How Technology Can Improve Philanthropy

Technology has improved the world in many ways by bringing us closer and making things more efficient. This is also the case for the nonprofit sector. Many of the obstacles that used to get in the way of helping causes are no longer there. One of the first ways it has been transformative is in the way people now think of the word philanthropy.

For many years, philanthropy was associated with gifts from wealthy patrons and/or large sums of money. Because technology has made giving so much easier, it is now possible to donate to a cause you are passionate about, even if you have very little money of your own. Websites like GoFundMe provide insight into details about a specific charity or person who needs help. Crowdfunding, in general, is able to harness the power of the masses in order to obtain thousands of small gifts that add up to substantial support. JustGiving is another great platform to search for a cause to support, ranging form 5K races to funding a specific community project.

In the past, philanthropists would gather at large galas to hold fundraisers or charity auctions. Unless they held blind auctions with bidder numbers, people knew who was donating or bidding. There was no anonymity. Because of the internet, it is now very easy to support as many causes as you like, free from disclosure. It also goes the other way. It is very easy to campaign for a cause you care about via social media. Many people use their birthdays as a way to increase awareness about a cause. 

If a person is shy, they don’t even need to leave their house to donate. There are mobile text organizations such as The Mobile Giving Foundation which engages with donors via a smartphone network. Some major relief efforts were obtained after natural disasters such as the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, and the Ebola outbreak.

Unlike in the past, people who support causes want to see where their money is going and want to feel fulfilled by the results. Organizations have responded with a greater ability to inform donors exactly what the latest news is. Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a portal that lets donors receive updates and ask questions about how a cause or project is moving along. 

Making a Difference: Cerebral Palsy

Most people are unaware that Cerebral palsy (CP) is actually a term that describes a multitude of disorders, not just one. The word Cerebral refers to issues that deal with the brain, and the word Palsy refers to a person’s ability to maintain balance, posture, and movement.

The main cause of CP is predominantly due to the mother catching an infection or a virus while the fetus is still in utero. These account for 70% of the cases. Some people also attribute it to a lack of oxygen flow to the infant’s brain during labor and delivery, but that is actually a very small percentage.

A child who has CP will show signs early in childhood and they may display floppy limbs, involuntary movements, or exaggerated reflexes, to name just a few. There is no known cure at this time for CP, and most sufferers will require life-long treatment, including physical therapy, medication, and occasional surgery. For many families, these are expensive and emotionally draining times, which is why there are charities to support families who have members with cerebral palsy.

United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) is a non-profit organization that works to help families with cerebral palsy members as well as other disorders. Founded in 1949, they pioneered the idea of using fundraising telethons as a means of support. The Cerebral Palsy Foundation (CPF) is another group that not only supports people, but they do it in a different fashion by partnering with schools and the media. Reaching for the Stars is focused heavily on the science behind CP and working on ways to someday formulate a cure. 

There are also organizations that are determined to ensure adequate rights for those who suffer from disabilities. The American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) was founded in 1876. Their main goals are to broaden the ability of businesses to work with individuals who have intellectual and developmental disabilities and to promote and encourage the development of a society that can fully embrace people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

In addition to these support groups, there are numerous others that assist with the neonatal and maternal sector. March of Dimes was founded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938. The original aim was to combat polio and it was called the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. Since funding Jonas Salk’s life-saving polio vaccine, they have steered their focus towards preterm birth-related diseases, as well as other childhood illnesses.

Finding the Right Charity for You

There are many people who want to make a difference in the world, even if it’s in a small way. There are 1.6 million non-profit organizations in the United States at the moment, and they support causes ranging from wildlife and nature preservation to battling hunger and homelessness. For every cause you could possibly care about, there is a charity to match. The problem lies in choosing which ones are legitimate and which ones will benefit your chosen issue the most.

It is very easy in today’s world to set up a GoFundMe page or a website that purports to serve various causes. The problem with the internet is the anonymity and lack of accountability that thrives in such an unregulated environment. You might see a charity that calls itself humane league without having any actual connection to the actual animal rights advocacy group, the Humane League

There are many online databases that have done a lot of this research. They examine the financial health of the businesses and their commitment to both transparency and accountability. Some examples of these websites are guidestar.org, charitywatch.org, givewell.org, and charitynavigator.org. They do the heavy lifting when it comes to exploring tax filings and present their data in a straightforward, unbiased way.

