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How Nicholas Kristof Uses His Pulpit To Engage People With Empathy

26 Nov

We’re recognizing game changing careers and inspiring acts of generosity beyond deep-pocketed philanthropy. The Series profiles continue today with Nicholas Kristof, a Most Generous Social Media Maven. It continues through the winter with most Generous Designers, Tech Founders, Wall Streeters, Marketing Gurus and Filmmakers. Follow the series every Monday, Wednesday and Friday  for in-depth profiles of all our honorees.

The Times reporter helps direct our attention to some of the most dire situations in the world, and hopefully makes us all more willing to do something ourselves to help change it.

A typical Facebook post from Nicholas Kristof: I’m crossing into Syria now… Any suggestions for topics I should focus on in Syria? What do you want me to ask Syrians for you?

Access isn’t a problem for Kristof; he’s as often found interviewing a suspected warlord as he is lounging on a mat in the Congo with George Clooney. Since joining The New York Times in 1984, Kristof has forced his audience to look at hard questions, with his focus on global poverty, health, and gender. As Bill Clinton said, “I am personally in his debt, as are we all.”

Click here to read the full article on FastCo.Exist.


Unlocking The Power Of Mothers for Social Good

21 Nov

We’re recognizing game changing careers and inspiring acts of generosity beyond deep-pocketed philanthropy. The Series profiles continue today with Jennifer James, a Most Generous Social Media Maven. It continues through the winter with most Generous Designers, Tech Founders, Wall Streeters, Marketing Gurus and Filmmakers. Follow the series every Monday, Wednesday and Friday  for in-depth profiles of all our honorees.

Mom bloggers have become an incredibly important facet of the consumer economy. Jennifer James is working on taking that influence and redirecting it toward giving back.

According to a 2009 study by BlogHer, 23 million women read, write or comment on blogs weekly. That’s 4 million more than the entire population of Florida and 2 million more than serve in the military worldwide. That’s some serious power and Jennifer James has figured out how to harness it for social good. Less than a year ago she founded Mom Bloggers for Social Good after creating the Mom Bloggers Club and Mom Blog magazine, the leading social network and news site covering the mom blogging industry. She is also a member of the ONE Moms Advisory Council and in 2011, she was named a top Twitter Moms of 2011 by Last April, she received a National Press Foundation Global Vaccines Fellowship.

Click here to read the full article on FastCo.Exist.

Ten Ways to Keep Going with the Giving Post Sandy

5 Nov

Here at Catchafire headquarters, we feel pretty lucky. The power was turned on in our building over the weekend and the majority of our team was able to make it into work today. Life seems to be returning to normal. 

Except that it’s not.

Photo: Robbie Chafitz

As the feeling of normalcy settles in, the media coverage is eclipsed by the election and we focus on catching up, it is more important than ever to continue to help out those most affected by this disaster. Red Hook, Rockaways, Breezy Point, Staten Island, New Jersey are devastated. 700,000 plus are still without power and it’s getting colder every day.  


Give Your Time

1. Sign yourself up to volunteer with New York Cares and All Hands Volunteers.

2. WNYC has published this list of volunteering and donation sites sorted by NYC neighborhood.

3. NYC Service compiled a list of various volunteer opportunities that range from park clean up to hunger relief to working at polling stations.

Donate Strategically

4.  The IKA Collective, a film studio 2 blocks away from Catchafire Headquarters, is now set up as a donation center. Refer to the list of what they do and do not need.

5. Connecticut Residents: The New Haven Home Recovery is looking for both perishable and non-perishable food items as well as sugar and oil. Please drop items off at 153 East Street in New Haven or call Mary at the office with any questions (203) 492-4866 x36.

6.  When you do prepare donations, pay attention to what items are most essential:

7. Check out Occupy Sandy’s Wedding Registry.

8. Sponsor a specific, displaced Family through Family to Family.

Use Social Media to Mobilize

9.  Keep following @ShaunKing, @Hope and @HardlyNormal on Twitter for real       time updates on How to Help.

10. This Facebook group After the Storm: Sandy Recovery Info is a great example; a group created to accumulate information about donation and volunteer opportunities.

