A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of participating in an activity with my fellow CIDI experts in which we looked back on 2015 and recorded our favorite highlights. After that, we looked to the year ahead, imagined all that could be and recorded the most impressive achievements we could envision. Finally, we analyzed past successes and discussed ways in which we could do even better this year, like a bunch of athletes looking for that next PR. It was both humbling and exciting to look at areas where we have succeeded in sharing Smart Compassion ideas and messaging, whether through Diaspora outreach, volunteer training, PSAid campaigning, or through social media, and then dream about tripling our impact in 2016! I dream of Smart Compassion messaging reaching so many people, it enables relief workers all over the world to provide people with exactly what they need when they need it.




While doing this year-in-review exercise, I started thinking about the role visioning has in obtaining goals and dreams. To me, goals and dreams are similar. Goals are more immediate and short term and dreams are more long term. Goals are the expected results to which all of my efforts are directed; dreams are what I imagine a successful end result will be like. Goals give me a framework within which to focus my efforts and eliminate actions that won’t contribute to achieving those goals. I believe developing a clear sense of vision is the key to making dreams a reality.

Envisioning our goals and dreams allow us to see our achievement in perspective. We allow ourselves to peel back the layers of our success and analyze events that were influential in making it a reality. In this process, we identify where we are in the process of achieving our vision. Setting the necessary goals to success requires strategic vision. With activities like crafting a vision board, creating a year-in-review visualization, or even purchasing a new planner in the beginning of the New Year, we can record goals to keep us on track and accountable to our dreams.

When we are working to make a situation better, we can measure our progress by reviewing proven tactics along the way to achieving our goals. For donors who wish to have the greatest impact in the lives of people who suffer, we are happy to offer tips and tactics to maximize the good that donors want to do. Come vision with us!

2016 Goals for Giving

2016 Goals for Giving by CIDI Staff

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“What is altruism without effort?”

As a researcher at USAID CIDI, I have spent a great deal of my time conducting research on humanitarian supply chain logistics.  As a result, I now know that the effectiveness of the humanitarian supply chain is critical to the success of disaster relief efforts. We as donors can help logisticians working for professional humanitarian organizations more effectively plan disaster relief operations and better serve survivors by making more effective donations.

When we contribute unsolicited material donations, these can create “logistical bottlenecks” in the humanitarian supply chain that can slow down the provision of aid to those in need.  For this reason, I donate cash to professional humanitarian organizations responding to international disasters because I want to provide them with the opportunity to respond as quickly and efficiently as possible.

While it’s not always easy find NGOs that are trustworthy, actively involved in a relief effort, or participating in a way that we as donors want to contribute to, the internet is making it easier for us as donors to do our homework and identify professional humanitarian organizations that we want to support. Websites like GuideStar or Charity Navigator allow us to read reviews from other donors that share their experiences with donating to a particular NGO and offer donors the ability to measure an NGOs legitimacy by evaluating their financial statements, tax returns, and more.  This process does require some time, but what is altruism without effort?

As donors, we rarely consider what happens to our donations after we make them. When I think about what would need to happen for an item to leave my hands and enter the hands of an international disaster survivor, it becomes clear that an incredibly complicated and expensive journey must ensue. How much would it cost to send a pair of jeans from Los Angeles, California to Kabul, Afghanistan?  The answer is roughly $202.05 if you bought the jeans at WalMart and sent them to Afghanistan through FedEx.  Though this isn’t the primary method donors choose to send donations, the process for NGOs that receive unsolicited in-kind contributions is much the same and equally costly.

Monetary contributions, by contrast, provide NGOs with much greater flexibility in the way they can carry out disaster relief operations.  NGOs can exercise bulk purchasing power in countries where the cost of goods in general is considerably less than the cost of the same goods in the United States.  With monetary contributions, NGOs can more easily respond to changing needs on the ground, which is a common occurrence in the wake of severe natural disasters.

I donate cash to international disaster relief efforts for all these reason and simply because monetary donations allow efficient humanitarian supply chains that provide goods and services to disaster-affected people faster.



Eric Chavez (second from left) Senior Research Analyst for The Center for International Disaster Information

Eric Chavez (second from left) Senior Research Analyst for The Center for International Disaster Information

“Just because you didn’t receive a tax write off, recognition from a local organization, or a thank you card doesn’t mean your efforts were unnoticed.”

So if you haven’t heard, #GivingTuesday is all the rage around the holidays! Recognized globally on December 2nd, this day is dedicated to bringing communities, families, organizations, causes and students together for one common goal: to give.

