GOOD

Take out some paper and write down how you’d rate yourself as a philanthropist. Then write down the names of five people you know that you’d assign an equal or greater rating. On this scale, a one would be for occasional organization event attendees; five would be for regular volunteers of a few nonprofits, and 10 would be for philanthropists who have weaved do-gooding into their daily lives—maybe even into their careers.

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Five Reasons to Give Half Your Work Away

Since starting my freelance design career at the age of 16, I have been giving the majority of my work away for free. In 2008, I launched verynice, a global design and innovation consultancy that donates more than half of its work to nonprofit organizations.

Since starting my freelance design career at the age of 16, I have been giving the majority of my work away for free.

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How We're Bringing Showers to the Homeless

One day two years ago, I happened to pass a young woman sitting on the street. She was crying and saying over and over to herself that she'd never be clean. I live in San Francisco, where it's impossible to be unaware of the homeless.

One day two years ago, I happened to pass a young woman sitting on the street. She was crying and saying over and over to herself that she’d never be clean. I live in San Francisco, where it’s impossible to be unaware of the homeless. For years, I’d wanted to do more than volunteer or donate to an organization. But it wasn’t until that day that I took action, inspired by the words of the young woman.

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How Teenage Girls With Power Tools Transformed a Neighborhood

It was a scorchingly hot Tuesday afternoon last summer on a rough corner in South Chicago. Despite the heat, and despite it being the time of...

It was a scorchingly hot Tuesday afternoon last summer on a rough corner in South Chicago. Despite the heat, and despite it being the time of day when people normally start rolling in to buy drugs and alcohol, things were a little different that day. Jania, a 17-year-old from the community, pictured above, was smiling, and others around her were, too.

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What the Designated Drivers Campaign Can Teach Those in the Youth Service Movement

In the mid eighties, nobody in the U.S. knew what a designated driver was. The concept simply didn't exist here. It was actually a Scandinavian...


In the mid-eighties, nobody in the U.S. knew what a designated driver was. The concept simply didn't exist in America. It was actually a Scandinavian idea. Harvard Public Health Professor Jay Winsten cleverly and systematically seeded the notion in popular culture through a partnership with all the major Hollywood studios and the television networks beginning in 1988.

Within four television seasons, 160 prime time episodes addressed drinking and driving and the notion of the designated driver as "the life of the party" swiftly went mainstream. By 1991, more than half of Americans under 30 reported that they had been a designated driver. Winsten's coup of harnessing the power of popular entertainment media for a broad pro-social campaign was revolutionary.

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As a for-profit, B-to-B office supply company based on the Newman’s Own business model, obviously our primary contribution to the community is through the millions of dollars in profits we’ve donated over the past 21 years.
But we quickly realized that the pro bono model of leveraging other business assets could have a profound positive community impact too.
Over time, a successful business builds a whole arsenal of assets. We have a deep reservoir of employee talent, a fleet of trucks, warehouses, supply chain access and influence, bank credit lines, a broadly visited website, regular contact with thousands of customers, conference rooms, and the list could go on and on. The first priority claim on these assets needs to be to our customers. But when we asked ourselves, “How can we use existing assets under our control for additional community benefit?” it is amazing what possibilities came into focus.
Here are just a few examples:
We still own our trucks even when they return empty from their daily delivery runs. We created our e-Waste Pick Up Program to use those empty trucks to pick up the massive amounts of electronics waste from our clients and deliver those old computers to a job training program. That program repairs them for use by schools and nonprofits. In simpler terms, the pro bono investment of our distribution capacity, when previously unproductive, now creates much needed jobs in our community.
Another, perhaps even more amazing example is our partnership with K to College, a nonprofit working to provide free school supplies to homeless and very low income children in California public schools. We essentially “lent” our buying power in our supply chain, which includes school supplies, and our warehouse and logistics infrastructure to the K to College program in a way that resulted last year in 157,000 backpacks filled with a full term’s school supplies for needy school children. We collaborated to create perhaps the largest free school supply program in the U.S. largely by the effective power of pro-bono.
Beyond the more typical lending of technical expertise and employee participation in community volunteerism, which we also engage in, it is astounding what can be accomplished with other innovative uses of business assets in a pro bono context. That’s why we were thrilled to take the Billion + Change pledge and proudly add our efforts to the cause.
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