The Surefire Way to Make Sure Your Donations Are Going to a Good Cause

Getting Involved

 

There is always a bit of mystery when it comes to donating money, isn’t there? Some part of you wants to know where that dollar that you just agreed to give to children in need is actually going. Is it actually going to feed a child, help build a school or clothe a veteran, or just line the pockets of a high up executive? While it’s true that some charities are better than others, there is an air of mystery to the act of donating money no matter where you’re sending it–it simply isn’t feasible to keep track of every dollar you send and where it’s really going. Websites like Charity Navigator and Charity Watch monitor, track and grade charities around the country to help philanthropists determine the best way to go about giving their money for maximum impact.

One thing that sites like Charity Navigator and Charity Watch miss, however, is the one surefire way to make sure that your philanthropic deeds go exactly where you want them to: by volunteering.

Volunteering is an often-overlooked means of giving back to charities and communities. Not only can you ensure that your time is well spent and helping the people you expect it to, but you’ll get the added benefit of actually seeing the impact you’re having unfold in front of your eyes! In my book, that’s a win-win. Here are a few ways to get involved with your children and your community that will have tangible impacts on everyone around you.

1. Volunteer at your kids’ schools

Volunteering at a school doesn’t require much more than a love of children (or just a love of yours, perhaps), a touch of patience and a day off of work. Schools are almost always looking for volunteers for class trips, school dances and class parties. Offering to make snacks for your younger children’s classmates is a great way to help out and show off your cooking/baking skills, while lending a hand at after-school activities or extracurriculars is a great way to give help when it’s needed the most. Reach out to your childrens’ teachers and ask how you can get involved, often they need help in ways you wouldn’t think of yourself!

2. Volunteer at a soup kitchen/food bank

Typically, the number of volunteers at  soup kitchens around the country spikes right around the holiday season, then drops rapidly. While you might be in the giving spirit most around Christmas or Thanksgiving, soup kitchens need volunteers year-round more often than not.  Fighting hunger is a full-time operation, as the homeless and impoverished often find themselves questioning where their next meal may come from and when it may be. You won’t be able to solve world hunger yourself, but volunteering a day off from work or one weekend to help feed the hungry lets you see just how big of an impact you can have.

3. Volunteer with your hands

Habitat for Humanity is just one of the volunteer options for those of us who are more manual labor-ready. If you like working with your hands building homes and repairing communities, getting involved with organizations like H4H might be a great fit. If you’re less inclined to get dirty, you can always donate used houseware items to the ReStore, a branch of Habitat for Humanity International that sells used home-improvement products at a small cost.

Activities For Parents & Kids

 

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Sometimes, raising kids can feel like a full-time job. It’s made a bit more hectic if you, like many mothers do, are also working an actual full-time job on top of it. So, on more than one or two occasions, parenting can be tumultuous and stressful, but in the end, it’s an incredibly rewarding and beautiful experience I wouldn’t give up for the world.

So having raised children, I’ve got first-hand experience as to what it’s like, the do’s and the don’ts of child rearing. Sometimes on days that the kids have off school and you have off work. It’s easiest to let them do as they please while you get some rest and relaxation. Assuming your children are old enough to look after themselves, getting some work done quietly, cooking or cleaning, paying bills, taking a nap or catching up on some television can be nice, quiet, relaxing activities. But they are all missing one huge thing: your kids.

How many times have you heard parents complain about their kids driving them up a wall? If that’s the case, there’s a good chance your children are just bored, having been cooped up in a house for too long. The quick solution: plan an activity!

Often, if your kids are home from school for a day, a weekend, or the summer, there is an abundance of activities that you can do with your children to facilitate bonding, relieve boredom and make sure everyone’s having fun.

 

Plan a picnic

There are few things that children enjoy more than eating their favorite foods–so take those foods and bring them with you on a picnic. Lay out a blanket to a park and pour a few glasses of iced tea on a nice warm summer afternoon and let the kids run around, eat and enjoy themselves.