There are so many ways to give back;  whether it’s done anonymously or intentionally, the warm feeling you’re rewarded with is indescribable. The holidays are a time where you are around people you care about the most and every memory is special and imbeds itself into your psyche. That’s what makes it the best time to start traditions; giving a reoccurring role for all to take on and share with their other communities and families.

Whether you choose to give your time, talent, or money, giving back can be done in any fashion. This day fits perfectly between Thanksgiving and Christmas time. So with one day encouraging you to give thanks, another infecting you with cheeriness and acts of generosity, and the one in between actively encouraging you to give, why not donate the best way possible?

Giving money assures that you’ve done your part, and the recipient, who knows the situation best, has comfort in knowing a need is about to be met. I think that is the most important position to view donating from: the position of the recipient. Maybe the need is food and not clothing? How much? What do people need or want to eat? These questions will circulate through the head of the giver who practices #smartcompassion, a giver who channels the desire to give back in the most effective way.

We’re no strangers to donating and giving back. Just because you didn’t receive a tax write off, recognition from a local organization, or a thank you card doesn’t mean your efforts went unnoticed. I think giving money to a friend or family member and not expecting it in return is considered donating. To me, the act of giving itself is what is appreciated by the donor, the recipient, and everyone else.

If you stop and think about it, money travels faster than goods. Cash can meet any need and fill any gap in most circumstances. I think when giving cash, it feels just as good learning that I was responsible for helping build the infrastructure of the organization that feeds children after school as it would feel being responsible for the food they are eating.

With hash tags like #unselfie and #GivingTuesday, this holiday is an excellent way to help push social impact while also giving millennials a chance to be a part of something emerging before our eyes on the platforms we know and love! Great job New York’s 92nd Street Y.



Lauren Chatman, Online Communications Specialist for The Center for Disaster Information.

Lauren Chatman, Online Communications Specialist for The Center for Disaster Information.

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“You wouldn’t want to receive something you didn’t ask for or need at Christmas, let alone during a humanitarian crisis.”

It is Christmas eve and presents are lined beneath my family’s tree. Do you remember that present from a distant relative last year that you opened, cringed and never used? For me it was Barbie dolls when I was sixteen. I appreciate the thought that my relatives put into gifts but sometimes I receive ones I know I will never use. It led me to ask for cash.

Now raise the stakes exponentially. I’m not talking about holiday gift giving but donations given during times of crisis.

In Ebola-stricken areas, healthcare workers may give more than a cringe upon receiving in-kind donations of canned food or used clothing when they are not needed or when those needs have been met. You wouldn’t want to receive something you didn’t ask for or need at Christmas, let alone during a humanitarian crisis. Just as I would hate to give a gift I know would be discarded, I would never want to donate goods that would impede a relief effort. Instead, I donate cash.

It’s difficult to anticipate the needs of a relative; it’s even more difficult anticipating the needs of those in a humanitarian crisis. Cash is best.

 

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This year’s Christmas tree! (an image from Margot Morris, Program Assistant for The Center for International Disaster Information)

 

Smart Compassion has recently been an important issue at the “Ocean State” of Rhode Island.  At the University of Rhode Island’s College of Business Administration, students of the introductory Operations and Supply Chain Management course – BUS 355, taught by Professor Koray Özpolat, have been offered an optional semester-long project called “Humanitarian Logistics Project”

Building on their logistics and supply chain training, teams of three to four students design public service announcements (PSA) to inform the American public about the most effective way to donate in response to the international disasters. These PSAs are then submitted to the national PSAid contest run by USAID’s Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI).

The outcome has been fantastic. In 2012 and 2013, four URI teams were nationally recognized in this contest which created lots of buzz in the university and state media (below, see a PSA that was awarded the 2nd place in 2012). Not only the winning teams but many other students doing this project received satisfaction. A student evaluated the project as follows:

URI info

Educators willing to adopt a similar project may take a look at the Özpolat et al. (2014)* paper recently published at the Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education.

Overall, contests, similar to PSAid, can successfully be integrated into syllabi of college courses as semester-long team-based projects. While only six PSAs are recognized annually, all contestants are actual winners because their entries are ever-green at the contest website serving the humanitarian relief community in educating their donors.

* Özpolat K.,Chen Y., Hales, D., Yu D., and Yalcin M. G., 2014. “Using Contests to provide Business Students Project-Based Learning in Humanitarian Logistics: PSAid Example”, Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 12(4), 269-285.

