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The end of the world came and went on December 21, 2012.  The end of the world also did not happen on December 31, 1999.  I am not up on my apocalypse dates, but I am sure there are many other end-of-the-world scenarios that we have lived through and many more prophesized.  One man, Joe Oakland, decided to turn the most recent apocalypse on its head and create a “Givepocalypse” instead.  I asked Joe a few questions just before the “Givepocalypse”.


Why are you doing the Givepocalypse?

About a year ago, while watching T.V., I had noticed the ridiculous amount of End of the World/Apocalypse programming on the Discovery Channel, History Channel, Science Channel, etc. I thought, “With all of these organizations trying to capitalize on the 2012 Mayan Apocalypse, why is nobody trying to actually do some good around it?”  Somebody should do something good around this idea- why not me?

Then something occurred to me that I had seen in an episode of the NBC show, Parks and Recreation.  In this show, one of the greatest characters of all-time, Ron Swanson, explained how he made a killing selling hand-carved wooden flutes to a group of Pawnee residents that predicted the apocalypse a few times every year. They would spend the night preparing for the apocalypse by playing these flutes in a park.

Predictably, the apocalypse never came, but Ron still was able to grift his ill-gotten flute money. Then I had a thought that made me laugh; if I could bring the two ideas together and organize people to donate to charity on the day before the apocalypse (instead of buying flutes) I could really do some good – and maybe give people a chuckle, too. The Givepocalypse was born.

After shelving the idea for a few months, revisiting it, and finding it basically unworkable, with too many moving parts in the concept of the organization I thought I would need to pull it off, I re-shelved the idea (maybe permanently this time).  But on November 26th, 2012, while feeling a little guilty about letting my Givepocalypse idea die on the vine, I thought “maybe I am completely overthinking this idea,” so I scrapped all of my previous ideas, and looked at the Givepocalypse anew.  I had the answer almost immediately – become an advocacy group for giving, plain and simple.

Here is the concept we have stuck to: On December 20th, 2012, the Givepocalypse, donate at least $5 to ANY charity that you support.  This was clean, simple, and doable – except that there were only 25 days until December 20th and nothing had been done besides registering email accounts and the Givepocalypse URL.

This difficulty turned into opportunity when I realized what an amazing achievement it would be to pull of any level of success in such a short period of time.  I created the concept of a “sprint-charity,” which, if I was writing the Dictionary definition, I would describe as: a charitable endeavor with a life-cycle that spans less than three months from concept development, to completion of the charitable goals or charter. Further, I would create my own blog on Tumblr called “Behind the Curtain: Making a Sprint-charity,” where I would chronicle my experiences with this new concept daily, and hopefully inspire others to chase their crazy ideas to create good as well.

Our mission was simple: Create the Givepocalypse sprint-charity drive, work extremely hard, and see how far we can get!

Finally, one of the cleverest parts of the Givepocalypse (if I do say so myself!) is the idea of giving to ANY charity that you support.  By giving to the charity that you already support, you are already motivated to follow through and actually make sure you donate on the Givepocalypse.  All we are asking you to do is make an extra donation of at least $5 on the Givepocalypse

So, how did it go?

In just 25 days from creation to the Givepocalypse and only $39 invested in its creation the co-founders Joe and Candice Oakland made a significant impact.

The following statistics are just those that were confirmed through the pledge forms and Facebook event.  The actual numbers may be higher since people may have been inspired to donate without making an official pledge.

  • 302 Pledges from Awesome People
  • At least $1510 in Donations Pledged to Organizations (though the estimate of actual donations is $6000 or higher)
  • 82 Organizations Supported – See these organizations listed the Pledge & Donate Page and keep supporting them!
  • 21 States reached including Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Connecticut, Virginia, Massachusetts, Ohio, Arizona, Maryland, Oklahoma, Oregon, Missouri, New Hampshire, Kansas, and Hawaii
  • 6 Countries reached including the United States, Morocco, Costa Rica, Iraq, Sweden, and El Salvador

Do you see another Givepocalypse in the future?

For now, this was a one time event, but if we feel that there is more room from growth, and the idea of a day dedicated to giving, pure and simple, is an idea that people would like to get behind, we may look to do something like this again.  Rest assured though, if there is another apocalypse predicted, we will be there to do some REAL good before the “end.”

You can watch for updates on the Givepocalypse website,, and connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.


