Giving up loose pocket change literally changed lives.
With that in mind, we're launching our DecafCharity Experiment just in time for the holidays.
Starting December 12, 2011, we're asking you to give up just a little (one cup of coffee) to give back a lot. Here's how you can participate:
The DecafCharity Experiment
1. Give up just ONE cup of morning coffee and donate the money you've saved by doing so to a Modest Needs applicant. (That's $2-$5 depending on where you get your caffeine fix.)
2. If you're particularly flush and cannot part with your morning dose of dark roast, donate the equivalent of one cup of coffee to a Modest Needs applicant.
3. Encourage others to do the same by taking to the Internet and sharing what you've done.
We're especially encouraging people to use Twitter to spread the word. By sharing your participation with the hashtag #DecafCharity on Twitter, Modest Needs will be able to track exactly how many people have donated or inspired others to give.
On Monday December 12, 2011, we'll send out the first #DecafCharity tweet, a short ditty that will lead potential donors directly to a list of Modest Needs applicants so the funding can begin. Twitter donors can simply retweet that tweet in order to get things rolling.
For those of you who can't stand Twitter, there will also be a Facebookshare option.
The #DecafCharity hashtag isn't exclusive to Modest Needs. It's a hashtag any charity can adopt--and we encourage them to do so. The DecafCharity Experiment is meant to remind any donor that one minor sacrifice can make a difference anywhere. It can also connect charities, allowing us to monitor our shared message of giving via a simple hashtag. We invite you to add the #DecafCharity hashtag to your holiday Twitter appeals.
Changing a life this holiday season is as easy as going without one cup of coffee (and taking to Twitter for a single tweet). If that isn't a gift, we don't know what is.
It's the first day after the holiday weekend. There are turkey sandwiches on the middle shelf in your fridge. (Or leftover vegan stuffing with cranberries. Depends on the fridge.) You're just getting back to school/home/the office. Many of you, even as of this morning's coffee, still have one foot in a Thanksgiving Day carbohydrate-coma.
With that in mind, we're starting the week off gently: with a question.
Thanksgiving Day kicks the "giving season" into high gear as the winter holidays plow toward January 1. It's a shift that raises many questions in the charity world, all involving the word "give." What charities will you give to? How much will you give? Can you even give this year?
Add our question to the list, with a spin: What keeps you from giving?
What are the circumstances that have kept you from giving to charity in the past? What obstacles could keep you from giving this year? What kind of charities do you give your money/time to and which ones do you avoid? Why?
We're asking genuinely and need candid answers. You can post in the comments section of this blog or Tweet at us at @Modestneeds.com throughout the holiday season. We'll be featuring some answers on the Modest Needs Blog and on the Modest Needs Foundation Facebook page--responders looking to remain anonymous can send an email to Kimberly.Kaye@ModestNeeds.org; all personal informaton will be withheld.
Your answers will not only be appreciated, but also help shape our relationship with donors and applicants in the future, so please--be honest. We ask that you share this post or question with anyone who might weigh in.
We hope your Thanksgivings were as delicious and stress-free as any holiday can be.
The Modest Needs family is growing! Today we would like to introduce Kimberly Kaye, Modest Needs' new Director of Marketing and Public Outreach. Please allow our newest team member to introduce herself, and explain why she'd like to talk to YOU:
Few things make me break into a cold sweat faster than the phrase, "Tell us a little about yourself." It’s been that way since kindergarten. Every first day of school my teachers would ask each student to state their name and sum up their lives in a few sentences for the rest of the class. Every year I'd find myself staring back at a room full of faces, stuttering as I tried to figure out what to say. Anticipation of the "Tell Us About Yourself" exercise used to drive me into my parents' closet, where I'd hide under my father's jacket until some adult coaxed me out and loaded me onto the school bus.
Which is why my palms are sweating as I try to answer that question now at Modest Needs' request. Can someone please define "a little?" How much is too much? Where's the line separating "sharing biographical information" and "boring people to death?"
And am I certifiably nuts, or does this wave of anxiety hit other people too?
While the "Tell Us About Yourself" gauntlet makes me squirm, I adore meeting new people and, even more so, having an actual conversation with them. The irony being that it's hard to start a conversation without first saying hello and telling the new face in front of you a bit about yourself.
So here it goes: I'm a born and bred New Jersey native. I have an addiction to social media that is, at this point, incurable. I’m good with words and have a violent, physical aversion to geometry. And I've spent the last five years as a journalist reporting on arts and culture.
