Altruism Today

Kourage Athletics launched by US professor in Kenya

October 30th, 2011  |  Source:

Emphasis is on helping others help themselves, not just donating money.

Kourage Athletics, professor Chris Markl’s Kenyan-based running-apparel company, launched this summer after years of planning, and now Markl, who lives in Jacksonville, and his team based in Kenya are determined to change the lives of Kenyans by creating ethical fashion for athletes.

“This isn’t a fundraiser,” he said, emphasizing the company’s aim is to create jobs through his social enterprise rather through charitable donations.

“If we want to improve lives, we’ve got to create business in impoverished countries,” he said. ”People want to go to work, earn a decent wage and hang out with their families.”

He said he decided to start Kourage Athletics in Kenya because of the story of Kenyan runners worlwide successes.

“Kenyan runners are world-class,” he said. “We need to create apparel that’s equally impressive.”

The story of Kenyan athletes helps to brand the product, elevating the apparel and making the product attractive and recognizable to buyers.

In the long term, Markl sees Kourage having its own small factory in Kenya and shipping out of Africa. After that, Markl and the Kourage staff is thinking bigger.

“We want to turn Kenya into the running apparel capital of the world,” he said.


CNN story:


October 27th, 2011  |  Source: Open Architecture

From Gaddafi's Compound to Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, International Architecture Competition Launches to Re-purpose Closed, Abandoned and Decommissioning Military Sites

Dotting the global landscape, decommissioned military installations are leaving their mark – symbols of triumph, pride, pain and the unforeseen consequences of military aggression. These abandoned structures and ghost towns disrupt neighborhoods and split entire communities.

Architecture for Humanity is hosting the 2011 Open Architecture Challenge – [un]restricted access – a design competition that will re-envision the future of decommissioned military space. This is an open invite to the global design and construction community to identify retired military installations in their own backyard, to collaborate with local stakeholders, and to reclaim these spaces for social, economic, and environmental good.

Learn More and Register

·       Competition Requirements

·       Competition Resources

Network Solutions® Launches Innovative Program for Nonprofits

October 25th, 2011  |  Source: Network Solutions


Network Solutions®, in partnership with, launches a new and innovative program for nonprofit and charitable organizations. The Network Solutions Nonprofit Program helps nonprofits leverage online and mobile technology to increase online giving, achieve greater donor reach, and leverage their website, social media networks, and existing marketing channels to benefit their cause.

The Network Solutions Nonprofit Program is powered by and has been in beta test since April and currently supports over 150 enrolled nonprofits.

“Our products and services have always helped small businesses use technology to succeed online and now we’ve applied this same philosophy to benefit small to medium sized nonprofits,” said Harry Lalor, Vice President of Business Development at Network Solutions.

“Implementing the Network Solutions Nonprofit program has helped Toys for Joy expand our reach to donors, clearly communicate specific goods desired on our website, and enabled us to leverage social media to further message our need,” said Michele Kassa, Event Director of Toys for Joy.

Toys for Joy is using the Network Solutions Nonprofit program to kick off its annual holiday toy, food, and clothing drive to deliver over 10,000 toys and 60,000 pounds of food to San Diego, CA families in need. provides a unique feature to the Network Solutions Nonprofit Program: an online “wish list” which increases in-kind donations for particular needs of any nonprofit. Specific items are purchased right off of a customized wish list and shipped directly to the nonprofit organization. The wish list feature of the Network Solutions Nonprofit program gives the donor complete control and visibility into how in-kind donations are being used.

To see how the wish list is being used by Toys for Joy or to donate to this year’s holiday event, visit

To learn more about Network Solutions Nonprofit Program and support options to get your nonprofit started now, visit

To learn more about, visit

Occupy Wall Street, The Tea Party… And the Nonprofit Quarterly

October 13th, 2011  |  Source: NPQ

The “Occupy Wall Street” movement is still too new to begin the kinds of definitive, structural analyses we did of the Tea Party.

