Charity Spotlight: The Children’s Aid Society

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The Children’s Aid Society is a truly impressive program that works to give every child in the New York City public school system an opportunity at success. Children’s Aid knows that children in New York’s lower income neighborhoods are not always given the foundation needed to reach academic success and therefore acquire a top notch career. This great organization offers a number of volunteer opportunities. Volunteers can help out by being a member of the associates council, working on corporate volunteer projects, or working directly with the children and families. This organization thrives largely thanks to the help of its volunteers. Volunteers help young people in New York City schools by mentoring and tutoring in addition to giving clerical assistance and homework help. Here are a few successful stories from the Children’s Aid Society.

Manny Torres is a 22 year old employee at Children’s Aid, who once benefited from the amazing programs when he was younger. He was a participant in two Children’s Aid after-school programs: P.S. 5 and P.S. 152. When he reached the age of 15, Torres was eager to work, so he enrolled in the The Children’s Aid Society’s Summer Youth Employment Program, where he was an assistant facilitator at his former school of P.S. 152. He is now the aquatics director and has gained a number of skills that he intends to use in the future when pursuing his dreams of becoming a physical education teacher.

The Children’s Aid Society also helps children stay on track academically during their summer break. Studies show that many children suffer from summer learning loss. It’s also been shown that young people who live in low-income neighborhoods are more likely to fall behind academically in their summer than their peers in more affluent regions.

At the Children’s Aid summer camp, reading is a key part of  each child’s experience. The biggest celebration of reading is Reading Leaders Day, an event held at the Goodhue Center of Staten Island every August. A number of elected officials and public servants join Children’s Aid to read to the young people and enjoy the festivities. The children enjoy the event immensely. Getting children excited about reading is a key part of getting them on track for success.

Another touching Children’s Aid success story is that of Betty Sanchez. Sanchez arrived in the U.S. from the Dominican Republic ten years ago not speaking a word of English, though she was able to read and understand it. She then found Children’s Aid and joined the adult education program at Salomé Ureña. She enrolled in an English-language learners class and got a part-time job organizing supplies from the adult program. She then began to work for students at the after-school program, the majority of whom spoke Spanish. She is now the data specialist coordinator, part of the Salomé Ureña Campus’ Data Information Outcomes Unit. Sanchez attended Hostos Community College when an opportunity presented itself through a Children’s Aid partner. She earned professional certification in after-school programming, as well as an associate’s degree. She then enrolled at Boricua College where she earned a bachelor’s degree in childhood education and was the only summa cum laude in her class. Betty Sanchez hopes to be an inspiration for other children and parents in her community.

The Children’s Aid Society is making a big difference in many people’s lives. If you want to be a part of this change, get involved with this groundbreaking organization today.

Non Profit ‘Concern Worldwide’ Makes BIG Mistake

Non Profit Quarterly covered the fiasco that occurred in early May, when the crowdsourcing platform Kimbia failed in the midst of a “day of giving,” leaving community foundations and nonprofits all over the country scrambling to save their relationships with donors.

This is absolutely the stuff that a nonprofit executive team’s nightmares are made of: A donor trusts you with their personal financial information, and are made sorry for it.

Concern Worldwide is an international humanitarian organization dedicated to tackling poverty and suffering in the world’s poorest countries, but right now, it’s spending considerable energy on damage control with 25,000 donors after it mistakenly took 100 times the amount supporters had pledged in automatic debit payments from their bank accounts!

Just to be clear about what this might look like, one supporter’s direct debit for May was $1,700, when she had only pledged to donate $17 per month……(yikes)

While Concern Worldwide sent emails to donors warning that the overcharges were forthcoming the damage was done. Presumably understanding that it had just managed to combine two of the financial things many people hate the most—having money taken without authorization and dealing with their bank—Concern Worldwide promised to pay all of the money back and to meet any additional charges its supporters may have been hit with as a direct result of the error.

