That’s why 350 has broken this huge task down into smaller ones and distributed its mission across a network of chapters, also called “nodes.”

While 350’s headquarters is located in Brooklyn, New York, globally distributed regional action networks tie these nodes together and coordinate them. For example, you could become a member of a 350 node near your home in Lowell, Massachusetts, and that node will specifically work on issues pertaining to your city. However, it’ll answer to the statewide network, 350 Mass, in order to coordinate widespread actions and get guidance. 350 Mass will, in turn answer to the parent 350 organization.

Having a chapter setup gives 350 the flexibility to organize at the grassroots, local level even as it pressures governments worldwide to take action against carbon pollution. It can coordinate actions across the world by empowering local chapters, and it regularly partners with local organizations to build solidarity and make local actions more effective. For example, the mass action known as Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice took place in early September of 2018. 350 and several partner organizations like Sierra Club and the Climate Reality Project united to make this massive action possible. Though there were over 900 separate actions worldwide, they took place in a coordinated way. That meant that a rally in Joliet, Illinois, which was attended by about 500 people, supported an action far bigger than the Chicago area alone could have generated. It wasn’t just a 350 movement, either, but a joint effort with the People’s Climate Movement, the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, and even the local United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers union. Participants had a chance not just to support a global cause, but to build a stronger network on the ground. 

The chapter setup also allows 350 to put a known face on climate politics. Residents of Chicago might have been a little ruffled if a large lobbying agency rolled into town and engineered a demonstration, but when the demonstration is organized and attended by earnest Chicago-based volunteers, the message becomes more powerful. The people protesting at Joliet weren’t outsiders. They were neighbors, friends, and constituents, and they cared about Chicago’s future in a world that faces climate change. 

How 350 makes a difference

The scale of climate change is too big and varied to attack without a plan. There are too many different sectors of society tied up in fossil fuel. 350 deals with this problem by separating its mission into bite-sized chunks, and then into individual projects.

For example, one of 350’s goals is to fight the creation of new fossil fuel infrastructure. This includes shipping, processing, and distribution networks for crude oil. The Keystone Pipeline System, completed in 2010, is exactly the kind of infrastructure that 350 tries to impede. In 2012, 350 made the final construction phase of the Keystone Pipeline System a focal point of its protests. To this day, 350 and its partners have managed to delay construction of the Keystone XL pipeline using legal red tape and mass protest. The mission is to reduce greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, the strategy is to fight fossil fuel infrastructure, and the immediate project is stopping the Keystone XL pipeline. So far, this atomized method of addressing a big, complicated problem is proving very effective.

Stronger together

350 has used the divide-and-conquer strategy to cover a lot of ground so far. That said, one of its big advantages is that it actively connects dozens of other activist organizations and helps them to organize amongst one another. For example, 350’s Go Fossil Free divestment campaign, which began in 2012, actively partners with People & Planet, which is a student-based social and environmental justice group based in the U.K. 

Whether 350 starts a project, such as Go Fossil Free, or gets involved with an existing project, like the People’s Climate March, it puts a lot of energy toward networking activist groups together. Not only does this strategy get more people involved in protests and demonstrations, but it pulls in experts who might have relevant experience. 350 doesn’t have to be the most experienced organization, and it doesn’t have to be the best organization for a specific job. All it has to be is the best organization for building partnerships. Lending assistance to other groups can be much more powerful than running a campaign solo from start to finish. 

350 even partners outside of environmental circles, forging alliances with the famous U.K. newspaper The Guardian and The United Church of Christ. In many cases, it opts to stand up for other social justice issues, like police brutality, in order to build cohesion with other progressive groups. Not only is this simply the right thing to do, but it generates a very positive image for environmental activism. People who care about other progressive issues are more likely to see 350 and its volunteers as helpful allies whose actions are worth attending.

Educating new activists

Some of 350’s best organizational partners are made up of familiar faces. For example, the Divestment Student Network is made up of activists whom 350 trained at a Fossil Free Fellowship workshop in 2013. Since then, 350 has logged over $5 trillion divested from educational and municipal pension funds, much of it with DSN’s help, and victories continue to accumulate. In 2017, New York City and State committed to divest. One of the big reasons that this happened was because 350 has been so generous with information. The more activists it can train, the more likely it is that it will accomplish its goals.

