Monthly Archives: March 2011


To some, $1000 may not seem like a lot of money.  To others, $1000 could make a big difference in their life.  Today’s organization tries to help those who could use a boost by providing them with a $1000 grant to help them move past a difficult financial situation.

MicroGrants is a Minneapolis, Minnesota based 501(c)3 organization that was founded in 2006 by Joe Selvaggio.  Their mission is to boost pre-screened people of potential to their next plateau on their journey to self-sufficiency.

The organization began from a conversation…Speaking to one of his long-time friends and funders, Joe said, “I would like to help the poor by investing directly in the hard work and resourcefulness of low income individuals.”  This seed idea is where it all began and soon after that conversation, generous contributions were given to begin MicroGrants.

Many low-income individuals may simply lack the tools or a few credentials for self-sufficiency they are capable of achieving.  Those who find themselves at the low end of the economic ladder not only struggle with lack of income and resources, many are also already burdened with debt.  This is what makes MicroGrants a unique financial opportunity for those on the verge of self-sufficiency.  MicroGrants doesn’t set up loans, it gives $1000 grants, free and clear, to people who are on the road to economic stability.

MicroGrants connects to those in need through their many partner organizations.  When a client at one of those organizations hits a roadblock – one that can be overcome with a small grant – the counselor will send him or her to MicroGrants.  The counselors know when $1000 will make the difference between moving ahead and falling behind.  The counselors also continue working with clients after the grant is issued.

MicroGrants have paid for many educational courses, licenses and tools for trades people, a snow blower to make money clearing walks, and computers and software to aid small businesses.  They purchased business cards and new signage for a struggling hair salon and car repairs so that recipients could get to their jobs.  The ways that the grants have helped are as varied as the stories of the recipients, such as the story of Shegitu Kebede. 

Shegitu received a sponsorship to America in 1990 after fleeing war and violence in Ethiopia.  She was determined to overcome her own challenges and to help others.  She got a factory job and later worked at a non-profit organization that helped single mothers apply for jobs.  She discovered that most of these women lacked basic skills and were not qualified for the positions available.  This inspired Shegitu to think of starting a small cleaning business to help train these women, however she did not have any money or equipment.  A MicroGrant of $1000 made it possible for her to get started by purchasing vacuum cleaners, mops and cleaning supplies to begin her program.  Women without marketable skills work with Shegitu to learn what they need to know to be employed.  After 3-6 months, the women can get permanent jobs with benefits. Shegitu has set up partnerships with Augsburg College, Fairview Medical Centers, and the University of Minnesota to be employers of her trainees. 

Read more success stories on the MicroGrant website.

MicroGrants is financed primarily by individuals who believe in its mission, but also by corporations and foundations.  You can donate directly on the MicroGrants website.  MicroGrants is a small organization that simply funnels money from generous donors to those in need with over ninety cents of each dollar going directly to recipients. 

In addition to donations, MicroGrants periodically has a need for volunteers for various projects.  In the past volunteers have met with past grant recipients to evaluate the quality of the grant and write their story. 

Recently the Bremer Foundation granted $30,000 to MicroGrants to explore expanding to various communities around Minnesota.  They are aiming to take their current local model and replicate it in other cities around the state and country. 

Learn more about MicroGrants on their website,  You can also follow them on Facebook or YouTube.


Posted by on March 31, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization


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Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer

I have attended and even participated in many a bake sale.  People bake cookies, muffins, cakes, and more in their kitchen and sell them to raise money for an organization or cause.  Now, imagine real chefs rather than home cooks doing a bake sale?  Essentially that is what Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer has created! 

In 1973, Eva Brownman lost her battle to breast cancer at only 44 years old and left behind two young daughters.  In 1991, these daughters, Marjie Brownman Shapiro and Carol Brownman Sneider, in association with several of their friends and relatives, established The Eva Brownman Breast Cancer Fund to benefit breast cancer research and education at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts.

In 2000, Carol decided to try something different and began contacting restaurants to participate in a week long dessert celebration.  In that first year 42 restaurants, bakeries, and cafes signed up to donate all their profits from one dessert to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for a full week.  Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer was born!

Each year, the week before Mother’s Day, restaurants, bakeries, cafes, ice cream shops and more sign up to participate.  This year the event will have at least 250 restaurants in 90 communities across Massachusetts.  Some will even ship their special desserts around the country (more details on that later). 

Now in their 12th year, Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer has raised over $500,000 for cancer research…last year they raised $70,000 in just one week with a goal to raise at least that much in 2011!  Together with the efforts of the Eva Brownman Breast Cancer Fund, over 1.5 million dollars has been raised!

How can you help?