Another great tool is word of mouth. Many people have spent years volunteering their time and donating money to various causes, rewarded by a great feeling of satisfaction that comes femur helping others. You can also look to your employer or university to see if they favor a particular cause. Chances are that they are not investing in any type of unseemly organization. 

A great way to support a charity is by volunteering. Administrative costs can add up, so searching a website like volunteermatch.org is a great way to see how your time can be of use. By typing in your location, you can see where you can be of service. The website also lets you narrow down availability based on your interests. If you have a particular skill that can be of use, there is another website called catchafire.org. This space provides a way to match your skills with organizations that would greatly appreciate the pro bono work of an expert.

How to Support an Abused Loved One

Domestic abuse is many people’s worst fear. But how do you help a loved one who is being abused? You might not live with them or see them often, but there are still many ways you can support them.

 

Listen to Them

Often, survivors of domestic violence go unheard. They may subtly hint that they are being abused, or that their relationship is impacting them negatively. It is never right to assume one way or another, but you can listen and ask the right questions. Directly asking “Are you being abused?” may not solicit an accurate response, so be careful with your wording. Avoid accusations, and instead focus on your loved one.

 

Give Guidance if Asked

This is a difficult step, because many victims of abuse will not admit they are being abused. However, if a friend or family member asks you for advice, offer them words of encouragement and let them know that they deserve to be treated respectfully. Again, focus less on accusing the abuser, as this may push your loved one away. Also, allow the victim to make their own decisions. Abusers often control their victims, so empowering them will give them hope.

 

Offer a Place to Stay

This may not be feasible for everyone, but if you have space for your loved one, offer to let them stay with you until they get back on their feet. Many victims suffer from financial abuse, where the abuser controls all of their money. They may not have a way to leave on their own, so offering a helping hand is a great way to show your support.

 

Share Resources

There are hundreds of resources for victims of domestic abuse, such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Make sure your loved one is aware of the resources available to them. Also suggest going to therapy, and offer to help find a therapist that specializes in domestic abuse. Your loved one may not be ready to talk about their trauma, so respect their decision either way. They may also be more comfortable if you accompany them to their first few sessions, and this is a suggestion you may also make.

 

Educate Yourself

Education about domestic violence is the best way to empathize with your loved one. There are plenty of resources about why victims stay with abusers and many other important topics. Reading current research from psychological professionals and stories from survivors can help broaden your knowledge. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to educate yourself about domestic abuse, not your loved one’s.

 

Love Them

This is simple. Show your love and support in as many ways as you can. Do what makes your loved one comfortable. If you’ve known them for years, you likely know some of their favorite things – the movies, foods, and activities that make them feel at home. You don’t have to spend every penny on them, but the little things can add up. Let your loved one know how much they mean to you.

 

If you suspect a loved one is being abused, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline online or by phone at 1-800-799-7233.

 

Isabell Agumbah is a strong advocate against domestic violence. To find out more about domestic abuse, visit her website.

Sports Illustrated Honors Teen Who Led Cerebral Palsy Walks

In my last blog post, I wrote about the inspiring and heart-warming story of Hunter Gandee, a teen hero who has brought tons of attention and awareness to Cerebral Palsy, a disease that affects his younger brother, Braden Grandee.

On Monday, Sports Illustrated announced its annual list of accolades. Earning the first High School Athlete of the Year award was the 15-year-old high school sophomore, Hunter Gandee.

“What an honor! I’m truly blessed!” Hunter tweeted Monday afternoon.

Hunter was 14 and Braden was 7 when the brothers first walked 40 miles together to raise money for a handicap-accessible playground at Braden’s elementary school, as well as increased understanding of cerebral palsy — a brain injury that affects movement, posture and muscle coordination.

Throughout the entire June 2014 walk, Hunter carried his brother on his back. One year later, the duo was back at it — this time walking 57 miles. The second “Cerebral Palsy Swagger” event was a step up challenge-wise, but the goal was the same.

