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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.  


10 WAYS TO KEEP GOING WITH THE GIVING:

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: http://rockawayhelp.com/how-can-i-help/

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.

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.

Brooke Rothman is Selfish

13 Aug

At least that’s what she’d like us to think…

Brooke Rothman is a glamorous woman. A New Yorker by birth, she has lived all over including Miami, LA and London. By day a brand planner with the boutique ad agency Avrett Free Ginsberg, she makes her living helping large companies figure out who they are and how to tell their stories.

She’s an actress too. In fact, she even appeared in an international soap opera with a pre-fame Megan Fox. While she’s careful to point out that she “essentially played a computer nerd” and it “only showed in Sweden and South Africa”, we think she’s just being modest.

But after spending a few minutes with Brooke, you realize there’s much more to her than globetrotting, high level corporate strategizing. Even a cursory glance at the quotes on her Facebook page, “You will feel fulfilled when you do the impossible for someone else” hints that fabulous waters do, in fact, run deep. This is not your typical soap star turned ad exec.

When Brooke first heard about Catchafire at a networking lunch, she was hooked. Through the website she quickly found a cause that spoke to her: Sahasra Deepika, a non-profit foundation that houses and educates underprivileged children in Bangalore, India. Students are shown how to develop their intellectual, social, and academic potential and to bring this empowerment along into adulthood. Brooke donated 50 hours of brand messaging expertise to Sahasra Deepika and, as she recalls, it was a reciprocated gift:

Sahasra Deepika means “a thousand lights” and it actually changes children’s futures. I love that. My contact there, Sarva Rajendra, was open to new ideas, collaborative and appreciative.

In one conversation she said she felt when she met me she had “found gold.” That was a special moment. It continues to remind me that giving what I’m truly passionate about and what I’m good at can make a powerful difference. 

Brooke has decided to team up with Catchafire’s Founder/CEO Rachael Chong to pitch a panel for the 2013 South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. Geared for SxSW Interactive, the panel is provocatively titled Be Selfish and it aims to inspire attendees to revolutionize their ideas on volunteerism. Brooke and Rachael want to turn selflessness and altruism inside out and get at the deeper motivations for service. Brooke wonders if being motivated by selflessness is even sustainable. She says, “When you have clear intentions and you set goals for your Pro Bono experience, you can always refer when things get a bit rough, or you feel insecure, or you forget why you’re spending your free time helping someone else when you’d rather be out drinking or watching reality TV.”

Read more about the panel, Brooke and Rachael here!

Help us Get to Austin
The SxSW Programmers and Advisory Board rely on crowdsourcing to help them pick final panelists. You can help us get to Austin by voting for our Panel at the SxSW Panel Picker. Keep in mind you’ll need to sign up (they promise not to bug you), you can only vote once and sharing is golden.

Be Inspired. Be Committed. Give Pro-Bono.

16 Apr

This National Volunteer week Catchafire would like to celebrate all of the professionals who serve their communities pro bono. For many of them, volunteering time, skills, passion, and talent is more than a choice. It’s a lifestyle.

Join us in celebration and tell the Catchafire community who inspires you through their pro bono service.

On our homepage at Catchafire.org, our team will share a few words and an image recognizing a professional who inspires us with their pro bono service. These are individuals who rock their skills and talents to boost the capacity of communities in need.

Here’s 2 Ways You Can Get Involved:

1. Take a minute to give a shout-out to a friend, lover, family member, neighbor, colleague or peer who dedicates time to give back pro bono:

Step 1: Submit your nominee at www.catchafire.org/nominate.

Step 2: Share a photo (instead of a thousand words!)

Photos should capture a cause, celebrate a community commitment, recognize a person’s fun spirit, or all of the above. Your submission and photo will be included on the Catchafire pro bono Wall of Fame so your personal inspiration can bask in the glory of their fellow rock star pro bono professional peers.

  • If you use Instagram, tag #catchafire to a photo that represents your nominee and write their name next to it.

2. Spread the word:

Help pro bono service go viral.  Post tweets and facebook updates that reflect your commitment to make every week a National Volunteer week.  We have crafted a few to start you off.  Copy and past the following to join the digital celebration.