Reporting on the arts, a world which has always relied on the generosity of patrons to sustain itself, helped me discover what can only be described as the art of giving. And I mean art in the most literal way; philanthropy is an art form. It is particularly special because, unlike music or painting, it is a craft that anyone can be good at from the moment they decide to take it up. Giving is the one art form in which the novices can lead the masters.
Uncovering the art of philanthropy pulled me into the essential ongoing conversation about giving, a dialogue I was thrilled to discover has been furthered by Modest Needs’ groundbreaking approach to helping those in need. The first organization of its kind to crowd-source for donors, Modest Needs asks people to tell others a little about themselves in order to start a dialogue about giving. Once that conversation gets rolling everyday people take action, making everyone from neighbors to strangers’ lives better in the process. You can watch it happen in real time as grants are funded on the Modest Needs web site.
It’s an ongoing conversation that I’m proud and excited to be joining now as a member of the Modest Needs family, but one that only works if both sides are talking and listening. So I’ve talked a little. Now it’s your turn. I invite you to talk to me, and keep talking, anytime day or night. Ask questions. Voice concerns. Bring the attention of Modest Needs anyplace it needs to go. Show us how you practice the art of philanthropy, or praise the work of others when they do.
Let's get talking now. What would you like to see more of from Modest Needs? And what would you like to see less? You can reach out right here in the comments section of this blog, email me at Kimberly.Kaye@modestneeds.org, find us on our Facebook page, or Tweet at us directly at @Modestneeds.
And, of course, please remember to tell us a little about yourself in the process.
Millions of Americans are without adequate health insurance in the United States, often because they are unemployed, self-employed or underemployed. This is because the vast majority of those insured are covered because their employers offer health insurance packages as a benefit of their employment.
The rising cost of health insurance is pushing more South Florida employees to consider what had been unthinkable: Passing up medical coverage offered at work.
A strata of young, physically fit workers have always skipped employer health benefits they view as an unnecessary cost. But insurance agents say a growing number of older employees and even families are trying to save money by switching to low-priced health policies they buy on their own.
Insurance experts say employees can find credible, lower-cost coverage outside the workplace, through high-deductible plans. But they say it's a gamble because it takes a lot of work to find a good plan without big holes.Individual policies typically do not cover as much and often charge higher co-payments and deductibles. They also can raise your rates at will and drop you if you get sick.
"Dropping coverage at work? Generally a bad idea," said Carlos Castresana, South Florida unit leader at Wells Fargo Insurance Services, which designs health benefits for employers. "Even if you're healthy, you don't know if you'll get sick."
Yet more employees are thinking about it as they reach their open-enrollment period to sign up for 2012 coverage at work.
In a healthcare system where insurance plans are doled out by employers, but the nation is experiencing nearly 10% unemployment rates, there is bound to be a shift in how individuals choose to purchase insurance. However, the rising cost of insurance for employers is being passed along to employees, and more than ever before some workers are opting out of health coverage. Is it because they make less now? Is it because individual plans are cheaper? Is it because purchasing health insurance would mean not being able to afford the medications they provide, even at a discount?
You'd be hard pressed to argue that the health insurance system in the United States couldn't use some tweaking. But this trend in turning down employer-sponsored health insurance due to rising costs is unprecedented, and may be a sign of a shift in how Americans choose to take care of themselves.
Have you considered opting out of your employer's health insurance package? Know someone who has? Please tell us your stories of how you choose (or don't choose) to cover yourself and your family in case of medical emergency. Weigh in below.
Not too long ago, I mentioned that Modest Needs was on the verge of making its 10,000th grant. Well, late last month, thanks to the support of people from across the country, Modest Needs reached that milestone!
So what's the story behind the story of Modest Needs' 10,000th grant? I'm glad you asked, because, as it turns out, this grant not only showcases both everything we stand for; it underscores just how important the work we do together has become, especially in this difficult economy.
As it turns out, Modest Needs' 10,000th grant went to a woman named Dana, a single mom of two living in the midwest. For years, Dana been gainfully employed by a major financial institution and had always been able to take good care of herself and her two children. Everything was fine until, in January 2009, Dana learned that the bank for which she worked was 'downsizing.' She was one of the unlucky persons whose job was eliminated, and in a story that has become all too familiar these days, on 1 August 2009, Dana found herself suddenly unemployed through absolutely no fault of her own.
