After the Grenfell Tower Fire: Communities Coming Together

In the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, the initial shock was felt worldwide. People from countries all over were amazed at how unprepared the developers of the building were in terms of safety and fire prevention, and how easily this disaster could have been prevented. Following this event however, volunteers and donation began to pour in for the survivors who have lost their homes, and communities banded together in order to give all that they could. This showed just how impactful togetherness and community foundations dedicated to helping can be.

These foundations are established to support those in need, and bring communities together in the wake of tragic events. With a wealth of knowledge about the areas in which they operate, community foundations are able to direct contributions from outsiders to where they will make the biggest impact, as well as ensure that this support is continued, rather than ending after media coverage has died down.

In the case of the Grenfell Tower fire, people were left without homes, food, and clothing, prompting thousands of United Kingdom citizens to search for the best foundation to donate to. Many turned to the London Community Foundation and the Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund, which has since raised £1,775,000 on behalf of those who were affected by this disaster. Through donations and grants, these foundations are planning on working tirelessly until each victim is identified and well taken care of.

Like many fundraisers, the efforts of those who wish to contribute begin to subside once the cameras leave and media coverage slows. It’s a sad reality that occurs very often. Without people being reminded daily that the victims of tragedies suffer long after donations are received, they will stop supporting them. That is not to say that they stop caring, but rather, the foundations instilled to help these victims are left with little to work with. The London Community Foundation however, wishes to end that trend.
The LCF plans to assist with relocation, replacement of possessions, and grief counselling, working with communities all over London to ensure everyone affected by the fire is cared for, and receives the proper goods and support they need to get back on their feet. This shows just how beneficial community-based foundations can be following disastrous events that leave individuals stricken with grief, having lost items and endured emotional trauma.

Why You Should Support Local Libraries

It may seem counterintuitive to donate any contributions to a library seeing as we are deep in the age of technology. However, libraries still play an important role in our society. Though all the information you need is essentially accessible with the touch of a button, certain demographics prefer the classic mode of obtaining their information. Whether they are being used by senior citizens, children and parents, or students of any age, libraries deserve the regular maintenance and attention given to any type of government funded building.

Many libraries today are being largely affected by cutbacks in their respective communities’ budgets, and their futures look grim with the current state of the United States government. However, with the help of philanthropists, charitable organizations, and anyone who is willing to donate, libraries can begin to thrive again.

Public computers located in libraries allow those who may not own one themselves to access the internet free of charge, which can benefit a wide range of individuals. Whether someone is in need of accessing emails, information on passports, or just general information that can’t be found anywhere other than the internet, these provide an outlet for those within the community.

As a source of knowledge in the form of more than just books, libraries provide endless opportunities to those wanting to further their education. Many hold community classes focused on job training, informational courses, or meetings for groups in the area, as well as after-school programs to aid students with homework, and give them a safe, secure place to stay while their parents may still be at work. The New York Public Library for example, offers an enormous number of free programs for people of all ages, thus promoting the notion that education is a vital part of our society today. More public buildings and facilities with the power of developing their own programs should utilize the resources that they have in this way.

As mentioned before, one of the glaring issues libraries are facing today is the lack of funding, and the apparent lack of morale the general public has toward libraries. It’s easy to dismiss these buildings as those that don’t need much support to stay afloat, but without contributions from the government or donors, libraries will face turmoil.

If you wish to support your local community’s push for education, growth, and a stronger sense of commonality, one of the best things you can do is support your local libraries in any way that you can. Aside from being a great source of information via books and computers, the programs offered at most funded libraries promote continued education in their respective areas, which can directly translate to economic growth.

Treating PTSD in Veterans

A group that is beyond deserving of the United States’ aid consists of the men and women who fought valiantly for our country and freedom. However, even with a lack of viable employment opportunities and an increase of reported injury-or trauma-related mental illnesses, United States veterans very rarely receive the help they so desperately need.

To provide a better insight, the American Psychological Association (APA) conducted a study that revealed the disturbing effects veterans suffer upon returning home from war, including: record high suicide rates amongst 18- to 29-year-old male veterans; an unemployment rate that far exceeds the civilian unemployment rate; a sharp increase in female veterans suffering from military sexual trauma; and an increased stigma associated with seeking help for debilitating mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and the most common, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Due to these and many other contributing factors, such as inadequately trained mental health providers, it is estimated that only 40 percent of veterans who screen positive for serious emotional issues seek help; a statistic that clearly needs to change.