There was no estimate on how much additional money the mistake will cost Concern if they did cover donors’ banking fees incurred because of the errors. The group also had to communicate that they would not be asking anyone for bank records to issue a refund, as they worried about scammers moving into the aftermath of the incident to prey on donors.

Sadly, the error will have its hardest impact on recurring donors who pledge monthly support rather than make one large donation every year. A real backbone in fundraising, these donors turn over their debit or credit cards to support the organization monthly.

The organization’s UK executive director, Rose Caldwell, said:

We are conducting a full investigation into this matter and want to reassure the public that we are putting robust measures in place to make sure this does not happen again. Without the support of our donors, Concern would not be able to deliver its life-saving humanitarian work to vulnerable people worldwide.

Adaptive Philanthropy

Philanthropy is more than the donation of funds, it’s a giving of self. Large or small, the act of caring for a group, cause, or community requires a great deal of the philanthropist. Determination and focus are the greatest tools when choosing where and how to direct your efforts. Though the task is difficult, the benefits are insurmountable. How can you put a value on changing a life? Where can you buy the satisfaction of helping those in need?

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Looking into your charity of choice is an absolute must, especially when you’re able to give more. Wealth can create a strange rift between donor and recipient, oftentimes leading to expectations where none are welcome. If an organization is attempting to illicit more money than a donor is willing to give, a major red flag is raised. Without proper research, your hard-earned and freely given charity could be utilized for less than reputable means. However, not all causes are fronts for darker dealings. With proper research, a donor can find the heart of an organization, and be sure their goals align.

Real change is made through tireless effort and ceaseless focus. If a donor wants to achieve this, treating philanthropic efforts as a business and less like a hobby is the only way to make it happen. Businesses have drive, goals and direction, something charitable efforts cannot function without. While causal giving is never wrong, a discerning philanthropist needs an ironclad grasp of their funds, and how they’re being allocated to various charitable organizations. Slipshod management of philanthropic efforts will cost time and money that could have been put to positive use.

If philanthropy is to be treated as a business, than its beneficiaries are the customers. Though motivations for selflessly giving vary from person to person, businesses often choose to engage in philanthropic pursuits for some level of positive return. Whether to enhance a public image or bring attention to their brand, by opening a forum for honest feedback and communication, a bridge between parties is established, providing a mutually beneficial middle-ground for discussion.

Adopt the process of adaptive philanthropy. Nothing is immune from the chaos of day-to-day life, and maintaining an outlook that recognizes this inevitability will keep your efforts from falling short of your goals. A clever philanthropist keeps his expectations realistic without overextending his capabilities. Nothing is served by crippling yourself in service of others. And if at all possible, ask for analytics on how your donations are being used. Ensuring the proper houses are receiving the necessary care is why philanthropists undergo such a emotionally powerful and costly venture. After so much legwork has already gone into choosing which charity deserves your efforts, it’d be silly to not continue following your investment.

Giving is so much more than allocating money for a cause. By committing such a selfless act, you silently agree to a promise of a better world. Change is never easy, oftentimes taking several like-minded individuals years of focused effort to affect. But by electing to become one of the few, a philanthropist, one more agent of change joins the fight for a better tomorrow.

Reasons You Should Volunteer

Though many people have busy schedules, especially if you live in New York City, you should always make time to volunteer. Finding something you are passionate toward and helping the people in that specific community will forever change the way you live your life and give you hope for a stronger, kinder future. You’ve probably thought about volunteering in the past, but haven’t quite made the strides to dedicate your time. The time is now – get out there, make a difference! Here are just few of the many reasons why you should volunteer as soon as possible:

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First off, it’s good for your health. This may seem a little selfish when speaking about volunteering, but it’s important for you to recognize the many health benefits that stem from helping others (it’s a two-way street). Not only does volunteering help reduce stress by having you focus on others instead of yourself, it also increases positive emotions in your brain – like optimism and joy, and can help strengthen your immune system.

