Friday, November 30, 2007

Is Burger King “Penny Foolish”?

Yesterday’s New York Times ran a thoughtful Op-Ed piece, Penny Foolish.” (Thank you to our friend the World Traveler for the heads-up!) Turns out the King isn’t so generous when it comes to paying farm workers, literally, an extra penny. Here’s an excerpt from the article, and a response from the faith community that allows you to help:

“In 2005, Florida tomato pickers gained their first significant pay raise since the late 1970s when Taco Bell ended a consumer boycott by agreeing to pay an extra penny per pound for its tomatoes, with the extra cent going directly to the farm workers. Last April, McDonald’s agreed to a similar arrangement, increasing the wages of its tomato pickers to about 77 cents per bucket. But Burger King, whose headquarters are in Florida, has adamantly refused to pay the extra penny — and its refusal has encouraged tomato growers to cancel the deals already struck with Taco Bell and McDonald’s... ”

A penny? C’mon. Our friends at the Christian activism magazine Sojourners have posted a link that allows you to send an email message directly to Burger King executives urging them to rethink this decision and treat farm workers fairly.

Today’s mitzvah: Visit Sojourners and urge Burger King executives not to be “penny foolish.”

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Gift Ideas for Kids: Six Geese A Laying — and Bumblebees, Llamas, and A Manatee

For kids — or for the kid in all of us — these animal-oriented gifts support good causes and are pretty cool to boot.

Jimmy Buffet’s Save the Manatee Club sponsors Adopt-A-Manatee, which is lots of fun since it allows one to choose the manatee from among photos and profiles (Floyd in Blue Springs, FL, is my personal favorite). Adoptors receive a photo of their manatee, an adoption certificate, and quarterly updates on the manatee’s progress. This is a fun and engaging way to help support one of Florida’s endangered species.

Heifer International provides animals to impoverished families worldwide as a bridge to self-sufficiency. A beehive can generate honey, pollen, and beeswax for sale. A llama provides transportation as well as fleece that can be used to weave blankets and ponchos (for home use or for sale). A flock of chicks will grow up to provide eggs enough to feed a family, with surplus for sale or barter. I was especially pleased to see Heifer now offers a “buy a share” option for some of the more expensive animals. So if a $250 water buffalo is beyond the budget, one has the option of buying a share in a water buffalo for $25. Do note that some of the Heifer International animals are meant to be used after breeding as “protein sources” — i.e., to be eaten — which may upset some children. To avoid this choose honeybees or one of the mammals designated as a milk or labor source with lower possibility of ending up as dinner.

Today’s mitzvah: Consider a fun charitable gift for a child in your life (or the child within!).

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GoodSearch: You Search...We Give!
I always like to find ways that my daily activities can multitask and give back, such as charity shopping portals. While I don’t shop online everyday — I do search the web. A lot. And now a search engine called GoodSearch will contribute approximately 1¢ to a nonprofit I designate, each time I search the web. A penny a search. Is it a lot of money? Nope. For me I’m guessing this works out to about $36/year. But that’s money that wouldn’t otherwise make its way to the organization. GoodSearch is also transparent about the amounts raised — a link below the search button lets you see how many clicks and how much money the group has received each month. Most charitable groups and nonprofits are listed. I have two computers, so I have the desktop set to fund WORT-FM, and the laptop set to benefit Kiva.

GoodSearch is powered by Yahoo Search. It’s not Google, but then again Google doesn’t pay my charities when I visit.

Today’s mitzvah: Try a search on Good Search, and kick back some change for a favorite nonprofit.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

“Missing Money”: Do you have unclaimed funds?

Today’s mitzvah is my gift to you. I’m pretty organized so when I read that 2/3 of Americans have funds languishing in state government Unclaimed Property divisions, I assumed I was in the 1/3 minority. But a quick search on Missing Money — a free centralized web site for state unclaimed property databases — returned hits from two former addresses (some uncashed dividend checks and a utility deposit).

You can search for your own unclaimed property by using Missing Money’s centralized web site, or by visiting your state’s unclaimed funds database. Also note that Missing Money does not include all states. If you national search comes up empty, click on their map of direct links to state unclaimed property divisions (states to which you’ll need to link directly include New York, Illinois, and Indiana).

