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Help Give Away $200K for the Holidays

Hey, I've teamed up with CrowdRise and the Huffington Post to host a Holiday Challenge over on CrowdRise to help nonprofits raise a lot of money this season. As they say – here's how it's going down.

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The Holiday Challenge will work similar to the #VetsChallenge that I sponsored over the summer, but this time, any charity is able to sign up. Over $200,000 will be given to nonprofits throughout the challenge. Last year over $1,000,000.00 was raised for charities. You can sign up here.

Update: Joining me in raising money for charities this holiday season are several actors/actresses and comedians (hey, maybe I can give them some career advice), such as Edward Norton (Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust), Sean Penn (J/P Haitian Relief Organization), Ian Somerhalder (Ian Somerhalder Foundation), Sophia Bush (The Nature Conservancy), Jason Bateman (City Year), Kristen Bell (Epath.org), Olivia Wilde (Artists for Peace and Justice), Christy Turlington (Every Mother Counts), Eliza Dushku (THRIVEGulu), Brittany Snow (Love Is Louder), Will Ferrell (Cancer for College), Seth Rogen (Hilarity for Charity), and  Conan O’Brien (Children’s Hospital Los Angeles).

(Speaking of Conan, his recent TV bit cited my LinkedIn following, and this is my attempt to help him out…folks, even a pity follow will do…follow Conan?)

A few important details:

  •  The Holiday Challenge runs through January 9th at 11:59:59am EST (folks, these last seconds could be important, as last time we had a photo finish).
  • There are 3 grand prizes -
  • 1st place wins $100,000
  • 2nd place wins $40,000
  • 3rd place wins $20,000
  • Another $40,000 will be given away in cash and prizes through Bonus Challenges weekly.
  • The Huffington Post's also giving away lots of other prizes designed to get some great exposure for your cause (like RTs from HuffPo and #FollowFridays from Ariana Huffington, etc.).
  • This is a win-win for all orgs that participate – Even if you don't win a grand prize, you get to keep all the money that your Team raises.
  • Check out the charity toolkit here.

There are more than 400 teams signed up so far, and each one has a chance at winning some money for their cause. You can click here to sign up and create your fundraising page. It takes less than 21 seconds to set up your page. And, they've created a Challenge Toolkit that gives you a Calendar of all of the challenges, plus tips and strategies to raise more money, template emails to send out to your supporters, and lots of really good ideas.

This will really help your charity, and I'm ready to help good orgs who really have their boots on the ground. Are you ready to begin your year-end fundraising with me?

Top 10 Veterans Orgs to Follow on Twitter

Hey,  Veterans Day is Monday, and there are some good orgs who really have their boots on the ground.

Okay, a while back, my wife (then fiance) asked me why I only did my normal level of support for veterans and military families on Memorial Day. My blurt was that "for me, every day's Memorial Day." And I feel the same way about Veterans Day.

Here are ten veterans orgs that you should be following on Twitter. They have important things to say, and are working hard for military families and veterans' rights. The list is in no particular order.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of American, @IAVA


iavaSwords to Plowshares, @vetshelpingvets


swordsplowsharesBob Woodruff Foundation, @Stand4Heroes


woodruff

Blue Star Families, @BlueStarFamily


bluestar

National Military Family Association, @military_family


milfam

Returning Veterans Project, @ReturnVeterans


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The SF Veteran Success Center, @SF_VSC


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Operation Homefront, @Op_Homefront


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Warrior Canine Connection, @WarriorCanineCn


warriorcanine

Luke's Wings, @LukesWingsUSA


luke

 

I figure that we should support and thank Americans who risk taking a bullet to protect us, and that means also looking after their families. Just seems right… Happy Veterans Day, folks.

Do eCommerce Giving Programs Effectively Raise Money for Charity?

Hey, the idea behind craigconnects is giving the voiceless a real voice, and the powerless real power. I see it as everyone doing some small, or big, part.

One way to do this is by giving back via purchases and a few key initiatives.  Organizations like We-Care.com team up with merchants and give a percentage of the proceeds to charity. We-Care works with more than 2500 online merchants, and it's the merchants who choose what percentage of proceeds to donate (ranging from 1.5% to 15% of transactions). Participation doesn't cost anything for the organizations, and there is no extra charge for the person who is shopping. Something that's really useful on We-Care is their toolbar plugin. You can download a reminder that will pop up each time you're shopping on a site that will give some money to your cause.

Amazon just started doing something similar to We-Care, but aren't giving as much (just 0.5%). They're calling it AmazonSmile.

