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Some Stocks Go Down, Some Fruit Goes Bad, Some Charities Are Better Than Others

This week’s announcement from the FTC that it, along with
all 50 states and the District of Columbia, was filing a complaint against four
nonprofits that had reportedly used virtually none of the $187 million raised
for charitable purposes, has sent shudders through the nonprofit community.
Organizations are afraid what this news will do to fundraising.

Here’s why you should continue to give to charity enthusiastically.

When you buy fruit at the grocery store, you know there is a
chance, in fact a near certainty, that some of the fruit you buy will get
thrown out. Some will be bad when you get it home, either because it was
already overripe or under ripe when it left the store or because it was damaged
in transit. Most fruit is sold by the pound, but there is hardly a fruit on the
market that you can eat entirely. Have you ever eaten a banana peel or an apple
core? Then there is the risk that the fruit is prepared for someone who doesn’t
eat it and finally the risk that no one happens to eat it before it goes bad.
How much of the fruit you buy actually ends up in someone’s tummy? You still
buy fruit because it is healthy and delicious.

When smart investors buy stocks, they buy lots of them. Most
mutual funds have many dozens of different stock positions in their portfolios
because they understand that some will go up and others will go down. Some may
even go to zero. In the middle some will be parked money, after decades still
worth only what was paid for them. Some stocks, however, will grow dramatically
and may after just a few years be worth 10 times or more than what was paid for
them. Smart investors buy stocks even though they know with certainty that some
of the money invested in stocks will be lost.

Venture capitalists and angel investors who invest in
startup companies know that it is so hard to predict which companies will
thrive and which will tank that they make sure to diversify their portfolios,
too. They know that when investing in early stage companies, easily a third of
the companies will flame out completely, a few will struggle on endlessly and
only a few will thrive, providing all of the return in their portfolios. Think
about that; early-stage investors give entrepreneurs knowing that there is a
very good chance they will never see a dime in return.

So, here’s the question for you? Is it reasonable for you to
expect that every dollar you give to charity will go directly to a noble
purpose and that none will ever be wasted? The frank answer is simple.
Absolutely not. Some nonprofits will use your money to create fantastic social
impacts. Some will not. How many millions of dollars for cancer research have
yielded only another compound that doesn’t work? Does that mean we shouldn’t
fund cancer research? Of course not! A cure will only come from more funding.

Sometimes I hear people say, “I will only give to this one
nonprofit because…” I have news for you. There isn’t a perfect nonprofit out
there. While some may use volunteers to allow 100% of donations to go directly
to programs, those organizations may not have the same impact as other
organizations using professional staff to do more with the same donation, even
after paying the staff.

Does this mean that you should give
indiscriminately? No, of course not. See my tips for smart giving here. But it
does mean that you should keep giving!

These Women Wow Shark Tank, Get Cash, Light Up The World

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Andrea Sreshta and Anna Stork, founders of LuminAID, were offered deals from all five of the investors on ABC’s Shark Tank earlier this year; they successfully closed a deal with Mark Cuban.

Perhaps what made them both different and successful on the show, was a focus on social entrepreneurship, a double bottom-line that balances making a profit with having an impact for good. Their solar lights are not only terrific for camping, but perfect for long-term use in areas without power and great for use when power can’t be relied upon for evening studies. One of their largest customers is ShelterBox, featured here a few weeks ago.

Visit their site to buy and/or give a LuminAID.

Sreshta explains, “LuminAID’s core technology–solar lights that pack flat for ease of distribution– was created to address both the need in an emergency and to make it easier for aid workers to distribute supplies on the ground.”

She adds, “We have learned a lot from working with our NGO customers and partners like Shelterbox. They put out our lights into some of the toughest areas and situations in the world, so we like hearing from them about what worked, what worked less well, and how we can continue to support their efforts.”