 

Play a game they want to play

Children typically do not like adult games, just as adult games aren’t typically overwhelmingly enjoyed by playing Chutes and Ladders. But if you’ve got time to spend with your children, it’s important that they enjoy time spent with mom or dad. If it’s a rainy afternoon or a picnic isn’t in the mix, let your kids pick out a game to play and sit down and enjoy yourself.

 

Take a Trip

The duration and distance of the trip can vary depending on how much time you have off. If it’s a day, plan a trip somewhere an hour or less away, whether it’s a park, outdoor theater or to a nice restaurant. If you’ve got a weekend, consider a trip to the beach or a camping weekend with the kids. These activities are great for getting away from the technology and hectic day-to-day, and allow you to bond with your children while having fun.

 

Take a walk

This is one of the most simple, and is perfect for a morning, an afternoon or an evening. Unwinding with a walk as the sun begins to set is a great after-dinner activity with your kids that will let them get out some of their pent-up energy while you burn off the extra roll you had at dinner. Going for a walk is calming and allows you to have a chance to talk to your kids, learn more about them and what’s going on in their lives (if they’re older) or talk to them about yours (if they’re younger) and remind them how much you love them (any age).

 

Celebrities Who Make a Difference

Looking at the net-worth of some of today’s richest people, most famous celebrities and biggest businesspeople might make you say “I don’t even know what I would do with that much money.”

Taylor Swift, the Grammy award-winning pop sensation, for instance, is worth about $250 million according to an estimate by Forbes Magazine.

Actor Tom Hanks is estimated to be worth a bit more than Swift, coming in at a mind-boggling $350 million.

Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft and America’s wealthiest man, has a net worth of almost $80 billion. That is “billion” with a “b.” He is worth more than some small countries.

So what do these people do with all that money? They buy nicer houses in nicer areas of the country, nicer cars with nicer amenities both for themselves as well as their families. Often, they invest a good chunk as well.

But some celebrities make donating a habit. Instead of spending all of their millions or billions (that they did, in fairness, earn themselves for the most part) on themselves, some choose to offer their money to those in need.

Not all celebrities engage in philanthropy in the same way. Some tend to invest in new and burgeoning technologies that will change the world. Others donate large sums of money, while still others choose instead to use their free time to give back. Here are examples of three celebrities who donate in their own way, making a difference in the world as they go.

 

Taylor Swift

The above-mentioned popstar is consistently named as one of the United States’ most generous celebrities, finding herself on top of the list compiled by Dosongthing.org each of the last four years. In 2012, Swift is estimated to have given over $600,000, including $500,000 to Nashville flood relief efforts, $25,000 to the Wyomissing, PA school district where she was raised for a time, and $100,000 to the reconstruction of a playground in Tennessee.

Swift is also a regular donor to schools for the deaf and music education programs around the country.

 

Bill Gates

Gates, who is consistently ranked as one of the two or three richest men in the world, has made a point to ensuring his wealth helps others in need. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gives grants and investments that ultimately look to improve the world.

Gates made the news last year when he was shown drinking water that had, only moments before, been raw sewage. The process that purified and essentially turned sewage into clean, safe drinking water is one of numerous causes Gates has publicly supported. A full list of the causes that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supports can be found here.

 

John Cena

Wrestling superstar John Cena is a legendary philanthropist in a way that differs from both Swift and Gates. Cena, whose motto is “Never Give Up,” has helped instill that message in others through his extensive work with the Make a Wish program. Cena has granted over 500 wishes at this point, meeting and bonding with children across the country in an effort to make their dreams come true.

He has expressed how much joy he gets from helping others time and time again, saying in an interview with ESPN“If I can offer a fantastic experience, I’ll be first in line to do my part.””