Perla Ni, CEO of Great Nonprofits commented on Amazon's new giving program, and what she calls "interesting benchmarks" -

"0.5% is an interesting percentage. Amazon's revenue was $17B last quarter. It would be $80M/quarter if everybody who purchased something took it up. Even though it doesn't cost anyone to do it, say 20% of users sign up, so that would be $20M/quarter. That would be about $80M/year donated to nonprofits. Google gives about $100M/year and Wells Fargo gives about $300M/year."

Efforts like these are making donations an every day thing, and this way, according to Perla, "nonprofits may see donations through-out the year, rather than just at the end of the year for tax-deductions." Perla does voice a concern though. She says: "the biggest potential downside I see is that it may cannibalize individual giving – 'oh, I don't need to give on my own, because I've already done it just by shopping.' It may make shopping replace giving."

We also contacted Ken Berger, President and CEO of Charity Navigator, about AmazonSmile to get his opinion. He said that Charity Navigator will be looking into the project to see if Amazon will use their API to display the Charity Navigator ratings.

Ken also shared with us that "shopping portals that give money to charity usually don’t generate enough revenue to make a big impact on an individual charity’s bottom line. One of the problems is the change of behavior required – same as with Amazon since customers will have to start their purchase process on a different website than the regular Amazon site. However, the scale of Amazon makes this a unique proposition with the potential to make a big impact on a charity’s bottom line."

I think the most helpful thing you can do to make sure you're giving to the good guys is to check out Guidestar, Charity Navigator, and Great Nonprofits (like Yelp for nonprofits, with user reviews). These will help you select good, effective nonprofits.

GNP

I support some nonprofits, and some not (more on that here). I make sure to look into a charity before I donate to avoid giving to one of America's 50 worst charities. It's useful to be able to give back to orgs that I support via purchases that I'm already making. Although, I don't think that shopping should replace giving to an org when you believe in their cause.

How are you giving back, if you're able?

My First Job: What Big Blue Once Was

My first real job was at IBM, in the old Boca Raton lab, in 1976. (Important: IBM has become a very different company in the last twenty years, so please assume none of this applies to the current company. Also, this is all to my recollection, and memory is unreliable.)

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The offer was made early, and sounded great. I've never been in love with the beach, but thought it might be fun to live near the ocean, and live in a city whose name means "mouse's mouth."

The job was in "advanced technology" and dealt with systems architecture.

It took a few years to sink in, but turns out that in corporate language, "advanced tech" is a euphemism: It isn't what it sounds like. But the software design process didn't include asking actual customers about usability. I discovered later on, through founding craigslist, that listening to people is about the smartest thing you can do.

I got involved in some software development. That led to some customer involvement, but I was too easy to read, and customers looked to my reactions to see if marketing was, say, stretching things. We nerds are not great salespeople.

After some years, the opportunity to transfer to IBM in Detroit was made, to be involved in a joint effort with General Motors to do factory automation work. Well, I took the offer.

Detroit was pretty good for me, I liked the people and got involved with the local science fiction community, and the local artists community.

After a total of seventeen years, IBM was going through a lot of changes. I took a really good buyout offer and ended up moving to San Francisco, where I got another job and a few years later started craigslist in my spare time.

Photo: Adam Jenkins/Flickr

Texas government working hard to prevent women from voting

Folks, we are gearing up for midterm elections and that means that you should be aware of your rights. wendy-davis-e1382019677722

There are some real bad actors out there trying to implement laws to stop eligible people, including women, from voting. What I learned in high school civics class is that an attack on voting rights is virtually the same as an attack on the country.

The New Civil Rights Movement writes, as reported by Think Progress:

"as of November 5, Texans must show a photo ID with their up-to-date legal name. It sounds like such a small thing, but according to the Brennan Center for Justice, only 66% of voting age women have ready access to a photo document that will attest to proof of citizenship. This is largely because young women have not updated their documents with their married names, a circumstance that doesnʼt affect male voters in any significant way. Suddenly 34% of women voters are scrambling for an acceptable ID, while 99% of men are home free."

Some politicians have tried to manipulate voting laws for their benefit, that's not right. We need integrity in our elections and voting that's free, fair, and accessible.

It's up to us all to ensure the integrity of our voting process by getting registered, speaking up against voter ID laws and the attack on voting rights, and to encourage everyone to vote, regardless of ethnicity or gender.

Disenfranchising voters is not a new thing, but has been happening across the country for some time now. Last year, I worked with some good folks to create an infographic about impact of voter suppression.

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My team and I have compiled a list of voting resources; please check it out, and share any helpful resources that you think are missing in the comment section.