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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 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 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, 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.

Blogs for Charitable Souls

November 14, 2010

If you read this blog, I figure you must be charitably inclined (and/or my sister–hi, Sandra!). So here are some other resources that people have put together for folks like you. Peruse one or two of these lists and you’re sure to find another voice that you enjoy hearing from.

The List of Change: This one ranks blogs by social media influence. The next three lists are “curated” by individuals who have selected the blogs included in the list.

25 Blogs for Philanthropic Students put together by College Cruch

100 Incredible Philanthropy Blogs by

32 Nonprofit and Philanthropy Blogs Written by People of Color by Rosetta Thurman

Alltop’s “Good” page. Alltop consolidates blogs by topic, showing the five latest headlines from hundreds of blogs on a single topic. Good way to quickly scan to see what folks are talking about, and find stories you might want to read without checking each site individually or building a custom home page full of the feeds of your favorite blogs. This is their consolidation of blogs they have selected that try to help people do good.

Do you know of another great philanthropy blog that I should point out to people? Leave me a comment and I’ll check it out.

You Are More Than a CheckBook

October 20, 2010

You’re so much more than money. When it comes to your ability to support causes, and ultimately bring about the world you want to see, the line item in your budget that is reserved for “donations to charity” is just the beginning of what you have to offer.

I see at least five additional categories that comprise your power to bring about positive social change.

1) You are a consumer

Linking our consumer purchasing decisions with our values is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal as a community. Think of how much you spend every week on groceries, drug store items, eating out, buying clothes, etc. In short, every one of those purchasing decisions can be a statement about the things you believe in.  Sound overwhelming? Start with a few baby steps.

  1. If you have an iphone, arm yourself to make good purchasing decisions on the go with the free goodguide app, which will allow you to type in the bar code for products on the shelf and get back a rating that will help you understand the social and environmental impact of that product.
  2. When you shop the Amazon catalog, do it through Alonovo, which pairs the search results with corporate social responsibility ratings for the company so you can include your values in your decision-making.
  3. Or better yet, shop local bricks and mortar business to help your community thrive, as advocated by The 3/50 Project
  4. Want to get started right away? Hand out fair trade chocolate this Halloween.
  5. With the holidays fast approaching, shop for gifts at stores that support the artisans and pay them a fair wage instead of exploiting cheap labor. You can find all kinds of ideas for clothes and gifts through the Case Foundation’s Dressed to Give blog series.

2) You are an investor

The old model of screening out “evil” companies is falling by the wayside. Instead, talk to your investment advisor about finding green tech or clean tech stocks or other socially responsible funds. And when you get those proxy notices in the mail, instead of pitching them, look at what the corporation is going to do and use your position as a shareholder to advocate for responsible decisions. For more info on working in partnership with corporations to address environmental concerns, check out Ceres.

Don’t have a big stock portfolio (yet)? What about your 401k? Could you talk to your HR department about including socially responsible investment choices for your retirement plan?

Old myths that you have to sacrifice performance to achieve social or environmental benefits have been easily dis-proven, although many financial professionals continue to spout this old trope. So come armed with evidence.

3) You are a person with a reputation

Have you considered how your name as a supporter and contributor might be used to lend credibility and even a “stamp of approval” to support the charities you care about?

You have “reputational capital” that might be valuable among your peers. Offer it up, via testimonials, public appearances, attending events, etc.

4) You are a person with skills and talents

If your professional expertise is accounting,  have you considered how your knowledge of cash flow and accounts receivable could help the smaller charities you care about manage their money more effectively? If you are a school teacher, have you considered whether your skills as an educator might be put to use? Lots of charities need their walls painted and their envelopes stuffed. But I always find it more rewarding to use my professional expertise to help the charities I care about, because it’s something not everyone can do for them, and it’s something they really need.