Seeing as these situations and statistics will only become grimmer over time, it is imperative that the U.S. government take a more proactive stance in regards to veteran affairs and promote — or even require — treatments that do genuinely improve the lives of traumatized veterans.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) updated their list of PTSD resources to accommodate two new and promising treatments — both of which were originally developed with victims of attack or abuse in mind. These methods are cognitive processing therapy (CPT) and prolonged exposure therapy (PE).

CPT, which is often held in groups, typically starts off with veterans writing an impact statement — or a testament to how their lives are still “held in the grip of war” — and sharing said statement with others. Although this exercise is often uncomfortable and occasionally painful, therapists use these responses to aid the group in working through their negative emotions and feelings of guilt. By enduring this process, veterans often experience more mental clarity in regards to their traumatic experiences, as well as a greater sense of detachment, in that their personal experiences no longer dictate their ability to progress in life.

PE, on the other hand, stops veterans from internalizing their fears and traumatic experiences by forcing them to repeatedly share these incidents out loud. This approach enables the veteran to more effectively control their thoughts and emotions regarding their trauma, thus giving them the opportunity to change the ways they react to these memories.

Both CPT and PE have proven to be instrumental in the recovery of PTSD-stricken veterans, especially for those who are married and/or have children, since they encourage open communication between veterans and their loved ones.

 
However, the only way these and other treatments can make a positive impact on veterans’ lives is if afflicted veterans actively seek help. If you — or someone you know — is suffering from PTSD, please visit the VA website to find ways to get proper assistance.

Kevan Casey

Promoting Your Charity Through Social Media

Social media presents the potential for you to expose scores of people to your charity. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly seven in ten Americans use social media. Nearly 68 percent of Americans spend time on Facebook.

However, your charity is by far not the only resident on social media. Your charity’s missions and calls for help compete for attention with content featuring vacations, graduations, political and social gripes, comments on sporting events and photos and videos of performances and celebrations, just to name a few.

In fact, the Adobe Digital Index reported that, in 2014, online searches drove four in ten visits to charitable websites. Only three percent of the traffic came via social media.

This doesn’t mean social media has no place in your charity’s strategy for fundraising good works. Its effectiveness depends on why and how you employ it.

Telling the Story

Ultimately, donors want proof or assurance of your charity’s positive impact.

According to Share America, public relations firm Waggener Edstrom found that more than half of online supporters of nonprofit were motivated by compelling stories. When crafting these narratives, your beneficiaries should play the leading role. For example, feature a homeless person or family who moves into a new home built by the charity. An animal shelter might show a disheveled, abandoned, sick dog being restored to health.

Words can communicate, but photographs and especially video carry impact. According to the American Marketing Association, video will drive approximately 85 percent of search traffic on social media sites by 2019. The power of visuals drives this search and viewing behavior. As reported by Nonprofit Technology Network, psychologist Albert Mehrabian’s study revealed that nonverbal methods account for 93 percent of communication. That is because your mind’s processing of visuals can run 60,000 times faster than processing of text.

Report and Interact

Users of social media can receive alerts and news immediately, directly from you and before it appears on some news service’s reports. In fact, your posts from a disaster area, a fund-raising event or other place where you’re in action can feed traditional media outlets. They can also motivate followers and viewers into action, especially if they see current or recent scenes of damage, victims or your staff or volunteers delivering relief.

With video or other messages, you can thank your individual volunteers and donors. These gestures, seen by their friends, followers and others, may motivate their continued efforts for your charity and those you help. You may even engage page visitors by responding to their comments, answering questions, or simply thanking them for their comments and visiting your page.

A Vast Network

With social media comes a ready audience for your content – “friends,” “followers” and others in your social media networks. Many in your network likely share your interests, views, passions and concerns. As a result, these social media relationships foster receptiveness to your charity’s message and calls for action.

Additionally, those with whom you interact can share your charity and its cause with their friends and followers, allowing your message to flow through many branches and travel many paths quickly. You might even start a Facebook “group” based on your charity or some special cause and encourage friends to do likewise.

Call To Action

To catch attention, employ direct, short, and specific calls to action. These may include, “Share this page,” “Purchase your tickets now” for the event you’ve described, “Drop off your coats at (location),” and “Donate now,” among others.

Track the responses so that you can update your calls. For instance, if you’re inviting people to attend an event, post the number of tickets remaining. For fundraising, inform viewers on the progress and the amount needed to reach the goal. You might say something like, “We only need $1,000 to cross the finish-line.”

