Archive for the ‘Giving Money’ Category

What’s Next for Me is What’s Next for Philanthropy

January 2, 2012

I’ve been advising people about their philanthropy for over a decade. In person and through this blog I’ve always encouraged them to go beyond giving money to charity and think about all the assets they can bring to the table, and how they can especially use their power as investors and consumers to bring about the changes they want to see in the world.

Philanthropy as we have known it for the past few decades has been about giving money. But as we progress in the 21st century, I believe it will be about spending money: people are becoming more aware every day that we are shaping ourselves and the world around us by voting with our pocketbooks everyday.

The evidence is everywhere:

  • The exploding local food and “slow food” movements, rejecting the agro-industrial complex in favor of healing the economic, environmental and social health of our communities;
  • The growing fair trade movement, which provides fair wages and working conditions for workers and prevents the exploitation that often accompanies the production of cheap goods for consumption in the US;
  • The call echoing out from Occupy Wall Street for conscientious citizens to move their money from big commercial banks to local community banks, personified in the Move Your Money campaign;
  • The surveys that show that consumers want to purchase from socially responsible companies;
  • The growing voices of Millennials looking to work for socially responsible companies, or better yet, that want to start their own;
  • The expanding corps of investment advisers who specialize in “socially responsible investing” or “impact investing” a market estimated to grow to over $500 Billion in invested assets in the next 5 to 10 years;
  • The rise of services like Moxy Vote, which help you vote your values on any shareholder resolutions that come before companies whose stocks are in your investment portfolio

In addition to these trends, maybe you have heard the term “collaborative consumption,” which is being used to describe an emerging approach to people and their stuff–an approach based on borrowing, renting, sharing and accessing rather than owning outright. Early examples include Netflix for DVDs, car sharing services such as ZipCar or iGo, and more recently the peer to peer travel booking site Airbnb, and for designer gowns, Rent the Runway.

I’m so drawn to the concept of collaborative consumption, I am excited to tell you that I have launched my own social enterprise, one that applies the concept of collaborative consumption to an industry out of control: parenting.

Good Karma Clothing for Kids is a subscription baby clothing service that provides busy, socially conscious parents with like-new baby clothes in sizes newborn through 24 months so they don’t have to spend a fortune keeping up with fast growing little bodies.

We send a bundle in the size the baby is now, they wear, wash, enjoy, then send them back in the prepaid, reusable shipping bag when they need to exchange them for the next size up. We only use environmentally- and baby-friendly Selestial Soap to further reduce the environmental impact of the clothing, and we turn stained, ripped or worn out clothes into “upcycled” hand-made bibs, baby quilts or stuffed animals.

Our web site is live and we are now in our public beta. Check it out at www.goodkarma.co

Respect the Bird This Holiday Season

November 21, 2011

This week marks the beginning of the traditional holiday shopping season, starting with “Black Friday” the day after Thanksgiving. This year, Black Friday is spilling over onto Thanksgiving, with more stores open at midnight and some even opening for Black Friday on Thanksgiving night!

One Target employee, aggravated with his family day of thanks cut short, started a petition on Change.org to pressure Target (and presumably other big national chains) to allow employees to truly have a day off:

“A midnight opening robs the hourly and in-store salary workers of time off with their families on Thanksgiving Day.  By opening the doors at midnight, Target is requiring team members to be in the store by 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. A full holiday with family is not just for the elite of this nation — all Americans should be able to break bread with loved ones and get a good night’s rest on Thanksgiving!

“Join me in calling for Target retail stores to push back their original opening time of 5am on Black Friday.”

One of the signers of the petition, Deborah Schwartz of Hoboken, NJ, gives her reasoning for adding her name:

I’m so tired of turning on the news the Monday after Black Friday and having to hear about how much money the big retailers did or didn’t make. As if that’s the point of our year-end holidays. I’m tired of Christmas being promoted BEFORE Halloween. I’m sick and tired of these attempts to brainwash us into thinking Christmas is about how much money we spend. Every American has the right to spend Thanksgiving with their families…

When using my Allrecipes.com app on my smartphone, I ran across another grassroots effort to keep Thanksgiving as a non-commercial holiday called “Respect the Bird”:

Respect the Bird supporters have a mission. They are determined to ruffle feathers as much as possible and restore Thanksgiving to its rightful place as a meaningful, respected American holiday, not one that’s merely a one-day delicious afterthought between Halloween and Christmas. Tapping into its original roots—thankfulness, a celebration of friendships, family, and gifts from the earth—Respect the Bird supporters want to create a Thanksgiving experience extending beyond meal planning. It is, after all, one of the treasured holidays that’s not about spending.