“One thing I wanted to show through this walk is the power of the youth in our society,” Hunter says. “We saw a problem, we had an idea to create a solution, and the only difference from us and a lot of other kids is that we went out and tried it.”

Since completing the walks, the brothers have received attention from national media organizations, hoping to share their story. Hunter has received countless awards for his strength and determination, including most recently the Sports Illustrated accolade.

Hunter’s story will be featured in the Sports Illustrated magazine issue that hits the stands Dec. 21. He has also been invited to an awards dinner in New York to honor the athletes featured in the magazine, including cover athlete and tennis legend Serena Williams.

Here is a 10 minute video I found that shows the beautiful relationship between these two brothers. Enjoy:

 

High School Students Use Their Engineering Club To Help A Fellow Classmate With Cerebral Palsy

A group of high school students in Green Township, Ohio, created a project for themselves that would help a fellow classmate, Jerry Potavin. Jerry is a student living with cerebral palsy.

Alan Rasof

Members of the Oak Hills engineering club designed and built a table to help classmate Jerry Potavin.

What started out as just another project for the engineering team at Oak Hills High School turned out to be much more then that for classmate, Jerry Potavin. Jerry is sitting easier now thanks to the selflessness of his peers at Oak Hills.

“I have always loved helping people, it’s just what I like to do,” says Oak Hills, senior, Dylan Noble. Dylan along with 5 other engineering students were contacted by their high schools engineering teacher to build something that would make Jerry a little more comfortable. “Once we finally delivered it to him, it was exactly what they wanted” says Dylan.

Alan RasofJerry has to spend a lot of time in his wheelchair every day and because of this he needs to spend a certain amount of time a day stretched out on a flat mat. Dylan and the engineering club built a table that would make it easier for Jerry to move around.

Laura Velasquez, one of Jerry’s teachers at Oak Hills said that when they brought the table down to show Jerry, their faces were lit up with joy and excitement. Their faces were just glowing, you could feel the overwhelming positive energy that they had, said Velasquez.

Velasquez said that the table has already made a difference for Jerry. “It makes him feel a lot more included, so that’s really wonderful,” she said.

Dylan Noble, along with the rest of his engineering team, have set such a great example for their peers. They have found a way to combine the skill sets that they have learned in engineering class with giving back to their community to most importantly, help a friend.

To read more about Jerry and his classmates, or to watch a video on this story, click here.

 

Abbey Curran: A Voice of Confidence

Abbey Curran, Alan RasofAbbey Curran was the first woman with a disability to compete and win in the Miss Iowa beauty pageant and later to compete in the Miss USA beauty pageant. After being diagnosed with cerebral palsy from birth, Abbey’s determination to exceed a wide range of expectations throughout her life is what has made her a powerful voice for young children with disabilities today.

As a child, Abbey was told that it wasn’t realistic for her to compete in a local beauty pageant because of her disability. As stated in an interview with CerebralPalsy.org, Abbey claims that her frustration turned into determination: “‘It made me mad when someone told me I couldn’t do something. I entered that pageant, and I was in the top 10,’” (Former Miss Iowa and Pageant Founder Helps Little Girls Recognize Their beauty). From that day on, if Abbey was ever told she couldn’t do something, it was her mission to prove them wrong.

When Abbey competed in the Miss Iowa pageant in 2008, she was told she would never win. But she did. She made history as the first woman ever with a disability to compete in the state competition, and the first to win. When Abbey then competed in the Miss USA pageant her confidence levels skyrocketed. Though she did not win, Abbey learned how much of a confidence boost participating in a pageant can be for young girls, especially young girls with disabilities who have been discouraged a multitude of times both at school and at home.

One day between pageants Abbey had a conversation with another girl who also had special needs. This girl toMiss You Can Do Itld Abbey that she wanted to compete in a pageant, but her parents told her she couldn’t because people would laugh at her. These words devastated Abbey, so in 2004 she created the first “Miss You Can Do It” pageant for young girls with disabilities, catered towards making girls with disabilities feel confident and beautiful just the way they are.

Wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and braces are familiar sights at the pageant, and help to create a sense of empowerment as well as support for contestants who have special needs. In her interview, Abbey exclaims:

miss-you-can-do-it-w352“‘They get oodles of confidence; they’re the prettiest little girls. Everyone here likes them. They learn when they come to this pageant that they’re not alone. People aged 5 to 105 love them. They get to go home with something huge…They meet other girls they would not meet otherwise,’” (Former Miss Iowa and Pageant Founder Helps Little Girls Recognize Their beauty).

It is a very powerful thing when young girls see other girls and women who have disabilities so that they know they’re not alone – that thousands of girls around the world have similar struggles to their own. Abbey’s main goal for the Miss You Can Do It pageant is for everyone “to view those with challenges as people who have as much to offer as others,” (Former Miss Iowa and Pageant Founder Helps Little Girls Recognize Their beauty).

Abbey’s confidence and determination is something for young girls – with or without disabilities – to emulate. She is a true leader dedicated to making the world a better place by creating equal opportunities for these girls with a kind, compassionate heart. For more information about the Miss You Can Do It pageant, please check out their website here.

Types of Cerebral Palsy

Alan T. RasofTypes of Cerebral Palsy are classified by which areas of the brain are affected and therefore which movement disorders occur. The following movement disorders are the most common to those affected by CP: stiff muscles (spasticity), uncontrollable movements (dyskinesia), and poor balance and coordination (ataxia). There are four main types of Cerebral Palsy categorized by these various movement disorders.

The first type of CP, and the most common, is called spastic Cerebral Palsy, which affects 80% of those diagnosed with CP. According to the CDC, “People with spastic CP have increased muscle tone. This means their muscles are stiff and, as a result, their movement can be awkward. Spastic CP is usually described by what parts of the body are affected,” (Cdc.gov). Spastic diplegia/diparesis, spastic hemiplegia/hemiparesis, and spastic quadriplegia/quadriparesis are all categorized under Spastic Cerebral Palsy.

Spastic diplegia predominantly occurs in the legs and most who are diagnosed under this category have normal movement and range in their arms. Many people who have spastic diplegia have trouble walking because their leg and hip muscles are extremely tight; and often times their will turn inward and cross at the knees. Spastic hemiplegia, on the other hand, affects only one side of a person’s body and the arm tends to be affected more heavily than the leg. Spastic quadriplegia affects all four limbs, the trunk, and the face of a person – it is the most severe form of spastic SP. Most people who have spastic quadriplegia cannot walk at all and have developmental disabilities, difficulty with their vision, and seizures.

Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy is the second type of CP. Those who have dyskinetic CP have difficulty controlling movement of their legs, feet, arms, and hands, which results in having trouble walking and sitting down. According to the CDC, “Sometimes the face and tongue are affected and the person has a hard time sucking, swallowing, and talking. A person with dyskinetic CP has muscle tone that can change (varying from too tight to too loose),” (Cdc.gov).Alan T. Rasof

The third type of Cerebral Palsy is ataxic, which correlates with balance and coordination. Those diagnosed with this type of CP usually have a hard time with quick movements, or movements that require stability. Walking can be be unsteady and they may have trouble controlling their hands if they are reaching for an object.

Last, mixed Cerebral Palsy is the fourth type of CP, and happens to those who are affected by more than one type of CP. Most commonly, spastic-dyskinetic CP occurs as a mix, resulting in an individual’s increased muscle tone and difficulty controlling movement in their hands, arms, feet, and legs.

It is important that we are all aware of these different types of Cerebral Palsy so that research can be conducted to help ease pain and aid in controlling muscle movements on an individual scale. Each human being is affected differently by their CP, and the more we can understand as a society, the more help we can offer.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Definition:

Cerebral palsy, though commonly associated with impairment of motor function, is actually caused by brain damage that occurs while a child’s brain is still in its developing stages – before birth, during birth, or directly after birth. Due to this brain damage, those who are diagnosed with cerebral palsy have difficulty with body movement, muscle coordination, muscle tone, muscle control, reflex, balance, posture, and motor skill functions (fine, gross, and oral).