As we continue to learn of ways to help our community we will share with you. If we missed anything, please let us know by commenting on this blog post or via social media. If we work together, anything is possible.

Stop Feeling Guilty

1 Nov

As of this post, Catchafire’s NY headquarters are still without power. Nevertheless, we’re all back at work, albeit remotely, alone in our apartments, or in coffee shops, on our cell phones and laptops with spotty service.

Or in some lucky cases, small clusters: a few of our colleagues who live near each other have been meeting at designated apartments to work together. It feels better that way; we all need community right now and we all need to keep working.

Catchafire itinerant office set ups in Upper West Side and Prospect Heights

We’ve been hearing some folks say they don’t know what to do, they feel helpless. We say: cut that out. There’s plenty. Today and when the dust settles.

Right now:

  • Follow Hope Mob CEO @ShaunKing  and @Hope on Twitter. He is a clearinghouse of immediate needs that he live tweets, solving various crises as soon as he hears about them. He encourages people in need to email him directly at
  • Donate your time by registering to join disaster relief volunteers. Here are some great organizations in Catchafire’s community of social good organizations that are accepting applications now: Long Island Volunteer Center, All Hands Volunteers, World Cares Center and The Bowery Mission.
  • Get involved with local evacuation centers; many are in serious need of volunteers. HillSongNYC also provides a comprehensive list of shelters that need desperate help.
  • Donate blood. Sandy forced many blood drives to cancel, leaving hospitals with a limited blood supply and the need is great. Find a location near you to donate.
  • Donate clothing. Take a quick look through your closet, grab items that have been sitting there unworn for a year and share them with someone in need. It’s getting cold now and many are displaced from their homes.
  • Donate food to local food banks.
  • Check in with the Red Cross, as always.

When the dust settles:

We’ve been writing and calling to check in with our Community of close by Non-Profits, to hear how they’re doing. Like us, they’re scrambling to get back on their feet, so they can get back to the uninterrupted business of their missions — their very reason for being. This post from our friends at All Hands Volunteers says it well.

Of course we all want to help them. Isn’t that what always happens in a crisis? The floodgates of feeling and generosity open. Let’s not allow the lessons of Hurricane Sandy to blow away when life is back to normal. We have the golden opportunity right now, for a permanent shift, toward service-centric lives embedded in our DNA.

As our CEO Rachael Chong said: we have the luxury to make a difference, the luxury to give back, and the luxury to do meaningful work. I refuse to take this for granted. I will take advantage of and LOVE every luxurious day. Please someone slap me if I don’t.”

So, keep checking back with us and with our amazing community of Social Good Organizations to see what they need, shop around on the Open Projects page. Apply to put your amazing skills and talent to work today. Go ahead — be selfish and give.

We’ll be posting more opportunities on Facebook and Twitter as they arise. You do it too: post on our wall and in the comments of this blog.

Let’s keep this going…

People First

12 Sep

This is the second installment in our month-long series of profiles of Catchafire’s 13 Founding Members in Chapel Hill-Carrboro. Today we’ll be bragging about The Arc of Orange County.

The Arc believes that all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have strengths, abilities and value and must be treated with dignity and respect. The Arc represents, supports and acts on behalf of these individuals and their families.

One Arc father says it best, “If not for the ARC of Orange County my son would not be able to live in the community. They saved him from life in an institution! Their care and concern for him as a person is beyond measure. ”

Watch this video for three inspiring portraits of Arc community members and their families: Ethan, a young boy with cerebral palsy and a powerful bond with his big sister; Joey, a 25 year old with a job he loves at a local grocery store; and Denise, a life-loving day care attendant and talented painter.

What’s New at The Arc of Orange County?
As the result of the May 2011 House Bill 916 Statewide Managed Care in North Carolina, The Arc of Orange County had to act quickly to comply, re-organizing the infrastructure of the entire agency. It was a difficult process but the silver lining is that The Arc managed to increase services by 28%, rescuing many people from disaster when other agencies were forces to close. They turned a stressful situation into an organizational growth spurt. See what we mean about bragging?