That’s why 350 offers free online trainings. Right now, there are eight of these videos, which the 350 website refers to as “skill-ups,” that cover having productive climate conversations and grassroots campaigning for beginners. The average length of each video is thirty minutes. 

The 350 trainings website includes a ton of other resources, including exercises for in-person group training facilitators and free handouts for meetings. At in-person events, such as the Global Climate Action Summit, 350 nodes might also hold in-person workshops, such as the free personal divestment class that 350 Silicon Valley presented with Santa Clara University in September 2018.

Marches, protests, and demonstrations

Of all its activities, 350 is probably most famous for its demonstrations. These are often partnership events along the lines of the Rise for Climate march in Joliet. (If 350 is good at one thing, it’s sharing credit!) Their protests are always peaceful and organized. The Rise for Climate movement even saw participation in Antarctica

350 encourages other mass action, too. For example, divestment efforts have translated into small-scale bank account closures and protests. By educating people about environmental topics, 350 empowers them to make changes in their own lives too. 

Whether actions are large or small in scale, one of their chief functions is PR. 350 makes sure that during and after every event, the world knows what happened. Showing that people are willing to upset their routine to march or protest is one of the most powerful ways to communicate how serious an issue climate change is. By publicizing marches and activities, 350 also turns itself into a news source for climate action, not only for itself, but for its partners too. Twitter is one of the most important venues for this activity.

Political action

As an organization, 350 takes a multifaceted approach to change. On one hand, protest and public demonstration is an important part of its toolkit. Getting people into the streets with signs and chants - or getting them to stake out politicians’ offices - shows policymakers and non-activists that the climate is a serious, present issue that people care about. Grassroots campaigns are 350’s bread and butter.

However, 350 also follows up the public side of these campaigns with political action that’s not as flashy, but also gets results. In fact, 350 currently employs a policy director, Jason Kowalski, whose job is to discuss 350’s goals with lawmakers and political influencers. Jason also attended Middlebury College, and he was involved in the original Step It Up campaign in 2007, so he’s been in the 350 family for over a decade. 

According to OpenSecrets.org, 350 also spends some money on political campaigns, helping to finance the election of Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts and spending nearly $100,000 to campaign against Donald Trump’s election in 2016. However, compared to other influential political organizations, their involvement in the political process is small. In 2018, Exxon alone spent over $1 million on its preferred political candidates.

Opposition

It’s no secret that change is hard. Sometimes, it sends you to jail. 350 founder Bill McKibben has been arrested several times, once outside of a gas station where he stood to protest during the #ExxonKnew campaign.  At Keystone XL protests outside of the White House, which 350 helped to organize, dozens of protesters left in handcuffs

These are high-profile situations that make splashy news headlines. However, the greatest opposition that 350 faces exists in political and social structures that resist a shift away from fossil fuel. That’s why every battle that 350 fights is an uphill one, from getting anti-fracking measures on the ballot in California to stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline from being built across Native lands. 

Successes

All of this effort has paid off in a big way. Not only has 350’s work helped municipalities and colleges divest over $6 trillion in fossil fuel assets, but that divestment has, according to Shell’s 2018 annual report, seriously threatened the oil giant’s bottom line. It’s quite a coincidence that on December 3, 2018, Shell bowed to investor pressure and tied executive salary to short-term greenhouse gas reductions!

350’s efforts to stop fracking have also borne fruit. The state of Paraná in Brazil finally banned the practice in 2016, and 350’s efforts in Uruguay have stalled fracking activities near the Guaraní Aquifer. Efforts to halt fracking in California continue.

One of 350’s biggest triumphs happened in 2015, when the Obama administration cited climate change as a reason to stop construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. For a moment, everyone who had worked for years to prevent this environmental disaster from going forward celebrated. Then, a year later, the Presidential administration changed. The Trump administration restarted its efforts to build the Keystone XL, leading to the ongoing legal battle in which 350 is still engaged today.

