Hurricane Sandy, One Week Later: How You Can Help

Hurricane Sandy DisasterI spoke with a friend of mine this week who lives in the East Village. Brette and her husband Ben were one of the lucky ones. As Hurricane Sandy beat down, their first-floor apartment on the Lower East Side–amazingly–remained flood-free. They lost power but little else. At the onset of the storm–just as their neighbors resorted to looting and gunshots in the dark–with the grace of a car and a place to go, Brette and Ben hightailed it to the Bronx.

In the days that followed, they watched friends shoveling water and raw sewage out of their apartments. On television, they saw people they pass everyday foraging for food in dumpsters. In Midtown, which never lost power, business went on as usual, and Brette told me that people started calling it “The Capitol” (in reference to The Hunger Games). Her neighborhood was “District 12.”

Two days ago, the New York times reported that volunteers were flocking to disaster areas, overwhelming the donation centers. Volunteers from New York and other states loaded up trucks and U-Hauls and drove into Staten Island, Rockaways in Queens and some of the most hit-hard areas with bottled water, blankets, diapers, matches, ziplock baggies–even stacks of warm pizzas.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said at a news briefing on Sunday that the city is inundated with well-meaning people dropping off goods at relief centers, and suggested they give money instead.

Here is a list of organizations accepting donations to help people affected by Hurricane Sandy:

American Red Cross

Brooklyn Recovery Fund

Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York

Salvation Army

United Way Sandy Recovery Fund


If you REALLY want to send goods and supplies instead of cash, there are neighborhood relief efforts happening on a local level. Brette passed along a list of items needed at one of these distribution centers. Here it is:

IKA Collective is turning its studio into a donation center. Please drop-off, FedEx, or mail the items below. PLEASE NOTE: CLOTHES are NOT the main need right now and are actually clogging up the distribution sites. BELOW ARE THE MOST ESSENTIAL ITEMS. It will really help if you can pre-sort and label your donations.

15 East 32nd Street
10th Floor
New York, NY 10016
*MOST ESSENTIAL ITEMS* – Work gloves, batteries, flashlights, face masks, thick black contractor bags. THIS is the top 5 that we need right now. Please CLEARLY mark boxes so that we can distribute them easily and quickly.
*OTHER ITEMS* Blankets, Candles, Lighters, Lanterns, Sanitary Wipes, feminine hygiene products.
*MOST ESSENTIAL MEDICINE ITEMS* – Baby cough medicine, BAND-AIDS, Neosporin, Ace bandages, Advil, Tylenol.
*CLEANING SUPPLIES* – Mops, brooms, shovels, bleach, Clorox, buckets.
*MOST ESSENTIAL FOOD ITEMS*- WATER, orange Juice, Apple Juice, granola bars, powdered milk, we have tons of peanut butter, but need JELLY and BREAD.
*MOST ESSENTIAL BABY ITEMS* –Diapers, Jars of baby food, formula, bottles, WIPES.
*GENERAL DONATION TIPS*- The NEATER THE PACKAGING THE BETTER. The more clearly marked and neatly packaged, the more helpful the donations. Any monetary donations will be used to purchase the above items.


To all those affected by Hurricane Sandy, and the countless volunteers who have banded together to help those in need…

May you be safe and supported.

May you be warm and fed.

May you find love and a place to live.

May you have strength to endure the unimaginable, and the hope to carry on.


How are you helping those affected by Sandy? Drop me a line and let me know.

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Want to Know the Secrets to Grantwriting Success? Check Out this Free Book



Back in March of this year, I listened to a Chronicle of Philanthropy teleseminar titled How to Create Successful Foundation Proposals. One of the speakers was Jana Jane Hexter, a heart-centered grantwriting professional who, over 15 years, has raised more than $28 million for nonprofit organizations. In addition to the normal nuggets I expected to hear about beefing up budgets and getting clear on grant objectives, Hexter’s portion of the call was quite inspiring.

She described how she got into grantwriting: She was driven by the knowledge that millions of women around the world have no options; they can’t educate their kids for the sake of a school uniform, small fee or school supplies. “As an educated woman living in the richest country in the world, I am acutely aware that I have the luxury of choice. And I choose to use it to help those who don’t.”