Alan Rasof

Cause:

Each individual’s case of cerebral palsy damage due to the amount of brain damage that occurs, the time the brain damage occurs during a certain developmental phase in the brain, and the type of brain damage that occurs. According to Cerebralpalsy.org, the type of brain damage that causes cerebral palsy can be one (or more) of the following:

  1. Prenatal disturbance of brain cell migration – genetic and environmental factors disturb brain cell migration as cells move to their appropriate location during brain development.
  2. Prenatal poor myelination (insulation) of developing nerve cell fibers – brain function is impeded when poor myelin provides an inadequate protective covering over nerve cells that aid in the transmission.
  3. Perinatal brain cell death – events in the birthing process that rupture blood vessels or starve oxygen to the brain.
  4. Postnatal non-functional or inappropriate connections (synapses) between brain cells – trauma, infections, and asphyxia that damage connections developed in the brain.

Alan Rasof Pregnant-Woman

History:

Alan Rasof amigo mgaCerebral palsy was pioneered by Dr. William John Little in the mid 1800s, who used his own childhood disability as motivation for this discovery. In addition, Sir William Osler, an important figure in modern medicine, wrote the first book pertaining to cerebral palsy to help spread awareness. He came up with the idea that the disability was a result from abnormal fetal development – far before the medical field agreed with his concept.

According to Cerebralpalsy.org, “At different times, the U.S. government passed crucial legislation to modernize care and further rights of individuals with a disability. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act, which promoted community-based care as an alternative to institutionalization,” (History of Cerebral Palsy).

Medicine has played a large role in understanding cerebral palsy, along with diagnosing it. Technological advancements in medicine have aided those who have cerebral palsy, redefining what it means to live with a disability. In addition, blood typing medicine, similar to which is used to cure jaundice, and vaccine developments such as rubella, have helped, and continue to help, to prevent the development of cerebral palsy.

In Children:

Many times, signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy are not apparent at birth, but when it comes to development and growth milestones, parents will likely notice a delay unusual from normal patterns. Today, about the amount of children with cerebral palsy ranges from about 2.3% to 3.6% out of 1,000 children.

Please stay tuned for the next blog post to find out about the preventative measures for cerebral palsy.

The Susan G. Komen Global Movement

Alan Rasof breast cancer awarenessThe Susan G. Komen Foundation began in 1980, after Nancy Brinker made a promise to her sister, Susan, who was dying from breast cancer. This one promise was that Nancy would do everything she could to end breast cancer for good. 30 years later, this promise has turned into one of the world’s biggest philanthropic accomplishments that has impacted millions of lives.

Nancy began the foundation with just $200 and a list of donor names. Now, the organization has invested in over $2.6 billion in research, community outreach, health advocacy, and various programs that span across more than 30 countries. Breast cancer death rates have decreased by 34% since the foundation’s start.

The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation has one of the world’s largest network of breast cancer survivors and activists. When Suzy was diagnosed in 1977, breast cancer was not a subject people openly spoke about – women felt like they were alone. But now, after tremendous efforts in the last 30 since the founding of the organization, women know they are not alone. There is now a global community made up of millions of people who are not afraid to share their stories and increase awareness of the disease so that it can one day be a part of the past and not a reality.

Alan Rasof nancy-brinker-1According to the official website for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Nancy G. Brinker, Founder and Chair of Global Strategy, has spoken about the rapid growth of the foundation and its effects on patients diagnosed with breast cancer. She writes:

“We have fought for access to care for the poor and uninsured; funded the clinics that educate, screen and treat people with breast cancer; paid for the groceries, transportation, wigs, prosthetics and insurance co-pays to help women face breast cancer with dignity and hope. We are doing this in more than 30 countries around the world, with more to come. We have invested more than $1.7 billion to make these programs possible,” (ww5.komen.org).

The efforts of all of those involved with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation have gone above and beyond any expectation that Nancy first had when she began the organization.

With continued efforts, this Foundation will flourish among the many profitable nonprofits and help those diagnosed with breast cancer, never ceasing to set out what they originally planned to do – find a cure.