Do not rely on solely or even mainly on social media as your portal for calls to action. Social media content should foremost cultivate relationships. That is, you tell the story of your charity and those blessed by it. Social media users learn about your charity’s call, values and plans.

Further, emails, in-person encounters, and other direct communications with donors may prove more effective in fundraising.

 
Ultimately, social media should constitute one component of your charity’s overall approach. In particular, recognize its power in building trust and relationships with the public. Don’t ignore, though, the other ways you can communicate and elicit support for your charity’s needs and those you serve.

The Health Benefits of Community Service

Did you know that when you give, you also receive? What does that mean? It means that when you take the time to give something, your time or your service, you also receive something in return. Giving back to your community will not only make you a different person, but there are many health benefits that coincide from community service.

Reduced Depression

Volunteering is a mood booster. It improves your sense of worth while aiding in a bigger purpose. For a little while, you’ll be more focused on the community service than you will yourself and your worries. You can reduce depression through volunteering. It will provide you with new perspective, and raise your self esteem. By giving your time to a better cause, you may see things in a different light.

Emotional Strength

Sometimes community service can open your eyes to things you didn’t know existed. Living conditions, people with no friends or family, families that can’t afford food, and playgrounds full of waste are just a few examples of what people who volunteer encounter. Experiencing the unfortunate conditions that some communities are in will tug on your heartstrings, and you’ll be a stronger person for it.

Physical Health

To volunteer, you might have to engage in physical activity. Community service such as building a deck, repairing a house, picking up trash or even helping someone move are all ways you can be more active through volunteering. This kind of physical activity will get you in better shape while giving back to your community at the same time.


Mental Health

Change your state of mind through community service. Your brain will thank you. Volunteering creates pathways to better mental health in a few ways. It gives you the opportunity to meet new people and make friends. It also makes you feel good once the job is complete. You’ll increase your social skills and possibly learn how to do something new. All of those factors can give you a happier mental state.

Reduced Stress

If you’re feeling stressed, one thing to make you feel better is volunteering. An easy break from the stress in your life is focusing your energy in making your community better. Distract yourself with issues other than your own.

A Sense of Fulfillment

 
Think of your heart as a “love tank” that requires gas to run, just like a car. Instead of gas to fill your love tank, it’s community service. When you give to others, help others, or simply spend time with others, you’ll notice a sense of fulfillment. If you’re running on empty, you probably feel sad or down. When you complete acts of community service, your heart will feel less lonely and your chest will feel full. That’s your love tank and that’s how you can keep it running.

Kevan Casey community

Promoting Healthy Neighborhoods for Healthier Neighbors

The idea that it “takes a village to raise a child” is an African proverb that has been quoted time and time again as a way to describe the power and impact that having an entire group to reinforce and back up the lessons learned as a child grows. While the expression itself refers to the growth of children specifically, the notion itself is universal. People are happier and more productive in a community environment, and new studies are showing that community support can even make people healthier.

In the same way that it “takes a village to raise a child,” it could also be argued that it takes a healthy village to make a healthy person, as living in an atmosphere that promotes positive activities can in turn, positively impact the individual. A healthy community is one that understands that health is more than just the lack of disease but rather an entire lifestyle and ideology. The latest County Health Rankings release, which uses more than 30 different factors to measure the health of almost every county in the country, shows a shocking depiction of what health across the nation really entails. When it comes to America, clinical health care efforts only accounts for 20% of our overall health with the other 80% coming from a combination of both economic and social measures like education, housing, employment, the environment, and more. It’s clear that, in order to put ourselves on the correct path to healthier citizens, we need to rethink how we’ve always thought about health.

If we lived in a world that put the focus on building healthier communities instead of focusing solely on the need to produce efficiently and earn money, imagine what life could be like. If we worked on creating positive change for the betterment of society within our own communities first, how much better could we make the world?

Fortunately, there are things you can start doing right now to improve your community. If you’re looking for little ways to create a better world, here are just a few ways you can begin to make a difference.

  • Work on building a safe community.
    • Healthy communities are communities where everyone feels safe and secure, so look for ways to improve that safety. Organize a neighborhood watch or look for ways to assist your local law enforcement.
  • Build positive infrastructure.
    • Healthy communities provide services to help meet the needs of the people. Look for ways to help improve that infrastructure; design a new playground or dog park for your community where people can convene and enjoy fresh air and exercise.

Building healthy communities to help promote healthier lifestyles for healthier neighbors is a great first step in the effort to creating a more positive, healthy, wholesome world.