“I hope it sets a precedence that the holiday be celebrated by sharing thanks and good food with friends and family, not Black Friday shopping!” – Doug Matthews, Allrecipes.com Community Member and Leader of the Respect the Bird movement

If you would like to take the pledge to Respect the Bird, head over to the blog or like them on Facebook.

If you’re tired of the commercialization of the holidays, here are a few alternatives.

  1. Wait until Small Business Saturday. I’ve written before about the movement to support small, local businesses. By paying perhaps a little more for aspirin at a local pharmacy instead of a national chain, you leave more money in the community where you live, in the form of wages, sales tax and the community involvement that many small businesses engage in. As an extension of this effort, this year the Saturday after Thanksgiving has been designated as “Small Business Saturday.” You can find out more here, or take the pledge to Shop Small or find retailers in your zip code here.  “If millions of Americans shop small, it will be huge.”
  2. Give a Charitable Gift Certificate. A new survey from the Red Cross shows that 79% of respondents agreed that “they would rather have a charitable donation in their honor than get a gift they won’t use.” So you make the donation but let them pick the recipient. JustGive is an online web site that allows you to purchase charity gift certificates. you pick the amount and receive a ncie card to present to the recient. they go online and pick which charity they would like to receive the money. On Cyber Monday (Nov. 28th), JustGive is waiving their usual fees and the service is free. Great alternative to stocking stuffers and dust collectors.
  3. Join or Form a “Cash Mob.” Take Small Business Saturday right through the end of the year. On NPR this weekend I heard a story about a “cash mob” and was absolutely intrigued. According to this press release,”Cash mob plans to gather on specific days at 6:00 at a predetermined location and target a store in the area.  It must be locally owned, have products for both men and women and have parking.  The store must be civic minded.  Armed with at least $20 each, the “mob” will make purchases at the assigned location in a show of support for their neighborhood businesses.” What? Awesome. I’m thinking of organizing a cash mob in Mount Prospect, IL, where I live. How fun would it be to do your holiday shopping–especially the “hostess gifts, teacher gifts, people who bought you something and you need something to give them back gifts”–through this whimsical approach. Facebook seems perfect to organize this…

What other ideas do you have that are an alternative to commercial holiday celebrations? How do you keep your priorities straight during the frenzied consumer free-for-all that is December? Do share.

Update on the Shopping Cart Brigade

July 8, 2011

I happy to tell you that the Shopping Cart Brigade was a great success during this year’s Fourth of July parade in Mt. Prospect, IL. We collected 100 bags of food, and $200 in donations during the 2-mile parade.

A volunteer fills my cart with canned goods collected from the crowd

We had a lot of fun pushing our carts and doing our three choreographed moves following our “drum major” Pat Leniux:

Our 2nd choregraphed moved, a "follow the leader" down the two columns

Audrey was one of two sweet little girls collecting cash donations, who could resist this?

"Thanks for helping to feed the hungry"

Afterward, as my own notes to my fellow “Crazy Shopping Cart Crew” focused on the fun I had, my deacon John Lorbach brought us back to why we did this in the first place:

“And although we had lots of fun, I cannot help but picture in my mind all the young Moms who will be able to call their little ones to the table for supper, along with everyone else who will have the opportunity to  enjoy a meal, because of you.  We shall never know them but may we be forever in communion with them!”

Amen!

Deacon John Lorbach at the head of the Shopping Cart Brigade

A big thanks to Mariano’s Fresh Market for letting us use their shopping carts, to Rich and Debbie Russo for sending the pictures (see Rich to the right of Deacon John above), and especially to Jan Saillard and Pat Leniux for organizing the whole thing on behalf of St. Raymond’s and St. Mark’s. Our family is already looking forward to next year’s parade!

The Shopping Cart Brigade

June 30, 2011

This Monday during the Mt. Prospect, Illinois 4th of July parade, instead of watching from the sidelines and catching candy thrown at us by politicians and police officers, my mother, my daughter and I will be walking in the parade and collecting food from the people we pass. We are part of the St. Raymond’s/St. Mark’s “Shopping Cart Brigade.”