  • Visit one of the 250 restaurants and indulge in dessert between May 2 and 8, 2011.  Search for participating restaurants by city here
  • Like I mentioned above, some restaurants are able to ship desserts around the country.  Go to the restaurant list and choose “Desserts Shipped to You” as the city.
  • Boston Bakes is also always looking for volunteers.  They are willing to receive help with anything…marketing, blogging, phone calling and more!  Just contact them to let them know what your interests are.  
  • For those watching your waistline, cash donations are also accepted on their website

Learn more about Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer on their website,  You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook.


Posted by on March 29, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization


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Spare Key

I am very grateful that my kids are healthy…yes they do have ear infections, tummy aches, and fevers, but those are nothing compared to what other families go through. I have written about organizations founded after the death of a child, such as Ella’s Halo and  Isaac’s Foundation.  Today’s organization is another example of a family turning a loss into something great.

Spare Key is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides assistance to Minnesota homeowners with critically ill or seriously injured children by making a mortgage payment on the family’s behalf. 

In 1997, Patsy and Robb Keech founded Spare Key after the death of their 2 ½ year old son, Derian.  Born with a genetic birth defect, Derian endured many hospitalizations – six major surgeries and five open-heart surgeries in his short life.  Through all this, Patsy and Robb Keech struggled with juggling time away from their jobs and the emotional strain of caring for a very ill child.   The choice to go to work to avoid losing their home or leaving their critically ill son was tormenting. In the end, they chose their son.  Friends and family members assisted them with expenses during this time and the idea for this organization was born.

Spare Key is located in Bloomington, however they serve families throughout the state of Minnesota.  Over the past fourteen years, they have been able to assist nearly 1,200 Minnesota families, in almost every county across the state.  They have paid out over $1.1 million.

The funds used to help families are raised through foundation, individual, community, and corporate giving.  All donations are tax deductible and are recognized in a personal letter.  They also hold two major events each year to raise additional funds.  The Spare Key Golf Benefit is scheduled for September 20, 201l and a winter semi-formal event called “The Groove” was just held in February.

Spare Key is currently striving to grow their organization and budget in order to serve even more Minnesota families struggling to care for their critically ill or injured children.  Many groups and businesses have been inspired to hold fundraising events for Spare Key. 

Sharing the Spare Key story also helps by making more people aware of their services and finding new donors.  Invite Spare Key to share its history, mission and goals with your co-workers, church, civic group, or informal group of friends. According to Spare Key Executive Director, Anne Bomstad Miller, “Spare Key welcomes the opportunity to share our story, and can tailor our presentation to any length.”

Spare Key pays out a maximum of $1,200 per family served.  Families can learn about the program guidelines and apply for the program on the Spare Key website.  Not all recipients have terminally ill children but all greatly appreciate the assistance.  Some examples include the parents of a car accident victim, parents of childhood cancer patients, and parents of a child with a heart defect.  One recipient writes, “Without Spare Key, I don’t think I would be writing you this note from my kitchen table in the house in which we still live.”

How can you help?

  • Make a tax deductible donation.  Spare Key offers many opportunities to give such as monthly giving, planned gifts and more on their website.
  • Hold a fundraiser for Spare Key – maybe a bake sale, silent auction, garage sale, change drive, or a jeans day!
  • You can also support Spare Key through a workplace giving program such as United Way.  Simply note their tax id number (41-1888767) on enrollment forms.
  • Encourage your company to become a sponsor for one of the two annual Spare Key fundraising events.  Recognition and other benefits are provided to all sponsors.  For more information, please contact Anne Bomstad Miller at or by phone at (952) 406-8872.
  • Spread the word about Spare Key by sharing this post.

Learn more about Spare Key on their website,  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

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Posted by on March 24, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization


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In today’s interconnected world, volunteering is evolving from something you must do in your local community to something you can do anywhere, for anyone, and you don’t even need to leave the house for!  A recent trend in volunteerism is micro-volunteering.  This is based on the concept that people who are connected all the time can use their spare time to help others.  For example, you could translate a document while waiting in line, you could mentor someone via e-mail, or help an organization apply for a grant.  Today’s profile is about the first online micro-volunteering network, Sparked. 

Sparked is a website created and offered by The Extraordinaries, Inc.  They were founded in July of 2008 by Ben Rigby and Jacob Colker as a for-profit social enterprise (and a certified B-Corp) with headquarters in San Francisco, California.  Co-founders Ben and Jacob sought to make volunteering as easy and fun as checking Facebook, playing Farmville, or watching videos on YouTube.  According to Sparked communication manager, Shauna Carey, “Our mission is simple: to convert spare time into social good, and bring volunteering into the digital age.”  As the world’s first online micro-volunteering network, they seek to connect busy professionals and nonprofit organizations around the globe. 