However, even when it has to endure setbacks, 350 sees its popular support rising. The annual People’s Climate March, for which 350 partners with a large number of other environmental organizations, saw over 200,000 participants in Washington, D.C. alone in 2017. In 2015, parts of the Philippines started to ban the construction of new power plants thanks to 350’s efforts, and that trend continues today. Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice saw tens of thousands of people worldwide march in the name of a green future. Although there are still huge challenges ahead, it’s clear that 350 has hit a cultural and political nerve. 

Where it’s going

The fight against climate change has only just begun. Even now, when the effects of fossil fuels on the natural world are easily visible, the political resistance to action against climate change is both well-funded and entrenched. 350 has a lot more work to do if it’s going to get our atmospheric carbon levels down to a safe level again.

Every year, this organization pushes its mission a little further. Every year sees a few more pension plans divested and a few more fracking operations made illegal. As the battle over the Keystone XL Pipeline rages on, 350 and its partners Bold Nebraska and the Indigenous Environmental Network cooperate to build solar arrays directly in the path of the proposed oil transit corridor. 

Just ten years into its existence, 350 is showing the world that you don’t need to be rich or powerful to make a difference in something that matters. Progress can happen anywhere, especially if done together with others.

Rise for Climate was a worldwide climate movement that took place over 7 continents, in 95 countries, with 900+ actions that took place on September 8, 2018. It was co-organized by several organizations including 350, Climate Reality Project, In Kind, People’s Action, Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club, Sunrise Movement, and World Wildlife Fund.

You can learn more about 350 or donate to them here. You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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.

How to Help the Victims of Hurricane Florence

The hurricane season of 2018 has officially started. As Hurricane Florence strengthens and begins to make landfall on the east coast of the United States, one million people have been warned to evacuate their homes and seek safety. The Category 4 hurricane is expected to affect 300 miles of coastline, has caused four states to declare states of emergency, and is expected to last from Friday into Monday.

According to analytics firm CoreLogic, Hurricane Florence could cause $170 billion in damages for the East Coast and damage 759,000 homes and businesses. To put that into context, last year’s Hurricane Harvey caused $125 billion in damages and crippled Houston and the other parts of Texas that it reached.

FEMA and other government agencies are preparing to respond to the disaster, but as with all national tragedies, there are numerous nonprofits and support groups that are readying themselves to support the communities that are affected by Hurricane Florence.

To assist those who want to donate or support the Hurricane Florence relief effort, Charity Navigator has compiled a list of organizations to give to. Below is a list of a few, but to find the full group of listings, click through to Charity Navigator’s website.

Global Giving

Global Giving has set up a dedicated Hurricane Florence fund. They are a nonprofit that connects donors with grassroots projects around the world.

Donate Here

Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina

The Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina is a food bank that serves the community that will be directly impacted by Hurricane Florence.

Donate Here

Harvest Hope Food Bank

Harvest Hope Food Bank is another food bank that directly serves a community that will be impacted by Hurricane Florence.

Donate Here

Charleston Animal Society

Charleston Animal Society is a no kill shelter that houses and rehabilitates animals, they are located directly in Hurricane Florence’s path.

Donate Here

RideAustin: The Nonprofit Rideshare App That Gives Back

Rideshare programs are popping up all over America, allowing drivers to make some extra cash from their vehicle, and giving passengers a new option for travel. These companies are both international, national, and regional. RideAustin is one such company. Based in Austin, Texas, allows Austinites to choose from background checked drivers, and even female drivers if they also happen to be female. It is a popular app unique to the area.

Where companies like Uber and Lyft entered the Austin market with company standards that did not meet those of the city of Austin's, RideAustin is a non-profit organization that was created due to Lyft and Uber choosing to leave the area. Lyft and Uber did not want to have to fingerprint their drivers, a piece of legislation local to the area that was passed when the concept of ridesharing was just getting started. The sudden loss of rideshare programs left a transportation gulf for both riders and drivers alike. Over 10,000 people who used the services were left without any way to get rides. RideAustin became the solution in the wake of Lyft and Uber leaving.

Now those who prefer to grab a ride through the rideshare program have another reason to choose RideAustin. Riders can choose to round up their fare to the nearest dollar, with the money benefiting the charity of their choice every time they ride.

Source:  RideAustin

Source: RideAustin

The charities available to choose from include options from Central Texas Food Bank, who's "mission is to nourish hungry people and lead the community in the fight against hunger," to the Texas Autism Society, which "is the nation's leading grassroots autism organization working to increase public awareness for those with Autism, advocate for appropriate services and provide information on treatment, research, and education."