 

We’ve all heard of, or even volunteered for, popular non-profit organizations like United Way, Salvation Army, Goodwill, American National Red Cross, and YMCA to name a few. Non-profit organizations rally around a common principle, using profits to invest back in projects that address the organization’s interests. The ones we are most familiar with have a charity or a public service component. They welcome and enable people to contribute their time, skills, efforts, and money for a greater good. Organizations that do this play an integral role in the general welfare and economic and social interests of our communities – solving problems and enriching the community. Non-profits can work domestically or internationally on a range of issues, from addressing immediate hardships for people to preserving macro and micro aspects of cultures.

Do you have an interest in working for the greater good? Human rights, gender equity, environmentally sound development, assisting refugees – I bet there is an organization that exists to address what you care about! Are you interested in giving to or volunteering for a non-profit but you’re not sure what charities are nearby and who needs help? As part of my focus on the Back-to-School season, I’ve compiled a list of non-profit organizations, both domestic and international, that address some of the issues related to going back to school like access to food, books, and a well-rounded education. Thanks to websites like Global Giving and InterAction, we have the resources to explore and support trusted organizations that serve nearly every country and every cause in the world.

Here are some organizations and projects that I have learned about that might interest you:

Help 95 DC Kids Extend Learning After School: New Community for Children plans to serve students from Kindergarten through 12th grade and support them in reaching their full academic potential, preparing for college, and giving back time and talent to their communities.

Increase Graduation Rates In Little Rock: City Year, of Little Rock, Arkansas, is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for low-income youth. City Year’s Long-Term Impact goal is to ensure 80% of the students in the schools they serve reach the 10th grade.

The Lunch Box Expansion Project: Chef Ann Foundation believes by changing the way children eat and think about food, we are helping to create a future generation of informed consumers and parents whose food choices will support sustainable, healthy food systems.

Goods for the Greater Good: Good 360 transforms lives and strengthens communities by mobilizing companies to donate needed materials. The non-profit leader in product philanthropy distributes goods to a network of more than 32,000 prequalified charities, schools and libraries on behalf of America’s top brands.

Pact:Pact’s vision is a world where those who are poor and marginalized exercise their voice, build their own solutions, and take ownership of their future. Pact accomplishes this by strengthening local capacity, forging effective governance systems, and transforming markets into a force for development.

Donating money to a non-profit enables it to utilize the funds in a manner that best serves its goal. Donating your time and skills to an organization locally means you understand the importance of the cause and think it is valuable enough to your community for you to contribute. However you choose to start the year, I encourage you to donate your time, effort, skills, or money to an organization you believe supports the future you want to see.

Class is dismissed! You’ve successfully completed the final course in giving back for back-to-school. What did you learn? What do you plan to share? I want to make the final lesson more active than the previous two and hope that my reflections on the fundamentals in starting the school year encouraged you to reminisce as well. I have a couple of questions for you!

How important can a great foundation be for a student to succeed?

How do you define foundation?

What’s your favorite organization? Is it one of the non-profits we mentioned above?

Share with us below, on your Facebook, or on Twitter! We’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

Going back to school always gave me mixed emotions. Not every year, but at every stage of my education, I felt like expectations of me were bumped up a notch or two. Like going to elementary school after being in daycare, I remember feeling that routine was everything and as long as I remembered how each day was ordered I would be fine. Moving on to middle school after elementary, my new routine included remembering my locker combination and the order and location of seven subject periods. In high school I balanced finding time for my social life while remaining steadfast in my studies. As for college, routine went out the window and time management took over as a preeminent skill to have. Actually, practicing time management in college enhanced lots of other skills for me, including critical thinking, weighing options, and strategizing. Ultimately I realized that while every school year would require an increasing level of life-skills, each year would also involve a lot of repetition.

I am thankful for the things I knew would ensure my success in school. Taking care of updating my immunization records, keeping a supply of crisp uniforms, and enjoying a hot breakfast each morning gave my parents confidence that I would succeed. New school supplies, new shoes, and a fresh learning environment gave me higher heights to reach. A new grade level, more friends, and increasing responsibilities made me feel like I was in a perfect position to excel. Looking back from elementary to undergrad I’m reminded of that old saying that “the more things change, the more they remain the same”. I understand now that repetition of familiar routines helped to ease my nervousness in each new environment, and each new success builds on prior successes.  Fortunately for me, I had familiar and new things to look forward to every year. But many of us don’t.