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Posted by on December 31, 2012 in Philanthropy


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Modest Needs

Many people are living paycheck to paycheck, scheduling bill payments and trips to the grocery store around their next payday and having a constant fear that something, anything, could happen to cause an imbalance in your monthly income and expenses.  A layoff, large medical bill, car repair, or broken appliance could be all that stands in the way of paying the bills for a month (or longer).  Today’s organization is trying to help those hard-working individuals and families with their needs. 

University professor Dr. Keith P. Taylor wanted to help two, three, or maybe four people by sharing 10% of his own salary each month.  He quickly realized that his mission could be bigger than just one person.  More people could be helped and more people could contribute.  In 2002, Modest Needs and the technology behind it was born. 

Modest Needs

Modest Needs is a non-profit organization that promotes the self-sufficiency of low-income workers by making grants that help them to afford short-term, emergency expenses.  The organization recognizes a gap in the social “safety net” that leaves low-income but generally self-sufficient individuals and families without access to small amounts of short-term assistance.  Instead, the typical social safety nets offer long-term assistance after an individual or family has fallen deep into the cycle of poverty. 

Modest Needs uses grants to fill this need.  The grants are meant to help prevent an individual or family from entering the cycle of poverty, restore self-sufficiency of those who are willing to work but temporarily unemployed, or empower permanently disadvantaged individuals who have been hit with a temporary, unexpected financial setback related to their medical conditions.  In addition, grants are made to strengthen small non-profit organizations by providing a tool to ask the general public for the help they need to complete small projects to allow them to better serve their clients and communities. 

Since 2002, Modest Needs’ donors have stopped the cycle of poverty for 10,620 hard-working individuals and families throughout the United States and Canada that conventional philanthropy otherwise had forgotten.  Each request for a grant is made by the individual and reviewed through a rigorous screening process by Modest Needs to determine their eligibility and legitimacy of their request.  Then it is made public on the Modest Needs website to allow any donor to fund that a portion or the entire request.  Once the grant is funded, the money is given toward the specific emergency expense.  You can read the stories of some of the recipients on the organization’s website.

How can you help?

  • Take a look at the list of current requests for help.  Even giving small amounts such as $5, $10 or $25 toward a specific request will make a difference.  Contributions quickly add up to the total of the grant request.
  • You can also spread the word about the program by sharing their brochure or directing people to this blog post.  The more donors there are; the more of a difference they can make. 
  • Consider giving a Modest Needs gift certificate for a gift. 
  • You can also make a donation to the Modest Needs general fund by clicking on the Donate button on their website.

To learn more about Modest Needs, visit their website at  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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Posted by on September 18, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


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Project Noah

Typically I write about organizations…but in honor of Geography Awareness Week(November 13-19, 2001) and the third annual Blog-A-Thon hosted by the National Geographic Society, I am posting something a little different today.  The theme for this year’s Geography Awareness Week is “Geography: The Adventure in Your Community” – the connections between people and their surrounding environments, local action, and, of course, geography education.  Today’s post is about something that helps people around the globe connect with nature and the environment.

Project Noah (which stands for networked organisms and habitats) is a tool to explore and document wildlife and a platform to harness the power of citizen scientists everywhere.  The project began in early 2010 as an experiment to see if the team could build a fun, location-based mobile application to encourage people to reconnect with nature and document local wildlife.  They wanted to take advantage of the power and popularity of smart phones to collect important ecological data and help preserve global biodiversity.

In February 2010, the team’s first iPhone app was launched.  After winning some awards, the team attracted National Geographic as an investor.  By encouraging everyone to document their encounters with nature, the Project Noah team hopes to build a powerful force for data collection and an important educational tool for wildlife awareness and preservation.  According to National Geographic, “Project Noah harnesses the power of citizen scientists everywhere to discover the world’s organisms.”

You can sign up on their website, for a free account.  If you have an iPhone or Android phone, you can also download their mobile app for free.  Using the app you can manage your spottings and participate in missions.  For example, one current mission is “Birds of the World” where you can document your bird encounters by taking photographs and adding descriptive notes.  You add as much information as you can about your spotting and upload it to the Project Noah website.  Then many dedicated community members help identify your spotting.  Other missions include spotting urban biodiversity, bats, spiders, and ladybugs.  One interesting mission I found was a local mission to monitor sightings of the Emerald Ash Borer – an invasive beetle from Asia that is killing trees around my local area. 