Today’s mitzvah: Search for forgotten unclaimed funds — and consider donating some of the “found money” bounty to a worthy cause! (Or search for family and friends to spread some “found money” cheer.)

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Shopping Online? Incentive Portals Kick Back Cash to Charity

The Friday after Thanksgiving is traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year. But as more people shop online it’s the Monday after Thanksgiving that's shaping up to be the cyber equivalent. Why? Apparently it’s those high-speed internet connections we all enjoy at work.

If you’re shopping online today (or any day), you can earn money for your favorite
nonprofit by using an incentive portal such as iGive or Good Shop. How does it work? Use the site’s links to shop at selected online merchants, which rebate a percentage of your purchase to an organization you designate. Both portal sites have some overlap, including Barnes & Noble, Nordstrom’s, Macy’s, and Best Buy. GoodShops hundreds of stores also include Sephora, the Apple Store, and iTunes. iGive’s 680+ merchants include Lush, Bloomingdale’s, Borders, Dean & Deluca, and a whole lot more.

There are other charity shopping portals out there, but I like these two because they
’re transparent about the percentage each merchant rebates, so you know what your charity will receive. If you plan to shop at the participating online merchants, this is a way to send some money to a favorite charity at no cost to you.

Today’s mitvah: Consider online shopping via links on a charity supporting web site, such as iGive or GoodShop.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Simple Sundays: Click for Greenland

Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, although at my house it’s more often a Day of Harried Catch-Up. Here’s a move in a more peaceful direction: “Simple Sundays” on the blog. These mitzvahs will be fast and easy. Here’s the innaugural entry: To raise awareness about problems associated with climate change in Greenland, Kiehl’s, the drugstore-turned-beauty line, will donate 25 cents/click to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) for the first 500,000 people who click a link on their web site.

Today’s mitzvah: Click here to reverse climate change in Greenland (thank you, Kiehl’s!)

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Arts & Crafts: Community Flyers

I got the idea for today’s good deed listening to my favorite community sponsored radio station on a recent morning. A few years ago our governor launched a money-saving prescription drug program that is open to all state residents. The enrollment fee is modest ($20/year), there are no health or income restrictions, and anyone who lives in the state is eligible. The significantly reduced prices — lower than those available with private sector discount cards — can be a big help for anyone who lacks prescription drug coverage or whose prescription coverage is inadequate for their needs.

Problem is: according to the radio the program is under-utilized because so few people know about it.

Flyers, anyone? I scoped out public bulletin boards in my daily orbit and found some I hadn't even noticed before: in my apartment building, at both neighborhood groceries, Whole Foods, and the public library. A quick visit to the RX program’s web site, some fun with arts & crafts — et voila, a flyer that’s ready for posting.

Today’s mitzvah: Think about posting information for a local group or organization that could use a publicity boost.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Shopping Today? Pick up an extra $10 gift card for charity

As breathless newscasters keep reminding me, today is “Black Friday,” the biggest shopping day of the year (and the day retailers allegedly turn their first profit of the year, ergo out of the red and into the “black.”

For me Christmas shopping just isn’t the same without
Marshall Field’s. Yet we carry on.

I try not to post too many daily good deeds that cost money. But if one happens to be shopping up a storm today: consider picking up an extra $10 gift card at your favorite store. Mailed in a Christmas or holiday card it’s a thoughtful gift for a charity to on-pass to a client — or for one of the organization’s hard-working staff members. On the way to school I pass a Ronald McDonald House whose Wish List requests always include small items appropriate for birthday gifts; I try to send them gift cards a few times a year. Other ideas: a local homeless shelter, food pantry, or any organization that serves people in-person.

Happy shopping!

Today’s mitzvah: pick up an extra $10 gift card to send to a local charity.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Whether you observe Thanksgiving more as as a cook or a consumer, in a big group, a small group, or on your own: here's a quick mitzvah for any schedule. The Hunger Site is supported by sponsors that make donations based on how many people click the web site’s Give Free Food icon each day. No cost to you, no strings. Just a lot of sponsor ads and a chance to join with thousands of others each day whose clicks enable Mercy Corps International and America’s Second Harvest to provide food to hungry people. I click every day. It only takes a few seconds — plus we all need the exercise to squeeze in more pie.