 

Kevan Casey giving

5 of the Best Practices When Giving

Donating to causes that you feel passionate about should not be so passive as to giving to the first charity that comes your way. To truly understand where your donation is going, who or what it is benefitting, and the effectiveness of your contribution, be sure to do some research beforehand. Below are a number of strategies implemented by avid donors that can help you in making the most practical contribution to a charity of your choice.

Give Smart

As mentioned above, donors that truly care about their cause will not jump at the first charity to come their way. Take time to research which organizations benefit the things you care about most. Though donating money or goods to large, more general charities like American Red Cross are beneficial, they may not cater to more specific causes that you seek to help. For example, if your community has a larger issue pertaining to homeless veterans, donating to the AMVETS National Service Foundation would be a wiser choice.

Be Cautious of Impersonators

When researching the type of organization you plan on contributing to, be careful of organizations with similar names that may be less efficient, or even scams. When seeking for Animal Crisis Care for example, a charity named Animal Crisis Prevention may come up, but the two could be vastly different. Take the time to compare any similar sounding organizations to see which carry out the best work for their given causes.

Check Financial Records

Avid donors know that a charity with great financial strength is an indicator of its success, and that a spending rate of 75% or more on programs and services directed toward their cause is important. All of this can be seen in the charity’s financial records. CharityWatch.org is another site that provides donors with this information, giving you the tools necessary in choosing the most efficient organization. A charity’s sustainability over time is just as if not more important than its day-to-day practices. Study the history of the organization you are deciding on donating to, and determine whether or not their financial practices translate to efficiency.

Focus Your Efforts

While donating everything you can to every charity you can seems like a selfless, caring act, it diminishes the chances of your donations actually making changes in those organizations. The processing expenses for each contribution are more likely to outweigh the amount you give. Choose a charity that you feel passionate about, and confidently give a sizeable, yet feasible amount. A larger donation that does not hurt your financial situation is much more likely to benefit the cause of your choice.

Spread the Word

 
Perhaps one of the best ways you can support your favorite charity is my sharing their information, and asking for donations in their name. Smart donors know that long-term supporters are key in the success of a charity. See yourself as their partner. Share the organization’s information with friends, family, through social media, and fundraisers of your choice. Hosting an event to raise money for your favorite charity can be an extremely effective strategy in helping their cause.

Kevan Casey children in charity

Teaching Your Children About Charity

Charity organizations are important aspects of our lives. For example, 20% of New Yorkers rely on food charities just to get through the day. No matter what the situation may be, practicing philanthropy and giving back is part of our social responsibility as citizens. As children are the future of the world, it is important that their knowledge is utilized to the maximum peak. Encouraging children to practice philanthropy at a young age will allow them to grow into responsible and caring citizens, while knowing they are doing the right things to contribute to a positive world.

Donate Old Stuff

One of the best ways to teach children about charities is to encourage them to be apart of them. An example of getting children involved in charities is to pick one that they can contribute to, such as Salvation Army or Purple Heart. Encourage your children to go through their old toys and clothing that they may not wear or use anymore. Once you and your children have compiled some things you can donate, take your children along with you to the donation center. On your field trip, explain to them why you’re doing this and how it will help others have clothing, toys, and things that they typically wouldn’t be able to afford.

Encourage Thrifting

Another way to help children understand charities for the needy, is by encouraging them to recycle. We already spoke about donating their old things to people who may need them much more. Allow your children to see where many people have to shop by taking your children to Goodwill or  Salvation Army. You can also teach your children a good lesson by hosting a charity yard sale, where you’ll be able to sell your personal items and donate to a good cause. This will allow your children to appreciate the value of the things that they own, and encourage them to think about those who are not as fortunate.

Volunteer Events

Encouraging your children to volunteer is also a great way to get children involved in philanthropy. Kids learn best when they are participating in hands-on activities. For example, helping clean up a community park or volunteering to serve at a local food bank will allow your children to see the good that they give back to the local community. Signing up for 5k run/walks are also a great way to raise money for local charities and organization, while participating in family fitness activities.

Encourage Kids to be Social

As mentioned, children learn and understand best when they are able to participate in activities. Taking your children to retirement homes to volunteer and socialize is a great way to teach kids about becoming great individuals. Many elderly people become bored, lonely, and are at risk of depression, however children are great talkers. It will also allow them to work on their communication and social skills. Taking children to animal shelters is also a great way to give back and allow children to learn responsibility. Encourage your children to donate some pet food and toys, while allowing them to engage with the animals. Teaching kids to be social at a young age is a crucial step for them to becoming empowering in the future of the world.