By the time the Nonprofit Quarterly had described the anatomy of the Tea Party, with its array of 501(c)(4)s, 501(c)(3)s, PACs, and local volunteer groups, the Tea Party movement had gelled somewhat, become institutionalized, and flexed its muscle within the national political party most attuned to Tea Party values of sharply reducing the size of government and attacking government social programs. (Remember, it was government efforts to help homeowners fight foreclosures that in 2009 spurred CNN correspondent Rick Santelli to call for his fellow conservatives to throw the metaphorical tea into the harbor.)

At NPQ, we don’t just write about nonprofits that have an IRS-designated 501(c) corporate status, we also report on nonprofit organizational actors and movements—which makes the Occupy movement of special interest to us. What are some of the important questions about the still incredibly young, only weeks-old Occupy movement?

Read the full thought leader article by Rick Cohen here:

Why the CEO of Habitat for Humanity rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange today

September 30th, 2011  |  Source: Habitat for Humanity

Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International, today joined staff, volunteers and Habitat homeowners to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

Habitat staff and volunteers handed out foam stress hammers to stock brokers on the exchange floor.

Habitat for Humanity is celebrating its 500,000th and 500,001st milestone houses since the nonprofit housing organization was founded in 1976.

The 500,000th Habitat for Humanity home will be dedicated in Maai Mahiu, Kenya, on World Habitat Day, Oct. 3. On the same day, walls will be raised on Habitat’s 500,001st house in Paterson, N.J., to demonstrate the ongoing commitment to creating adequate housing around the world.

World Habit Day starts Habitat for Humanity’s month-long observance of the need for decent and affordable housing, culminating with Habitat’s Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project Nov. 5-12 in Léogâne, Haiti. 

About Habitat for Humanity International

Habitat for Humanity International is a global nonprofit Christian housing organization that seeks to put God’s love into action by bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope.  Since 1976, Habitat has served more than 500,000 families by welcoming people of all races, religions and nationalities to construct, rehabilitate or preserve homes; by advocating for fair and just housing policies; and by providing training and access to resources to help families improve their shelter conditions. For more information, to donate or to volunteer, please visit, or follow us at or at or join Habitat’s blog community at

Advocate Charges That African Wildlife Preserves Contribute to Drought and Displacement

September 28th, 2011  |  Source: NPQ

Source: AlterNet | Can major wildlife and biological diversity conservation efforts co-exist with indigenous populations? Rebecca Adamson, founder of First Peoples Worldwide, has been campaigning to raise awareness about how some Western conservation efforts are wreaking havoc with indigenous populations in Africa, Asia, and South America.

The opening line of her AlterNet article “Are Western Conservation Efforts Causing Famine In Africa?” makes clear that she is no fan of conservation practices as they stand now: “To save the African wilderness, industrialized countries are wrecking indigenous cultures and contributing to starvation.” She argues that “‘conservation’ efforts undertaken by well-meaning industrialized nations are partly to blame” for the drought in the Horn of Africa (a region in northeast Africa comprising Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Eritrea). 

Adamson charges that conservationists aiming to save the African wilderness have “prohibited hunter-gatherers and pastoralists from their traditional itinerant lives and then after we’ve turned them into farmers, we remove them forcibly from their lands.” To create wildlife preserves, she says, “African governments consciously evicted or prohibited from farming an estimated 1.5 million African indigenous inhabitants in the 1990s alone.”

The displacement of these indigenous farmers impoverishes them and their nations, since even the UN has weighed in to say that the farming methods of indigenous peoples, described as “small-scale mixed-use organic farming,” can “deliver the increased yields which were thought to be the preserve of industrial farming, without the environmental and social damage which that form of agriculture brings.” Adamson suggests that letting these indigenous peoples farm their lands the way they have done for decades or even centuries is a much less expensive and less disruptive approach to environmental preservation than “conservation-induced population displacement.” In fact, “today’s indigenous lands contain 80 percent of our remaining biodiversity even though they constitute 24 percent of the world’s surface,” and despite the social and economic dislocation that Adamson charges have made the tenure of indigenous farmers all the more precarious. 

To Adamson, large nonprofits are turning "conservation . . . [into] big business—the budgets of non-profits involved in such schemes can dwarf the GDPs of the countries in which they work.”