Sample Tweets:

  • It’s #VolunteerWeek. Join @Catchafire. Nominate a person who inspires you with their pro bono service: http://bit.ly/HEcdEE
  • It’s #VolunteerWeek. Be Inspired. Nominate a person who inspires you with their pro bono service: http://bit.ly/HEcdEE
  • For #volunteerweek, join @catchafire, nominate a person who inspires you with their pro bono service: http://bit.ly/HEcdEE
  • Want to give back? Move it from your to-do list to your to-done list for #volunteerweek! Sign up. give back pro bono: http://bit.ly/HPkUcu
  • Who inspires you through their community service? Join @Catchafire and celebrate them for #volunteerweek. Shout out their commitment at http://bit.ly/HEcdEE
  • We’ve shared stories of professionals who give back pro bono. Who inspires you? Join @Catchafire and recognize them for #volunteerweek http://bit.ly/HEcdEE

Sample Facebook Posts:

  • It’s Volunteer Week! Be Inspired. Give Your Talents Pro Bono! Join Catchafire and nominate a person who inspires you with their pro bono service! http://bit.ly/HEcdEE
  • It’s not just funds that social good organizations. They need talent that will help them grow their capacity and impact. Be Inspired. Join Catchafire and nominate a person who inspires you with their pro bono service! http://bit.ly/HEcdEE

MLK Day… a fun and fulfilling day

11 Jan

Across the nation people are actively seeking out volunteer opportunities for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (MLK Day) next Monday. Sometimes this can be the most difficult part of the process. There are many opportunities for people to contribute to worthy and important causes, such as volunteering in soup kitchens, at clothing drives, and in public parks. Finding an opportunity to give back in an effective and meaningful way can be a tougher challenge. The “King Day of Service” calls on all Americans to transform this “holiday” into a day of volunteer service. We believe that a volunteer experience should not only be meaningful but also fulfilling and enjoyable, and should by no means be an obligation.

With MLK Day around the corner we reached out to some of our “Star Pro Bono Professionals”: passionate individuals who share our vision – a world where it is commonplace to serve the greater good – and who are committed to giving their time and talent all year round. We asked them how their pro bono experiences have impacted their lives and why they believe pro bono work is not only about the cause but also about the individual contributing to it.

Indian-born Joshi Bhamidipati came to America more than ten years ago to attend college. Last September he started working pro bono with Save a Child (America) Inc., which provides deprived Indian children a chance at a better life through long-term sponsorship.

Having grown up in a low-income household in India, Joshi knows what it means to have very little and, having traveled to the U.S. for college, what it means to have an opportunity to transcend one’s past. Joshi is pleased to be able to volunteer his time and resources to benefit children in his home country.  By working pro bono, Joshi is not only giving back but is also paying it forward to afford a child, someone like himself ten years ago, the same opportunities he had.

Joshi believes that “performance depends on how you feel about the job… if you don’t feel good about [it], you don’t deliver to your maximum.” He’s a qualified CPA with an MPA in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy and recently completed his first Catchafire project, designing an organizational budget for The Sean Costello Memorial Fund for Bipolar Research. Not surprisingly, the organization had only amazing things to say about Joshi: “Intelligent, knowledgeable, accessible, quick to respond and patient with those of us who do not have an accounting or finance background. He has extensive experience with non-profits and is able to apply this knowledge to our specific needs.”

Joshi appreciates how volunteer experiences have exposed him to different social needs and enabled him to effectively address them. “You learn new things with different programs,” says Joshi, “they’re great source of motivation!” Volunteering is not just about the cause, it’s about the volunteer too… by helping others, you’re helping yourself. Think about that while deciding how you’re going to give back this MLK Day.

Pro Bono Voice: Kara Silverman

12 May

(c)2011 Ken Levinson

Today’s guest post is by Kara Silverman, a PR professional at Yodle.com. She was recently matched with the NYC chapter of Komen Greater NYC to help with Event Publicity for the annual Tickled Pink benefit.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Catchafire Consultant and my friend/former colleague Ruti Wajnberg. She begged me to take on a volunteer project with Komen Greater NYC, even though I was already volunteering for my local Jersey City Councilman, Steven Fulop, and working a full time job. At first, I was skeptical that my services would even be helpful, but in the end it was a profoundly impactful experience!

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Pro Bono Voice: Eric Morrow

3 May

Today’s guest post is by Eric Morrow, a digital marketing professional at IBM. He was recently matched with the NYC Audubon Society on a Social Media project. 

At IBM, I’m in a social media role focused on competition with another big tech company.  The site where it all comes together is SmarterQuestions.org.

Catchafire matched me with the NYC Audubon Society.  Most people know them for their birding efforts, but they also perform extensive wildlife and lands protection and run education seminars about NYC ecology. NYC Audubon wanted to get involved in social media but didn’t really know how to start.  I began by sitting down with their team and talking with them about what NYC Audubon is all about, and getting a sense for what they want to accomplish.  That helped us figure out where they should start and what they should prioritize.

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