My mom and I will be pushing a shopping cart down the street as part of the group, and we’ll be performing simple, choreographed routines with the carts to entertain people. But we’ll also be using the carts to collect canned goods, and my daughter will be among the “runners” who grab cans and cash donations from onlookers. All the food and donations will be delivered to the Mount Prospect Food Pantry after the parade.

This fun idea looked like a great opportunity for me to do something charitable with my daughter, who is seven and loves to help. We’re all looking forward to doing something together that benefits the community.

If you’re in Mt. Prospect, please bring some canned goods and a few bucks to support our local food pantry.

And if you live anywhere else, please borrow this idea for your next hometown parade!

How to Evaluate a Charitable Organization

June 26, 2011

In 2010, I heard Bill Schambra give a keynote address at the International Association of Advisors in Philanthropy annual conference in Chicago.  Bill is the director of the Hudson Institute’s Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal, and I would classify him as conservative, ideological and anti-establishment.

Whether you agree with his politics or not, though, I thought he had some helpful guidance for going to visit organizations in person. Because great philanthropists know that you can’t get a read on whether someone is doing really fantastic work in the community just by reading a glossy report or attending a conference. You have to see them in action.

When you go visit an organization–whether as a volunteer, or a potential donor, or in some other role, here are a few things Bill suggests you look for:

1) The best leaders are busy, there is lots of activity around the organization, they are always expanding.

2) The neighborhood shows the best organizations tangible respect. There is no graffiti or vandalism on the buildings. People on the street acknowledge staff and know them.

3) In turn, the organization respects the neighborhood. The leadership lives there, they know the neighborhood well. They don’t refer to the people they work with as “clients.”

4) Beneficiaries help run the program.

5) The organization embodies stewardship without looking at the books. They use all their resources to the best of their ability, stretching them, being efficient as possible. Everything is appreciated and acknowledged.

6) There’s not a PowerPoint, but people they have saved. That is how they tell their story.

7) The funding pitch is implicit: “You’ve seen the fruits of our efforts. Now either help us, or don’t.”

8) “We’ll be doing this whether you give us money or not.” Look for those who were there before the money showed up.

9) Ask the people you are trying to help: where do you turn in times of crisis? (It’s better if you look like them when you do this, or are with someone who does.)

For other ideas on how to evaluate charities, see my previous post on this topic and feel free to share your own insights about what you look for in a great organization.

Reclaiming My 9/11 Birthday: 10th Anniversary of the Attacks is on 9/11/11

June 21, 2011

I’ve written before about how my birthday is on 9/11, a day which has come to be synonymous with an attack on our country–and the fear, terror and protectionism that attack triggered.

But as much as 9/11 brought out some of the worst in American ideology (anti-immigration, anti-Muslim sentiments and “preventive war,” among other bits of ugliness), it also brought out the best in Americans–helping neighbors, a renewed spirit of civic duty and a calling to public service.

In an effort to highlight the best of the American spirit, I believe we need to set aside 9/11 as a special day to serve our neighbors and reflect the best of our country.

Chicago Half Marathon Logo

Today I am beginning my 12-week training program to culminate in running the Chicago half-marathon on 9/11/11. While this is a meaningful goal for me personally (I currently can run only about 1.5 miles before stopping to walk a while), it’s also a community event: I’m running to benefit an organization that I am dedicated to, The Cara Program.

I hope you’ll join me. In fact, to make this more of a community event, I’ve started up a challenge using the Nike+ platform.  For every person who joins my challenge at Nike+ and completes a half-marathon on 9/11, I’ll donate $1 to charity (max $1500), split 50/50 between The Cara Program and the Chicago-based charity of a participant.

So join the effort to “Reclaim 9/11,” you can start training today and be ready to run 13 miles on 9/11, 12 weeks from now. And if you click here and join my challenge and leave a comment with the name of your charity and why you support them, you could raise up to $750 for the charity of your choice.

Spread the word to all the runners you know–you don’t have to be physically in Chicago or at the Chicago half-marathon to participate. You can run anywhere in the world as long as you upload your run to Nike+.

