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 The mission of the "Your Mark on the World Center" is to solve the world's biggest problems before 2045 by identifying and championing the work of experts who have created credible plans and programs to end them once and for all.
Crowdfunding for Social Good
Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Monthly Archives: May 2016

Aziz Memon: Pakistan’s Social Entrepreneurship King

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Aziz Memon has built a business empire called the Kings Group of Companies in Pakistan with $100 million in annual revenue while simultaneously devoting much of his time and energy to charitable purposes, especially the eradication of polio.

About half of the annual revenue from his businesses comes from King’s Textile Industries, a textile business that includes farming of organic cotton and production of organic cloth. He says, Walmart and other customers like to include 5 to 10 percent organic cotton in their products. As he built the organic cotton business and began farming the cotton, he built schools for the farmers’ families.

He also owns a solar power business called Orion Solar Power that provides solar power for street lighting and for operating swimming pools. Pakistan’s climate is well suited for solar power.

He owns a number of retail franchises in Pakistan as well, including a United Colors of Benetton store I visited in Islamabad. In addition, he also owns a medical supply business and also develops real estate.

Aziz Memon is the master franchisee of this store in Islamabad. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Aziz Memon is the master franchisee of this store in Islamabad. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Most of his business interests have a social purpose in their mission. Memon also places an emphasis on treating employees well and fairly. In the textile business, he says the clients, including JC Penny and Sears in addition to Walmart and a variety of European companies, have strict standards for working conditions and employee benefits. “Everything is written down in the social compliance agreement. We feel a pleasure doing all this. We feel our workers are our partners,” he says.

Memon, always socially minded, joined his local Rotary Club in 1995. That decision not only had a remarkable impact on him, but on the country.

In the 1980s, Rotary announced a global effort to eradicate polio. At the time, polio was still endemic in most countries outside of the U.S., Western Europe and Japan. Today, Pakistan is one of only two countries where polio is endemic—the other is Afghanistan. With most cases originating in Pakistan, eyes of the public health world have turned to Pakistan.

At the center of that attention sits Aziz Memon. Now, devoting himself almost full time to the effort as a volunteer, he sheepishly notes that his brother and nephew now run the day-to-day operations of the business, while he, as Chairman, weighs in only on strategic issues.

Memon has served in a long list of volunteer leadership positions in Rotary, including serving as a District Governor for the 2007-2008 service year. Today, he sits on the Rotary’s International Polio Plus Committee and as the Chairman of Rotary’s National Polio Plus Committee.

Even the WHO could not provide good records for the number of polio cases in Pakistan prior to the early 1990s. In 1995 when Memon joined Rotary, there were 2,555 cases of polio in Pakistan. So far this year, the WHO has tracked 11 cases in the country.

This progress fills Memon with a sense of urgency. “We are running short of time. There is no tomorrow. We cannot postpone,” he told me in a meeting in Islamabad. He added, “Getting rid of polio is the top priority” in his life.

Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar, the Coordinator of the National Emergency Operation Centre, is the government’s senior most leader in the war on polio. There are “no words,” he says, to describe the respect he has for him. “I ask him to be there and he is there.”

Memon, for his part, is committed. “If I’m needed, I’m there,” he says.

Dr. Michel Thierin, who’s title is abbreviated simply as WR, serves as the World Health Organization’s Representative to Pakistan. “I see Aziz Memon as a member of the team.” The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is the partnership of Rotary International, the WHO, the U.S. CDC, UNICEF, Gates Foundation and world governments. “The GPEI in Pakistan is the quintessential definition of partnership,” Thierin adds.

Aziz Memon, by Devin Thorpe

Aziz Memon, by Devin Thorpe

K.R. “Ravi” Ravindran, President of Rotary International from Sri Lanka, says, “Aziz is the consummate Rotarian. He has had the ability to build a business, the charm to cultivate an impressive list of contacts and the guts to lead Rotary into areas that only the brave can tread. He is our most valuable resource in Pakistan.”

Memon’s polio work isn’t all administrative. Not long ago, he says, he was out with volunteers visiting households of families that had refused drops to invite them to reconsider. He was accompanied by Ramesh, a Pakistani-born polio survivor who was raised in the U.S. and was visiting Karachi where Memon lives.