 

Corporate Philanthropy: How to Get Involved

Corporate Philanthropy

 

Recently, we’ve seen an increase in charitable giving almost across the board. People are donating more now than ever, as are corporations. But far too often do businesses get too deep into the idea that the only way they can make an impact on the community is by giving excess profits to a local charity.

Monetary donations are a very fast and very easy way for a CEO or large business to get involved, but it isn’t always as readily available a means for small businesses. Here are some ways that a business can engage in corporate philanthropy without donating money directly.

 

Donating Time

Aside from giving money directly, donating time is one of the largest, easiest and most straightforward ways for multiple members of a business to get involved. Corporate volunteer time is a fairly common practice among businesses both large and small–employees can all spend a few hours on certain weekends at a place like a soup kitchen or community rec center helping those who need it the most.

Not only are these helpful for the community, they’re also fantastic team building exercises and wonderful opportunities to interact with your coworkers outside of the same office you’re in 5 days a week. Some companies even offer paid time off to volunteer, which reflects well on the employees, the community and the business as a whole.

 

Donating Goods

If you work for a business that manufactures or sells goods directly to consumers or businesses, sometimes donating your products goes quite a long way at very little cost to you. Apple is known for doing this (this isn’t the last time the computer giant will be mentioned in this blog), often donating iPads to schools around the country to help educational endeavors.

 

Holding Fundraisers

Elementary school students hold fundraisers all the time–often very successfully–so why can’t a business. Something as simple as a canned goods drive, clothing drive or bake sale can generate some much-needed necessities to people in need.  These often come with a small budget attached and employee-volunteers to keep costs minimal. Many businesses have a wealth of employees who jump at the chance to give back, making fundraisers an easy and rewarding type of corporate philanthropy.

 

However, if you do have the profits to donate money, by all means it’s encouraged. Donating proceeds to a worthy cause can have an enormous impacts. It’s also possible to go above and beyond simply writing a check with programs like grants and matching donations.

 

Grants and Matching Donations

Companies like Apple, Expedia and General Electric all offer similar matching and grant services towards charities and community programming. Often, these promises involve matching all donations that employees make to a certain amount. For example, if an employee donates $200 to the Red Cross, these organizations give a matching $200 donation.

Grants are similar, but involve no monetary donation on the part of the employees.  Apple, for example, donates $25 for every hour that its employees volunteer at a charity or nonprofit organization, effectively paying proceeds directly to the charity on top of the time donated by employees!

How Technology Has Changed Charity

According to nptrust.org, people are getting more charitable in recent years. Specifically, the $358 billion that Americans gave in 2014 was 7.1 percent higher than the same statistic in 2013. On a corporate level, a larger increase was measured, as the $17.77 billion donated was an increase of almost 14 percent. Are we, as humans, growing more generous with our money? Or is something else contributing to the uptick in donations in recent years?

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The increase in donations can be, at least in part, attributed to the rapidly rising availability and use of technology and social media. According to research, about two-thirds of Americans use some form of social media; and it’s not just young people who are hopping on the bandwagon, as those from the Baby Boomer generation have been increasingly active in recent years as well. These rises in usage stats correlate with jumps in donations, as well.

According to Salsa Labs (a nonprofit software development organization unrelated to the dance or the dip), email donations account for a third of all online revenue generation. While in previous generations emails may have gotten checked biweekly, weekly or at the very best daily, the constant connection of smartphones, laptops and tablet computers have allowed for nearly instant read and response capability in regards to emails.

On top of that, 17 percent of all crowdfunding donations are made via mobile device. The quick and simple availability of donating via just a few taps on the screen of your iPhone or Android device far trumps the old-fashioned mailers or in-person donations. We’ve become a society of people who are constantly looking at our phones rather than leaving the house, and finally that may be having a tangible benefit on society.

In simple terms, social media has streamlined the donation process and allowed for charities to access larger audiences easier, faster and cheaper. On top of that, the reactions and collections can be almost instantaneous. When disaster struck in Haiti in 2010 in the form of a devastating earthquake, the Red Cross set up a text-to-donate platform that went on to raise over $43 million.

