Wednesday, July 25, 2007

New Canadians

Ever since the day I wrote this post, I've been thinking a lot about challenges facing New Canadians, especially those who are coming to Canada as refugees or who come in hopes of escaping poverty.

A friend and colleague recently introduced me to William. William is one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan" and moved to Canada seven or eight years ago.

William has been running an all volunteer-run after-school tutoring program for African kids who are falling behind in school. And here's but one example of the problems facing New Canadians: Kids coming from other countries are assigned to school based on their age. So a 13 year-old kid who has just arrived from Sudan is being put in the same grade as a kid who has lived here all their life. That would be no problem if Sudan taught the same things and had the same level of education as Canada but how likely is that? Never-mind homework! Homework is at least somewhat reliant on having a parent able to oversee, assist or at least encourage the child in their studies but many of the parents of these kids never had the opportunity to be educated, leaving the kid alone to study and figure it out. What good is the chance at a new life if they're not supported with the basic ingredients needed to have a chance at succeeding in the new life??

So that's part of the problem. Here's part of the solution: William has been organizing a volunteer-run tutoring program for New Canadian kids struggling at school. According to him, it's pretty ad-hoc and in need of more tutors and in need of a permanent space (the church that they have been using gave notice that they can no longer host the group for free) but from my conversations with William and others like him, I'm beginning to come to a few distinct opinions that I'm going to share in separate blog entries this week.

In summary:

I'm going to argue that it might be a better "investment" for us to focus on the New Canadians arriving here from lives of poverty and conflict;

For those that don't give abroad because "charity begins at home," I'll outline a "two for the price of one offer" (horribly crass but used with the intent to provoke);

I'll expand on what I think is an evolution from "Immigrant" to "New Canadian" to "Canadian" and provide an argument that if we make the investment in the resources needed to make the transition to "Canadian" that we'll create new capital (financial and human capital) that will find its way overseas to address international development issues;

And finally, I'll try and express my thinking around the concept of "business planning" for giving.

Please join the discussion.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

New features at GiveMeaning

I'm trying to spend less time on the computer on weekends so I've got to make this quick. Last night, we launched several new features to GiveMeaning including the ability to subscribe to RSS Feeds for any cause, location or combination of cause and locations. So you can subscribe to a feed for everything at GiveMeaning addressing "poverty" in "Vancouver" as an example.

It's a great way to find out what's going on about an issue or community you care about.

Check it out.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Pizza Hut story

Here's a heartwarming story whose moral is that giving doesn't need to be overly complicated. If we as individuals and families keep our eyes, ears and hearts open to people in our own social networks in need... Well.. Read the story, you'll see what I'm getting at.

On another note, Peter Deitz held a "webinar" on "group fundraising solutions" today. He lumped together what I'll call "vertical micro-philanthropy sites" such as ModestNeeds, GlobalGiving, Kiva, DonorsChoose with "horizontal group fundraising sites" like FirstGiving, and GiveMeaning.

GiveMeaning is unique in that it's both a micro-philanthropy site AND a horizontal group fundraising site but as it applies to most of the other organizations in online fundraising and philanthropy, the two concepts are exclusive of one another.

Let me explain: ModestNeeds allows people to fund specific individuals who have applied for funding for specific personal needs. DonorsChoose allows donors to donate to appeals made by teachers asking for funding for specific school-related projects. All of these sites offer great "catalog's" of giving options all around one specific cause. These vertical sites are generally donor-based but augmented through tools that facilitate spreading awareness about specific projects on that site via word-of-mouth.

Horizontal group fundraising sites are first and foremost "fundraiser centric." This means that without a specific fundraiser instigating traffic to their own fundraising page, (little to) no donations will occur. A horizontal group fundraising platform gives a motivated individual the ability to become a fundraiser for any charity. Group fundraising platforms allow motivated "evangelists" of an organization to fundraise within their own social network (thus also augmenting awareness of the org amongst that network). Very few true strangers are going to donate to a personal fundraising page.

GiveMeaning is unique in that we are fundraiser-centric but because most every fundraising page at GiveMeaning articulates a specific project. Projects can be very specific like this one or more broad and focused really on raising money for an existing program of a charity like this one.

Peter Deitz has done an amazing job and provided a great service in comparing various online giving and fundraising sites but I think it's important to create greater distinction when making comparisons about services that in many cases are comparing "apples to lugnuts."

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Another GiveMeaning member doing incredible things

Just got in from delivering a talk at a noon Rotary club meeting on Vancouver Island. I felt as though my talk was very well received and I had two unexpected bonuses:

I got to see my brother and his girlfriend for a few minutes (currently vacationing nearby) and I got to sit in the copilot's chair on the flight back to Vancouver.