Memon identified a “refusal family,” one that had refused polio vaccinations, on the sixth floor of a building with no elevator. He volunteered to go up. Ramesh volunteered to go with him on crutches. Up they went. When they arrived, Memon said through the door to a skeptical mother, “We don’t have drops, we just want to give you some sweets for your children.” The woman opened a tiny security window in the door to receive the treats. When she saw Ramesh, he could see her straining to raise herself up to look down through the window to see his crutches, legs and feet.

“Is this what is called polio?” she asked.

When Memon explained that it was, she said, “No one told me this.” She then invited Memon to give her children all the drops he wanted.

Aidan O’Leary, UNICEF’s Team Leader for polio eradication in Pakistan says that “Memon has been hugely influential in maintaining and supporting” key relationships with “political leadership, business leadership, media leadership, religious leadership and the medical leadership.”

Memon was formally recognized for his humanitarian and community service by the Government of Pakistan in 2011. He was awarded the Pride of Performance by the President.

Although Memon is no longer engaged in his business on a day-to-day basis, he remains an active Chairman and is involved in all key decisions. Business remains an important part of his life, despite devoting most of his time to humanitarian pursuits.

Overall, revenue has grown 20 percent this year. Memon says, “I think God sees that I am neglecting the business for a noble cause.”

This Memorial Day Consider Some Living Veterans

One of the great traditions of Memorial Day is to decorate the graves of veterans. Personally, I would encourage you to consider making a donation to a charity that supports living veterans this year.

Crosses for American servicemen in Normandie, France. Photo by Devin Thorpe

Crosses for American servicemen in Normandie, France. Photo by Devin Thorpe

Charity Navigator publishes a list of nonprofits that support veterans. I’ve reviewed the list and pulled five four-star examples for your consideration:

Mercy Medical Angels:

But there are millions of our fellow Americans living in poverty and/or living in rural or small town areas who lack the financial means to travel to distant medical specialists for essential care and treatment.  Their future health or recovery depends on overcoming the distance-related medical access challenge. This is the reason an MMA-sponsored charitable medical transportation system exists in the United States.

Homes for Our Troops:

HFOT builds homes as a departure point for these Veterans to rebuild their lives, and once again become highly productive members of society. Despite their life-altering injuries, many of our Veterans have embarked on new careers, completed their college degrees, or started families. Empowered by the freedom a mortgage-free and specially adapted home brings, these Veterans can now focus on their recovery and returning to their life’s work of serving others.

Operation Homefront:

Operation Homefront assists military families during difficult financial times by providing food assistance, auto and home repair, vision care, travel and transportation, moving assistance, essential home items, and financial assistance. Wounded warriors are a specific concern for us. That is why we have established Operation Homefront Villages. The caregivers for wounded warriors also need help and that is why we formed Hearts of Valor. We support every military family member. We host a gala each year that recognizes an extraordinary military child and we host multiple Homefront Celebrations each year to show our appreciation to military spouses.

DAV Charitable Service Trust:

Just as our troops provide cover for the wounded on the field of battle, we must provide cover for those who come home sick and injured. That’s as true for a WWII sailor wounded on deck in the South Pacific as it is for a Marine bloodied in Afghanistan or Iraq only yesterday. But providing cover for America’s disabled veterans present a challenge today. After seven years of continuous war, many Americans go on about their lives as if nothing is happening in Afghanistan and Iraq. We must put patriotism into action by caring for those who bear the scars of war.

Hire Heroes USA:

Hire Heroes USA has built a national reputation of excellence for helping veterans find jobs, currently at the rate of more than 100 veterans confirmed hired every week. Thanks to the tax free contributions of generous donors and funders, our services are provided at no cost to any transitioning U.S. military member, veteran or spouse who registers for services. Our team, comprised of former military and business professionals, effectively trains veterans in the skills of self-marketing, then supports their career search until they find good jobs with great companies. The hallmark of our program is a personal approach where each veteran receives dedicated assistance from a highly-trained Veteran Transition Specialist in order to help them effectively communicate their military experience in civilian terminology. Signature services also include transition workshops and connecting the job seeker with veteran-friendly companies and employment opportunities through the Hire Heroes USA Job Board.

Remember to “join the cavalry” by subscribing to our content here.