Or, start now to plan your own way to Reclaim 9/11. As Nike might say, “Just do SOMETHING”

(Thanks for asking! You can pledge to support my half-marathon run for the Cara Program here)

Advice for Donors to Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute

April 26, 2011

I’ve had a lot of people asking what I think about the recent allegations against Greg Mortenson about falsified stories in his best-selling books Three Cups of Tea and Stones Into Schools, and gross mismanagement of charitable funds donated to the Central Asia Institute. What follows is purely my own opinion, but so many people have focused on whether the allegations are true or not, and I thought I would contribute some thoughts on what to DO about it.

If you haven’t followed the controversy, I’d rather not get into it here. Feel free to

In short, there are clear management challenges, at the very least.

So what’s a donor to do?

If you believe in the work being done by the Central Asia Institute, I encourage you to be patient and wait for the dust to settle. A lot more ink will be spilled before this is over and it’s hard to say what will shake out. But in any case, before donating to the Central Asia Institute again, I would want to see the following steps taken by the organization:

  1. A new CEO hired that takes over the “business” of running a $20 million/year charity while Greg pursues the mission. This is for two reasons: one, Greg has admitted that he lacks organizational skills (and even his most ardent supporters agree) and he needs someone supporting him who demonstrates those skills; and two, it shows that the board is taking these allegations seriously and that they are trying to build an organization that is larger than any one man.
  2. Additional board members appointed who can provide greater oversight and accountability. Again, this would show that the organization is taking this seriously and is dedicated to good governance. Also, the existing board members seem to lack experience in some key areas of nonprofit management. Their response so far has been defending the mission but they need to do a “mea culpa” on some of these governance and management issues if they are going to retain any credibility.
  3. Audited financials every year. A charity this large should absolutely be getting an audit every year for sure.
  4. A clear travel expense policy put into place that would govern the use of charitable funds in the field. This seems to have been handled very casually, but needs to be tightened up.
  5. A copy of the attorney’s report showing they did not engage in “excess benefit” transactions with Greg. They apparently had their attorneys investigate this issue and the attorneys found no excess benefit. Great, let us see this report. I am especially curious about this one because the charity has made statements that there was no excess benefit because CAI benefits from the speaking/book tours more than Greg does. I believe this is an inaccurate explanation of excess benefit, which does not compare the benefits accrued to the individual versus the benefits accrued to the charity, but rather compares to benefits accrued to an individual versus what is considered “reasonable.” See this explanation of excess benefit transactions especially written for non-lawyers like me.
  6. If CAI feels that Greg’s speaking appearances are a critical part of fulfilling its mission and a fantastic fundraising tool, I can understand that position (I bet a lot of organizations that raise $20 million spend $1.7 million or more in fundraising costs). However, in that case they need to adopt a new policy that all speaking fees and proceeds from events surrounding Greg and CAI are paid directly to the CAI, and Greg’s compensation comes in the form of a salary from CAI. If they need to increase his salary to be more commensurate with his value to the organization, so be it.

In conclusion, I think it’s worth pointing out that all of these suggestions merely constitute good governance. They are nothing unusual, and most charities of any significant size would already have policies and practices like this in place. To all donors, I can only reiterate that before giving to a “good cause”, you should investigate whether the program or organization in question also represents good practice.

P.S. I can’t help but wonder if some of this book tour accounting nonsense was an attempt to keep his salary artificially low as an unintended consequence of watchdog and donor insistence on low salaries at nonprofits. I can imagine supporters thinking Greg deserved to earn more for all his contributions and deciding it would be “only fair” for him to keep more proceeds from his book tour which wouldn’t raise alarms as compensation on the charity’s tax return. This organization, after all, received a 4-star rating for its financials from Charity Navigator, which speaks volumes to the limitations of ratios and, if I’m right, the perverted incentives that this rating system sets up.

Help for Families Facing Medical Crisis: For-Profit or Non-Profit?

March 17, 2011

I’ve spent most of the last week in the hospital with my five-year old son, Charlie. He’s going to be okay, he had a relatively rare complication from Strep throat that moved into a lymph node at the base of his skull, killing it and creating a major infection in the soft tissue. The treatment is 14 days of intensive antibiotics. First that was delivered at the hospital so they could keep an eye on him and make sure he was improving, and now he’s got a PICC line (a long-term IV inserted under his upper arm) to allow me to deliver doses of antibiotics every eight hours at home. I’m writing this at 10:30 at night while I wait for 11pm, when his next 30-minute infusion of antibiotics needs to start.

This caused me to reflect on my own good fortune, and to finally get around to telling you about a resource for folks without the same good fortune.