On Thursday, May 21, 2015 at 1:00 Eastern, Sreshta and Stork will join me for a live discussion about their experience on Shark Tank, as well as their success and their impact since. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Luminaid:

LuminAID develops innovative, solar-powered products for humanitarian relief aid and outdoor recreation. The company’s first product, the LuminAID light, is a solar-powered, inflatable lamp that packs flat and inflates to create a lightweight, waterproof lantern suitable for outdoor recreation and emergency situations. The LuminAID light has been sold to individuals in more than 30 different countries, and outreach projects with NGO partners have put more than 10,000 donated lights on-the-ground in more than 50 countries countries including Haiti, Nepal and the Philippines. LuminAID has supplied its lights to Shelterbox, Doctors Without Borders, and several organizations in the United Nations for distribution on the ground after disasters and in refugee camps. Earlier this year, LuminAID was featured on ABC’s Shark Tank, received offers from all 5 of the Sharks, and made a deal with the billionaire investor Mark Cuban.

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Andrea Sreshta and Anna Stork

Sreshta’s bio:

Andrea Sreshta is a second-year student in Chicago Booth’s Full-Time MBA Program and co-founder of LuminAID. The company was awarded the 100k Early Stage Prize in 2013 through the Clean Energy Trust in Chicago and the U.S. Department of Energy and was named the winner of Booth’s John Edwardson Social New Venture Challenge in 2012, and awarded a Toyota Mother’s of Invention Grant at the 2014 Women in the World Summit. Andrea previously worked in and studied design and architecture. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a Master’s in Architecture from Columbia University prior to attending Booth.

Stark’s bio:

Anna Stork is co-founder of LuminAID Lab. She was a 2012 Kauffman Global Scholar at the Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship. As a Kauffman Fellow, she was an Operations Intern for the retail start-up Warby Parker. Anna has also worked in product development at the Department of Defense with a focus on developing new technologies for military in remote locations. She completed her Masters in Architecture at Columbia University and earned her B.A. in Engineering and Studio Art from Dartmouth College.

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Billionaire Offers Tips; Some Will Surprise You

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Ranked #369 on the Forbes list of billionaires, Shari Arison is passionate about doing good business–and she means good.

Her bestselling book Activate Your Goodness shared her take on the impact of doing good on people. Her new book, The Doing Good Model, provides a thoughtful look at 13 values that are intended to help business leaders rethink their impact on individuals, their communities and the globe.

One of the most intriguing values that Arison puts forward in her book is “purity.” She explains it in the book, “Think of the many types of behavior that can affect you as a human being as well. For example, you might ask yourself, what am I putting in my body–is this good for me or not? What am I listening to? Is it something that is uplifting like music, or is it gossip that is unkind?”

Her thoughts on volunteering sound conventional to nonprofit leaders, I suspect, but may strike business leaders as a flash of insight. She says in the book, “The most motivated volunteers are the ones with passion for the cause.”

She goes on to share an anecdote to make an important point.

A funny thing happened to me right after I was talking to my editor on the phone going through this chapter on volunteering. I was called away and needed to rush out to a meeting outside my office. I went to another office building, and when I came out of my meeting, in the elevator on the way down, there was a husband and wife talking. The woman said to her husband, “Isn’t it amazing tha the doctor goes to Africa every six months and volunteers his time to perform surgery?” She went on to say, “Do you know he’s an eye doctor?” I smiled to myself as I was walking out of the elvator, thinking abou what a coincidence it was that I was just writing about volunteering. So you see, as I said, one can volunteer basically anywhere in the world, according to one’s talents, passions and time.

On Thursday, May 21, 2015 at noon Eastern, Arison will join me for a live discussion about The Doing Good Model. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Arison Group:

Arison Investments, the Arison Group’s business arm, houses companies that provide responses for the basic human needs of large populations, while yielding high financial returns. Shari Arison directs her businesses to maintain a diversified portfolio of ventures that have moral responsibility at their core. Arison Investments business companies include Bank Hapoalim, Shikun & Bunui, Miya and Salt of the Earth.

Shari Arison

Arison’s bio:

Shari Arison is an American-Israeli businesswoman and philanthropist, owner of the Arison Group that operates in more than 40 countries across five continents to realize the vision of Doing Good. Its business arm, Arison Investments, operates in the fields of finance (Bank Hapoalim), infrastructure, real estate, and renewable energy (Shikun & Binui), salt (Salt of the Earth), and water (Miya). Its philanthropic arm, The Ted Arison Family Foundation, houses the organizations Essence of Life, Goodnet, All One, and Ruach Tova that operates Shari’s global initiative Good Deeds Day. She is repeatedly ranked by Forbes as one of the most powerful women in the world, and as one of the world’s greenest billionaires. In 2013, Shari was named Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by George Mason University.