Examples like this aren’t particularly uncommon, either. Funds are often raised and collected online or via text/mobile applications. As we move into an ever-evolving technological world, charities are taking advantage of this by developing new avenues of donating. And the common citizen isn’t the only one taking notice, as corporate philanthropy has increased at an even higher rate in recent years.

It seems as though as time winds on and social media takes the reigns of our day-to-day live, businesses have attempted to capitalize on the information-age by engaging in more and more corporate philanthropy. While engaging in charitable giving for the benefit of publicity is hardly aligned with the idea of charitable giving itself, the “always online” setting we live in now makes for a convenient means of spreading the word about philanthropy regardless of whether your primary focus is on the giver or the recipient. While we’ve established that corporate philanthropy doesn’t make up as large a chunk as consumer donations, corporate donations are growing at a more rapid rate. This growth, if sustained over the course of a few more years (or decades) could have an enormous benefit on charities across the world; whether the brunt of the focus from the corporate side is on self-promotion or actual giving is irrelevant in this case–charities are receiving more money.

 

Carole Argo’s Definitive Gift-Giving Guide for Mother’s Day

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 To view this blog post as a slideshow, click here.

As you (may or may not) know, Mother’s Day is quickly approaching. As you tear away the sheets of your desk calendar with the silly office-humor comics on them, don’t be surprised when you flip a few ahead and notice that this Sunday, May 8 is indeed Mother’s Day.

If that sentence has caught you off guard, I’ll give you a moment to recover and slow your breathing. Lucky for those of you who thought that Mother’s Day was “sometime in June or something,” As a mother, I feel as though I am well qualified to speak to this subject.

I’ve put together a short (yet definitive and all-encompassing) gift giving guide to celebrating the mom or wife in your life.

 

Hobby-Specific Gifts

Starting off general here, but it’s difficult to recommend specific purchases when I’m not sure of someone’s specific tastes. If the mom in your life likes to garden, get her a bevy of gardening supplies. Summer is right around the corner, so gardening season is in full-swing. Gloves, seeds, pots, spades and maybe a nice sun hat make a convenient packaged gift to give the garden lover. If she is a big reader, get her a new book by an author she loves or an Amazon Kindle. If she’s busy, consider a subscription to Audible, an audiobook website. Whatever her niches are, cater to them and get creative.

 

Make Her Breakfast in Bed, then Dinner

As you may expect if you based your interpretation of life off of magazine advertisements from the 1960s, 83 percent of women do household chores on a weekly basis. Often, this involves cooking dinner. So, this Mother’s Day (and next, and maybe on Mondays and Wednesdays), give her a break from cooking. Make her breakfast in bed before she’s up, and make her a nice, home cooked meal for dinner. Not much of a cook? Instead, take her somewhere nice for dinner, or buy her some of her favorite take-out food if there are children in the mix. This is a day to pamper the mom in your life, giving her a day off of cooking is a small–but enormously appreciated–effort.

 

Be There For Her

This one is aimed primarily at the children and teenagers. Often, your mothers don’t necessarily want or need material gifts, they just want acknowledgement. If you don’t spend as much time as you could or should with your mother, make it a priority on Sunday. Sit with her and talk, tell her what’s going on in your life and ask her about hers. Open up and show compassion and appreciation for her.

However, if you or your children aren’t quite at that age yet…

 

Leave Her Alone

Raising children is a daunting task, but if you’ve made it this far in life, chances are your mother was a part of that. Now, if the mom in your life is your wife or partner, it might be time to take those children and head out for the afternoon. The responsibilities of child-rearing can be overwhelming to mothers of all ages, and sometimes what they really need is a break. Order some food, buy some chocolate and a nice bottle of wine, and take the kids out of the house. Let the mom in question do whatever she wants with her responsibility-free day.