My colleague Nate sent me s link to the following video clip just a few minutes ago:

Geoff (featured in the video) and his girlfriend have been raising money for this project for less than a month and have already raised $4,000! What's more, because of the nature of the project, no tax-receipts can be issued but it hasn't restrained generosity for this project.

The project is a fundraiser for a woman named Natalie Mperheza and her children Bienfait and Kesha. They came from the DR Congo two years ago and now reside in North Surrey in a government subsidized apartment complex.

Natalie and her two young children left DRC about two years ago and immigrated to Canada. I have been talking and thinking a lot about the challenges that face new Canadians and will be writing and Podcasting a lot more on the subject.

Speaking of Podcasts, I uploaded a new episode last night where I interviewed Shawn Smith of "Agents of Change" who recently led a group of young people on a ride from Vancouver to Mexico to raise money through GiveMeaning in support of Kiva's microcredit funds. Shawn was very open about his experiences and it's worth a listen to anyone considering a "bike a thon" or ride as a fundraiser. You can download it by searching the iTunes store for GiveMeaning or come over to GiveMeaning and download it from our site.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pigs on a Toronto street corner

Yesterday, Terri Polet (a fundraiser at GiveMeaning) called the office. She told me that her sister runs a hot-dog stand in Toronto and had been using one of our Pig-e-Banks to collect spare change in support of Terri's fundraising initiative

Her sister Marianne has already raised over $100 in spare change through her Pig-e-Bank . So yesterday, I posted a Facebook note and tagged many of my friends living in Toronto. I asked whether anyone would be willing to take a picture of the Pig-e-Bank at Marianne's hot-dog stand and the very next morning: voila!

I met Jamie Drayton at this year's Mesh Conference. He's started a site called "Be a Good Buzz" which is a user-generated content site posting heart-warming, inspiring content.

In Jamie's post about the Pig-e-Bank and Marianne's hot-dog stand, he included link to a video about Marianne who is a bit of a living legend in Toronto.

Go to Jamie's post and click on the video link.

I'm honored that our little Pig-e-Bank is part of Marianne's stand.

To see the project that the Pig-e-Bank is benefiting, click here

I love how a real-world action was easily instigated through Facebook.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Update: Send me your junk

In the mail today, I received my first package of stamps in response to the recent request I made on this blog!

The stamps came from the good folks at Bluelime media and I'm most grateful!

After I posted my appeal, Darren Barefoot blogged about it and I'm pretty sure that the Bluelime folks heard about the appeal through Darren's blog. Many thanks Darren!

For those of you not familiar with my appeal, it's so simple: I'm asking that you cut the top right-hand corner of envelopes you receive in the mail and send them to me in the mail. Also, for you soda can or beer can drinkers, send me the "tabs" on the top of the can. Mail them to me here:

Attn: Tom's Gramma Fund
45 Dunlevy Ave, Suite 230A
Vancouver, BC V6A 3A3

My Gramma is no longer in independent living and the transition to a full-fledged care home has been very depressing for her and all of us that love her.

My Gramma recently told me that one of the things she most laments about losing her independence is that she can no longer send used stamps and soda-can tabs to the BC Guide Dogs Society. This great charity which provides guide dogs to sight-challenged people encourages people (especially seniors) to send stamps and soda-can tabs in to the charity who then sells the stamps and recycles the tabs and makes more than $1,000 a year from this simple act.

If I can collect enough stamps and soda-can tabsby July 31st, the BC Guide Dogs society might bring in one of their Guide Dog pups for a visit to my Gramma's care-home, something I know would cheer-up many of the residents there.

Please take a few moments out of your day to put aside your soda-can tabs and used stamps. I'll be sure to recognize each contributor on my blog and post pictures of the guide dog visit on this blog.

Many thanks!

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Thank god for musicians?

Musicians are saving the world again. It makes me laugh that Gore & Co are anointing as global ambassadors of the environment the likes of Rhianna whose lyrics to her latest single include:

"Get you where you wanna go, if you know what I mean.
Got a ride that´s smoother than a limousine.
Can you handle the curves, can you run all the lights?
If you can baby boy, than we can go all night."

Don't get me wrong: Rhianna is stunning. She actually looks computer generated. I will admit having actually paid to download her latest single and her music videos are... well... memorable. And while her singing might have me holding on to her every word, if she were to take an interlude to talk about the environment, I'd flip to the next channel.

You get where I'm going.

Live8 was a similar endeavor that brought musicians together in huge concerts to end poverty and rally the G8. Live8 actually had a pretty well-crafted message and yet the G8 members have cynically and callously lied to citizens around the world and not delivered on their much ballyhooed Gleneagles announcement.

aims to "trigger a global movement to solve the climate crisis." First Al Gore "invented the internet" and now he's "invented the global warming movement."

The movement has been strong long before he started giving his slideshow. Don't get me wrong: has done amazing work in expanding the movement.