Even if you don’t have a smart phone, you can still participate by uploading photos directly to the Project Noah website.

So, how can you get involved?  It’s easy – just sign up for free and start connecting with nature in your own backyard.

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Posted by on November 17, 2011 in Other


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501 Connect

Have you ever seen something and thought, “somebody should do something about that”, but then just moved on with your day?  The founder of today’s organization saw a need and did something about it. 

501 Connect was co-founded in 2010 by Kathleen Rose and Maureen Shryock.  Kathleen was assisting her son as he searched for a community service project that would be meaningful to him in the St Louis, Missouri area.  She watched him search multiple websites to research organizations and found herself wishing that there was one place that contained all the information he needed.  So, she founded 501 Connect along with Maureen Shryock with a vision to create a central location where community members can learn about the mission and needs of St Louis organizations and quickly locate opportunities that are meaningful to them. 

The organization’s mission is to enhance the presence of nonprofit organizations and promote social responsibility throughout the St Louis region.  They would work toward this mission by educating, sharing knowledge, facilitating relationships, and inspiring others through their programs and services. 

To work toward their mission, the 501 Connect website serves as an online community and resource for non-profit organizations and their donors, volunteers, board members and communities that they serve.  They provide a venue for St Louis nonprofit organizations to broadly share their call to action messages and provide a forum to motivate community members to take action and make a difference.  In addition, it allows nonprofits to share knowledge and ideas. is the only online resource of its kind dedicated exclusively to the St. Louis area nonprofit community.  Thousands of people visit the website monthly to search for volunteer opportunities, job opportunities in the nonprofit sector, charity events, and the latest Buzz from St. Louis nonprofits.  In addition, site visitors can find industry related articles, nonprofit professional/career development resources and information and advice from nonprofit and philanthropic leaders in the St. Louis Community.

In just over a year, over 200 greater St Louis Area non-profit organizations have utilized 501Connect’s online services.  One of these organizations is the The People’s Resource Site, whose founder and president, Ly SyinLobster, states, “ has done an excellent job of helping Dress for Success Midwest
Professional Women’s Group get more exposure online for their Community Action Project.”  Stephanie Rea Perry, a writer and producer for the St Patrick Center, another organization utilizing 501 Connect, states, “We are so grateful to be included in such a comprehensive and enlightening publication and hope that the word continues to spread about its benefits in the local nonprofit scene.”

How can you help?

While doesn’t have any volunteer opportunities directly, visitors can find volunteer opportunities for groups and individuals of all ages, interests and skill levels with local organizations.  There are ongoing and one-time opportunities available for a variety of organizations so everyone can find something meaningful for them. 

You can learn more about 501 Connect on their website, or via e-mail at  You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

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Posted by on November 9, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization


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A few months ago I profiled an org called Sparked that connects volunteers willing to give a bit of time with organizations who could use their expertise.  Today’s profile is another organization that also serves this same purpose as a matchmaker between organization needs and volunteer expertise. 

Catchafire is based in New York City and serves organizations with a presence in the greater New York Area.  Their mission is to improve the quality of the volunteer experience by providing pro bono opportunities for skilled professionals.  They have a vision to make it easy for every professional to offer their skills for good and to make it easy for every nonprofit and social enterprise to access and effectively use pro bono assistance as a way to do more.

According to Rachael Chong, Catchafire’s Founder and CEO, “We’ve found that many professionals are looking for an outlet to do good, but don’t know where to go to make the greatest impact. At the same time, small nonprofits often struggle with limited resources, and professional services are simply unaffordable.  We aim to bridge that gap, so every professional who wants to give pro bono has an opportunity for a meaningful connection to a cause they care about, and every nonprofit has access to skilled professionals.”

Catchafire has plans to make a positive impact worldwide starting with an expandion to several other markets in the United States over the next year or so.

Chong founded Catchafire two years ago because she felt there was a lack of opportunities for professionals who wanted to contribute their professional skills to help a good cause.  “I used to work as a banker, and during that time, I had looked everywhere for ways to give pro bono — I wanted an alternative to the traditional model of volunteering, in which people stuff envelopes, plant trees, paint houses, etc.  While those types of activities are still very important, I believed that I could make the biggest impact using my expertise for an organization that wouldn’t ordinarily be able to afford my services — and I knew many of my peers felt the same way.  That’s why I started Catchafire — to facilitate that connection so professionals can spend less time searching and more time doing pro bono work that matters.”