In short, I feel extremely grateful to have good health insurance. That means that when the ER doc ordered a spinal tap to check for meningitis, an X-ray to check for pneumonia, and then two CT scans–first for the sinuses and then for the neck–I was only thinking of Charlie’s health and not the incredible expense of all these tests. When they checked him in to the hospital for a few days, I was likewise only thinking of what Charlie needed to get better. And now, our family finances will not be ruined by ongoing sky-high medical bills.

The Burden of Medical Bills

According to Harvard researchers, 62% of all bankruptcies were caused by health problems and associated medical bills. The majority of those folks had health insurance, and yet their average costs are over $20,000. According to the researchers quoted in this article, most middle class families–even those with health insurance–are “just one serious illness away from bankruptcy.”

GiveForward Helps Families Facing Medical Crises

There is a relatively young start-up company that has already helped individuals facing medical crises to raise over $3.8 million for medical bills and other causes. This Chicago-based social enterprise, called GiveForward, is not a non-profit. It is a sustainable for-profit business with a social mission baked into every aspect of its operations.

Here’s how it works: individuals set up a fundraising page at GiveForward. Then they start publicizing it to their friends through the integrated social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter. Their friends can donate via credit card to their campaign. When the campaign reaches its pre-determined end date, GiveForward sends them a check, minus the 7% fee (that would be the sustainable part–see below for what the fee covers).

I should be clear here that these “donations” are not tax-deductible to the donors. It’s not a nonprofit collecting donations on behalf of individuals. It’s a for-profit intermediary that has simplified the process for anyone to establish a fundraising page for any cause.

One potential concern is that GiveForward does not actively verify any of the fundraisers using its platform, however “any suspect or questionable projects are asked to provide more information and will be removed and funds returned if an investigation brings us to question the legitimacy of any fundraiser.” So probably best to give only to causes and people you know in real life.

Comparing the For-Profit and Nonprofit Versions of This Idea

I wrote a few years about The Lighthouse Community, a nonprofit that actively verifies the medical issue the beneficiary is facing. TLC similarly sets up web page for all of their “clients” which allow individuals to share their stories and allows supporters to make a donation to help cover the medical costs in question. TLC obviously has a higher standard of due diligence, and it has the advantage that contributions are in fact donations to a non-profit and therefore tax-deductible to the donor.

In 2009 TLC passed through $100,000 in donations and spent about $54,000 on its own administration. It seemed to have an operating deficit of $20,000 (meaning it spent $20,000 more than it raised). Clearly, they are operating on a shoestring and doing an amazing thing with very limited resources. (Note that TLC raises funds separately to cover its operating expenses, so donations for individual beneficiaries are also passed through minus about 7%, per their page on Guidestar.)

But GiveForward has a much lower barrier to entry for individuals and families already facing an avalanche of paperwork. And most donors are not motivated by the tax deduction available for helping a friend or family member with medical bills. So one might argue GiveForward has streamlined and simplified the process while removing as much risk as possible. And while TLC raised $38,000 for its own operations in 2009, GiveForward recently received a $500K investment and is expanding rapidly. It has already facilitated almost $4 million in transactions, which would mean it also earned revenue of $267,000 if it collected 7% of that amount.

If I did need to raise money for medical bills, I think I would set up a page on GiveForward rather than TLC. And GiveForward is poised to expand awareness of its services with this huge investment that will allow them to improve their technology and to reach many more potential fundraisers by advertising and partnering with referral sources including cancer charities, major hospitals and, of course, successful fundraisers who tell their friends.

In all, the for-profit structure has brought great benefits to GiveForward, which has allowed it to ultimately accomplish the social mission–getting money to families who need it to pay for major medical bills.

However, families will have to evaluate the two different organizations and decide for themselves which is right for them. I would welcome the comments of anyone who evaluated both organizations and made a decision one way or the other to help guide other families as to the pros and cons of each. What have I missed? What else you would like to know?

About That Fee

Fee details from GiveForward: “This fee covers all credit card and bank processing fees (usually around 2.6% depending on your credit card) as well as GiveForward fees.  The GiveForward fees cover basic overhead; from maintenance of the site so we have the most up-to-date security software to protect the privacy of our users to the cost of sending out the final payment to the beneficiary.”

