No matter what your level of time, treasure, and talent, there is a way for you to be involved and make a positive difference. We’ve made helpful suggestions ranging from infrequent to ongoing. There are even a few Elfenworks projects, such as: lending your voice to our peace project, or teaching kids the breathing butterfly. For a few real-life examples of people making a difference, read the stories of: Ursula Morgenstern – backpack giveaway for local kids in need; John F. Mello, luthier – impacting hunger, through music; and Susan McKinnon, M.D. – restoring hope, through her special skill.
Select your commitment level:
You will find things you can do at any point with little or no planning… just incorporating these activities into your everyday activities can make a world of difference.
Many people would like to be involved and don’t have the time to choose which cause is best. When the topic arises, don’t be shy about talking about what you are doing. Tell them why you care about the causes you do. And create opportunities for their involvement with you (for example, can they join you in packing lunches or filling backpacks for poor kids?). Cost = $0.
Encourage your children and the children around you on whom you have an influence to stay in school. Encourage parents to give kids the message “it’s ok to achieve beyond me.” The secret to success can be one person showing interest, expressing belief in a hopeful tomorrow. Be the hope for someone. Visit the National Dropout Prevention Center’s website (www.dropoutprevention.org) for more tips. Cost = $0.
Be a Role Model!
Have you noticed that, if one spouse gets into a health program, the other is more likely to follow suit? Kids are living, breathing video cameras, watching what you do. This might be one more reason to start doing something great – like quitting smoking, if you smoke. Never underestimate your ripple!
Educate through Lending!
Educate your friends through generosity. Lend (or give out) books and materials on the topic you’re passionate about, such as hope, possibility, justice, fairness, and change-making (may we suggest President Carter’s newest book, A Call to Action, or a classic by Dickens or Steinbeck, or the feel-good film The Pursuit of Happyness?). Cost = $0.
Look, Really Look
Fr. Peter McVerry, advocate for street teens in Dublin, Ireland, notes that one of the hardest things about being hit with hard times is the feeling of being someone who isn’t even seen, anymore. If you’re fortunate enough to have a place to sleep and somewhere to go during the day, take a moment for gratitude. And then take the time to really see what’s going on: hardship isn’t ever very far away. Consider: what would happen if you lent an ear to someone who is going through hard times? Cost = $0.
Support Your Favorite Charity With A Credit Card Gift
Giving regularly is “green;” it reduces the number of paper reminders to renew your giving. Cost = $0.
Invest Some Of Your Portfolio
For those fortunate enough to have an investment portfolio, talk to your advisor about ways you can do well while doing good. Look for organizations supplying microfinance loans that provide capital in under-banked markets, reducing poverty on a global scale while providing you with meaningful financial returns, a win-win. Cost = $+++profit (not cost).
Use that free real-estate below your signature. It’s easy to set it up automatically, and it might affect your circle of influence regarding something you care about. If nothing comes to mind, how about spreading the word about this ripple page? How’s this: never underestimate your ripple, www.elfenworks.org/ripple Cost = $0
Here is a list of ripples you can make that take as little as a few minutes up to an hour of your time.
Blog, Social Media
Social media is important, and you have a circle of influence that you can activate, for good ends. I great to put it to work spreading the word about a forthcoming fundraiser event and so forth. The Elfenworks projects could use your help, spreading the word. For example, for 2015, we want more caring adults to know about how to help kids combat stress with our free breathing butterfly resources. And we need help calling all voices to join the song in a peace project, “For Our Time.” There’s so much more, because your voice matters. There are poetry pages where you can express your thoughts on social justice, and special curated sites just for your topic of interest. Find them, and then help others find them. Become a curator, yourself. Help those in your circle of influence cut through the noise. Years ago, we had stories on a collaborative fiction story-writing blog, called ficlets, which were then archived at ficly.com. Let your imagination run free, and let your online activity whet your appetite for the sort of tangible, real-world activities that can lead you to true and lasting joy. Cost = $0.
If you have a corporate website you can bolster another nonprofit tremendously by adding their link to your website (with their permission of course – usually found on the page where they ask for your help). For example this code will produce a nice button for the Second Harvest Food Bank ‘shareyourlunch’ campaign:
<a href=”http://www.shareyourlunch.net/”><img src=”http://www.shareyourlunch.net/img/webLink.gif” alt=”Click Here to Share Your Lunch!” height=”80″ width=”200″ border=”0″ /></a>
Write a letter to your representative to help change the policies that allow the U.S. to have an indecently high child poverty rate. At a time when more Americans need a college degree, it’s becoming harder to get a good education. Support K-12 education and college access bills such as Pell Grants. Support the One Laptop Per Child initiative to get powerful learning tools into children’s hands. Do not vote for candidates who fail to discuss poverty, social justice, peace, or whatever you care most about, in their policy plans. Be an informed voter; make use of the resources at Project Vote Smart. Cost = $0.