I’ve been following Hexter’s e-zine ever since I first heard her speak, and she always has something wonderful to share.

A big share is her newly published book: Grant Writing Revealed: 25 Experts Share Their Art, Science, and Secretswritten, as she says, for people who want to win grants. In the book, she interviewed 25 of the nation’s top grantwriting professionals to find out what makes them tick–and more importantly, what makes their proposals so darn successful.

In the spirit of a gift economy, Hexter is offering her book for free online–with one caveat: That anyone who reads it pay it forward by helping a friend, neighbor, colleague, the earth, or by donating to charity. Or by reciprocating to Hexter in a way that feels good.

What’s the catch? None that I can see, except one act of generosity followed by another. She wants to keep the gift in flow.

So far, 191 people are taking part in her “pay it forward” experiment.

As Hexter explains it, “It is not an act of charity on my part, but more gratefulness for the gift of life and recognition of our sacred interdependence. Our economy is changing and this is my attempt to create another reality worthy of our children’s future.”

I like it.

This book is great for grantwriters, nonprofits, social entrepreneurs, start-up companies–anyone who is working to make the world a better place, and looking for the support to do it.

The paperback version is also available on Amazon for purchase.

Thanks to Jana Jane Hexter for sharing her gift, and creating a ripple of generosity for us all to take part in.


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Free Education for Anyone, Anywhere

Sal Khan is changing the way students learn.

Just four years ago, the Silicon Valley hedge-fund manager quit his job to teach math—for free—over theAssociation of Small Foundations National Conference Internet. Today, he runs the nonprofit Khan Academy with a mission to provide a free world-class education for anyone, anywhere.

Khan spoke at the Association of Small Foundations National Conference plenary lunch on Tuesday, and I had the pleasure of blogging about it for ASF’s PhilanthroFiles.

Read more about Khan and his mission to change the way students learn. Or watch this PBS News Hour story.


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The Need to Know What Works

I’m honored to be the featured blogger this week at the Association of Small Foundations (ASF) Conference in San Francisco (#ASF12 on Twitter). More than 800 small-staffed foundations gathered to connect, share stories and learn to use their dollars, knowledge and influence to change the world.

Here’s a post for foundations interested in upping their impact, c/o of ASF’s blog Philanthrofiles:

Stay tuned for more. Thanks to ASF for the warm welcome!

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Project Happiness Teaches Kids the Power of Positive Thinking

This is the fourth post in a summer series I’m calling “What Are You Reading? Wednesdays.” Every Wednesday in August, you’ll find a short review of thought-provoking books, articles, speeches and films about generosity, money, philanthropy and more. Enjoy!


Heart in Hands“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it! Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

What do George Lucas, Richard Gere and the Dalai Lama have in common?

They are all featured in an inspiring documentary I just watched called Project Happiness, produced by a Palo Alto-based nonprofit of the same name.

Project Happiness – the organization – empowers children, families and communities to create happier, more meaningful lives. CEO and “Chief Happiness Officer” Randy Taran founded the organization after her teenage daughter came to her with a serious concern: she was stressed out. Unhappy. And despite her best efforts to get happy, she didn’t know how to do it.

Taran, unsure about how to help her daughter, went on a mission to find out what creates happiness–not just fleeting, instant-gratification happy, but the real and lasting stuff. After extensive research, Taran started a movement giving young people the tools they need to first find happiness in their lives, and then to share that happiness with the world.

At the heart of Project Happiness is a simple message: through mindfulness and by focusing on one’s strengths and the power of positive thinking, we all can be happy. Beyond personal happiness, the organization has created programs called Social and Emotional Learning that has helped teens deal with problems such as absenteeism, bullying, teen stress and suicide. Project Happiness programs are now in thousands of schools in 48 states and 52 countries.

Check out the trailer here:

The organization also published the Project Happiness Handbook, a workbook-style book for students, parents, teachers–anyone, really, who wants to explore his or her own happiness.

And I think that just about covers all of us.

What tools do you use to get and stay happy? Keep me in the loop by sending comments. I promise to share the good ones.