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Charity Fraud Take Away #1: Don’t Stop Giving! Plus 3 Tips For Smart Giving

Today, the Federal Trade Commission announced a joint complaint with all 50 states and the District of Columbia against four nonprofits that were reportedly operating as anything but legitimate charities.

The four organizations named in the federal court complaint are Cancer Fund of America, Inc. (CFA), Cancer Support Services Inc. (CSS), their president, James Reynolds, Sr., and their chief financial officer and CSS’s former president, Kyle Effler; Children’s Cancer Fund of America Inc. (CCFOA) and its president and executive director, Rose Perkins; and The Breast Cancer Society Inc. (BCS) and its executive director and former president, James Reynolds II.

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It is tempting today interpret this news as suggesting that
you shouldn’t give to nonprofits because there is no way to tell the good ones
from the bad. That is simply false! Not only can you tell, it isn’t that hard
to tell.

Here are a few quick tips:

1)     
Give to organizations you know.
There are
countless well known charitable organizations that have been vetted every which
way to Sunday, that have great reputations, including Doctors Without Borders,
American Red Cross, The Nature Conservancy and many others. Giving to
organizations you recognize and can trust is a safe way to continue giving.

2)     
Go to work.
Most organizations that are
legitimate need volunteers; be one. When you give your time to an organization
you get to know more about them than you could ever learn online. If you don’t
want to volunteer for an organization, you probably shouldn’t be giving them
your money anyway. If you think you’re ready to give, you should be willing to
donate a few hours first. This is a great way to not only do your due diligence,
but also to double the impact of your money.

3)     
Check Charity Navigator.
There are a number of
online resources for vetting nonprofits. None of them is perfect, but if you
are asked to give to an organization that you haven’t heard of before, visit
charitynavigator.org and search for their name. For many organizations, you can
quickly see the Charity Navigator star rating (on a scale up to five) and key
metrics like the percent of funding spent on programs versus administration and
fundraising.

Whatever you do, don’t stop giving. Resolve to give more and
give smarter instead.

Jesuit Colleges Jump Into Social Entrepreneurship

Dr. Thane Kreiner of Santa Clara University, Center for Science, Technology, and Society leads the program to establish social entrepreneurship programs at Jesuit colleges across the country.

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According to a publicist, Santa Clara U’s Global Social Benefit Incubator, which taps into Silicon Valley expertise to help social entrepreneurs in third world countries, has spawned 202 enterprises, impacted nearly 100 million people. Forty percent of the social enterprises they have worked with are scaling and financially stable and 90 percent are still in business. They have helped Social Enterprises raised $89 million. Now, the GSBI® Network, a growing group of Jesuit universities and other mission-aligned institutions with a common focus on leveraging social enterprise for social benefit, is multiplying the incubator’s impact by sharing curriculum, methods, best practices and other resources for launching and operating social enterprise incubators and accelerators.

On March 31, 2014 at 5:00 Eastern, Dr. Kreiner will join me for a live discussion about the growing social entrepreneurship program.

Tune in here then to listen while you work.

Dr. Kreiner’s bio:

Howard and Alida Charney University Professor of Science and Technology for Social Benefit
Thane Kreiner, PhD, is Executive Director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University. Thane was previously Founder, President, and CEO of PhyloTech, Inc. (now Second Genome), which conducts comprehensive microbial community analysis for human health applications. He was Founder, President, and CEO of Presage Biosciences, Inc., a Seattle-based company dedicated to bringing better cancer drugs to market. Thane was the start-up President and CEO for iZumi Bio, Inc. (now iPierian), a regenerative medicine venture based on the break-through iPSc (induced pluripotent stem cell) technology. Prior to his efforts as a “parallel entrepreneur”, Thane spent 14 years in various senior leadership roles at Affymetrix, Inc., which pioneered the DNA chip industry. Thane currently serves on the Board of Directors for the BioBricks Foundation and as a Board member for Didimi, Inc.. Thane earned his MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business; his Ph.D. in Neurosciences from Stanford University School of Medicine; and his B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Texas, Austin.

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