Kevan Casey community

The Best Charities for Community Development

Organizations that devote their philanthropic efforts toward the development of communities aim to promote economic growth and stability through a variety of ways. These may include increased access to affordable housing, enhancement of public and private institutions, or generating community involvement. Below are some of the best charities dedicated to building foundations for communities all over the world.

Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation

Serving the Lake Tahoe area between the border of California and Nevada, the Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation promotes the collaboration of philanthropists and non-profits in order to build a consistent source of community capital. Addressing a broad range of issues, this organization manages charitable funds for families, businesses, and other organizations to provide assistance in their attempts to develop a beneficial effort.

Beginning in 1996, PTCF spends 91.8% of their expenses on programs and services dedicated to their cause, and last year, awarded over $4.7 million to 251 charitable organizations focusing in areas like community support, arts & culture, education, and environmental conservation.

Community Foundation of New Jersey

Beginning in 1979, the Community Foundation of New Jersey has worked tirelessly every year since in forming alliances between families, businesses, and foundations in order to improve the lives of those within these communities. Focusing on a wide range of causes, CFNJ allows donors to choose where their money goes, whether that encapsulates specific causes, organizations, or communities. Those who come to the foundation with ideas of their own are highly sought after, as innovation in how communities are improved is ideal. As of today, CFNJ contributes to over 1,100 different funds.

Austin Community Foundation

With 94.7% of their earnings going directly toward charitable programs and services, the Austin Community Foundation has set the bar in fostering an “ecosystem of philanthropy,” improving the greater Austin area. ACF provides the tools necessary for donors to effectively give, grants for non-profits, and leadership in areas that may otherwise be lacking such guidance. Founded in 1977, the foundation has since become the third largest charitable organization in Central Texas, and averages more than $20 million annually thanks to donor advised funds.

FJC

 
Regarded as a foundation of philanthropic funds, FJC was established in 1995 in New York, NY to give philanthropists a trustworthy foundation of donor advised funds for those who wish to improve the ways they give back to their communities. FJC aims to maximize the impact their donations have on the causes of their choice, create new solutions in philanthropy, and work closely with donors to ensure efficiency. Since their establishment, they have given over $270 million in grants to charities all over the word, and manage over $255 million in assets. Even more impressively, 98.2% of their program expenses are spent directly on the services they deliver.

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How to Contribute to Your Community

Being an active member in your local community not only positively defines your character, but benefits the well being of those around you who may be less fortunate. Certain aspects like education, poverty alleviation, and proper medicine and healthcare are all human rights that should be given without question. However, many people do not have access to such things. Doing your part, whether global or local, can make a difference.

Search for events being held in your area. Newspapers, radio stations, and television ads all promote local fundraisers, the causes of which can benefit a number of organizations. Things like blood drives, concerts, flea markets, and clothes drives can all generate income or donations that go toward a good cause.

Never shy away from volunteering your own time. If you have a day to spare, donate your time and effort into something that benefits the less fortunate. This can include anything from walking dogs at your local animal shelter, to cooking in the kitchen of a homeless shelter, though these are just general ideas.

Research things that need the most help in your area. For example, if you live in a heavily industrialized city that harbors very little plant life, give a day to planting trees or gardens. Even if there isn’t an organization in your area that does such a task, grab a few friends or locals interested in that cause to help, and start your own good deed for the day. Another example may be underfunded schools in your community that cannot afford certain necessities. In this case, generating a large group of people to spend their own money on things like pencils, books, paper, and calculators could help tremendously.

An aspect of community involvement that many people may already be taking part in without knowing is shopping locally. Buying from local vendors that do not have chains of stores around the country obviously helps them build revenue, but also creates a sense of community by having a variety of people from your area run businesses. This can add a feeling of uniqueness to your town as well, as it may not be overflowing with Walmart’s, Olive Gardens, or other large chains.

Organizing your own fundraiser or event, as previously mentioned, may be the most fulfilling way to contribute to your community. Again, look for anything your area may be lacking in for ideas. This can include building playgrounds for children, of raising funds for an already existing organization. Whatever the cause, getting many locals involved can greatly increase the money raised, as well as create a closeness among the people contributing.

Community involvement and donating any time of yours that can be spared is a selfless, morally righteous act that can go much further than providing fulfillment. By joining or starting a team effort to do good, you can not only help others, but also build a community in an area that may not need a boost in morale.

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