True, his SOS campaign will likely get a bunch of "contact points" from concert goers, to instigate further action but Make Poverty History has proven that after the "big kickoff", all of those emails with inspiring calls to action don't get acted upon that much.

And of course, I'm not a fan of carbon offsets, and if you want to know why, visit this website. If you don't click on the link (which is a great example of how to use humor and levity to influence change), I'll summarize by saying that I think offsets do nothing to change bad behavior.

The amount of money and emissions that this big kick-off will create is not in the brand image of "a different way" or of "doing things better."

I'm just saying that I think for the guy who invented the internet, he could do better.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007


Kevin Sites of Yahoo's Hot Zone wrote this blog entry describing how Christine Egger and her team responded to a story that he wrote about a young Nepalese boy named Yubaraj.

It's a fantastic success story all around.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Everything has changed

After just a night in Montreal, I'm back on the train now headed to Toronto. I'm listening to Lucinda Williams on my iPod and as I opened a new window to start this blog entry, the song started. Appropriately titled: Everything has changed.

The song (in Lucinda style) is horribly depressing but beautiful:

Now I don't know where my faith has gone
Faces look familiar but they dont have names
Towns I used to live in have been rearranged
Highways I once traveled on dont look the same
Everything has changed. Everything has changed

Reading the Globe & Mail this morning, this song was the perfect soundtrack for an article on the front page that reported that the Liberals raised $531,141 from 4,365 contributors versus the $5.1 million from 45,192 contributors that the Conservatives reported during the same period.

The fundraising landscape has changed and what worked before doesn't work as effectively today.

My advice (perhaps self-serving) is that the Liberals need to license the GiveMeaning platform to create personalized fundraising pages for each candidate. Here's how it would work: E

ach candidate creates a page (within their own website) where their supporters are encouraged to sign-up as "virtual campaigners."

They send an email to their own social networks with an introductory note about why they support the candidate and encouraging them to donate. The link brings them to a fundraising page not unlike this one except branded in the look and feel of the rest of that candidate's page.

People can leave messages of support, and the candidate's blog entries, photos, video entries whatever are automatically imported with a notification being sent out to each donor when updates are made (like Facebook).

In targeting small donations, the two big issues are conversion rate and cost of acquisition. There is no cheaper, more effective program than GiveMeaning's fundraising pages. What do you say candidates and campaign managers?

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Monday, July 02, 2007

A charitable music label

On the train ride I've been surfing a bunch of articles articulating the continued demise of CD sales in the record industry. This is of interest to me for two reasons: 1) My wife is signed to Universal Canada and;
2) I suppose I helped contribute to the demise of record industry during my time at Apple many moons ago.

The latter point is a great story of the road to hell being paved with good intentions.

Anyway, I think I've come up with the new business model for the record industry: A charitable music label.

We'll incorporate a new independent label but instead of structuring it as a for-profit, we do it as a registered charity.

We'll distribute the music free and collect donations for our artists. People will reward music they like. Get a tax-receipt and support good music that you like. I think there's something to this.

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A beautiful weekend

I am writing this entry on a train headed from Ottawa to Montreal. The wireless is awfully slow but I'm nevertheless impressed that I'm rolling through farmland, eating a meal slightly better than airplane food (when planes served real food) and surfing the web.

I was in Ottawa to attend a fundraising event for Giselle Mansfield and her fellow climbers. Gigi has been actively fundraising at GiveMeaning for about 8 months now... She calls the office often enough that most of us recognize the sound of her voice and we've all developed a bond with her.

I've said that if GiveMeaning had more Gigi's using our site, we'd be more popular than Google. She is everything a fundraiser needs to be: Passionate, doggedly determined, tenacious and relentless. So far, she has raised over $30,000 and at the event she held on the weekend, she raised over $10,000.

Giselle is part of an initiative of the Stephen Lewis Foundation called "Grandmothers for Grandmothers" where Grandmothers in North America fundraise in support of Grandmothers in Africa who are caring for their grandchildren (due to their own children being orphaned due to AIDS.)

In October, Gigi and several other women are climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. This was their last big fundraising event before they leave in October.

Jess and I came out for the event held in a small town called Dunrobin. Jess played a few songs and I gave a few words at the closing of the event. It was a long way to come for just one day but as I said at the event, we would have flown around the world to show our support for Giselle. She really demonstrates the power of one incredibly motivated individual able to get a lot done.

Jess flew back early on Canada Day leaving me alone in Canada' capital city. To be on Parliament Hill watching a beautiful fireworks display explode right behind the Parliament buildings was truly awesome.

I'm only in Montreal for the night and then headed to Toronto for a few days before heading home. If you're reading this and in Toronto, please drop me a note. I'm in town until Wednesday night.

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