Until next time… Happy Labor Day weekend!

Posted in Children, Gratitude, Happiness, Mindfulness & Activism, Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paths Are Made By Walking

This is the third post in a summer series I’m calling “What Are You Reading? Wednesdays.” Every Wednesday in August, you’ll find a short review of thought-provoking books, articles and speeches about generosity, money, philanthropy and more. Enjoy!


“Travelers, there is no path, paths are made by walking.”–Antonio Machado

Once again, I’ll say it: There are many ways to be generous.

I just read an inspiring speech by Nipun Mehta, delivered to University of Pennsylvania’s graduating class of 2012. An interesting choice for an Ivy League commencement keynote, Mehta is a man who has never in his adult life applied for a job. He hasn’t worked for pay in nearly a decade, and his mission is “to live simply, love purely and give fearlessly.”

In 2005, Mehta and his new wife went on a 1000 km, 3-month walking pilgrimage through villages of India. Their goal was to “be in a space larger than our egos, and allow that compassion to guide us in unscripted acts of service along the way.” Encountering some of the best and worst of human nature — not just in others, but in themselves, they learned some key lessons that he shared with the graduates–one of which is: Those who have less, give more.

In his speech, he said:

Most of us believe that to give, we first need to have something to give.  The trouble with that is, that when we are taking stock of what we have, we almost always make accounting errors.  Oscar Wilde once quipped, “Now-a-days, people know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.”  We have forgotten how to value things without a price tag.  Hence, when we get to our most abundant gifts — like attention, insight, compassion — we confuse their worth because they’re, well, priceless.”

Read the full speech here: Paths Are Made By Walking, by Nipun Mehta. It’s a good one. And big thanks to Daily Good for publishing it. (It’s been read now more than 130,000 times!)

Gets me thinking about walks I’ve taken in life. After I graduated college, I walked the Appalachian Trail–not the whole thing, but an ambitious 60 miles of it. It’s true how much you can learn about yourself and others when you’re on a long walk of that kind, over days and weeks. I still remember meeting many people along that trail, many of whom were generous in their own way–whether it was sharing a snack, a map, a trail tip or a story. These were people who were carrying everything they had on their backs at the time, and still–together–we created an unspoken community of giving.

Somehow when you’re stripped of everyday comforts and even your identity to a certain point, it creates the space for real presence, compassion and generosity to creep through.

What walks have you taken that made a difference to you or others? Write me.

In the meantime, be well and walk on.

Posted in Charitable Giving, Community, Generosity, Random Acts of Kindness, Service | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist

330 Ways to Make a Difference

Find out how YOU can make a difference–without spending a dime.

This is the second post in a summer series I’m calling “What Are You Reading? Wednesdays.” Every Wednesday in August, you’ll find a short review of thought-provoking books, articles and speeches about generosity, money, philanthropy and more. 


“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.”–Edward Everett Hale, author and clergyman

Want to help make your community or town a better place, but don’t know where to begin? You don’t need a family foundation or a ton of disposable income to make a difference. We all have the capacity to give or do something. It’s just a matter of finding the right giving opportunity for you.

Enter the book: How to Be An Everyday Philanthropist: 333 Ways to Make a Difference, by Nicole Bouchard Boles.

Boles believes that there’s a powerful giving solution for each person that has nothing to do with the size of your checkbook. She’s outlined hundreds of simple, creative ideas for slipping small-but-meaningful acts of philanthropy into your life.

For example, you’ll be amazed by what you can do with your trash (including your dead Christmas tree come January 1st). And the kinds of donations you can make from your own body (your hair, your skin–even your teeth!). There are number of unusual and inspiring ideas in here that you could never dream up on your own.

In addition to the ideas for helping others, Boles includes real life stories of people giving back. There’s also a calendar to help you focus your energy, an index of resources and charitable organizations, and stickers (yes, stickers–for adults!) to help you organize your giving ideas.

In addition to the book, Boles has a blog–Philanthropista–where she combines her two passions: giving and glam.

Thanks to Talk About Giving‘s Book Club for the head’s up on this easy, fun read.


What are you reading these days? Drop me a comment to let me know.

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