They are nonprofit superheroes for sure, but Executive Director Robin Baker says they’re still more to do and they’re excited about the possibilities for growth in working with Catchafire, “We are constantly bombarded with challenges that require immediate attention. By enlisting the assistance of Catchafire, we will be able to significantly further our efforts in areas that are extremely important but often set aside.”

Sign Up to be a Catchafire Pro Bono Professional and help the Arc of Orange County keep up the good work.

Iron Dude

20 Aug

When a colleague tells you he just completed an Ironman and still finds time to volunteer, you know you need to get the details

Jason Everitt, a Service Officer here at Catchafire, appeared at work last Monday looking a little worse for wear. I wondered if he might have tied one on the night before. But it turned out the reasons were more interesting than an ill advised Sunday night bender. He had just completed New York’s Inaugural Ironman U.S. Championship, swimming 2.4 miles in the Hudson River, biking 112 miles and then topping it off with a full marathon (26.2 miles) for good measure. All while the rest of us were eating Ben and Jerry’s and watching the Olympics. Jason moved here from San Diego so maybe that partially accounts for his vim and vigor, but perhaps equally impressive, and frankly a little intimidating, was the rumor that in addition to his full time work bringing nonprofits into the Catchafire community, he also takes on Pro Bono Projects on the side! Here’s what he has to say for himself:

An Ironman! Why on earth would you do such a thing?
Until last year, I never thought about doing a triathlon. I was (am?) a terrible swimmer. My only experience on a bike was riding my beach cruiser to class and I hadn’t run more than three miles since graduate school. I registered for a sprint triathlon just to force myself to get healthy again. I trained hard and accomplished something I had never dreamed possible. I’ve been playing athletic chicken with myself ever since, signing up for bigger and bigger races and pushing my limits.

As a relatively recent New Yorker, did you learn anything about the city during your training?  
I probably learned less about geography than I did about what it means to be a New Yorker. I was surprised at how quickly I felt like a part of New York’s incredibly warm and welcoming athletic community. We struggled up Harlem Hill together, exchanging words of encouragement, strangers offered to help me fix flat tires. New Yorkers are a lot different than the way they’re portrayed in the popular imagination.

You mentioned you had some “dark moments” during the race. Other than immersing yourself in the Hudson River, which must have accounted for at least one, what did you mean by that?
Your body just can’t keep it together over fifteen hours of racing. Eventually, it’s going to fail you. At around mile 17 of the marathon we had to climb the stairs that lead up to the George Washington Bridge. It was the last big push before the sweet, sweet downhills and straightaways in Manhattan and I knew my wife, Carly, was waiting to cheer me on just on the other side. But I had been cramping up pretty bad for the last hour and my foot was bleeding. On the very first stair, my legs completely seized up. I couldn’t lift them, couldn’t walk, couldn’t do anything but prop myself up against a handrail. Fear and self doubt had been with me off and on all day, but then pain showed up and suggested they form a super group to bring me down. In the end it wasn’t my body that got me to pull myself up those 70 stairs, it was my mind and my heart. I learned a lot about myself on those stairs.

That’s very cool, Jason. I hear you’re also working on a Pro Bono Project when you’re not at work or training?
I’m working on a Public Relations Plan with an amazing non-profit called Bottomless Closet. It’s the only New York-based organization helping women get back into the workforce by providing interview preparation, business attire, professional development and financial skills. Their mission really speaks to me because it’s so simple. It’s about helping these women with concrete tools to achieve the professional and economic success that we all want and deserve. But, not unlike many other non-profit organizations, Bottomless Closet is so busy doing great work they don’t have time to get their story to the media. I am helping them build a plan that will help them strategically communicate with the press, while staying clear about the staff and time limitations of the organization.

How do you fit it all in?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say religious time management and a very patient wife. Also, Catchafire encourages us to take “service days” which is paid time off for staff to take on meaningful volunteer projects. It’s very much a part of the culture here at Catchafire — to invest in service as a transformative experience. So that helps too.

Advice for prospective Ironman athletes and potential Pro Bono Professionals?
Set lofty goals. Attack them with gusto. You’ll be rewarded for it in the end.

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