A Performance Measurement System for Social Investors is Unveiled

September 26th, 2011  |  Source: NPQ

Source: Christian Science Monitor | Recently, a grading system to evaluate social impact was unveiled at the Clinton Global Initiative. Leaders hope this performance measure will motivate more companies, foundations and individuals to invest in philanthropic efforts.

The Global Impact Investing Rating System, or GIIRS, aims to answer the question, “How do you know where your money can best be used?” Alvaro Rodriguez, head of IGNIA, one of 25 social investment funds that completed a GIIRS pilot, told theChristian Science Monitor that “this rating system is putting your feet to the fire. You said you’re trying to have a positive impact—are you meeting that promise or not?”

It is estimated that today there are more than 300 social-venture funds, with the field expected to grow to $400 billion in assets and a potential $183 billion in profits by 2020, according to J.P. Morgan.

To achieve this growth, investors will need to become aware of impact investing and be convinced that it produces both financial and social returns. This has been hard to prove without clear standards to measure “impact performance”. GIIRS, a product of the independent nonprofit B-Lab, uses social impact metrics to track impact in “consumer-friendly” language.

 A tiered fee structure was developed for investors to access reports that simplify research and investment decisions. Companies pay between $1,250 and $15,000 to be rated to attract investors or identify areas of improvement.

Some observers feel that GIIRS still faces challenges before it can be deemed a success. Will businesses actually react to feedback? Can they take constructive criticism and improve? Is it applicable to diverse industries and regions? How GIIRS fits into the matrix of social investing is still unclear.

Investment leaders say a combination of investor interest and effective measurement tools can mean moving from intention to action. It remains to be seen whether this approach can direct meaningful dollars to meet the needs of our society while boosting the portfolios of investors.

Why the world’s largest startup incubator is also a non-profit

September 25th, 2011  |  Source: TNW Insider


Boston, Massachusetts, defined by its prestigious universities and vibrant young startup scene, has maintained a reputation of excellence and entrepreneurial American spirit since its first epic Tea Party in 1773.

At the forefront of excellence and prestige is the Boston-based non-profit, MassChallenge, which bills itself as “the world’s largest startup competition”. MassChallenge is a very special kind of accelerator, as it is both an independent non-profit and does not take equity. Now, in its second year, MassChallenge is incubating 125 companies in its Boston waterfront offices, and each team is competing for $1 million in prizes. The competition is open to anyone in the world, for any new startup, in any industry.

This past January, President Obama invited MassChallenge founders John Harthorne and Akhil Nigam to the White House and honored MassChallenge as one of the nation’s top organizations for supporting high-growth entrepreneurs. MassChallenge also became the youngest inaugural member of the Startup America Partnership.

MassChallenge founder and CEO John Harthorne (pictured below) says the concept of MassChallenge was born in December 2008 when the world was in a deep, deep hole. While most were talking about the next Great Depression, Harthorne, a Senior Consultant at Bain & Co. had a Eureka! moment.

“The answer to the world’s problems is all new businesses. We need the world’s largest startup competition. We will climb out of this with innovation,” he said.

In January 2009, he and his co-founder Akhil Nigam, decided to quit their consultant jobs at Bain & Co. and launch MassChallenge. Both Harthorne and Nigam are long-time Boston residents, with MBAs from MIT Sloan School of Management and Harvard Business School, respectively. The next year, the two attended thousands of meetings, averaging 8 a day, trying to find the perfect model. They used a mirror as a white board and kept iterating. Finally, in January 2010, they found it. By April, they had raised $1 million in private funding to give away in the competition.

For MassChallenge’s first class, it received 450 applications from 24 countries. 111 teams were chosen, representing all industries and levels of development within the early-stage spectrum. The 4-month program held hundreds of training and networking events, workshops and job fairs. In the end, there were 16 winners; 4 teams won $100K and 12 teams won $50K from the MassChallenge million. The 111 teams went on to raise $100 million in total venture funding and created 500 new jobs in under 12 months. This summer, Ksplice, a 2010 MassChallenge winner, was acquired by Oracle, marking the first exit of a MassChallenge-supported startup.