 

Tell her–and show her–you love her

This one is all-encompassing and applicable to all ages and relationships. Take a moment to acknowledge that it’s Mother’s Day and tell your mom, your wife, and any other mothers in your life that you love them and appreciate what they’ve done for you, and make sure they feel it. A gesture as small as a handmade card and a tight hug can make any mom’s day better, particularly if you’re not in the financial straits to purchase an expensive meal or collection of books.

 

Mother’s Day is a day to make the moms in your life–whether they’re your own mom, your wife, your sister or anyone else who can lay claim to the title–feel special. Make sure you do it this Sunday in any way possible.

 

Nature’s Calling, It’s Time to Pick Up

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With Earth Day in the recent past, many people have flicked their light switches back on, hopped back in their cars and left environmental consciousness in the rearview mirror. Despite housing exactly 100 percent of the humans in the known Universe, the Earth only gets one day a year, a day in which nature is paramount and green-energy is taught in schools and discussed in meetings. And then, the importance of nature is forgotten.

Nature and all of its beauty provide us with the water, pollination, medicine, wildlife and the biodiversity that separate the Earth from every other planet in our solar system, plus Pluto. And that’s only at the surface level. Humankind’s direct interaction with nature inspires us, giving us artistic creativity and innovation, a connection to the planet itself and even a sense of spirituality.

Nature has also proven itself valuable as a teaching and learning tool, and not one everyone has access to. Numerousstudies have shown that even base-level nature interaction, anything from walking through a field to simply looking at calming landscape photos can have a drastic effect on learning and cognitive function.

Some of the most important interaction happens during a child’s formative years. So what happens when children are deprived of interaction with planet Earth? The levels of acceptable behavior, health and even mental health can be negatively affected.

Some not for profit companies have recognized this need and have taken initiative to help expose everyone to the benefits of nature.

New York-based Amberations gives those who may not have the opportunity to go on nature walks, learn about and interact with animals and play in fields and streams as they please, just as children are so inclined to do. The only thing absent in many children’s lives is the opportunity, an issue that Amberations hopes to solve. Amberations offers its services to the young and the old, those with and those without learning/developmental disabilities, believing that everyone can benefit from interaction with nature.

Organizations like Amberations have it right, despite what somepoliticians may believe. The negative impact that we the human population have had on the planet are neither easily ignored nor easily reversed. Small and simple actions like cleaning up a park can have imperceivable impacts on both the Earth and mankind. And the impact isn’t just on how long the planet (or its atmosphere) will be around.

A mutualistic relationship is one through which both organisms benefit. Like bees and flowers or sea anemones and clown fish, both parties reap the rewards of establishing a relationship with the other. Human beings haven’t been so kind to the Earth as to establish this sort of relationship just yet, but we can still help. Simple tasks like cleaning a stream can do just that–a walk through nature benefits man, and man’s nature-conscious habits benefit Earth.

Establishing a connection with Earth is something so simple and so beneficial to children that it’s a wonder it doesn’t happen more often.

Amberations, the nature not for profit organization mentioned this article is running a capital campaign to expand their offerings. To learn more about Amberations and their campaign, click here.

 

3 Ways to do Good Without Emptying Your Wallet

HeaderforCharityCaroleArgo                    To view this blog post in slideshow form, click here.

 

Few things feel as good as doing good. As President Ronald Reagan said, “we can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” Though charitable donations can (and do) help those in need, not everyone is always in the position to empty their wallet for the sake of others. If you’re feeling a bit strapped for cash, your ability to help others shouldn’t dwindle. There are numerous ways to help those in need without breaking the bank, some of which require little to no time taken out of your day, but can have an enormous impact on those around you.

Here are a couple ways you can enact positive changes in the lives of others without spending a dime!