Today’s mitzvah
(click below):

The Hunger Site

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Keep Your Neighbors Warm

A happy group basking in the fireplace’s warm glow: it’s a lovely image, and one I tried to keep in mind slogging through a cold rain and shivering at the bus stop last night. I was so happy to get inside where it’s safe and warm. My heat is included in the rent, so I don’t have to stress about sky-high unpredictable heating bills, or make the thankless choice: food or heat.

This is the time of year I try to make a contribution to Keep Wisconsin Warm, a local program that provides financial help for heating bills. I wondered what programs other states offered — it turns out the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a heating assistance web page for every state in the country. This LIHEAP (Low Income Heat and Energy Assistance Program) database includes many heating assistance programs — both public and private — in your area. Want to give? They’ll tell you how. Need heating assistance, or know someone who does? Applications and info here, too.

Today’s Mitzvah: Check out LIHEAP in your state.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Vending Machine Give Back

Dimes. As I pull out the winter coats, I keep finding dimes in the pockets. This reminded me of the classic mitzvah: leaving one’s vending machine change as a small present for the next person who buys a bag of chips or a soda.

The current dime harvest inspired a variation: I don't need to buy junk food to leave change in vending machines: I can place my own loose change in the next row of vending machines I meet. One thin dime:
Junior Birdman had the right idea.

Today’s Mitzvah:
Leave (or plant) some change in the vending machine for the next person. (And check out the MIDI link here to hear the familiar Junior Birdman tune!)

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Spend A Buck: Check Out Hunger

Heading to the grocery today? Odds are the neighborhood supermarket is running a food drive this week. Look for a donation bin, pre-filled bags, or slips posted in the the check-out line that the cashier will scan and add to your bill. A local program here in town promotes 7 Meals for $1 — food pantries make excellent use of even small donations.

Nothing happening at your local grocer? Visit
Americas’s Second Harvest. Their online search tool will find the food bank or pantry nearest you.

Today’s Mitzvah: Donate a buck or a box of Mac & Cheese at the grocery.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Write A Letter: Support Buddhist Monks in Myanmar

It’s Sunday: do I go to church or find a convenient excuse to stay home? For me this isn’t a big deal. My Quaker / Disciples of Christ / Episcopalian background gives me a wealth of choices -- and confidence that my religious leaders will not be arrested if they choose to speak out against their government.

In Myanmar, which many prefer to call Burma in protest against the military dictatorship, more than 4,000 Buddhist monks have been jailed, a result of national protests in October. How can you help? Amnesty International has posted a sample letter than can be faxed, emailed, or snail mailed to Myanmar’s Foreign Minister. AI believes these letters put pressure on the regime by reminding them that the world is watching.

Today's mitzvah: Let the jailed monks and other peaceful protesters know that the world has not forgotten them. Click here to send a letter, fax, or email message to Myanmar's Foreign Ministry.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Welcome to “Daily Mitzvah!”

Hello and welcome to my first Daily Mitzvah blog post! My goal is to post a mitzvah (good deed) each day for one year. Why? So often we want to say thank you, or want to give back, or are just bored and need something quick, easy, and inspiring to transform our day. But not sure what to do, the impulse passes, and we’43 back to the daily grind.

Daily Mitzvah will feature things you can do, today, to make a small difference in a big world. The blog will feature free or low-cost ideas -- it's not about spending money. I hope you'll visit Daily Mitzvah whenever you need a lift!

Today I am all about Kiva, the terrific organization that allows individuals to help fund microloans to low-income entrepreneurs around the world. You'll see a changing photo of a Kiva entrepreneur on the right side of the blog each day. For as little as US $25, anyone can help fund a Kiva microloan. I am currently participating in microloans to two terrific female entrepreneurs: Mabel in Benin City, Nigeria, who sells soft drinks and pepper soup to neighbors and travelers; and Eang in rural Cambodia (above), who runs a small outdoor grocery in front of her home.

I first became interested in microcredit when Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. And now thanks to Kiva, anyone can get involved as a mirocredit lender.

Today's mitzvah: check out Kiva

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