Altruism Today

Small Foundations Increasingly Convert to Donor Advised Funds

July 19th, 2011  |  Source: NPQ


Source: Investment News | According to this article from Investment News, small foundations are increasingly opting out of foundation status and into donor advised fund status. This has resulted in big increases in the amounts that have been transferred from foundations into charitable gift funds like those at Fidelity, Vanguard, and Schwab.

Fidelity reports that the amount they took into donor advised funds from foundations last year (ending June 30) almost doubled from $16 million to $30 million. Schwab Charitable saw almost the same rate of increase to $28 million over the same period and the Vanguard Charitable Endowment had transfers from foundations grow from $15 million to $28 million.

Benjamin Pierce, president of Vanguard, suggests that the increase in the use of donor advised funds over private independent foundations, is due to a combination of an urge for investment safety and a reduction of operating costs. “The smaller foundations are beginning to understand it's uneconomical to run a foundation at that size,” says Pierce.

The median size of gifts from foundations to Vanguard is $100,000 but its highest has been $68 million. Schwab has developed an online tool that makes it easier to measure whether a foundation might be better served through converting to a donor advised fund as part of a specialized “conversion service" for foundations.

Homeless Veteran Numbers Drop By 55,000: VA

July 15th, 2011  |  Source: AP/HuffPo

The number of homeless veterans on any given night has dropped by over 55,000, the Department of Veterans Affairs said on Friday, due in part to programs like the $46.2 million announced Thursday to provide permanent housing for 6,790 homeless veterans.

Despite a still-stagnant economy and increased troop drawdowns leading to potentially higher numbers of homeless veterans, VA Deputy Press Secretary Drew Brookie said the number of veterans that are homeless each night has dropped from an estimated 131,000 in 2009 to 75,700 as of June this year.

But continued pressure on this targeted group makes Thursday's funding fundamental to the Obama Administration's goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015, according to Anne Oliva, director of the Department of Housing and Urban Development's homeless office.

"It's a critical time," Oliva told Reuters Friday. "We have veterans that are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan that are potentially becoming homeless in higher numbers than they have in the past. This new influx of people ... we want to try and get in front of it."

The $46.2 million will go to public housing agencies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

AfricaJack: One Man's Life Changes Many

July 15th, 2011  |  Source:


It was over chicken chow mein and egg rolls that Jack Miller decided to drop his high-paying corporate job in Denver and become AfricaJack. He’d met a friend at a neighborhood Chinese restaurant to check out the photos of his friend’s recent trip to Zimbabwe, not knowing that his life would take a dramatic turn. 

Miller’s parents were missionaries, so helping others was in his genes. But as he was sifting through his friend’s photos, he decided to change his own life in an effort to help change the lives of others. 

He founded the AfricaJack Foundation to help orphans who’ve been affected by HIV and AIDS. Within fifty-four days, he raised ten thousand dollars, enough to fund his dream of building a learning center for the orphans. 

As it was his first foray into non-profit work, he chose a few well-established organizations to support, specifically the Bara Education and Recreation Center in Tanzania and Mother of Peace in Zimbabwe, where he funded a school bus project and realized his dream of building a learning center. 

At Mother of Peace, children who’ve been orphaned because of HIV, and/or have the virus themselves, are able to receive the support and love they need as well as a proper education. 

AfricaJack’s efforts, along with those of Mother of Peace founder “Mama Jean,” also ensure that all of the children are properly nourished. This means that the children can take their antiretroviral medications properly, and live to their full potential. 

In addition to donors sending money, Miller has a vision of participatory donations. He envisions people who support his organization coming with him to Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya, or Tanzania to see what the foundation is doing and further inspire the children to lead the lives they dream of. He feels that this model of volunteerism is the most effective for both the donors and the children. 

After the foundation’s early success, Miller is now ready to move it into the future. He’s currently in the process of drumming up support for yet another trip, to give more aid to his orphans in Zimbabwe. To lend support or learn more about Miller’s latest adventure go here.


July 14th, 2011  |  Source: beyond profit


Affordable, convenient tech solutions are available to social enterprises to make operations more efficient.

Below are five web-based apps for any IT budget.

1. India-based Aceseller was founded to assist artists, designers and businesses to sell their products online. Features of the web-based store are unlimited products listings, pages and bandwidth, as well as a Facebook store, full customization, inventory tracking and discount codes. There are four pricing plans on offer: starter, basic, pro and premium. The transaction fee varies with each plan. The basic plan, for example, costs INR 1,999 (~$44)/month and has a 8% transaction fee.

2. Google Apps

With its web-based email, calendar and documents, Google has undeniably made business easier. Google offers three different versions of its application suite: for individuals, education and for business. Google Apps for Business is not free, but is affordable. There are two plans available: the flexible plan for which you pay $5/account/month, and the annual plan for $50/account/year.

3. Podio is an online platform that allows a person to organize and manage the virtual workspace. It can serve as a place for project and work process work management, as well as for company news, discussion and interaction. Podio also offers a “social intranet,” allowng people to share information and materials with colleagues and outside stakeholders. Up to 10 user accounts are free, but for $99/month, 25 user accounts are included and additional unlimited users can be purchased for $4/user.