Why it’s different

“We take these teams out of their moms’ basements and put them on the 14th floor of a sky-rise on Boston’s waterfront. We’re able to access the entire Boston tech community without limits,” says Harthorne. Currently, MassChallenge is based in Boston where innovation resources are highly concentrated — but there is no requirement for teams to create a physical presence in Massachusetts. Every entrant receives training, feedback, PR and networking support via expert volunteer mentors from partner organizations.

When asked why he chose to run MassChallenge as a non-profit program and not take equity in its companies, Harthorne says it took him months and months of soul-searching to arrive at what he believes is the perfect model.

“There’s nothing wrong with TechStars or Y Combinator or the others, but in reality, they are investors who also run an accelerator. The world had fallen into such economical and social depths because of greed… The system has been corrupted with its own excellence. Venture capital is in crisis. The industry has changed itself through its desperation to invest. Our society has become motivated by extracting profits, about eating slices of a piece, as opposed to creating more pie.

According to Harthorne, the initial non-profit status generates a really amazing, virtuous cycle of generosity and resource donation that’s hugely beneficial for the teams. “We’re able to aggregate the best of the best because we don’t take equity,” he explains.

The fact that MassChallenge doesn’t take equity is why Lenny Grover, Founder and CEO of, says it was the only program he considered. Claudia Espinola, the founder of Casa Couture moved from New York to Boston just for MassChallenge because she says, “Quite simply, this type of program doesn’t exist anywhere else…At MassChallenge, they give you all the resources you need to be successful, like in-depth training, top-notch mentors and access to resources you would never otherwise be exposed to. Unlike other incubators out there, MassChallenge doesn’t want equity or anything else from you except your commitment and passion to succeed. You have every resource you need here to win in business.”

But what if founders Harthorne and Nigam want to privately invest in these companies? “Well, none of us have any money,” Harthorne says laughing. “But we’ve talked with lawyers and it’s theoretically possible, as it’s not legally prohibited. For now, it’s far more important to us that MassChallenge works and it’s true to its philosophy. We didn’t launch this with the anticipation of getting wealthy. We just enjoy being near the growth and excitement.”

Harthorne says he wouldn’t allow himself or other MassChallenge partners to ever fund startups during the competition but imagines that once the results are announced, and companies are at least 6 months out that it would be fine.

Looking forward

The long-term plan for MassChallenge is to continually attract high-caliber individuals with a philosophy on goodwill. Harthorne and Nigam have demonstrated that the model works. Next, they will streamline operations and concentrate on sustainability. “While you can beg and borrow for 2 years, it might not work in the long-term, although it’s still too early to know for sure,” Harthorne admits. “But we are definitely looking to expand globally. Part of the beauty of our model is that it’s not dependent on one person.” Perhaps New York City will be next?

For MassChallenge’s second year, over 600 mentors applied, with only 200 making the “preferred list”. Preferred mentors include Joshua Boger, the Vice-Chair of the Board at Harvard Medical School and the founder of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, one of the highest growth stocks on NASDAQ; Jeff Taylor, a UMASS grad and the founder of; Raj Melville, the Executive Director of University Initiatives at Deshpande Foundation; and angel investor Peter Parker.

For spots in the current accelerator program, which started on June 27th, 2011 and runs through the end of September, MassChallenge chose 125 teams out of 733 applications. We recently wrote about 10 of the 125 startups competing for the $1 million 2011 MassChallenge prize here. You may recognize a few of these startups as participants in other accelerator programs. For example, AfterSteps recently graduated from DreamIt Ventures’ first New York City class and Snapette just sprung out of Dave McClure’s 500 Startups. According to Harthorne, teams are allowed to be in as many accelerators and to receive as many resources as they can. “We do not put any limitations on entrepreneurs because we are here to help them win,” he says.

Christopher Kevin Howard, the Founder ofLibboo who also took part in another business accelerator says, ”If I were to sum up MassChallenge, I’d say it has made Libboo feel ‘real’ – we no longer think of ourselves as a budding startup but as a serious contender in disrupting an industry that is screaming out for change. It’s hard to articulate it in any other way…MassChallenge seems as disruptive to the business-accelerator industry as we hope Libboo will be to the publishing industry.”