In total, RideAustin has been able to donate over $250,000 just through the few extra pennies collected by charitable riders every time they ride. 

The company was a totally collaborative effort- built by the community, for the community. The app itself was donated by the tech field, and over 7 million dollars raised by the community and through various grants in order to bring it into existence. Because this rideshare non-profit was created with the community in mind, the Charity RoundUp option was built directly into the company, so riders could start offering a few extra cents to charity from the very beginning.

RideAustin also has several other community based projects in the works that also aim to aid those most in need in Austin. In a collaboration with the CCC (Community Care Collaborative) and the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas, RideAustin will pick patients up and help them get to their important medical appointments for free.

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Even though Uber and Lyft are now returning to the area after the fingerprinting legislation was over turned, but they may not find the area as welcoming as it used to be. Not only do people fall into habits, but Austinites love their local app, and with other companies such as Fare having moved into the area as well since Uber and Lyft left, there may not be as many drivers or riders available for these companies. Especially since neither of those larger rideshare companies offer the ability to give back while getting where you need to go.

RiseAustin was born out of necessity, but has grown into something that the big rideshare companies could learn from. Uber and Lyft are often discredited for not taking their impact on the markets that they operate in into account, with Uber taking the majority of that criticism. Since RideAustin was made for the community that it serves, by the community that it serves- while also giving riders the opportunity to give back to that same community, RideAustin has become a model company that, while familiar to those in Austin, should be taken note of across the rideshare economy.

You can learn more about RideAustin on their website.

Girls Who Code: Bringing Women Back to Technology

Right now, the United States is suffering from a huge computing crisis. It's not a virus or a new technology, but simply a lack of skilled coders. Right now there are 500,000 computer science jobs open, but only 40,000 graduates to fill them. With coding and other jobs in the computer field becoming more important to businesses everywhere, that gap is only widening. One of the reasons? Half of our future generation is being ignored as potential people to fill the gap.

Men vastly outnumber women in the computer science field, and a common answer to this problem is that it starts with the educational system. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in 2015, women accounted for only 18% of all computer science degrees earned for that year, and even less for women of color. This is reflected in the job market where, according to the Observer, women in tech represent only 25% of computing jobs- while also earning less of a salary than their male counterparts 63% of the time.

Some people even argue that women will never be a major part of the sciences, not from anything people are doing, but due to personality differences in men vs. women. Their arguments, however, are false and don't measure up to studies. This can be shown not only in paper, but in countries outside the US. In India, half of the students in computer science classes are female, and they perform just as well in examinations.

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Despite the conflicts on the gender gap, the fact is jobs need filling, and women weren't being catered to. At least until Reshma Saujani founded Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization that reaches out to girls and organizes workshops for them to learn computer programming. These workshops can also be hosted by community organizers and leaders that register an independent workshop through the Girls Who Code website. These workshops can even be found throughout the US in all 50 states.

Girls Who Code focuses on computer clubs, for children as young as third grade, and has both camps and summer program for kids 6th grade through 12th grade. Their efforts have been highly effective. Those who complete the program often go on to graduate in computer science, at a rate of 15 times the national average. 

Their success is so great, they are projecting to help close the gender gap by 2027. Girls Who Code has already helped 90,000 girls, and continues to help more every day. Their efforts have been especially beneficial to minorities that are underrepresented in technology, such as black and Latina women, and low-income girls that may not have the same opportunities available to them. By choosing a computer science degree, they choose a better life for themselves, by helping to diversify tech or by ending the cycle of poverty. 

“...what we are doing is preparing students to be able to tackle STEM [science, technology, engineering and math]-related fields and to feel relatively comfortable with it as the technology changes and the workforce changes.” -Tracy Gray, the Managing Director of the American Institutes for Research

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Bootcamps and workshops like the ones that Girls Who Code put on are not only important now because of the amount of job openings, but are also important for the future. As the work force becomes more and more digital, with more traditional jobs being phased out due to forces like automation and artificial intelligence, teaching girls and women to code better prepares them for the future of work- a future where coding will be table stakes for many jobs.