Devin D. Thorpe

UNICEF: Polio Virus on Its Last Gasp in Pakistan; Rotary Thanked for ‘Unwavering’ Support

Results are just in at the National Emergency Operations Centre offices in Islamabad, Pakistan and the news is good. Environmental samples taken across Pakistan found no trace of the polio virus, the first time all the samples were negative.

According to UNICEF Team Lead Aidan O’Leary on Friday, April’s envirnomental samples were all negative. About 9 percent of samples taken earlier in the year were positive. Just two years ago in 2014, fully one-third of samples were positive.

This doesn’t mean, however, that polio has been eradicated in Pakistan–one of the last two countries on the planet where the disease is still considered endemic.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) weekly report issued on Thursday noted a new case with onset of paralysis on April 26, the most recent of 11 cases of polio in Pakistan this year. Five cases have been tracked in neighboring Afghanistan.

While O’Leary made clear that the environmental samples could not be interpreted as a sign that suspension of transmission of the disease might have been achieved, he was equally clear that this is a big deal. It is a clear sign that the polio virus is on its last gasp in Pakistan.

He went on to explain that the GPEI team, comprised of the World Health Organization, UNICEF, Rotary, the US CDC and the Gates Foundation with help from world governments, is coordinating work across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in order to treat the region as a single “epidemiological block.”

The polio effort in Pakistan is at the peak of crescendo this week as two weeks of National Immunization Days (NID) wrap up with a goal of having vaccinated some 37 million children under five in the country.

The goal, O’Leary reiterated repeatedly is “zero missed children.” Whatever the other elements of the strategy may be, there is a clear understanding that if every child has been immunized there is no one left to host the virus and it will die.

Muhammad Arif, works for the WHO, at a Permanent Transit Point checks a vehicle for unvaccinated children in 108 degree weather. Photo by Devin Thorpe

Muhammad Arif, works for the WHO at a Permanent Transit Point, checks a vehicle for unvaccinated children in 108 degree weather. Photo by Devin Thorpe

This NID is the last of the “low season.” Polio is a seasonal disease that flourishes in summer, so much so that in the early twentieth century many mothers in the U.S. reportedly concluded that ice cream caused polio.

With temperatures in Pakistan well over 100 degrees, O’Leary notes that Rotary stepped in with some much needed resources on short notice, including umbrellas and water for some of the the 220,000 vaccinators around the country working outside in the heat.

O’Leary expressed appreciation to Rotary for their “unwavering support” in “good times and not good times.”

Juxtaposing the threat of high season against April’s environmental samples helps us to see clearly the the situation in Pakistan. Containment over the summer could lead to suspension of transmission in the fall as the low season begins anew.

Dr. Rana Safdar, Head of the National Emergency Operations Centre, said, “For the first time ever all 39 environmental samples collected in April across Pakistan are negative for Polio virus including Shaheen Muslim Town Peshawar. Congratulations to Pak PEI team. Let’s keep the spirit till the job is done.”

“Let’s not take our foot off the accelerator,” O’Leary says. Suspending transmission of the disease requires that the countries remain “very very focused.”


doTERRA Reinvents Supply Chain For Impact On Poverty

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Privately-held dōTERRA is a rapidly growing direct seller of essential oil-infused products with $1.2 billion in annual revenue. Three years ago, the company launched an effort to use its supply chain to reduce global poverty by creating economic opportunities for rural communities in developing countries like Nepal, Somaliland and Madagascar.

While founder and CEO David Stirling declined to provide gross margin data for the business, he suggested that the margins of publicly-traded direct sellers, about 80 percent, would “provide a broad approximation.” So the margins are good, giving the company some wiggle room for developing its supply chain for impact.

Emily Wright, the company’s Executive Vice President over sales and marketing, notes that the company was founded with a social enterprise mindset. “dōTERRA’s core mission is to improve the health and wellness of its customers through natural products and education.” Two corporate social responsibility initiatives have expanded the social purpose of the company: the dōTERRA Healing Hands Foundation (HHF) and the supply chain program launched in 2013 called “co-impact sourcing.”

Stirling explains the thinking behind co-impact sourcing, “Our Co-Impact Sourcing model for essential oils help us achieve three goals: 1) ensure the long-term supply of these key raw material inputs for our products, 2) develop effective marketing through telling legitimate impact stories highlighting the people and projects producing these oils for us, and 3) effectively mainstream directly into our business model our philanthropic priorities as a company.”

