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January 22, 2010

Ordinary American Moms Help Haitian Kids

Filed under: Philanthropy/nonprofits — Laurie Morrow, Ph.D. @ 12:11 am
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When Katrina stuck, ordinary people rushed to help — including two Moms from Alabama, who realized that parents waiting for hours in long lines for food, water, and medical treament would have no one to watch their children.  Frightened, bored, restless children would have no safe place to play, to burn off energy and regain a sense of normalcy.

The two moms both have extensive nonprofit and childcare experience.  They tried to work within the system.  And when met with red tape, they went around it.

The two Moms — Lenore Ealy and Paige Ellison — did a rapid filing for their new nonprofit, which they called PROJECT KID.  They got a truck, filled it with donated supplies, and drove to MS. They set up a “Playcare Center,” getting more and more supplies and volunteer staff.

Their first Playcare center was up & running 5 days after Katrina struck. Over the next weeks, they replicated their model across several sites and served 5600 children who were Katrina victims.  Project KID went on to assist parents in need in other disasters.

And now, PROJECT KID will be in Haiti.  Co-founder Paige Ellison arrives there January 27th.

This is an amazing organization.  These two ordinary American mothers run this charity by themselves.  Yet, the media hasn’t covered this fascinating story of ordinary women who use their individual initiative to help others, rather than wait for the government or some existing charity to do so.    I only know about this because Lenore is a dear friend mine.

The work of individual Americans outside government and the usual, large charities should be encouraged, and their story is just the kind of positive story with a Haiti tie that people want to hear about.

In case you’d like to reach them, please let me know, and I’ll be happy to forward you the contact information.

January 4, 2010

Does “Teach For America” Turn People Off to Volunteering?

According to this New York Times report, participation in the Teach for America program, which places gifted teachers in some of the nation’s worst schools, apparently leads to diminished rather than enhanced civic involvement.  Stanford University sociologists Doug McAdam and Cynthia Brandt have concluded that  “[i]n areas like voting, charitable giving and civic engagement, graduates of the program lag behind those who were accepted but declined and those who dropped out before completing their two years.”

What’s surprising is that anyone expected that young teachers passionate about teaching children in desperate need of a good education would end up diffusing that passion among a panoply of other worthy causes.  Teach for America teachers have been successful precisely because they focus all their energy and passion on achieving specific, measurable goals in the context to which they’ve devoted themselves, rather than trying to engage in every kind of service possible.

For an example of a man who did a deliciously fresh, innovative take on educating the underprivileged, consider my friend Robert Egger, the founder of the D.C. Central Kitchen, recently named one of Oprah’s Angels.  Using entrepreneurial savvy, Robert turned a soup kitchen into from a place to get handouts into an educational center in which unemployed people lacking job skills learned to become excellent, employable cooks.  Here’s a shameless plug for Robert’s book, Begging for Change.

October 14, 2009

Dan Pallotta, on the Overrated Benefits of Nonprofit Work

Filed under: Philanthropy/nonprofits — Laurie Morrow, Ph.D. @ 8:10 pm
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Another compelling column by Dan Pallotta for Harvard Business Publishing:  “The Psychic Benefits of Nonprofit Work Are Overrated.”  Dan is the author of UNCHARITABLE:  How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential.  This book should be required reading for anyone who works for or with nonprofits, as well as for donors to nonprofits.

Here’s the opening of Dan’s new column:

People often tell me that those who work for nonprofits should work for less because of the psychic benefits of being able to make a difference, work with the poor, and so on. The notion is a red herring. And that’s putting it kindly.

You can read the rest of this column here.

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