We are all busy.  When we do have spare time, it typically comes in small increments – on bus or train commuting to work, sitting in the waiting room at the doctor office, or even while you wait to meet a friend for lunch.  You can use even those bits of time to make a difference!  Shauna continues, “Sparked delivers small, discrete volunteer tasks to the computers and mobile devices of busy professionals so that they can use those spare minutes to help nonprofits increase capacity. With most nonprofits being greatly understaffed, even a few minutes or hours of time from an expert in marketing, graphic design, or IT can be invaluable.”

Since 2008, over 150,000 people have used the tools offered at to micro-volunteer for organizations worldwide.  They also recently launched Sparked Enterprise, which allows corporations to run their employee volunteering programs through their site, and engage employees in service from their own desks.

How can you get involved?

  • Sign up as a volunteer at  The website asks about your interests and your skills to match you up with current needs.
  • Non-Profits can also apply for free at to list current needs. 
  • Corporations can also sign up for a new approach to employee volunteering.
  • You can also help by spreading the word to others you know who have a spare moment to make a difference! 

Learn more about Sparked on their website,  You can also follow them on Twitter or Facebook.    

For more information on micro-volunteering, take a look at this page at or this article from National Public Radio.

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Posted by on March 22, 2011 in Philanthropy


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Ear Candy Charity

When I was young, I had the opportunity to be a band geek.  I haven’t continued to play an instrument into my adult life, but I have continued my appreciation of music.  I have also heard recent studies that have indicated that music education helps students in a variety of ways…including some studies that have found students who study the arts are more successful on standardized tests such as the SAT.  Today’s organization is on a mission to provide more youth access to music education. 

In 2007, Nate Anderson came across a startling statistic: Arizona was 50th out of the 50 states in per person educational funding in the United States.  As a music enthusiast, Nate began researching the effects of such low funding levels on music education in Arizona’s public schools.  Nate’s research changed his life, because in October of 2007, it lead him to found Ear Candy Charity as a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to providing access to music education to young people. 

Ear Candy began with benefit concerts and events to raise money to support music education.  Soon they also began conducting instrument drives with collection points at all 57 Phoenix fire stations.  Truckloads of instruments were delivered to schools across the Phoenix area. 

Ear Candy supports pre-established in school music programs by providing instrument donations to help round out the program. Instrument donations from individual donors and companies are given to school programs that qualify.  The need for music education is at an all-time high and it’s growing.  Ear Candy creates mutually beneficial partnerships with pre-established music programs to maximize their efforts and impact the most kids.  The instruments stay with the programs to help a new class of students every year…thus providing a compounding annual impact.  In 2010 they impacted over 10,000 youth by placing just over 700 instruments with their efforts.  You can learn more about the school music program support on the Ear Candy website.   

Ear Candy has grown to include more than just instrument drives.  They believe that kids need a holistic education when it comes to music and there is more to music education than learning notes, chords, and songs.  The Backstage Class® field trip program provides once in a lifetime opportunities for kids to experience music in unique and impactful ways.  These experiences tend to be one-time events, but the impact they have on the kids can be profound.  The Backstage Class curriculum was developed with the Arizona State University Music Education department to ensure that high quality lessons are delivered.  Some examples of Backstage Class opportunities include artist sound checks, radio station visits, trips to museums, recording studio visits, exploring instrument manufacturer and repair business and meet and greets with artists. 

Ear Candy also holds a Rock Band program where the kids work with professional musicians to improve skills.   They teamed up with the Phoenix Conservatory of Music to launch Rock Band Programs at the Scottsdale Public Library with the help of funding from the Scottsdale Cultural Council and Scottsdale League of the Arts.  The Rock Band program covers rhythms, songwriting, starting a band, digital music, exploration of careers in music, and more. 

How can you help?

  • If you live in the Phoenix, Arizona area, drop off a new or gently used instrument at any of your local fire station.  The donation is tax deductible and is tracked to ensure the donor is updated with where the donation has been placed and its impact.  Learn more about Ear Candy’s instrument drives on their website
  • Anyone can make a monetary donation to help support the variety of Ear Candy music programs.
  • Spread the word about Ear Candy!  Currently they are serving Arizona kids, but have goals to expand to more markets.
  • Ear Candy also needs volunteers (or as they call them…Roadies) to assist with special events, fundraising, instrument pickup, social media content, and more!  Learn more about their current volunteer opportunities on their website.
  • This spring, Ear Candy is also launching a Community Ally program to allow local business the opportunity to help support their mission. 

Learn more about Ear Candy on their website,  You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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Posted by on March 17, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization


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Love & Water Designs

It isn’t just organizations making a difference in the world.  Many companies are also making a difference.  It isn’t just big Fortune 500 companies giving back a portion of their proceeds to the community, many small companies are founded on a principle of philanthropy. 

One such company named Love and Water Designs was founded in 2009 by Alexis Fedor.  Love and Water Designs’ mission is to connect artists with charities to create unique, cause-inspired works of art as Wearable Philanthropy. 