The extensive poverty in many of the countries where dōTERRA was already sourcing product, helped create the opportunity, Stirling says, to strategically develop a program for sustainable economic development.

Tim Valentiner, the company’s director of strategic sourcing, is the one tasked with developing and implementing the co-impact sourcing program. He says, “As dōTERRA continues to experience incredible growth we realized we needed to focus attention particularly on our oil sourcing strategy in order to meet our growth needs but also to be able to give back in a meaningful way.”

Valentiner, who spent time at the World Bank, brings some gravitas to the challenge of driving impact through the supply chain. The program, he says, is growing quickly. “We currently have Co-Impact Sourcing initiatives happening now in 10 different countries: Guatemala, Nepal, Somaliland, Kenya, Madagascar, Haiti, India, New Zealand, Jamaica, and Bulgaria – with some new initiatives in additional countries currently in development.”

Valentiner notes that the co-impact sourcing and HHF efforts work together. “Linked to many of Healing Hands Foundation funded projects and partnerships are Co-Impact Sourcing initiatives where we are able to facilitate social impact and community-benefiting projects for farmers, harvesters, and distillers, their families and communities.”

The company’s new sourcing of Nepalese Wintergreen starting in 2015 is an example of the new model. Valentiner says, “Throughout several districts of Nepal, women harvesters go out early in the morning to collect Wintergreen leaves in hand-woven baskets and carry them down the mountain on their backs (fully loaded these baskets can weigh up to 80 pounds). Because of the remoteness of these locations, there are typically few other job opportunities for these women. By providing fair and on-time payments to the harvesters and distillers, these women are able to have additional household income for food, clothing, and school supplies for their families.” In addition, HHF funds are used to support the communities where the harvesters live in Nepal.

The earthquake presented a moment of truth for dōTERRA. Rather than cut and run, the company doubled down. “Because dōTERRA was already working with these Wintergreen producing communities prior to the earthquakes in 2015, we were able to quickly react in partnership with CHOICE Humanitarian to provide much needed post-earthquake relief in severely impacted areas of Nepal,” Stirling says.

Valentiner adds, “Recently, during the months of March, April, and May 2016, three different groups of 40 volunteers each including Wellness Advocates [dōTERRA distributors] and dōTERRA staff were able to travel to Nepal on humanitarian expeditions to participate directly in working side by side with Nepali people to help rebuild Nepal following the 2015 earthquakes. They were able to see Healing Hands Foundation funds in action, provide Days for Girls feminine hygiene training to community members, as well as participate firsthand in the harvesting, collection, and distillation of Wintergreen essential oil.”

“In partnership with CHOICE Humanitarian, the dōTERRA Healing Hands has been a leading force in rebuilding some of the areas of Nepal hardest hit by the earthquakes, including distribution of emergency relief supplies immediately following the earthquakes, building of 200+ temporary homes, 45+ temporary classrooms, permanent homes, repair and new construction of Wintergreen oil distillation units for 20+ communities, repair of multiple existing schools and assembling of over 500 new desks,” Stirling says.

The team boasts that HHF funds were used to construct two 10-room, “earthquake resilient” schools in Nepal. The first, completed two weeks ago, is reportedly the first new school completed since the 2015 earthquakes.

Valentiner notes that effective impact measurement remains a challenge, but it is one that the company is addressing. “We are currently developing metrics for measurement of our Co-Impact Sourcing Guiding Principles in order to ensure that we can effectively measure progress and identify successful areas for replication or scaling up elsewhere, as well as areas for improvement. We realize this is a challenge but are fully committed to impact assessment and reporting in order to help show how our Co-Impact Sourcing model is successful.”

Wright says that effort also makes marketing sense. “Consumers (especially millennials) are demanding more and more to buy products from companies that are not only socially responsible but truly produce sustainable products, traceable products. So it is becoming much more than just having a catchy CSR program as a company.”

“Consumers are demanding to know traceability for their products and we believe that a key part of international development is and will continue to be carried out by businesses that see the value and the return on investment for social impact programs linked to the sourcing or manufacturing of their products from developing countries,” she concludes.