Currently they serve more than 1,000 social good organizations and more than 5,000 skilled professionals have offered their services. 

Catchafire projects are structured to be short-term with clear deadlines and deliverables.  This allows volunteers to maximize their impact while ensuring that projects do not drag on and on.  Projects are between one to three months in length and can be completed in five hours or less per week by one individual.  They also work with companies who want to offer pro bono opportunities for their employees.  Chong continues, “we think pro bono is a great way for employees to give back while strengthening their professional skill.”  Projects have included social media campaigns, board member searches, graphic design and more.  To find volunteer opportunities, search their Open Projects page.  You can even filter by area of expertise. 

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

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Posted by on June 15, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization


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1000 Prayers for Japan

In March we profiled Love & Water Designs – a company giving back one t-shirt at a time.  They recently launched a special relief project for Japan called “1000 Prayers for Japan” in response to the earthquake in Japan on March 11th.  Love & Water Designs has joined with the Nagagutsu charity, an on the ground group helping with immediate relief efforts in Japan by bringing rubber boots and cotton gloves to the workers and victims of the earthquake and tsunami.  Their work has helped refugees return to their homes and sift through the rubble to locate personal belongings.

An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane.  To honor this legend, Love & Water Designs is producing 1000 limited edition t-shirts created by artists – 200 each of five different designs – with 100% of the profits going to the Nagagutsu Foundation.  Attached to each shirt will be a postcard prayer to allow you to send a message back to Japan through Love & Water Designs. 

Nagagutsu’s “Delivering Boots Project” is helping earthquake victims who have lost families, property, homes, and belongings by giving them protection they need – boots and gloves – to dig through the debris. 

You can learn more about Love & Water Designs and order a 1000 Prayers for Japan shirt at their website.

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Posted by on May 14, 2011 in Philanthropy


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This week is Screen Free Week.  Formerly known as TV Turnoff week, this is a week to encourage kids to have less time in front of a television, computer screen, video game, or handheld device.  Studies have found that kids aged 8 to 12 spend 7 ½ hours a day, on average, in front of a screen.  Today’s organization isn’t directly involved in Screen Free Week, but it does have a mission to encourage active play! 

Kaboom was founded in 1996 by Darell Hammond.  He was inspired after two young children suffocated in a car in Washington, D.C. in 1995.  A Washington Post article about the incident indicated that the children had no playground nearby, so they climbed into an abandoned car.  Darell was inspired and he became a man with a vision: “Play is the best natural resource in a creative economy. Kids need more of it—it is not a luxury but a necessity for their lives.” 

Kaboom’s mission is to create great playspaces through the participation and leadership of communities.  Kaboom ultimately envisions a place to play within walking distance of every child in America.  Depending on where you live, you may think they are close, but throughout the United States, only 1 in 5 children live within walking distance of a playground.  You can watch an inspiring video about their mission and program on their website.  

Recently, Kaboom has moved from just focusing on building playgrounds themselves to advocacy for play and providing online tools to assist communities in planning their own play spaces.  You can find their “do it yourself” playground planner on their website.   This planner offers everything from free websites to bring your team together to a vendor directory with reviews.  There are also side projects included, such as adding shaded areas and benches to help make an existing playground more inviting.

This year Kaboom is celebrating their 15th birthday!  In June they will be building their 2000th playground!  They estimate that since their founding, they have saved play for about 3.5 million kids just with the playgrounds they have directly built. 

Kaboom offers many ways to become involved.

  • Your community can apply to be a community partner to help plan and build a playground.  New playgrounds are funded through community fundraising and corporate sponsorships.  Playgrounds are planned in advance and then built by 200 to 600 volunteers in one day.
  • Communities or organizations can also hold a play day in your local community.  This is a day of community games and activities meant to encourage play.  Click here to learn more about Play Days.
  • Use the online tools provided on to build or improve a local playground.
  • Help develop the Map of Play.  This interactive map allows you to search for playgrounds near you, review them, and add additional playgrounds that aren’t listed.  Soon an iPhone app will be available to allow to do this right from the park.
  • Visit and find even more ways to take action for play in your community.
  • As with any organization, Kaboom also accepts donations.  Monetary donations help Kaboom spread the word and offer additional online resources to advocate for play in America.

You can learn more about Kaboom on their website,  You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.  You can also read more about founder Darell Hammond in his book about Kaboom.

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Posted by on April 21, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization


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