Volunteering also helps bring people together so you can all experience a sense of community. Regardless of your background or social status, individuals who are passionate for the same subject and are working together toward a common goal are united through philanthropic work. Not only can you meet life-long friends through volunteering, but you also learn the importance of teamwork, a skill that will be used in various fields, consistently throughout your life.

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Furthermore, when a community comes together, it gets stronger. By supporting families through daycare and eldercare, feeding the hungry, improving education, supporting youth programs, and beautifying the community, members are proud to be a part of it, and will become more and more willing to help out other members of their community.

Lastly, when you volunteer, you recognize you can make a difference – even if it’s small. Helping others gives you the opportunity to realize that small things have a great impact on the world around you. You learn to appreciate the power of single individuals working together as a whole, helping the world for the benefit of humanity.

About the UJA-Federation

Jack Ryger UJA Full Building CROP500The UJA-Federation (United Jewish Appeal) is a leading force in the fields of community and philanthropy for the Jewish community in New York.  The UJA-Federation was established more than 90 years ago, and has now pulled together over 55,000 donors to help those in need, along with inspire a passion and commitment to Jewish life in order to strengthen the Jewish community across the globe.

The UJA-Federation works with 100 network beneficiary agencies, synagogues, and various other Jewish establishments to help an astounding 4.5 million people from all around the world. Through hard work and organization, the UJA-Federation is able to carry-out services and provide resources in order to change individual’s lives for the better.

Through this nonprofit organization, volunteers learn the importance of helping those in need from their own city to halfway across the world. The UJA-Federation has helped Holocaust survivors in Kiev by providing meals at community centers, Ethiopian Jews by teaching skills they can use to support their families, and children with disabilities so they feel welcome into their Jewish communities.

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According to the UJA-Federation’s official website, http://www.ujafedny.org/, “Our caring hand extends to those living in poverty, the aging, Holocaust survivors, children and adults with disabilities and special needs, and the unemployed across the economic spectrum. We provide access to crucial human services to all New Yorkers, whoever they are, and Jews everywhere.”

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The three main goals of the UJA-Federation are: to establish a sense of community, especially for those who undergo crises and struggle at various tasks associated with daily living, inspire Jews by teaching them Jewish values and giving them access to high-quality education, and to connect Jews across the world, reminding each other that we are all part of one people.

Ways to Help Local Domestic Violence Shelters

One great branch of community service to get involved with is helping out at a local domestic violence shelter. According to the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Center for Victims of Crime, 25% of women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime – that’s one out of every four women you pass on the street each day. Women are abused in different ways, ranging from financial situations to being abused mentally and physically.

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Unfortunately, it’s very hard for these women to flee their homes and get away from their abuser. But, domestic violence shelters have been set up across the nation for these women to feel safe, and with your help they can get even more of the resources and care that these shelters provide. Here are some ways you can help:

First, donate gift cards. According to an article published by the Pixel Project, “Women many times leave their homes very quickly without packing. All they take with them are their children and the clothes on their back. A great way to assist would be clothing or superstore gift cards…” (16 Ways to Help Your Local Domestic Violence Shelter). With these gift cards, women can buy the right size clothing for themselves and their children, along with getting professional attire to wear to job interviews so they can secure their finances independently.

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Next, volunteer to work at a hotline. Local shelters or even rape crisis centers have hotlines that are in need of volunteers since they are generally open 24/7. Volunteers usually have to go through certain training courses and commit to work a few days per week answering phones, so being willing to do these things even though they can be time consuming is key. Just remember, working for hotlines is extremely rewarding – you can save lives.

Lastly, think about writing a newsletter. Especially if you are a strong writer, using words to assist a local shelter’s quarterly or monthly newsletter can help the shelter out immensely. Writing articles about women’s rights and healthy relationships are two great topics to speak about and may even help women reach out about their own struggles. Keeping people aware and educated of the problem at hand (in this case, abuse) is the most important step towards eliminating it.