5) You are a person with a social network

Your friends and acquaintances are also more than money. If you’re not a graphic designer but you have a friend who is, you might recruit them to the cause. They could design a logo, a program for the big event, table tents, web design, etc.  If you have a twitter following, can you recruit those folks or mobilize them to take action on behalf of your favorite organizations? Putting a badge on your Facebook page or changing your icon to the charity logo lets your friends know you are passionate. And when your favorite charity asks you to take action, pass it along to your friends to magnify your effect.

More and more people are using celebrations in their lives to ask people to engage with their favorite causes.

For her 40th birthday next year, my sister has asked my, my other sister and my mom to join her in a three-day walk-a-thon to raise money for cancer research.

Or you may consider a note for your next party that goes something like this: “We look forward to celebrating our [occasion] with you. In lieu of gifts, please consider making a donation to our favorite charity.”

Informal get-together? Ask friends to bring a few canned goods or gently used clothing that you will donate to charity. It doesn’t have to  be a big production, just a thoughtful gesture.

Live an integrated life

It is no doubt easier to write a few checks than to integrate your values into so many areas of your life. But a greater consciousness about our actions and how they affect the causes we care about helps us to feel empowered and in control. Maybe you can’t write that many zeros in your donation, but we can all live a fulfilling, integrated life.

Volunteer for Chicago’s Global Activism Expo

March 24, 2010

Even if you can’t volunteer this time (“Don’t almost volunteer–volunteer!”), mark your calendar now and plan to take your tweens and teenagers for some serious perspective on how good they have it.

Here’s the announcement I received from Chicago Public Radio:

Next month is the 2010 Global Activism Expo and it’s shaping up to be the largest public gathering on the Chicago Public Radio calendar.  With over 100 activist groups, four onsite volunteer opportunities for the public to “get involved,” eight restaurants selling food, Goose Island Beer, workshops all day long, this thing has expanded like one of those spongey kid’s toys!  On top of all the fun, it is notable that there isn’t another gathering of globally responsible groups like the GAX on the entire Face of the Earth.

We need app. 30 volunteers and everyone coming needs to participate in our Orientation Party (pizza, beer, soda, comprehensive instructions for the Main Event, and tie dye with Jerome McDonnell)

Saturday, April 17, 2010
10:00 AM to 7:00PM
UiC FORUM, 725 W. Roosevelt Road

Hosted by Worldview’s Jerome McDonnell, Chicago Public Radio Presents… is thrilled to again present this remarkable celebration – complete with food, music and over 100 Chicago-area Global Activists, all featured guests of Worldview’s Global Activism Series. On the air for seven years now, the Series continues to be inspirational, and bringing everyone together for this Expo has quickly become an annual event.

This year, in order to properly prepare for the estimated 5,000 people we expect to attend, we’ve arranged for a special GAX Volunteer Orientation Party. In order to volunteer for this intensive event you will need to be available for both the event AND the party.  We will assign duties, eat pizza, drink free beer, and make special tie-dyed volunteer tee-shirts with Jerome at Navy Pier on Tuesday, April 6 from 6:00PM to 9:00PM.

We need thirty (!!) volunteers to staff this huge event – duties will include general ushering, box office, assisting with workshops, and controlling the mayhem of this amazing all-day experience.

If available and interested, email me at with GAX in the Subject Line.

Friday, March 19 UNICEF Tap Project Benefit Dinner (in Chicago) to kick-off World Water Week

March 10, 2010

As a huge fan of Sunda (sushi restaurant) and, of course, water, I just had to pass this along.

Please join Sunda & UNICEF Tap Project Chicago for a very special evening kicking off World Water Week, March 21-27. Join us in our new private dining room for a sit down, four course dinner from Executive Chef Rodelio Aglibot including wines, cocktails and more!  Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served at 7PM and dinner at  8PM. Cost is $100 per person including tax and gratuity, seating is limited. Proceeds go to UNICEF’s water and sanitation programs bringing clean water to millions of children around the world. To purchase tickets and for additional  information email:

More Than Money

October 30, 2009

I’m on a panel today at the Chicago Global Donor’s Network 6th annual Conference on International Philanthropy.

More than Money: Expanding Your Philanthropic Toolbox.