Love and Water Designs began when Fedor was planning to start her own business.  She states, “I wanted to start a company with the mission of giving back to good causes at its core.  I also knew I wanted to engage artists in this effort, and the idea of building a community that consists of artists and charities really inspired me.”   She began with the idea of having artists create new designs for t-shirts inspired by charities.  A portion of the profits are given back to the charities while spreading the word about their mission.

Love and Water Designs is a for-profit company that gives up to 50% off all profits back to the causes that inspire the designs.  Any member of the website can submit a design inspired by a charity.  Members also help choose which shirts are printed and tell the company which causes to focus on at any given time.  Fedor states, “We are open to spreading the word about charities that give back in new and exciting ways. 

The Love and Water Designs website provides a platform for artists who are interested in giving back to create work and share that work with other artists and causes.  Fedor continues, “We want our artists to interact with each other, and with the causes they are creating work for.”  The company also serves as an opportunity for artists to gain unlimited exposure by sharing their designs online and on the shirts that are purchased.  They also provide additional exposure and help raise awareness for each charity featured on the site.

Love and Water Designs is currently in the process of implementing a Youth Division and have recently received over 15 design submissions from high school students for our select charity project in the name of Global Glimpse

How can you become involved?

  • Become a member of the Love and Water Designs website.  Membership is free and you even have an opportunity to earn a free shirt by suggesting charities or inviting your friends to join their community. 
  • Submit t-shirt designs or encourage your artistic friends to submit a design.
  • Browse the charity profiles featured on the website to learn more about them.
  • Suggest a charity for the site to profile.  Each charity with a profile on their site must have a 501c3 status, must be based in the United States or Europe and must be providing services and/or programs that aim to support a humanitarian issue.
  • Vote for the designs that have been inspired by various charities.
  • Shop a wide selection of designs and know that up to 50% of the proceeds are donated to the charity that inspired the design.   

Learn more about Love and Water Designs on their website,  You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumbler.

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Posted by on March 15, 2011 in Philanthropy


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Dreams for Kids

There are 1.7 million homeless children in the United States and 8 million children with disabilities.  Some of these children don’t have the opportunity to achieve their dreams or don’t feel as though they have dreams to achieve.  Today’s organization, Dreams for Kids, has been helping kids achieve their dreams since 1989. 

Dreams for Kids is a 501(c)(3) registered non-profit organization that was founded by Tom Tuohy, in Chicago.  On Christmas Eve, 1989, a dozen volunteers, including Santa, visited 54 children living in a Chicago area homeless shelter. When the volunteers were told that the kids would never have even known it was Christmas, a commitment was made to reach out further each and every year.  This event grew into the Dream for Kids Holiday for Hope that has become the largest holiday event of its kind in the world – holding events in over 30 countries.  Homeless and severely underprivileged youth enjoy a spectacular day of food, music, games, and activities.  Each child also receives a shopping bag full of gifts.  In each event, those who are given the gift of hope are encouraged to pay it forward by serving their community in the following days.

In 1996, Dreams for Kids was introduced to another group of isolated children—those with developmental and physical disabilities.  When the organization found that these kids had no organized sports or social activities available to them, they created Extreme Recess, the first adaptive sports program of its kind for kids with disabilities.  Extreme Recess gives children with developmental and physical challenges the opportunity to participate in sports.  Many of these children have never participated in sports and enjoy a life changing experience when they realize they can.  Adaptive sporting events from snow and water-skiing, to martial arts and baseball, allow youth to realize a physical potential they never knew they had.

In 2007, the international Dream Leaders program was launched.  This program unites an entire generation of youth of all abilities, and from every race, religion, gender, and socio-economic background, to each other, and to service in their local and world communities.  Instead of receiving a charitable handout, isolated youth are reminded they have something to give and are empowered by the opportunity to serve others.  The program helps these youth become the solution and help change world.  This program builds self-esteem, enhances leadership skills, breaks down stereotypes, and so much more. 

In 2009, Dreams for Kids expanded to the nation’s capital to serve the Washington DC Metro area.  The DC group recently partnered with the Washington Nationals baseball team and the Washington Capitals hockey team for Extreme Recess events.  They were able to partner with both teams to raise awareness for adaptive athletics and children living with disabilities while giving over 100 kids an amazing opportunity.  Here are videos from the event with the Capitals and a video from the event with the Nationals.

How can you help?

  • If you live near Chicago or Washington, DC, volunteer for one of the Dreams for Kids events. 
  • Make a monetary donation to Dreams for Kids or one of their specific programs. 
  • Spread the word about Dreams for Kids on Facebook or Twitter. 
  • Share this post to spread the word about this organization.

Learn more on the Dream for Kids website,  You can also follow the Washington DC chapter on Facebook and Twitter or follow the Illinois chapter on Facebook and Twitter.

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Posted by on March 10, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization


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