When women get jobs in technology and even out the gender differences in companies, those companies also go on to preform better. According to a study reported by Forbes, "tech companies with a higher proportion of women employees, especially in leadership roles, perform better - both financially and in terms of creativity and innovation."

Even if girls can't find a good coding job, the odds are good they have a strong future in the tech industry—but only if they have the qualifications to apply. Girls Who Code still has a great deal of work to do. There are thousands of girls to be reached. Without programs like this one, they can slip through the cracks, and miss out on a career they might find themselves enjoying.

We Are Still In: Standing By the Paris Climate Agreement

In 2015, the Paris Climate Agreement became one of the biggest moments in our fight against climate change. Countries all over the world made an agreement to reduce their greenhouse gases and to commit themselves to the fight against climate change. Since then many of them have made great progress in their goals, with some countries going so far as planning to reach their goals ahead of schedule. In the daunting face of climate change, the Paris Climate Agreement symbolized and manifested the world coming together to working towards finding a solution to environmental cirisis and hope for the fture.

Unfortunately, President Donald Trump pulled the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, and left many US citizens feeling embarrassed. It seemed like it would be yet another blow to the United State's position as a forward thinking nation, but citizens decided to take action. In a startling reversal of the president's words, they sent a powerful message back to the world: “We Are Still In!”

That message has since spread from the war cry of a few scattered businesses and states, to a national movement encompassing almost 2,000 businesses, 10 states, 272 cities or counties, and 9 tribes. All total, these people represent more than half of all Americans. 

Those who want to be part of the social movement can sign up at the “We Are Still In” website. There, they can make an agreement for their state, business, or other body of people, to keep to the agreements set in the climate agreement.

Many of the organizations that have done so have already seen success in their goals. As an example Minnesota, the first and so far only midwest state to join the movement, is already making great strides toward their goals. They officially joined the movement in 2017, but have been working on the clean energy sector for over a decade now. They set a goal of 50% renewable energy by 2030, and are already half way to their goal.

Walmart, one of the largest retail chains in the nation, has also joined the agreement. Most of their carbon footprint doesn't come from their own stores, but from the supply chain they get their products from. In an effort to be more sustainable, they are challenging the suppliers that fill their shelves to help them remove up to one gigaton of greenhouse gases from being created in the next 15 years. This is a huge goal, and a great one. 

Their plan is backed by trying to figure out scientific ways to reduce their emissions, and through their influence have already convinced several suppliers to not only reduce their impact, but have inspired a few to go as far as going completely carbon neutral.

These efforts are just two examples of many thousands of groups who are each striving in their own way to meet the Paris Climate Agreement. These states, companies, and organizations have realized how important climate change is, and are taking steps toward changing the future of the planet to be a better one. With rising ocean levels making it a reality for entire countries to disappear in the next few years, the timing of these efforts has never been more critical.

As more and more Americans sign on to this agreement, we can hope that our efforts will help change the future. The United States might be “out” of the Paris Agreement, but as for the people, “We are still in!”

You can learn more about We Are Still In at their website, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

$20M Raised To Help Reunite Families Separated at US Border

In a heart wrenching 8 minute audio heard around the world, the sound of children screaming and crying for their families shattered all barriers in the political world. Their sobs and begging were heard by everyone from President Donald Trump, all the way down to US citizens simply scrolling through their Facebook newsfeed.

Charlotte and Dave Willner, a couple who work in Silicon Valley, were just as moved as the rest of the world when they saw a photo capturing the essence of the terror of these children. In the photo, a toddler screams as her mother is arrested and taken away. The face struck home for the couple, because the child looks very much like their own daughter when she is terrified.

They decided to create a Facebook fundraiser to help a single immigrant family reunite with their child. The Willners set the goal amount as $1,500, which they hoped would be enough to pay the bail for one family. The couple felt they had a pretty good chance of meeting the goal with 1,700 friends each on Facebook. What happened next took their breath away.

Source:  CNBC

Source: CNBC

Within just a few days of starting the fundraiser, they had managed to raise more than 5 million dollars. It has become the largest fundraising campaign on Facebook. While there have been some big donations, including from Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg, the average donation is just $40. They come from citizens who also have seen and heard their own children crying, and responded. People have donated from every single state, Puerto Rico, and even other countries.

