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Craig's Blog

Supporting more effective national service

President Obama and President George H.W. Bush present the 5,000th Daily Points of Light award to Floyd Hammer and Kathy Hamilton, a retired couple from Iowa who founded a nonprofit that has delivered more than 232 million free meals to children around the world.

A lot of really good people are helping Americans in need via the Corporation for National and Community Service. It's a "private-public partnership," meaning that people in business, government, and the nonprofit sector work together with citizens to get results.

That includes a lot of good work by AmeriCorps, which engages 80,000 Americans in results-driven service to meet local needs. In the last year AmeriCorps has teamed up with other agencies to launch:

Lots more needs to get done, and to that effect, the President just signed an official memorandum on expanding national service.

Basically, it tells federal agencies to work together in a task force to expand national service in six areas: emergency and disaster services; economic opportunity; education; environmental stewardship; healthy futures; and veterans and military families. It also encourages more partnerships with the private sector to unleash the energy of citizens to get things done.

This is a big deal; there's still a lot of suffering out there best address by a combination of public and private efforts.

There are a lot of people out there who could use an extra hand, even right in your own neighborhood. Help out if you can.

Why do you support women's leadership as the next frontier?

Over the past twenty-seven years I've been quietly supporting women's groups, just proceeding on what feels like the right thing to do. womens center

That started with HAVEN, a women's shelter in the Oakland (Greater Detroit) area, probably in 1985. My intent was to become a volunteer counselor, since they needed guys in that role. However, with the briefest of training I learned that I was way too wimpy to help in that manner.

Fundraising, well, I was able to help out there, agreeing to help set up fundraising events, one including the sale of artwork. All I remember clearly is that inhaling Windex fumes, not a good idea. Also, when visiting, I had to be escorted while in the shelter. The latter was the first time that the idea of boundaries really sunk in. There are always places where a person isn't welcome, with good reason.

Over the past ten years, people have asked me to help out with a number of causes, focusing on social media and sometimes cash. The deal is that I get involved on a daily basis when that's constructive, and otherwise, I respect boundaries, far as I can tell.

Since I know something about computers and a little about small business, my focus has been on helping girls and women in technology as much as I'm able.


In no particular order, the groups I've worked with include:

craig's kiva loans to date by country

In the spirit of respecting boundaries I'm very quiet, unless I think I'm being funny, but I try to keep that in check.

Recently, I've joined the Women in Public Service Project, started by Hillary Clinton. They've challenged me: Why is women's leadership important to public policy and entrepreneurship? Why do you support women's leadership as the next frontier?

craig + hillary

Until then, I'd been winging it, just doing what felt right.

However, I guess I needed to better articulate it, so …

1. Fairness. Treat people like you want to be treated.

Personally, I'm a nerd, feel that life should be fair, that everyone gets a chance to be heard, and maybe to help run things.

Sure, life isn't fair, but that won't slow me down. A nerd's gotta do what a nerd's gotta do.

2. To generalize: Women listen and work with one another to brainstorm solutions. To speak lightly of that, consider the cultural stereotype, that women prefer to ask for directions whereas men often prefer to try to figure things out and then get lost.

Note to self: JUST LISTEN. That is, don't ALWAYS attempt to solve the problem, SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED TO LISTEN. (Courtesy of "You Just Don't Understand" by Deborah Tannen.)

3. "The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world." -Charles Malik

That is, we're living in a very small period of tremendous social change, where the people who are best prepared, who have the best listening and cooperative skills should get their chance of running things. I don't think we'll see revolution, we'll see a rebalancing of power, shifting from traditional sources of power (authority and money) to power based on the size and effectiveness of one's network.

… and finally, to self, JUST LISTEN.

Read On and Move Forward if you are a Veteran

Hey, VA doctors have told me that no one goes to war and comes back unchanged. Readjusting to civilian life can be challenging no matter where you are; at home, in the workplace, or at school. Now there's help through an online counseling service designed to help Vets and active duty service members battling with readjustment issues, depression, and even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Furthermore, the free counseling support reaches Veterans in the privacy of their homes through a program called Moving Forward.

This new program is the real deal. It helps Vets re-adapt to civilian life with stress-assessments, relaxation exercises, and interactive games. It's based on a highly effective cognitive behavioral treatment program that's been used successfully with Veterans and service members across the country.

moving forward

Here's what really makes this program different: Anyone who uses it remains completely anonymous.

Vets, and anyone else who needs help coping with life's challenges, can access this site with private trainings for free! Moving Forward is a great way for Vets to access counseling services, and has been used by more than 18,500 web users since it launched on Veteran's Day in 2012.

Try it out by visiting:

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The Vets Challenge was about giving back

Hey, a big congratulations to all the Teams who participated in the Veterans Charity Challenge over on CrowdRise. As many of you know, I gave $50k to the challenge and the Rahr Foundation gave $50k. I don't see this as altruism, it just feels right.

A total of 95 Teams signed up. The Teams were from across the country, in 26 states and 77 cities. Teams participating raised a total of $348,393 throughout the duration of the Challenge, and with the Funder's donations, we raised a total of $448,393 for Veterans and Military families. Almost half a million dollars. Folks, I can't thank you enough for all the good work you're doing.

It was really close in the end, and an exciting finish. I was able to call and chat with (or leave messages for) each of the big winners, and really thank them for all they're doing for our service members and their families. I figure if someone's willing to risk their life for me, this is the least I can do to give back…

thank you

And throughout the Challenge, there were 5 Bonus Challenges, and we had 13 teams win.

  • Bonus Challenge #2, any team to raise $500 with 10 unique donors was entered to win : Swords to Plowshares won $5k and an interview with me.

I'll be interviewing Swords to Plowshares and Full Circle Home in the coming weeks…more to come…

Did you participate in the #VetsChallenge? I'd like to hear your feedback. And again, congrats to all those orgs who really have their boots on the ground making a difference for our Vets and milfams.



Vastly scaling up the effectiveness of nonprofits

There are good, effective nonprofits and similar groups all over the world, really helping people out.  As part of my twenty year thing, I'd like to help scale that up so that everyone on the planet gets a hand.

Specifically, there are many nonprofits, NGOs, and government groups which are really good at getting stuff done without spending a lot.  However, there are also a number of such groups which waste a lot of money in overhead, and there are a lot of nonprofits running outright scams, and making bad situations even worse.

I already support a bunch of honest, ethical nonprofits directly with the few resources I have at hand, specifically cash and social capital/trust, the latter via social media.  (Keep expectations low, public estimates of my net worth are vastly overstated.)


How does a person of good will work with others, across the planet and across the years, to scale up to help out everyone?

I've realized, in the past few days, that a solution could involve nonprofits which focus on vetting on-the-ground nonprofits, making sure they're effective and honest, and then getting funding for their clients.

Seriously, that already helps my nonprofit dollars and social media presence go a lot farther.

Funding networks can themselves be operating scams, I've considered that, but so far I got a good base network of such groups going, including:

I think I need to expand this network, over time, but first, need to use social networking to make this existing networking more effective.

That means getting the funding networks to encourage their clients to be more effective in social media. For example, the clients of a particular nonprofit might encourage the people they help to post social media status updates.  The nonprofits would share the posts with their funding networks… who would share a few with folks like me.

We'd Share or retweet those updates with our own networks, which affirms the work of all involved, and generates a little buzz, and maybe more funding, for people and groups who need it.

I guess that's a "leadership by example" thing, and maybe a "leading from below" thing, which is the only approach I understand.

What's next?