Many times donors think their primary contribution to the cause comes when they write a check.  In fact, passionate, committed supporters bring so many more assets to the table besides their financial wealth–including their own networks, skills, reputation and so much more. In this session you will hear how different populations, including ordinary individuals, foundations, celebrities and businesses, can mobilize the full complement of resources at their disposal to bring about social change.

Scott Lazerson, founder of the Interface Foundation, and I have developed a worksheet to help Interface Celebrity Global Ambassadors think through all the many assets they can use to further their philanthropic goals.


  1. Donate ____% of my gross income, or  $__________ during the next twelve months
  2. Donate ____% of proceeds from my (book sales, speaking fees, designated product, etc.)
  3. Clean out my closet/basement/garage/trophy room and donate at least ___ items for auction or resale to benefit my charity; Donate gift baskets for charities to re-gift/auction
  4. Work with my financial advisor to ensure that my investment portfolio is aligned with my values
  5. Ask my sponsors/business partners/vendors to donate merchandise to benefit my charity
  6. Use my consumer purchasing power and give business to organizations who are helping the Millennium Development Goals, i.e. buying fair trade coffee, handcrafts, etc.
  7. Ask for donations in lieu of birthday/anniversary/graduation/wedding gifts

Time and Talent:

  1. Dedicate ___ days this year to volunteer with my charity or attend fundraising events
  2. Appear in Public Service Announcements, promotional videos or printed materials
  3. Donate my professional skills, such as writing, web development, marketing, or accounting
  4. Allow my charity to use my name publicly

Traditional Media:

  1. Mention my charity in at least ____ interviews or media appearances this year
  2. Wear charity clothing items/logos at ____ public appearances
  3. Provide a link on my website to my charity
  4. Take pictures and allow media access when I participate in charity events
  5. Include information about my charity in my personal newsletter

Social Media:

  1. Recruit ____friends, relatives to support my charities
  2. Tweet once every day/week/month about charitable projects; Tell my followers to be sure to follow my charity’s tweets.
  3. Blog: Write ____ posts about my charity this year
  4. Join a Facebook group, Ning network or other social community for my charity
  5. Use a charity badge as my social media icon for _____ weeks this year
  6. Include my charity in my email or iPhone tagline (instead of “Sent by my iPhone”)

What other assets do you have that you can use in service of your philanthropic goals? Leave me a comment to share your ideas.

Five Ways to Become Happier Today

October 8, 2009

Studying and teaching about happiness is, as I understand it, a relatively new field of positive psychology. The new definition of “healthy” is not a neutral state marked by the absence of mental or physical illness (surviving), but a positive state of productivity and satisfaction (thriving).

There is a web community called Big Think that brings thought leaders across disciplines together to share big ideas. This week, they featured a video conversation from Tal Ben-Shahar, a Harvard University lecturer on happiness on the topic of “Five Ways to Become Happier Today.”

According to Ben-Shahar, one of the key emotions correlating to happiness is gratitude. We often forget to be grateful until we experience loss or the possibility of loss–we’re grateful for our health after we’ve been sick, or we’re grateful for our jobs when we see others losing them. But cultivating our gratitude everyday helps us focus on everyday moments of happiness.

So How Do I Do It?

His big recommendation is to start keeping a gratitude journal. Each night before you go to bed, take a minute to write down five things you are grateful for, big or small. With my kids (who are 3 and 5), my approach is to ask them each night when I tuck them in to tell me three good things that happened to them today, or three things they are thankful for. When the answers tend toward “dessert,” I try to gently ask them about playing with their cousins after school or doing a puzzle with Daddy before dinner. They quickly catch on.

Gratitude Leads to Generosity

Ben-Shahar doesn’t go into what happens when you are more grateful and happier, but in my experience, gratitude leads you to realize just how much you already have, and that in turn make you realize just how much you have to give. Grateful people are generous people. Grateful people are philanthropic. If you want your children to grow up to be charitable, teach them empathy and gratitude by modeling empathy and gratitude.