On Thursday, May 26, 2016 at 4:00 Eastern, Stirling, Wright and Valentiner will all join me here for a live discussion about the co-impact sourcing program and the dōTERRA Healing Hands Foundation. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.


Technology Can Enhance Your Storytelling

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Last month, I visited the Dominican Republic on a Fathom service cruise. It was great. On the cruise, I met fellow journalist Renee Farris, who (unlike most of the travel writers on the cruise) is also an impact journalist.

Renee is also a co-founder of United Cause Agency, a consulting firm that helps companies optimize corporate social responsibility programs.

Renee has shared with me some insights about using some of the latest technology for social good storytelling that I want share with you:

  1. Virtual Reality Creates Empathy: When someone straps on VR goggles they are able to see through the eyes of another person. This is a step towards developing empathy that can tear down racial barriers, help people who are suffering, and end violent conflicts.
  2. 360 Films Bring Transparency: 360 films can bring transparency to a company’s supply chain like never before. It can give customers confidence that they are buying products from an ethical company that treats factory workers fairly.
  3. Tell an Engaging Story: Doing good in the world is great, but it it’s not enough. We have to tell an engaging story. Governments, nonprofits and companies get so busy working on solving the world’s problems that they forget to tell an impactful story. But if we change that and start telling engaging stories then people will be inspired to act and the impact will multiply. 360 and VR help us tell those powerful stories.

On Thursday, May 25, 2016 at 3:00 Eastern, Renee will join me here for a live discussion about storytelling for good. 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 United Cause Agency:

United Cause Agency is a corporate social responsibility consulting and creative agency. We help companies build innovative social impact programs and then create engaging ways to tell the social good stories to brand fans.

Renee Farris, courtesy of United Cause Agency

Renee Farris, courtesy of United Cause Agency

Renee’s bio:

Twitter: @farrisra

Renee Farris is a corporate social responsibility consultant, strategist, and storyteller who works with big brands to help them create social impact and tell their social good stories in an engaging way. She also publishes articles on corporate social responsibility and speaks on the topic at conferences.

Recently, Renee co-founded United Cause Agency, a corporate social innovation consulting and creative agency that works with companies to develop CSR and craft social impact communications. She is currently exploring 360 videos and virtual reality as new forms of social impact storytelling.

Previously, Renee worked in the nonprofit sector. She served as Project Director for a nonprofit school in Kenya where she directed branding, marketing, and social media. She also served as Chair for the Acumen chapter in Los Angeles where she led workshops and networking events to build the social impact community.

 Remember to “join the cavalry” by subscribing to our content here.

Devin D. Thorpe

Author, Journalist Shares ‘Headlines for the Hopeful’

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Helaina Hovitz is one of the relative few journalists focusing on what has come to be known as “solutions journalism,” the art and craft of covering the solutions to societal problems. This is a club to which I, too, am proud to belong.

Helaina got her start at a young age. “When I was 18, I was given the opportunity to cover a story for the local paper about a teacher in a challenging school environment who was legally blind and only had one arm, and inspired his students to stay in school. Then, I was given the chance to cover the lives of homeless men making new starts for themselves at the New York City Rescue Mission. It was off to the races from there,” she says.

Solutions journalism is at the opposite end of the media spectrum from TMZ, meaning that the audience is smaller and money is harder to find. Helaina says, “As a journalist who was constantly retraumatized by the news, I never gave up on my life’s dream of becoming a journalist, and tried to focus on stories that I felt were meaningful, important, and inspiring whenever I could.”

Helaina recently launched Headlines for the Hopeful to give her a platform for sharing more stories that bring hope for the solutions to the world’s big problems. She is also a Forbes contributor and the author of the soon-to-be released memoir of her experience as a young 9/11 survivor called After 9/11.

She attributes her success to persistence and kindness. She got where she is due to “A refusal to give up when no doors would open, a kind and friendly attitude towards everyone I meet, sobriety, mindfulness, and the support of the people I am closest with, including my family, friends, and fiancè,” she says.