I can imagine the disappointment felt by a student who starts a new school year feeling unprepared and without many successes to build on. There may be concern for the health of a child who doesn’t have updated immunizations and records. There may be feelings of embarrassment for students who return to class with uniforms that have more wears than those of classmates. And I’m pretty sure it’s hard to focus on the lesson at hand when your tummy is rumbling. New school supplies and new shoes are so exciting to return to school with and many of us don’t fully appreciate how blessed we are to be able to have those things. Determined is the child who manages to complete each grade level, make new friends, and handle new responsibilities despite these obstacles.  Try to imagine the difficulty of not having these resources year after year. Repetition of their absence becomes disturbing over time. The repeated cycle of a lack of preparedness at each stage of your educational career can easily become disturbing. Disturbing and discouraging.

For me, the repetition has changed. This year isn’t about new uniforms or new grade levels, or even a hot breakfast when I’m battling the clock. This year is about new responsibilities, new dreams, new lessons, and maybe most important, new ways of compassion toward others. I’m learning that there are many nonprofit organizations that understand a child’s foundation of success in education goes a long way. They understand that without the proper tools for success children will have more distractions than just their classmates. The distractions hold them back from learning, which sometimes causes a lack of desire to learn.

Helping others and giving back is a substantial way to contribute to your own success, in education and otherwise. Instead of purchasing uniforms for myself, I could donate to an organization that provides uniforms for students who can’t afford them. I could donate to a back-to-school drive that provides students with the right course materials. Or even donating to a favorite health organization that gives free immunization shots could help.

Repeating something good over and over again can make it a habit. How amazing would it be to make a habit of donating to your favorite organization when the back to school season arrives? Cool right? Need help finding some?

Stay tuned for third period where we discuss nonprofit organizations who agree with the fundamentals of back to school.

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I love watching Alyssa Thomas play basketball. Not only because the University of Maryland three-time ACC Player of the Year is an uber-athletic, ridiculously talented, beautiful monster stat machine, but because she is also a giver. Watch her sometime; her focus is always on her teammates, the ball, the basket, and scoring. She applies her imagination and skill over every obstacle in a relentless pursuit of the win. And from her completeness and purity of effort ripples wave after wave of inspiration, to her teammates, the fans, the announcers, and those who witness.

Alyssa Thomas

Alyssa Thomas holding a ball with her teammates. Photo credit to Maryland Athletics.

All players give effort but not all give wisely. The ball-hogs, the floppers, the hackers— perhaps owing to impatience or inexperience— push winning a little farther away through sub-optimal use of their talent and time.  But Alyssa always seems to give her best; even under formidable demands, pressure and opposition, she gives wisely.

In the humanitarian arena, givers like Alyssa are needed and admired. Analogous to epic ball skills, charitable donors demonstrate focused, intelligent giving when “winning” involves helping people who are going through very tough times. On USAID CIDI’s home court of disaster relief, we cheer on donors who give essential aid through monetary contributions to relief and charitable organizations working directly with disaster-affected people. Cash donations play to the strengths of these organizations by optimizing their expertise and bulk purchasing power, which enable them to help more people quickly and for a longer time. Monetary donations are the alley-oop of charity.

As the college basketball season ends, Atlantic Hurricane Season approaches, and there may be occasions this year when others need an assist.  During the hard challenges, disaster-affected people are most effectively supported when donors team up with charitable organizations and follow-through with perfect form—just like Alyssa.

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My friends who observe Lent are already talking about what they’re going to give up for this annual 40- day season. They plan to surrender things like chocolate, coffee, shopping and other pleasures and substitute prayer or reflection. Whether or not one is Lent-observant, the notion of thoughtfully giving up something to achieve a greater good is at the heart of effective charity.

When we talk with people about disaster donations, we usually start with how unsolicited material donations can hamper relief efforts on the ground, so that people will better understand the most effective ways to help. But around major holidays, we are reminded that smart compassion—or giving wisely— is also about thoughtfully and intentionally doing our best to improve the lives of people who suffer.

We’ve all heard that “it is more blessed to give than to receive,” a biblical quote  that is a staple of charitable thinking. This is ancient text, but much has been written more recently about the physiological and psychological benefits connected to the act of giving—coming soon in another blog! Giving feels great for givers, but in order to be great for those who receive, a gift has to be targeted to actual need. This is where thoughtful givers succeed—in focusing not on how good it feels to give, or on the gift itself, but on the person who will receive the gift.

At the heart of smart compassion is a deliberate focus on recipients. It is also the core of one of our favorite tag lines—“connect before you collect”— encouraging a link between giver and recipient and between the giver’s mind and heart. The conviction and urgency we feel to help others is a beautiful expression of heart that takes us halfway. The rest of the journey is a mindful focus on people’s needs; not what we think they need but what they actually need. Whether during Lent or year-round, getting this right connects us to those we wish to help in the best way, and achieves that higher good.

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We bet you’re all dressed up, gifts are wrapped, and cookies are baked.