 

Amazon Smile

There are over 50 million people in America alone that have Amazon Prime subscriptions. According to CNN Money, those subscribers spend, on average, $1,100 a year purchasing goods from the online retailer. Some quick math will tell you that totaling those numbers up gives you over $60 billion spent every year, and that’s only by Amazon Prime members, not including those who make purchases without a Prime membership.Now just imagine if a fraction of that money could go to charities around the world, benefitting the less fortunate.

Now just imagine if a fraction of that money could go to charities around the world, benefitting the less fortunate.

Enter Amazon Smile.

By visiting Smile.Amazon.com, shoppers ensure that a small percentage of the money they’re spending upon checkout is donated directly to a charity of their choice. There are almost a million charities on Amazon’s approved list that you can choose from.

And that’s it. There is no need to create a new account, you can sign in with your existing Amazon account and shop as usual. There are no gimmicks or pop ups or ads. Simply add “smile” before the URL before you shop and you’ll be prompted to select a charity that your purchases will benefit. Though the percentage is comparatively small, the donations require no additional money out of your pocket and add up over time. Just be sure to continue to add “Smile” whenever you opt to make purchases through Amazon and those in need will continue to reap the rewards of your probably gratuitous online shopping habits.

 

FreeRice.com

According to the World Food Programme there are nearly 800 million malnourished people across the globe today. While hunger, starvation and malnutrition are the number one health risk worldwide, they share another incredibly important trait: they’re also entirely treatable. And while donations to food banks or volunteering at soup kitchens are endlessly valuable ways to spend your time and money, not everyone has enough to offer in these ways. Luckily, FreeRice.com helps bridge that gap and solve a problem that so many of us are aware of but so few act on.

If you have a couple of minutes to burn during your lunch hour at work or before you head off to bed this evening, consider checking out FreeRice.com. Free Rice is a trivia game that asks a series of easy to answer, fairly common knowledge questions and for each correct answer donates 10 grains of rice to the World Food Programme. It’s as simple as that. You can choose from a number of categories for your trivia, including grammar, literature, chemistry, even SAT prep. The two goals of FreeRice are fulfilled with each click of the mouse–providing education to those playing the game, and free rice to those who need it.

 

Give Blood/Clothes

If you find yourself in the giving spirit, but your bank account isn’t on the same page, try searching your closet. While yes, you may find a dollar or two lining the pockets of a sweater you haven’t worn in a while, the value in sorting through your old clothes isn’t in the change you find, it’s in the clothes themselves. Charities like the Purple Heart, the Salvation Army and many public works projects will collect the clothes that you don’t want and give them to those in need. Some have drop boxes (some that resemble dumpsters, but clearly marked otherwise) where you can drop off bags of used, good-condition clothing. Others will schedule a time to come to you and pick up your unwanted clothing.

If you recently cleaned out your closet and don’t have clothes to donate, there’s something you certainly can donate that every single person reading this has: blood.

Every two seconds, someone in the world finds him or herself in need of a blood donation. You can do your part and donate blood every seven days (24 times a year) to help save a life at absolutely no cost to you. The donation process only takes about 15 minutes and can save up to three lives. Drives are fairly common, and can be found by visiting the Red Cross website.

Squeamish about needles? Consider helping to organize a drive yourself if you want to help others but can’t handle needles.

 

Opening up your wallet and giving a couple dollars to a charity can go an incredibly long way to help those in need. But if you’re wallet is empty and your work schedule isn’t, there are ways to help feed the hungry without even leaving your living room, donate directly to a charity of your choice, or save a life without spending a dime of your own money.


If you are planning on donating money, make sure you double check the charity you’re donating you beforehand. Check out my previous post for information on choosing a charity that will best benefit those in need. 

Five Influential Women In American Politics Today

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Four years ago in November of 2012, Barack Obama was reelected to his second term as President of the United States. Now it’s 2016, meaning we’re embroiled in the midst of another Presidential election season and women have risen to the top of the ranks. This year, two women made serious bids at becoming the next President of the United States of America, and as of right now, it looks as though one may have the best odds of stepping into that role come January 20. While women like Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2015 and Forbes Magazine’s most powerful woman on the planet Angela Merkel have an enormous international political impact, let’s step in and focus on women inside of America who are making serious ripples in the water today, thanks in large part to the women who fought for the right to vote not too long ago.