On Thursday, May 26, 2016 at 1:00 Eastern, Helaina will join me here for a live discussion about her career and her passion for finding hope in a bleak world. 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 Headlines for the Hopeful:

Twitter: @headlines4hope

Headlines for the Hopeful: Headlines for the Hopeful is a digital news service designed to spotlight the unique and innovative efforts put forth by individuals and organizations working to create a better future. The current media landscape focuses too heavily on crime, terror, and everything else that’s “wrong” with the world. We think it’s time to focus on what people are doing to help make it right. Our generation is becoming increasingly concerned with the welfare of the planet and those who live on it, but it’s not always easy for us to track down the meaningful stories we want to share with our audience. Our belief is there is a strong demand for accurate information—free of religious affiliation and political partisan leaning—about the ways in which we can positively affect the lives of others and improve the welfare of our planet.

After 9/11: The first memoir of a direct child survivor of 9/11 who narrowly survived the attacks and continued to live in a neighborhood that became a war zone, growing up with the psychological fallout that followed. In many ways, After 9/11 is the story of a generation growing up in the aftermath of America’s darkest day, of a group of children who directly survived September 11th, 2001 and bore its invisible scars for the rest of their lives, and for one young woman, it is the story of a survivor who, after witnessing the end, got to make a new beginning.

Helaina Hovitz, By Justin McCallum

Helaina Hovitz, By Justin McCallum

Helaina’s bio:

Twitter: @helainahovitz

I’m a native New Yorker who has always had the unreasonable notion that I can help change the world. My greatest passion is writing about charities, social good, nonprofits, societal issues, philanthropy and inspirational people. I am making my debut as an author in September of 2016, and am Co-Founder and Editorial Director of the brand new Headlines for the Hopeful, a digital news service designed to spotlight the unique and innovative efforts put forth by people and organizations working to create a better future. I’m also the New York City Restaurant Guide Editor at The Daily Meal and a contributor to Forbes, Huffington Post, and Recovery.Org. Most recently, I served as Managing Editor at the Good News Network, Editor in Chief and Co-Creator of Affect Magazine, and as a Contributing Editor at Avenue Magazine. I have also written for The New York Times, Salon, Marie Claire, Newsday, Teen Vogue, Chicago Tribune, SCENE Magazine, Time Out NY,, New York Observer, New York Press, Narratively, amNewYork, The Lo Down, New York Post, the Downtown Express, the Villager, Chelsea Now and Social Life.

Remember to “join the cavalry” by subscribing to our content here.

Devin D. Thorpe

US Bank Runs ‘Community Possible Relay’ to Inspire Volunteers

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

U.S. Bank recently kicked off the Community Possible Relay, a three-month tour of community volunteering in response to a long-term trend of declining volunteerism. The goal is to inspire thousands of volunteers across the country.

Reba Dominiski, President of the U.S. Bank Foundation, explains, “U.S. Bank is issuing a national challenge for Americans to address the 25 to 50 percent decline in volunteerism that has taken place over the last four decades in our communities. The Community Possible Relay is a three-month, nearly 12,000-mile, 38-city, 25-state cross-country journey to inspire individuals across America to give back to their communities.”

“We’re challenging all Americans and businesses to join us in this massive collective effort to revitalize the spirit of community in our Race to 153k – representing 1,000 volunteers for every year U.S. Bank has been in business,” said Richard Davis, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of U.S. Bank. “We invite everyone to help build and support vibrant communities by volunteering and giving back. This relay symbolizes our dedication to bringing back community volunteerism in America. By working together, we can and will make a difference.”

The relay is a genuine community revitalization program. It represents U.S. Bank’s effort to address the reported 25 to 50 percent decline in volunteerism that has taken place over the last four decades. The bank hopes to inspire a wave of volunteerism and community engagement with a “mobile baton” that will drive across the country making stops throughout the summer, issuing a call-to-action for people to join U.S. Bank volunteers and help give back to their communities.

The campaign lives on social media with the hashtag #CommunityPossible.

On Thursday, May 26, 2016 at noon Eastern, Reba will join me for a live discussion about the relay and the drive to increase volunteering across the country. 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 U. S. Bancorp:

Twitter: @usbank

Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp (“USB”), with $429 billion in assets as of March 31, 2016, is the parent company of U.S. Bank National Association, the fifth largest commercial bank in the United States. The Company operates 3,129 banking offices in 25 states and 4,954 ATMs and provides a comprehensive line of banking, investment, mortgage, trust and payment services products to consumers, businesses and institutions.