All of the money is going to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) based in Texas. RAICES provides lawyers for children and their families, and pays the bonds for those who are currently in jail. The fundraiser couldn't have come at a better time for them. Just a few months ago, they were forced to make the announcement that RAICES would be taking on no new cases due to cuts in government funding. (They still had enough funding to continue old cases.) The money lost totaled $300,000. Their total annual budget is usually under 7,000,000.

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Now, thanks to the 20 million dollars raised, they have enough to help every single family currently caught up in the immigration crisis. They are not only hiring on more lawyers, they are also seeking out psychologists and pediatricians to help treat the PTSD no doubt present in the children from this traumatic event.

On top of the donations, RAICES has also been inundated with offers for volunteer work. People all over the globe are offering to fly to Texas to help give them the support they need. When it has largely been just one admin and the rest lawyers, this is welcome help for the non-profit.

Charlotte and Dave Willner will continue to keep the fundraiser open for as long as there is interest in the campaign. The entire amount raised will be released to RAICES by Facebook some time in mid-July. If you would like to donate, you can do so here.

What You Can Still Do To Help Puerto Rico

Less than one year ago, Puerto Rico was hit with the biggest storm it has seen in over 80 years. Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico dead on, taking as many as 4,600 lives. Over a third of all homes were destroyed, and the damages done to utilities created the largest blackout in all of U.S. History.

While things have gotten better for the people of Puerto Rico, there is still a great deal that needs to be done. 16% of homes and businesses are still, 9 months later, without power. Those who are lucky enough to have running water and electricity, are struggling to pay bills due to the hesitance of tourists to return to the island. 

The struggle of day to day life is taking its toll on the people who make this beautiful island their home, and the road to recovery is still a very long one. Luckily for Puerto Ricans, you can still help aid them in the recovery process with the help of Google. Right now, Google is matching up to $2,000,000 in donations, made to the Puerto Rican charities they have selected. The list of approved charities include:

 

Mercy Corps

A nonprofit that goes a step beyond emergency aid. Mercy corps invests in small business and focus on long term solutions. Their work is highly praised for its accountability and efficiency.

 

Hispanic Federation

A nonprofit focusing on more immediate, emergency relief. The Hispanic Federation has been handling donation drives on the U.S. Mainland, as well as providing emergency food, water, and solar panels to residents on the island.

These two charities have an amazing track record, and have been working hard in Puerto Rico for the last 9 months to try and improve things. Donations made will be passed on to one of these two charities  through Network for Good, a donor advised fund. 100% of your donation will go to these charities, along with the matching funds by Google up to the two million dollar limit.

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With so much devastation still present in Puerto Rico, it is important to remember the people who are still living this reality on a daily basis. Power, food, and water are things that should be accessible to all human beings. With the hurricane season almost here again, getting repairs done is all the more critical to keep the loss of life down to a minimum.

This donation drive isn't the only thing Google has done to help Puerto Rico. When Hurricane Maria first hit, Google raised $1,500,000 to assist, and since then have sent teams of their own employees who have close ties to Puerto Rico to help restore businesses. 

This fund raising drive will run June 8th-20th. With your help, Puerto Rico will continue to get the aid it needs to recover from the devastating hurricane that took so many lives and over 90 billion dollars in damages. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of the people who have been struggling to get by for the last 9 months, and help them get back a sense of normalcy.

To donate, click here.

In Kind Photography Contest - National Parks

We're glad to announce that we will now be holding periodic photography contests centered around themes that will be coupled with nonprofit fundraisers! Our first contest will be themed around the National Parks system and will be raising funds for the National Park Foundation.

To apply, send us a message through our Facebook page or at contact@inkind.life with your photograph that was taken by you in a National Park, along with some information about you and your entry!

Prizes:

  • 1st place: $50 Amazon Gift Card

  • 2nd place: $25 Amazon Gift Card

  • 3rd place: $15 Amazon Gift Card

Deadline for entry is July 7, 2018. Finalists will be announced Sunday July 8th in a photo album posted on our Facebook page, with winners being announced July 15th.

Winners and finalists will be featured in a photo essay on our website, and will have the option to have their work link to their online presence. Gift cards will be sent through email.

 

 

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