A Good Cause is Not the Same as a Good Program

February 22, 2011

Dan Pallotta’s recent column for Harvard Business Review calling on charities to start treating their donors as intelligent adults made me want to stand up and cheer. And in rising up to meet his challenge, I am here to tell you a hard truth. That truth is: most of you are doing a terrible job picking charities to receive your hard-earned money and carry the torch of your ideals.

As a person who makes social change their full-time profession, I am often frustrated that big-hearted individuals hear about the mission of a charity and say “isn’t that a wonderful charity?”

Let me be clear: it is impossible to know whether a charity is good or bad, wasteful or efficient, simply by reading its mission statement. Why do I say this?

First, because I know that a mission statement is a statement of intentions, not a statement of accomplishments. A “good cause” is not the same thing as a “good program.” And we all have good intentions but the inconvenient truth in social change work is that Good Intentions Are Not Enough.

Think of the well-meaning missionaries whose desire to “save” children from post-earthquake Haiti almost resulted in loving parents and their children being permanently separated.

Or the recent effort by World Vision to send 100,000 misprinted Super Bowl champion t-shirts to people in the third world, improving their own overhead ratios by claiming the value of these gifts-in-kind as program expenses, while in reality sending goods that are readily available even to poor people in the target geographies, widely accepted by the aid community as having the effect of undermining local businesses and creating a culture of dependency, and otherwise causing harm to the very communities they purport to help.

Or consider the Battered Mother’s Resource Fund that never actually implemented any programs it was fundraising for and potentially scared women away from seeking help by falsely claiming that many shelters separate mothers from their children. It was also proposing a children’s ranch that experts said would do great psychological harm to kids if it were ever built. Despite the fact that it was ordered to shut down by the Attorney General, this organizations still has a profile on Change.org, with 30 well-intentioned supporters. I bet those supporters read the mission statement and said “that’s a worthy cause.”

You know, they’re right: it IS a worthy cause. But it’s not a worthwhile program. This idea that different women’s shelters  are doing radically different things, some of which might be actually harmful to women, is something we don’t often consider. But the same thing is true for all kinds of charities.

Some jobs programs help people spiff up their resumes and place them in dead end jobs. Others provide holistic training to prepare them for a lifetime of success in a new career. Sadly, some don’t even know what results they’re getting because they are too busy playing with allocation of costs to make their “overhead ratio” as low as possible.

As a person with good intentions, what can you do? You can pick an issue, and learn about it.  In fact, I insist on it. Don’t give to any organization that asks just because it’s a “good cause.” Don’ t give thinking “What’s the harm? What’s the worst that could happen?”  If you know nothing about that cause, that issue, that organization, you can be actually doing harm, as the examples above illustrate. Withholding your donation when you don’t know what you’re doing is as important a moral act as giving when asked.

The father of a childhood friend of mine used to say “Don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out.”

Happy Generosity Day!

February 14, 2011

Don’t feel bad if you bought a Hallmark card today. You’ve been conditioned your whole life to think of Valentine’s Day as a day to buy things in order to express your affection.

But maybe you’re starting to catch on to the false kind of love that is packaged and commodified by corporations. So let’s “reboot” Valentine’s Day as Generosity Day. I’ll let my friend Sasha Dichter, originator of this idea, explain:

“This Monday, Valentine’s Day, is going to be rebooted as Generosity Day: one day of sharing love with everyone, of being generous to everyone, to see how it feels and to practice saying “Yes.” Let’s make the day about love, action and human connection–because we can do better than smarmy greeting cards, overpriced roses, and stressed-out couples trying to create romantic meals on the fly.”

Sasha’s entire post, including suggestions for how to be generous today, can be found here.

And because love don’t cost a thing, I particularly urge you to be generous with your attention. Notice what’s going on around you, and give someone a genuine complement or words of encouragement. Really listen to the people who want to talk about their day without thinking about what you’re going to say next. If you’re in a conversation where you disagree with the other person, really try to understand where they are coming from and why they believe the things they do.

The sweet irony, of course, is that the more we are generous in giving of ourselves to others, the more we benefit and learn and grow as a human being.

And if you, like Sasha, want to extend this experiment because you like the way it feels, I encourage you to join the 29-Day Giving Challenge, where you will give a gift every day for 29 days. If you’re feeling down about life or love, moving outside of yourself by focusing on all the ways you can help others is guaranteed to lift your spirits.


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