Philanthropy Friday: Scary Mommy Nation Thanksgiving Project 2014

Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer.

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The above image came across my Facebook newsfeed yesterday morning (11/6/14). A reminder of just how generous the Scary Mommy Nation is and just how much more need there still is as we head into the holiday season.

I wrote about the Thanksgiving Project last year around this time and how it was started:

The Thanksgiving Project started as a simple blog post from Jill Smokler (aka Scary Mommy) back in 2011. This post talked about how some people in the Scary Mommy community had a rough year and simply couldn’t provide a Thanksgiving dinner for their families. Some could barely afford a loaf of bread.

Jill had the idea of asking her large community of followers for help. Would they be willing to donate some money, even a small amount, to make sure everyone would be able to celebrate Thanksgiving?

The answer was a resounding Yes. Jill was overwhelmed with people who wanted to donate. She also heard from many others who needed help. The story received a ton of media attention, including on Good Morning AmericaNightline and the home pages of Yahoo and Huffington Post.

An average Thanksgiving dinner costs $50. In that first year of the Thanksgiving Project, the Scary Mommy community raised more than $20,000 and provided meals for more than 400 families.

After the success of the first impromptu Thanksgiving Project, Scary Mommy Nation quickly became a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization powered by mothers helping other mothers. As Jill told me in an email, “Once I saw the impact the site could have, I couldn’t not want to do more. I realized that people really want to help, they just need to be shown how to do it. Being official helped give me the structure I needed as well as a legitimacy that’s needed when collecting money.”

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This project reminds me of how much impact a community of people – most of them mothers – can make in the lives of others. It also makes me proud to be a blogger. Collectively, we can use our blogs and our social media influence to spread the word about helping our peers.

These are families who are having a hard time making ends meet. Any of us could be there. Maybe some of your are. From an anonymous post written by a recipient:

Unless you’ve been in a similar situation, it’s hard to imagine the fear that day to day financial uncertainty can create. Sometimes I feel like I can’t take a deep breath. Sometimes I feel like if one more unexpected thing happens, the delicate facade I have created will come tumbling down and I will never repair it. Sometimes I feel like burning the idyllic picture of my family everyone sees and screaming “help us, save us.”

In the end, I keep going because the alternative doesn’t exist. Because my kids deserve better. Because there is no one to save us. Because no matter how bad things get, there’s always someone worse off than us.

And because I tell myself one day this will all be a distant memory. That day, the idyllic picture of my family everyone sees on the outside will reflect who we really are.

I made my donation yesterday. While applications to receive assistance are now closed, here’s how you can help:

  • If you are involved in blogging or social media, please help spread the word
  • If you can afford to help a struggling family, please donate via Paypal. Fifty dollars buys an entire dinner – you can, of course, give less and be grouped with other donors, or give more and sponsor multiple families. (You can also mail checks to: Scary Mommy Nation, PO Box 20866 Baltimore, MD 21209)
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Bill and Melinda Gates: Debunking Myths Around Global Poverty

I’ve got a little quiz for you today. Answer true or false to the following statements:

  1. Poor countries are doomed to stay poor.
  2. Foreign aid is a big waste.
  3. Saving lives leads to overpopulation.

If you answered false to all three, you are correct! If you answered true, don’t worry. You are not alone. But after reading this post, I hope you will change any misconceptions you might have about helping those in poverty around the globe.

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Bill and Melinda Gates just released their annual letter and they are debunking the three myths mentioned above because misconceptions such as these often give people an excuse not to act.

From the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:

In fact, life is better for more people around the world than it has ever been. People are living longer, healthier lives and poverty rates have been cut in half in the last 25 years. Child mortality is plunging. Many nations that were aid recipients are now self-sufficient. Bill and Melinda want to tackle these myths because too often they give people a reason not to act.

So let’s take a loot at these myths.

Poor countries are doomed to stay poor. In fact, many of the countries we used to call poor now have thriving economies. Some of the so-called developing nations have already developed and many more are on their way. Progress in health and income and foreign aid has helped a lot. The percentage of “very poor people” has actually dropped by more than half since 1990. Bill Gates explains in this short video. He also predicts there will be almost no poor countries left in the world by 2035.

Foreign aid is a big waste. I hear a lot of people complaining about the amount of money the United States gives to other countries in foreign aid. In fact, less than 1% of the American budget is allotted for foreign aid, which is about $30 for every American. Foreign aid actually helps countries find the kind of economic and health progress explained in #1. This progress, of course, help countries to become less dependent on aid. Bill Nye the Science Guy explains more in this short video.

Saving lives leads to overpopulation. People have worried about overpopulation for centuries. If we save everyone, then how will we have enough food and resources to go around? It has actually been found that the countries with the most deaths are also the fastest-growing populations. This happens when girls are married off young, when couples have several children because they know some will inevitably die, and when there is lack of education around or access to contraception. Ending overpopulation actually starts with saving the poorest children, as Professor Hans Rosling explains in this short video.

I encourage you to take some time and read through the letter from Bill and Melinda Gates. While I pulled out some of the highlights, there is much more information included in the letter, and it may will open your eyes to several global issues. It’s a great read.

You can help #stopthemyth

I wrote this post as part of the Global Team of 200, a highly specialized group of Mom Bloggers for Social Good members who focus on maternal health, children, hunger, and women and girls. 

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Inspired by Bill and Melinda Gates’ annual letter, I decided to donate to Save the Children this month, specifically to their Syrian Children’s Relief Fund. Save the Children is a partner of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a partner of mine as well. My donation will provide a set of winter clothes to protect a child from the cold. You can read more about their work here.

Are you willing to take the giving pledge and donate every month to a nonprofit? Grab the badge below and tell the world.

another jennifer giving pledge

Philanthropy Friday: Six Lessons I Learned While Pledging to Donate Every Month

Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer. You can view past posts from the series here.

Today is a travel day for Philanthropy Friday. I’m sending you over to GOOD.

Are you a member of GOOD yet? You should be. It’s a community for people who give a damn.

I’m reflecting on the six lessons I learned by donating every month through my Giving Pledge. Here’s a preview:

In February of 2012, I started my very own Giving Pledge. I was frustrated by the lack of donations to worthy nonprofits on my part at the end of 2011.

The problem was that my husband and I didn’t make giving a priority throughout the year. Once the “giving season” and the last chance to get those tax-deductible donations in arrived, we simply couldn’t afford to donate a lot of money all at once. Not many people can, I suspect.

I noted that waiting until the end of the year to donate money to a good cause is a terrible giving strategy.

I should know better, considering I’ve worked in nonprofit development and fundraising in some capacity for nearly 10 years. There’s a need for money year round, not just in December.

Since I declared my Giving Pledge –  to donate to at least one nonprofit each month – I’ve blogged about whom I’ve donated to and why. My goal was for my husband and I to give to more organizations and feel better about our philanthropic efforts at the end of the year.

After two full years of my Giving Pledge, I can safely say “mission accomplished.” Compared to my 2011, my charitable contributions when up significantly in 2012 and 2013. Looking back at my donations in these two years, I learned a few things about myself and my giving habits.

Read the full article Six Lessons I Learned While Pledging to Donate Every Month on GOOD and leave a comment if you have a moment.

I hope it will inspire you to consider your own giving pledge. It’s easier than you think. I promise.

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