 

Carly Fiorina photo

Carly Fiorina

Despite dropping out of the United States Presidential race in February, Carly Fiorina made what many would consider a strong bid for the GOP nomination early on. Having experienced enormous successes both inside and outside of politics in her career including a six-year run as CEO of Hewlett-Packard and a GOP primary California senate nomination in 2010. After announcing her plans to run for the presidency on the GOP ticket in May of 2015, Fiorina came out firing, named the winner of the first debate she participated in and later surging in the polls after slamming current GOP front-runner Donald Trump in numerous nationally-televised debates. Fiorina eventually lost ground in the race and suspended her campaign, but has remained actively involved in politics, recently endorsing senator Ted Cruz in the GOP race.

 

Hillary Clinton

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Currently the favorite to win the Democratic nomination over Bernie Sanders, former Secretary of State, former First Lady and former US senator Hillary Clinton is hands down one of the most powerful and influential women in American politics today. In March, Hillary won seven of the 11 Super Tuesday states, going on to claim victories in the democratic primaries of all five states that voted on March 15. Hillary has built a substantial lead over Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary and is poised to make a run against the GOP nominee in November, where political pundits give her a good shot at assuming the presidency.

 

MalalaYousafzai

Malala Yousafzai

While indirectly related to American politics, Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai has made a splash in the US by advocating for women’s rights both in and outside of Pakistan. Malala got her start when she wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC that detailed life living under Taliban rule, which prevents women from obtaining any education. After a failed assassination attempt, Malala came back stronger than ever, becoming an international symbol of women’s rights. She has since won a Nobel Peace Prize, a Philadelphia Liberty Medal, numerous international peace awards, and much more. She recently made the news with comments condemning Donald Trump’s criticism of Muslims.
Mia Love

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Love was named by Newsmax as an up and comer in its 2013 list of “25 Influential Women of the GOP.” A year later she lived up to that potential, winning the republican nomination for the 4th district of Utah and eventually winning the election outright. Her placement in the House of Representatives made her the first African American republican women in congress.

 

 

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Elizabeth Warren

The law professor turned US senator, Elizabeth Warren is one of the most widely respected women in American politics today. Her economic background and penchant for academic writing has made her the subject of frequent media interviews regarding finance. She is a three-time member of Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world, having been named to the list in 2009, 2010 and 2015. Warren beat incumbent Scott Brown in the 2012 Massachusetts senate race to become the first women from the state to serve on the senate. Despite not running for president in 2016, she has remained active in the presidential race, with many candidates citing her and vying for her endorsement.

 

 

The five women mentioned here are by no means the only influential women in American politics today. With the passing of time, women have taken the leap forward and become more and more powerful both inside and outside of the political realm.

Three Charities that You’re Better Off Donating To

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While charitable giving is a highly-endorsable act, not all charities are created equally. There are a wealth of metrics, statistics and scores to be considered before determining where your donations will go. A charity with high name recognition can be a good starting point, but the relative popularity of an organization doesn’t always indicate high levels of accountability on its behalf. Check out three nationally-recognized charities that you might want to avoid when you’re considering a donation, and three that are better options.

Consider Avoiding…

The Kids Wish Network

Sporting both a “Donor Advisory” notice on Charity Navigator and the number one spot in the “Worst Charities in America” rankings according to the Tampa Bay Times/Center for Investigative Reporting, the Kids Wish Network has been slammed for low direct cash aid numbers and high executive salaries. An estimated 2.5 percent of the money that is funneled into the Kids Wish Network is put towards direct cash aid, leaving sick children with less than 3 cents per dollar raised.