Learn More

To learn about the other 4 things Ben-Shahar recommends in order to be happier, watch the full video by clicking here.

Individual Philanthropy 101: The 3/50 Project

August 27, 2009

If you spent just $50 each month at 3 local bricks and mortar stores in your community, you could help pump millions back into the local economy.

This is the basic concept of The 3/50 project, created in March by Cinda Baxter, a retail consultant and professional speaker from Minneapolis. The Chamber of Commerce in my Chicago suburban community has endorsed the plan and it warranted a short article in the Local section of the Chicago Tribune.


According to The 3/50 Project, “for every $100 spent in locally-owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. In contrast, at national chains, only $43 remains in the community.” And when you buy a book from Amazon online instead of at a local book store, $0 stays local. Absolutely nothing. Nobody local gets paid to fill your order. No local sales tax is collected. No local property tax comes due. No overhead expenses like office supplies that get spent at another local brick and mortar business. Nothing.

More philanthropists are starting to focus on economic development as the underlying foundation to other charitable causes. Education, the arts, health care and employment depend on a healthy local economy, local taxes (including property taxes paid by brick and mortar businesses), and local businesses and business owners giving back to their community by supporting the local high school marching band or the girl scout troup. There is such a minimal cost to us–maybe paying $3 for that tube of toothpaste at the local pharmacy instead of $2.50 at the big box store–in return for so many benefits.

While we may continue to support causes we are passionate about with the funds earmarked for “charity,” The 3/50 Project shows us that we can do so much for our community by using other parts of our budget in smart ways.

So the next time you need cough syrup in Mount Prospect, IL, stop in to Keefer’s Pharmacy right across from the train station on your way home (they still have penny candy behind the counter). You can also get your hair cut at the Halo Hair Studio, and I already know you’re getting your ice cream at Cappanari’s. For locally owned businesses in your town, check your church bulletin ad pages, and look up the Chamber of Commerce for your town.

Try it this month–Just $50 you were going to spend anyway, but directed to local independent businesses.

Post 100: An update

July 8, 2009

This marks my 100th post writing at The Philanthropic Family. First, thanks for reading and thanks for all your comments (250 to date). I thought you might be interested in some stats from the last 15 months:

Top Posts (with total clicks).

Men vs. Women: motivation to give to charity 917 More stats
Product (RED): Inspi(RED) or Ti(RED)? 718 More stats
Should you give money to panhandlers? 701 More stats
Reclaiming My 9/11 Birthday 520 More stats
Charity Gift Certificates 404 More stats
Individual Donors: Evaluating Charities 383 More stats Shakeup: What Does it Mean? 315 More stats
About 307 More stats
How to Get a Socially-Responsible Job 303 More stats
iGoogle “Themes for Causes” 299 More stats
Donate Your Car to Charity 267 More stats
Top 10 Ways to Be Charitable When Money is Tight 240 More stats
Top 5 Celebrities Using their Fame for Good 236 More stats
Welcome Tweets! 232 More stats
Hey Kids! Not a Masochist? Then the Nonprofit Sector “DOESN’T” need you 199 More stats

Most frequently searched terms:

most searched terms through 7.1.09

Some of my personal favorites from the last year:

Product (RED): Inspi(RED) or Ti(RED)?

Indulgences Sold Here–Just 1% of Your Profits

Top 10 Ways to Be Charitable When Money is Tight

Loking forward to the next 100 posts!  Suggested topics are welcome.

The Philanthropic Family nominated as “Most Inspiring Blog”

June 17, 2009

I’m happy to say that this blog has been nominated for a BlogLuxe award in the category of “Most Inspiring Blog.” BlogLuxe recognizes women bloggers and is having a reception here in Chicago as part of the BlogHer ’09 conference in July. If you’ve found The Philanthropic Family to be inspirational when thinking about gift-giving, raising charitable children or just being more mindful of how philanthropy fits into your everyday life, I hope you’ll click here to vote.   Thanks for your many comments, suggestions and words of support over the last 15 months.


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