The Veterans Affairs Department has devoted much effort and money to improve and expand its mental health care, especially for those coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries. But continuing reports of drug dependency, suicides and suicide attempts among veterans and active-duty soldiers suggest that urgent needs remain vast and unmet. So do persistent accounts from veterans who say they spend months waiting for mental health care.
Now Veterans Affairs’ own health-care professionals say that the department’s efforts are not enough.
After conducting hearings last summer on long waits for mental-health appointments, Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the chairwoman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, asked the department to survey its providers across the country to find out what the problems were. The results, released this month, show chronic inadequacies in access to care.
Only 29 percent of respondents — 272 psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses and social workers at dozens of hospitals and clinics — said their workplace had enough staff to meet demand. Nearly 40 percent said they could not schedule an appointment for a new patient within the two-week window the veterans department requires. Nearly 70 percent said they lacked enough space. And nearly half said some patients were being denied care because no appointments were available outside regular office hours.
Advocates of those under and around the poverty line have long argued that the current method for measuring poverty rates is woefully out of date and an injustice to those who suffer due to the antiquated classifications.
These advocates were heard by the United States Census, which altered the way in which they determine poverty, and the outcome is grim. Sadly, the numbers under this method of measuring is actually higher than the already staggering 15%.
The Census Bureau's first supplemental poverty measure includes various government benefits and expenses not captured by the official poverty rate, which will continue to be used to determine eligibility for public assistance and federal funding distribution. The alternative calculation also takes into account geographic differences in prices.
Acting on recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences, the Census Bureau designed the new measure to capture the impact of many forms of non-cash public assistance, such as food stamps, housing subsidies and energy assistance.
The new measure had a major impact on poverty rates among the elderly, in part because they have large medical expenses. While Social Security keeps many of them just over the poverty line, health care costs can easily pull them under, Short said. Some 15.9% of senior citizens are considered poor, up from 9% under the official rate.
These discoveries by the Census Bureau are right in line with what we see at Modest Needs on a daily basis. We see that Social Security benefits are not enough to cover the cost of medical care and prescriptions for the elderly. We also see individuals who make "too much" for governmental assistance, but can't afford food if an emergency arises.
Hopefully good will come from these higher number of Americans living in poverty. Perhaps with better awareness of how many are in poverty, we can better aid those neighbors who are struggling to stay afloat.
We could not be more excited to point you to the terrific follow-up story that CNN did about Modest Needs Foundation coinciding with the funding of our 10,000th grant. 10,000 grants, with an average family member number of 3.5, means approximately 35,000 lives have been changed to the better thanks to your generosity. .
Modest Needs Foundation, a charitable organization that lets donors decide where their money goes, recently made its 10,000th grant, founder and president Dr. Keith Taylor said. The organization opened its doors in 2002. A CNN.com story about it in December 2009 sparked a historic outpouring of generosity from readers.
The 10,000th grant, made in late October, sent $750 to pay an Indiana woman's overdue medical bill and maintain her good credit rating, Taylor said
The organization's first grant, in 2002, went to an uninsured woman who needed $200 to get a mammogram. The mammogram found a malignant tumor, for which she received successful treatment. The woman told Taylor that $200 saved her life.
"I honestly never realized until that moment that these grants had the power to really change lives," Taylor said. "That letter changed my life – that's for certain."
In between, Modest Needs and its donors have given away more than $10.3 million.
You can read the story in full, but join us in celebrating the monumental difference you've made in the lives of stranger, though just like you. Give yourself a round of applause, Modest Needs team. And never doubt that your investments are changing lives.
Have you heard about the federal program established to help certain individuals and families keep their homes in the midst of financial crisis? The program is in place in California, and, by its own claims, has helped over 700 families stay in their homes.
It's called Keep Your Home California, and it's a rescue program meant to "help California homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages. California has received nearly $2 billion in federal funding and is working with housing counselors, servicers and housing advocates to provide assistance that will help prevent avoidable foreclosures and keep Californians in their homes."
You don't even have to be behind on your mortgage payment to be a participant. Any California homeowner who meets the eligibility requirements can qualify. And just what are those requirements?, you ask:
General homeowner eligibility requirements for these programs include, but not limited to, the following:
Own and occupy home as their primary residence
Current unpaid principal balance of first mortgage cannot exceed $729,750
Meet low and moderate area income limits
Complete and sign a Hardship Affidavit to document reason for hardship
Mortgage loan is delinquent or in imminent default
Adequate income to sustain modified mortgage payments according to participating servicer guidelines
If this program is one that can benefit you or someone you know, please pass this post along. More information abou Keep Your Home California at their website.