If you want to know more ways in which you can help your local domestic violence shelter, please read Pixel Project’s article here, where you can further learn about their previous campaign concerning women’s rights and domestic violence.

Why You Should Join the Peace Corps

After a decline in voluntary membership from 2009 to 2012, the Peace Corps is happy to see a resurgence of eagerness to participate in developing foreign communities.

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The Peace Corps itself can attribute this to a simple tweaking of its application for participation, whereby it allows volunteers to select the country in which they wish to serve. Of course, volunteers without any inclinations can let the organization decide their location for them. Any 18 year old American citizen can pick his destination of choice, even his own country of origin, and begin contributing to the development of health and education programs, environmental sustainability programs, economic programs, etc., thereof.

The Corps is certain many will appreciate the opportunity to go back to their countries of origin and help out, even after leaving for the United States. In its youthful years, the organization was a little less liberal with its offerings, designating locations to applications based on need. The attraction of the modified system is that volunteers can choose locations that offer programs in line with their interests and skills from farming to computer science.

The Corps also encourages volunteers to develop their own clubs and programs with purposes that tend to to a community’s specific needs. In this way, the Corps mimics the college major-minor system, which grants students control over what they study. This lets the Peace Corps better guarantee the education and growth of not only the countries it serves, but the volunteers it hires. There will undoubtedly be far more productive use of talent when it is focused to certain tasks over others.

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The socio-political principles of the Peace Corps are also adapting to today’s climate, a necessary change if the organization is to stand by its mission to promote and stimulate cultural growth. President Barack Obama has requested greater funding for the programs, now upward of $400 million dollars, which will be used to develop more technologically relevant programs, even helping developing countries gain familiarity with social media platforms and developing their own business ideas. Graduate students are also offered scholarship opportunities, and benefits like greater chances of being hired for governmental positions.

If the program’s service isn’t enough of an educational experience on its own, its aftermath advantages should convince the unsure. Students can expect tuition cost defrayment, access to scholarships, and government stipends for their service. What’s more is applicants can also apply to serve as couples given that they provide the appropriate documentation. Both heterosexual and same-sex couples are invited to participate, able to serve as a unit in the same location if they so please. In this day and age, adaptations such as these are pivotal to the continuing success of the organization.

Substitute Teacher Dreams of Starting Non-Profit

Amy Aubrey is a substitute teacher in Elizabethton, Tennessee. In her time working with the district, she has taken note to the high number of children that obviously come from impoverished conditions. Originally, her knee-jerk reaction was to blame the parents for failing to adequately care for their children. However, she has since reevaluated the situation, believing that no one has invested in the lives of the parents thus far either.

According to an article from WCYB News, the statistics for the district indicate that the socioeconomic situation of the town is not in positive condition. However, Aubrey and Candace Patai, principal at Harold McCormick Elementary School, both believe the situation is even more imperative than the figures on finances suggest.  Patai believes the number of children and parents that struggle financially is high and constantly on the rise.  Many of the children’s basic needs aren’t being met, such as clothing and food; the problem is getting worse, not better.

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The Elizabethton community center will raise funds for needy families.

Aubrey, in her experiences in the district, has seen just that.  Seeing the conditions has sprouted a new dream for her; she wishes to start a new nonprofit organization in Elizabethton, entitled Community Center.  The center would help children and families, investing in the help of parents as well as their kids.  Upon hear of the idea, Patai encouraged it, saying that the community really needs a program like the one Aubrey has in mind.

Aubrey has already started putting plans together for the center.  She regularly blogs and sends out a monthly newsletter to update those who support the initiative on her progress.  However, this is a marathon, not a sprint; she knows it will be a long process and she’s already taking it just one step at a time.  She’s already started meeting with business leaders in the hopes of getting some funding, as she knows that nonprofits cost quite a large sum of funds to start.  Aubrey has also started the process of filling out the required paperwork.  With every passing day, she attempts to take slow steps towards become an official nonprofit, in the belief that, even if it fails, if she is able to help one sole family or person, it will be well worth it.