 

Instead, Donate To…

Make a Wish America

The organization that recently saw wrestling superstar John Cena grant his 500th wish to a sick fan, the Make a Wish Foundation presents a better option for donating to children in need. Charity Navigator gives Make a Wish America ¾ stars on its website, granting the national organization a score of 87.03 out of 100 in terms of financial proceedings and organization transparency. Last year over $56 million (or about 75 percent) of the organization’s expenses went directly to the program. What other charity can boast that it routinely surprises sick children with the likes of Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Lebron James or a trip to Disney World?

MakeAWishFoundation

 

Consider Avoiding…

Kars4Kids

Despite an objectively catchy jingle and commercials featuring cute kids miming playing an instrument, Kars4Kids has come under fire for deceptive advertising. By accepting used cars as a tax write off, Kars4Kids typically raises somewhere in the realm of $35 million in revenue each year, a percentage of which goes to Oorah, another charity.  According to its website, Kars4Kids exists with a mission of  “addressing the educational, material, emotional and spiritual needs of Jewish children and their families.” While the ideology behind Kars4Kids is apparent in its online mission statement, it is nowhere to be seen in the commercial and radio advertising that has permeated many a listener’s ears. Unfortunately, when on charity funnels its funds into another, a portion of the proceeds are often lost to overhead fees. According to Charity Watch, a $100 donation to Kars4Kids would result in $35 going directly towards the children. A score of 70.30 on Charity Navigator indicates that even a slight drop in quality will put Kars4Kids into the dreaded one-star territory.

 

Instead, Donate To…

Doctors Without Borders

A name that popped up frequently following the Ebola outbreak of 2014-2015, Doctors Without Borders was given an incredible score of 95.17 on Charity Navigator, placed in the top ten list of “The Best Charities Everyone Has Heard Of,” and was given an A overall by Charity Watch. Almost 90 percent of the funds raised by Doctors Without Borders goes directly to program aid, and they have proven themselves to be efficient fundraises, spending just $12 for each  $100 raised. During the peak of the Ebola crisis, almost 4,000 of its staff saw work in the high-risk countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

 

Consider Avoiding…

The Susan G. Komen Foundation

Now a household name, Susan G. Komen for the Cure has come into controversy in recent years for high executive salaries and a tendency to sue other charities that petition for similar causes. A high percentage of the funds raised by the Susan G. Komen Foundation go towards awareness activities instead of cancer research. Despite earning a reasonable score from Charity Navigator (2/4 stars), the Susan G. Komen Foundation has been criticized for paying former CEO Nancy Brinker nearly $700,000, which Charity Navigator’s own CEO Ken Berger called “way outside the norm.”

The charity, known for its “For the Cure” advertising, has been known to sue other, smaller charities who use similar phrasing in their names, including “Kites for a Cure” and “Cupcakes for a Cure.” These lawsuits burn through roughly $1 million in donor funds each year, according to the Huffington Post.

 

Instead, Donate To…

Direct Relief

Direct Relief, which provides medical assistance to those in poverty, was rated as the best charity that everyone has heard of by Charity Navigator. Also given an A by Charity Watch, Direct Relief earned a nearly-perfect score of 99.94 out of 100 when it came to financial and accountability/transparency metrics. An unprecedented 99.4 percent of the money raised by Direct Relief goes towards its programs. According to its mission statement, “Direct Relief has responded to a wide range of urgent and ongoing health emergencies, by providing more than $3.4 billion in essential material resources – medicines, supplies and equipment, including more than $500 million in assistance in the United States.” When choosing a charity to donate to, it might be hard to beat Direct Relief in terms of efficiency, transparency and funding allocation.

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Have a charity in mind but don’t see it on the list? Check sites like GiveWell or Charity Navigator to learn more about a charity, where its donations go, and a congregate of the scores and numbers used to rank charities.

 

Photos Courtesy of Make A Wish America and Direct Relief.