4. Shopify is a web-hosted store where a person can sell her goods globally. It allows a person to do everything she does with a physical store location, but online. Shopify allows the business-owner to organize products, customize the storefront, accept credit card payments, and track and respond to orders. There are four pricing plans: basic, professional, business and unlimited. The business plan costs $99/month and includes a 1% transaction fee, 10,000 product listings and 1,000MB on Shopify’s servers.

5. Zoho is a web-based assortment of applications for business. It has identified and categorized a variety of applications in three categories: collaboration, business and productivity. Zoho applications are free for individuals, but business users may have to pay a fee for applications. For example, Zoho CRM is free for the first three users, but the professional edition costs $12 per user per month or $25/user/month for the enterprise edition. Other applications like Mail Suite, Reports, CRM and Projects are also available for a fee.

Nation’s Free Clinics Turning Away Patients

July 13th, 2011  |  Source: AmeriCARES

New AmeriCares Report Shows Dramatic Increase in Need

The report, funded by a grant from the GE Foundation, underscores the increasing demand of the uninsured and underinsured patient population. The findings come at a time when the U.S. economic recovery remains uncertain, health care costs continue to rise, and policy debates on health care reform and immigration persist.  Clinics are overwhelmed not only by the number of patients seeking health care, but also by the increasing trend in the number of visits per patient -- who today present with multiple chronic conditions requiring frequent return visits and complex treatment. 

Across the United States, AmeriCares provides ongoing medical assistance to free clinics, nonprofit pharmacies and community health centers that serve America’s poor and uninsured.  In 2010, AmeriCares delivered nearly $24 million in aid to U.S. health care partners and also provided $215 million in free prescription medications through the AmeriCares Patient Assistance Program.  In addition, AmeriCares Free Clinics offer outpatient medical services to underserved patients in Connecticut.  Last year, AmeriCares three clinics provided nearly 10,000 visits for 3,800 patients for a total value of $6 million in health care services and aid.

To obtain a copy of the report, please contact the AmeriCares U.S. Medical Assistance Program at

Biofuels land grab in Kenya's Tana Delta fuels talk of war

July 13th, 2011  |  Source: Guardian

Kenya's Tana Delta is disappearing and its inhabitants evicted to make way for foreign biofuels.

Villagers vow to resist as wildlife vanishes and they are driven from their land to make way for water-thirsty crops

The eviction of the villagers to make way for a sugar cane plantation is part of a wider land grab going on in Kenya's Tana Delta that is not only pushing people off plots they have farmed for generations, stealing their water resources and raising tribal tensions that many fear will escalate into war, but also destroying a unique wetland habitat that is home to hundreds of rare and spectacular birds.

The irony is that most of the land is being taken for allegedly environmental reasons – to allow private companies to grow water-thirsty sugar cane and jatropha for the biofuels so much in demand in the west, where green legislation, designed to ease carbon dioxide emissions, is requiring they are mixed with petrol and diesel.

Full story here:

The 7th Annual Failed States Index

July 12th, 2011  |  Source: Foreign Policy


The World in Misery, 2011

Somalia, once again, tops the list, with Chad and Sudan not far behind.

Plus: The World’s 60 Most Fragile States

Photo Essay: Postcards from Hell, 2011

Images from the world's most failed states

The Poor Work Without A Net

July 11th, 2011  |  Source: Andrew Sullivan's Blog


A construction worker was recently arrested for trying to cash a check the bank mistakenly thought was a forgery. The man ended up sending a few days in jail, which lead to him losing his car and job. The lesson Chait draws:

Middle-class people enjoy all sorts of protections against misfortune. For poor people, a single thing going wrong can lead to a life-altering spiral -- they lack the social and financial resources to overcome one problem, so a flat tire become a late day at work which becomes a lost job, an overcharge fee busts a checking account, which in turn becomes a ruined credit rating.


July 8th, 2011  |  Source: Better World Books


The volunteers of Prison Book Program, located near Boston, MA, were delighted to learn that our grant proposal won a Spring 2011 Literacy and Education in Action Program (LEAP) award.  Our proposal related to the General Equivalency Diploma (GED), providing a comprehensive GED test-prep guide and an English dictionary to approximately 220 prisoners throughout the United States.

According to the Department of Justice, 77% of US prisoners have not received a high school diploma. Yet GEDs are necessary for almost any job. A New York Department of Corrections study showed that prisoners who earn their GED are up to 14% less likely to return to prison within the next three years. Given that at least 90% of the 650,000 prisoners incarcerated every year will eventually re-enter society, gaining critical education skills is paramount.

Alexander McCall Smith's wish for Darfur

July 7th, 2011  |  Source:


Mma Ramotswe, Isabel Dalhousie and the eccentric inhabitants of the Corduroy Mansions have become much-loved literary characters for millions of readers worldwide. Now their creator, best-selling British novelist Alexander McCall Smith, has become one of 18 acclaimed authors helping to ensure that children living in refugee camps can also enjoy the pleasures of reading. The writers have each contributed a short story to a collection entitled "What You Wish For" and organized by theBook Wish Foundation.

All of the proceeds will be donated to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to build libraries in camps housing more than a quarter of a million refugees displaced by the conflict in Darfur. McCall Smith, who is best known for "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency," spoke recently with UNHCR's Laura Padoan about "The Strange Story of Bobby Box," his contribution to the collection, and why he believes that books are vital to our well-being. Excerpts from the interview here:

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