Reb Dominiski, courtesy of US Bank

Reb Dominski, courtesy of US Bank

Reba’s bio:

Twitter: @RDominski

Reba Dominski serves as Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility at U.S. Bank. She brings a wealth of corporate giving and community relations experience to this role, which oversees the U.S. Bank Foundation and employee volunteerism. Last year, the foundation provided more than $23.5 million in grant funding and employees donated more than 370,000 volunteer hours. Prior to joining U.S. Bank, Reba spent more than 20 years at Target Corporation, including the past six years as senior director of community relations focused on education. Prior to this role, Reba worked within several businesses at Target including: merchandising, sourcing, stores, and merchandise planning.

Reba is an active volunteer, currently serving as a member of the national advisory board for Strive Together. She formerly served on the executive committee and leadership council for Generation Next. Reba has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Michigan.

 Remember to “join the cavalry” by subscribing to our content here.

Devin D. Thorpe

A Unique Approach to School Fundraising

This is a guest post from Megan Walsh.

It’s a common occurrence hear stories about school cutbacks, budget cuts, and underfunding. In fact, 31 of our 50 states have experienced ongoing cuts to education related expenditures since the great recession in 2008 . Schools are struggling to find the funds to give children a well-rounded education, teachers are compensating with their own pocketbooks, and children are the worse for it. A lack of music and art programs, fewer field trips, fewer hours of Physical Education; all of these cuts affect both academic and social outcomes for children.

When Stacey Boyd, the founder of Schoola, built an inner-city charter school in Boston, she experienced first hand how difficult it was to protect “extra-curriculars” from ruthless cuts. And witnessing the impact on her students is what led her to create Schoola, who’s mission it is to save the programs that help kids reach their full potential at school.

Schoola provides an easy way for schools to generate extra funds, without asking parents or foundations for cash. Working directly with more than 25,000 schools across the U.S., Schoola accepts clothing donations from individual community members, and in some cases corporations, and then sells the clothing online. Schools get 40% of the sales proceeds from every item sold.

This unique approach to school fundraising has put violins back into the hands of students at KIPP Academy in NYC who has raised over $100,000 with Schoola. An art program in San Francisco goes on thanks to the many parents and who donated, despite the fact that the original budget allotment for this program was only $1.

In addition to schools, Schoola has begun to work with other organizations that support kids reaching their full potential. We’ve teamed up with The Malala Fund to raise money for girls around the world to have access to schooling.

Schoola SF Projects

Anyone can donate to a school or one of our partner causes by requesting a donation bag online, sending in gently-used or new clothing via mail – its free and easy to donate just by cleaning out your closet.

Our mission is simply to turn the donated items into opportunity for kids. It’s a mission that everyone at Schoola can relate to. Stacey found her confidence and her voice to pursue her dreams in a music class. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for an art teacher. The desire to preserve these opportunities drives everything we do.

Some have asked us, why clothing? The simple answer is that it’s a household resource that has activated a really virtuous cycle – a win/win for everyone involved. For parents, cleaning out closets reduces clutter and allows cherished items to go onto new life. For schools, donation drives are a way to engage their community without asking for money. But most of all, it’s something kids can understand – we’ve seen girl scout troops organize clothing drives and college students activate campus networks to garner donations. They take an active role, and then benefit directly from their efforts.

This simple idea has lead to some incredible results. Not only have we been able to fund field trips, build playgrounds and save school libraries, but we have also brought communities together towards common goals.

About Megan Walsh:

Megan Walsh is a Bay Area mom of two kids, and spends the workweek helping more parents find and leverage Schoola to fund their school programs.


A Social Entrepreneur’s Thriving Nonprofit Enables Others to Bring about Change

This is a guest post from Naomi Eisenberger, Founder and Exec Director of the Good People Fund.

Over the past 25 years, Naomi Eisenberger has sought out individuals who do good in their own communities and beyond. As the Executive Director of The Good People Fund (, she is responsible for discovering and supporting grassroots organizations that respond in creative ways to society’s most intractable problems. While certainly not household names, each program is making an impact in their respective areas. There are approximately 75 grantees under her guidance throughout North America and abroad. These dedicated Good People work quietly, most with little recognition and minimal funding, in an effort to improve the lives of society’s most vulnerable.