Budget Struggles for Allocations to Nonprofits

The Community Human Services Partnerships is responsible for allocating funds to all of the nonprofits in the Tallahassee area.  However, with every passing year, the funds allocated to the partnership decreases.  According to an article recently completed by the Tallahassee Democrat, this year’s budget is almost two million dollars less than the request issued by the organizations affected by the allocations.  For the 2014-2015 year, 4.3 million dollars have been provided to the Community Human Services Partnership; the original request issued from participating organizations was for just over six million.  The allocated four million dollars will need to be spread between sixty-three nonprofit organizations that work to represent one hundred and one programs.

The number of participating nonprofits and organizations is down from the average, which is approximately seventy agencies who work to represent one hundred twenty programs.  The article speculates that the steady decline in funding provided by the Community Human Services Partnership has forced such severe cutbacks in monetary means that the missing programs and agencies have been forced to fold and close their doors.  Those who have survived have worked to revamp their methods of generating money, as the funding only grows scarcer with every passing year.

Officials for the Tallahassee area are distraught at the news of budget cuts to the nonprofits that loyally serve their community.  In particular, they do not care for the fact that nonprofits are forced to ask for less while the needs of those they serve continue to not be met.  Citizens who volunteered to make the decisions as to which funds from the allocated 4.3 million dollars would go to which organizations feel similarly.  All eighty volunteers visited the sites of the services and experienced detailed presentations on the goals and inner workings of the organizations.  Several were so struck by the work and efforts that the organizations make—despite having very little money to do so—that they were brought to tears.  In general, it was found that, despite having very little money to get by, that which the organizations do have gets selflessly infused back into the community.

Remembering Willie Fliegelman

When I decided to pursue a career in philanthropy, I picked one of the largest social service organizations in the country-UJA-Federation. UJA-Federation represented over 130 social service, religious, and educational agencies in New York, Israel, and around the world . It was my good fortune to work with one of the longtime  directors of the federation, Willie Fliegelman. Willie had originally started in the mail room when he was 17 years old for the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies.

The original federation supported local programs in the New York metropolitan area. The Federation’s counterpart was UJA, which supported Israel and the greater Jewish diaspora . The fundraising year was split into two parts, with the Federation and the UJA alternating events. Willie  gradually moved up the ladder to become- in order- an office clerk, assistant fundraiser, fundraiser, a part of major gifts, and eventually assistant director. He handled various campaigns including community campaigns, trades, and professions. The federation segmented various campaigns. There was a milk division, a bakers division, policeman’s division, tire and automotive division, plate glass , electrical , toy, textile, tobacco and confections, etc. Eventually the Federation and UJA merged and became a powerhouse in fundraising.

Willie hired me as a fundraiser for Long Island’s North shore, or Gold Coast. During the interview process, when Willie asked me about raising funds, I replied, “you run affairs.” Willie quickly responded, “affairs are between people, we run events.”

He explained the nuts and bolts of fundraising developing relationships and event planning. Wille was also very dogmatic and wanted things done in his own inimitable style. When someone deviated from that course, the results were not as optimal. During that time,  we planned hundreds if events. We would obtain an honoree build committees and have events that raised significant funds to support  our agencies.  One chief tool that we employed was a card calling event. We would have a program with a guest speaker. The speaker would make a pitch for contributions. The key was to immediately call people’s names and ask for their pledges. This was done in a room of their peers. It was quite effective, especially when you started out with a major contribution. But times have changed, and you cannot utilize this fundraising tool as expansively as we did in the past .

Willie recently passed away at the age of 84. He is dearly missed for his insight, perseverance, and erudite manners.  Willie Fliegelman left behind a legacy of fundraisers who continue to try and make the world a better place for all.