One founder said he felt “it’s hard to feel like you’re getting a lot of attention when there are so many other companies” and that “the fact that there is a competition can detract a little from the expansion of your startup.” But overall, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Espinola, the founder of Casa Couture says:

“MassChallenge is excellent. Sometimes, we forget that these guys are a startup too, and are still continuing to evolve and refine their model. MassChallenge will undoubtedly continue to be successful because they really listen to what we (their customers) have to say and are always striving to improve and make things as relevant and impactful for us as possible. They are just as driven to succeed as we are.

Overall, it’s absolutely the best decision I ever made for myself and my business. In addition to getting me ready to push the launch button, I’ve made some life-long friends and connections here. This accelerator program should be available in cities everywhere. In fact, I’m committed to helping MassChallenge start a New York chapter of the program in the near future.”

David Paquette the CEO and founder of Biba Beverages says the greatest benefits of MassChallenge have been the amazing teams and the great staff the MassChallenge provides to help him in any way possible. “They have really made it easy to connect with mentors, advisors, investors and other successful teams. MassChallenge carries a powerful name in the public and being associated with it has opened many doors and been a point of respect for us from the business world here in Massachusetts. The network is massive and powerful and the prize money is sizable and very attractive!” he says.

Final judging takes place in October and 10-20 winners will split $1 million in awards. All judges are external to the MassChallenge team and include over 500 angel and venture investors, lawyers, tech experts from universities and successful entrepreneurs.

MassChallenge’s impressive roster of committed supporters includes President Barack Obama; Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick; Mayor of Boston Thomas M. Menino; Carl Schramm, President and CEO, Kauffman Foundation; Leonard Schlesinger, President of Babson College; MIT President Susan Hockfield; Ken Morse, the Founding Managing Director of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center; Boston University President Robert Brown; Colin Angle the CEO and co-founder of iRobot; and Tim Rowe, the founder and CEO of Cambridge Innovation Center.


Famine Relief Campaign

September 21st, 2011  |  Source: Two Degrees Food

The current famine in Somalia has caused 3.5 million children to suffer from severe malnutrition.  You can help.

Two Degrees Food™, social enterprise food company, and Relief International, a global not-for-profit organization working in the heart of Somalia, have joined forces to launch a national Famine Relief Campaign to help children suffering from malnourishment in Somalia.

Two Degrees is the first food company founded specifically to fight childhood hunger: For each all-natural, gluten-free Two Degrees food bar purchased, the company donates one medically formulated nutrition pack to a child in need. Two Degrees currently works with NGOs in Malawi, Haiti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

In order to directly address the devastating famine, which has put some 12 million people at risk of starvation, Two Degrees announces that all bars purchased in any Whole Foods Market from September 16 to October 16 will trigger donations directly to Somalia through Relief International's Feeding Centers.

All purchases through October 16th (World Food Day) on this page will go directly to Relief International’s work in Somalia — direct to the heart of the first famine in the 21st Century.

Go to:

Well-Paid Exec of Nonprofit Founded by N.Y. Gov. Cuomo Resigns As Cuomo Task Force Scrutinizes Nonprofit Salaries

September 19th, 2011  |  Source: NPQ

Source: City Hall | Laurence Belinsky has stepped down from his position at HELP USA, a New York homeless housing and services group with a $70-million annual budget. The group had been founded in 1980 by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has recently launched a state investigation of the executive pay at nonprofits that hold contracts with the state, particularly to provide services funded by Medicaid.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal revealed that HELP USA paid Mr. Belinsky $546,000 in 2008 and $508,000 in 2009. Ten other HELP employees each  more than $125,000 a year.

Cuomo’s sister is the chair of the HELP USA’s board. In addition, Belinsky is married to a cousin of Gov. Cuomo and also served as a senior housing aide in Gov. Mario Cuomo’s administration. The organization claims that Belinsky's retirement is unrelated to Cuomo's task force on salaries but City Hall reports that the Cuomo administration has confirmed that HELP has come under task force scrutiny.

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