Eisenberger’s years of experience with small nonprofits makes her uniquely suited to advise her grantees in many areas. She realizes that there are some basic ideas that all organizations should embrace. “I work very closely with each of our grantees” explains Eisenberger. “Together we focus on board development, fundraising, staffing, administration and more; all critical to the success of any organization. I challenge them to think realistically about how best to implement this growth. It is a delicate balancing act that requires sufficient funding to underwrite the costs of additional staff. II approach each grantee as a partnership and most admit that having a friendly supportive voice on the other end of the phone makes their efforts easier. Very few of our grantees have any formal training in nonprofit management so having someone to help answer the difficult questions is important. I have created and implemented a unique ideology that includes vetting and supervising each grantee, as the means to making the Good People Fund’s work both unusual and highly effective.”

One organization that has benefited from Eisenberger’s guidance and funding is Amir Project, which places sustainable gardens within summer camps and uses them as a tool to foster and teach social justice practices. Amir’s founder, David Fox, created the organization while still a college student. Upon graduating he formally incorporated Amir Project and set about raising funds to make his dream possible. One of David’s first fundraising attempts was a visit with Eisenberger where he detailed his vision. Eisenberger immediately recognized David’s passion for this work and Impressed with David’s ideas and his personality, immediately offered him his first grant, a matching grant to hopefully inspire others. David found the matching funds and Amir Project was on its way. That first GPF donation led to additional grants over the next five years as well as ongoing mentoring to help David resolve challenges related to the organization’s growth. Today more than 8,000 young people have been exposed to the Amir Project which operates in 30 camps nationwide.

Eisenberger has always believed that small actions can have huge impacts, whether it is to start a nonprofit or support one, and shares that belief with others. Since its inception in 2008 the Good People Fund has raised and granted more than $7 million dollars to these small programs working diligently, but quietly, to improve lives.

Naomi Eisenberger

Naomi Eisenberger

Naomi Eisenberger is the founder and Executive Director of The Good People Fund. For the past decade, she has drawn on her extensive business and nonprofit experience to help grantees build their own successful nonprofit organizations.

Pakistan’s Schools for the ‘Poorest of the Poor’

Yesterday, while driving nearly three hours from Islamabad to see rural Permanent Transit Points for polio vaccinations, we passed a “Danish School” in Jand in the district of Attock. My host, Rotarian Nosherwan Khan, recognized that a friend was the principal there and this being 2016 and having a phone in his hand, called up his friend and mentioned we were in the area. He invited us to lunch to have a tour of the facility on our return from Kushal Garh.

Rotarian Nosherwan Khan and Principal Rafi Ud Din

Rotarian Nosherwan Khan and Principal Rafi Ud Din

There are, I learned, 14 Danish or Daanish Schools in Pakistan. They have nothing to do with Denmark it turns out. Daanish is an Urdu word meaning smart. This particular school is named for Malala Yosafzai, though she seems to have no direct connection to the school.

The big beautiful school occupies 112 Acres and is laid out like a butterfly with the girls occupying one wing and the boys occupying the other. The facilities for girls and boys appeared to be identical in every observable respect.

The children must apply for admission to the school, essentially a middle school with sixth to eighth grades. The applicants must meet strict standards for a lack of resources as the school’s express aim is to educate the “poorest of the poor” to give them an opportunity to put poverty behind them. The students must also compete for slots and so are chosen by merit.

There are now 434 boys and 434 girls attending the school. Although the campuses share a plot of ground, a great wall separates the two campuses and the two groups of students never interact.

All of the students are boarded. A group of ten percent of the students pay for admission to the school and are not subject to the poverty test. They, including the children of faculty and staff who attend the school, also must agree to the boarding arrangements.

The school has only been open for three years to it is too soon to tell if the intended results will be achieved but the students were certainly there and apparently working hard. Free from the challenges of finding the next meal and the effects of malnutrition that would likely have been their lot prior to coming to the school, it is easy to believe that school should have the intended effect.

Most of the children at the school come from no more than about 100 miles of the school, though a few are from farther away.

The principal, Rafi Ud Din, fed us lunch, gave us a tour, provided us with some literature and sent us on our way. It was a fascinating detour from the polio agenda. Certainly there is more to be learned and written about the school, but I doubt I will make it back to this region. I certainly wish them well.

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