Uhh Ohh…

 

Christmas 2013 blogDid you forget something? Perhaps a gift for a relative? For a White Elephant Party? For a colleague?

USAID CIDI staff is here to help you overcome that sinking feeling with easy, thoughtful, last minute gifts!

Delfin 

Who doesn’t love the Bahamas? Delfin, our Chief of Media Relations and Strategy, has been dreaming of scuba diving in pristine Caribbean waters all year long. Make sure the Caribbean and its wildlife are here for you to visit time and again by adopting the coral reef. For $50 through The Nature Conservancy, you can protect the ecosystem and the sea turtles that inhabit it. Who doesn’t love turtles?

https://support.nature.org/site/Ecommerce/1438131896?VIEW_PRODUCT=true&product_id=1361&store_id=2741

Eric

Long-term recovery and return to normalcy are crucial for survivors. One of the best ways to support this is through a microfinance loan. Eric, our Senior Research Analyst, calls this the Gift of Self Reliance. For $10, you can support Filipino entrepreneurs start a business. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/raise-capital-for-entrepreneurs-in-philippines/

Juanita

Juanita, our Director, is a former English major and bibliophile. Currently, she is engulfed in “Chasing Chaos: My Decade In and Out of Humanitarian Aid”. For Juanita, it harkens back to her time in disaster relief work. For your last minute gift recipient, it tells gritty, gripping tales about the highs, lows and in-betweens of humanitarian work that will inform the soul of the adventure-lover and the dreamer alike. $12.45.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0770436919?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creativeASIN=0770436919&linkCode=xm2&tag=thewaspos09-20

Paris

Paris, our Information Management Specialist, wants to support causes that are close to her loved ones’ hearts. Her gift of choice is a GlobalGiving Gift card. It allows the recipient to chose a $10 program or cause that they truly support, all in the name of the holiday spirit.

http://www.globalgiving.org/gifts/

Chris

Chris, our Social Media Specialist, wants a gift that reaches everyone. Even before disasters, those with physical or mental disabilities may already be at a disadvantage. After a disaster, infrastructure and resources are severely limited. Chris, our Social Media Specialist, wants a gift that reaches everyone. That is why his go-to gift is $15 to purchase spare parts for all terrain wheelchairs in Haiti.

http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/haiti-wheelchair-project/

Barlin

Barlin, our Program Coordinator, loves camels-from pictures in her office to camel milk in her tea. She often talks about how vital camels are for nutrition, transportation, and status in Somalia.

Barlin’s perfect gift, last minute or otherwise, is a share of a camel, $85, through Heifer International. Heifer International provides livestock to families in need.

http://www.heifer.org/gift-catalog/animals-nutrition/gift-of-a-camel-donation.html

So readjust your tie, munch on a cookie, and go to that holiday party confidently! You’ve crossed off everyone on your gift list while practicing Smart Compassion.

 Happy Holidays from our team to yours! 

 

Love Urban Dictionary? Enhance your disaster response street cred with these need-to-know buzzwords:

1. Disaster Relief: Disaster survivors frequently need assistance to recover and rebuild. Supplies and programs provided by NGOS on the ground are essential to meet short-term needs like emergency medical care, and longer term ones like shelter.

 Donate cash for disaster relief and give survivors with what they need!”

 2. Smart Compassion: Giving that’s focused on survivor needs as assessed by relief workers on-site. Put another way, giving what survivors actually need – not just what the donor wants to give (unless the donor wants to give cash). Cash donations are easiest for donors and most effective for more survivors than are material donations.

“Who are you texting, Erica?”

 “The disaster relief fund – $10 towards #smartcompassion”  

 3. Cash Donation: This is the most effective way for people to help after a natural disaster. Monetary contributions to reputable, effective NGOs fund vital supplies and services needed immediately following a natural disaster, and for a long time thereafter.

 “A cash donation is fast and flexible.”

 4.Unsolicited Material Donation: Any non-cash donation that is sent without approval or an appeal from a relief organization working with survivors. Bottled water is a popular unsolicited donation.  $1 of water purchased in the US would not supply even one person with enough drinking water for one day (including capital cost, transportation, taxes, etc.).  In contrast, $1 spent in-country could provide drinking water to approximately 80 people for one day. Cash donations are more effective because they can buy exactly what is needed, when it’s needed. And many purchases are made locally, which strengthens the local economy and speeds recovery.  Unsolicited material donations can delay response efforts by taking up space needed to stage and deliver life-saving supplies.

“It will take months to sort through these unsolicited donations!”

 Keep us on our toes-challenge us with your favorite terms!