Stand up for what you believe in by voting. It’s our inalienable right. Encourage your friends to vote. Support verified voting (a paper trail) and voter access. Cost = $0.
Give a Kid a Stress-Busting Butterfly
Join the Song – Peace Project “For Our Time”
Calling all voices for our peace project, “For Our Time.” Visit our peace project page and see how easy it can be to join the song and create an MP3 that will be of great help to us in this peace-raising effort, or if you are a teacher or music director, you might consider a peace event, yourself. Cost = $0.
Translate: Butterflies and Peace
Use A Shopping Portal
Find one that donates a portion of purchases to homeless causes or a charity of your choice. Be sure to choose a well-vetted charity. Just remember to use the portal for your shopping needs (see our links page). Cost = <whatever you are spending anyway>
Give Money To Schools You Don’t Know
Log on at donorschoose.com and peruse all the teacher requests across the country. When you find one that moves you, fund all or part of it. If you want the personal touch, buy school supplies for an impoverished school and deliver them yourself. Cost = $varies.
Give Money To Schools You Know
Support your local school. Support a poverty-stricken school in your community or in a community that you know is in trouble. Endow a scholarship or give a little money towards a scholarship fund. Education is the answer, it’s the best way up and out of poverty. Help break the cycle for a child or youth or adult learner, today. Cost = $varies.
If you take on any of these ripples, count on at least two hours of your time.
Create a video on domestic social justice issues dear to your heart, and upload it to a video host. cost = minimal (borrow equipment) to +$10,000 CMF Elfenworks Prize. Time = 1 day or 1 week, or as much time as you commit. It’s up to you! We even have a video on top filmmaker tips, to help you get started. Cost – ++PRIZE!!
Run a One-Time Need-Filling Drive
You could have a food, clothing, book, or other needed-goods drive (check with your local charity to see what’s needed). Check it out: it isn’t hard to organize a book drive, see www.heartofamerica.org for hints. Educators, showing that your school is involved in helping to make social changes may have positive impact on its enrollment, perception and philanthropy. Managers, note that employee retention improves where employers are perceived to have a social conscience. Time = 1 month (irregular) to collect items; 1 trip to drop them off. Cost = $0.
Put on an Awareness-Raising Event
How about an awareness event? You -your school, house of worship, or student group- could get inspire and delight your circle of influence with the important message to “never underestimate your ripple! and show them the impact and importance of getting involved! Our website has tips to help you make it a smashing and unforgettable success! Learn more here. Cost = from $0 (keep it low!). Prep time = 1 week to 1 month. Event time = 3 – 4 hours. Cost = $0 or …
Support Your Local Economy
The 350 Project suggests selecting for every $100 spent in locally owned stores, $68 stays in the community, whereas spending at a chain leaves only $43 in the community, and with online spending, nothing comes home. They suggest choosing three local stores or restaurants you’d really miss if they went under, and spending $50 at these three stores every month. Yes, you can save money online, so consider this an investment in local abundance. When shopping online, look for a way to direct a portion of the purchase towards a charity of your choice before finalizing the purchase. Cost = <the $ you’re already spending>
Buy, Then Donate, Toys That Inspire Children
This one really needs no explanation, and the ripples it creates travel inward too, trust us. Consult your local shelter for appropriate values. Cost = (varies).
Willing To Clean Out The Closet?
Got anything extra? Think of the use it could get in a homeless shelter? What about used toys? Used clothes? A used instrument for a school or community music program (e.g., Guitars Not Guns or Harmony Project, or see our Useful Links) could pay dividends for a lifetime. Time = 5 hours: 4 hours to go through belongings; 1 hour to drop off at local donation site. Cost = $0
Bring Special Skills to Bear…
Whatever your special skill or interest, you can put it to use in short-term ways. For example, you could spend a single weekend teaching a skill, volunteering, and so on. If you have native-speaker fluency in a language other than English, consider lending your translation skills to our Breathing Butterfly (helping kids with stress) or Peace Project. There are websites such as volunteermatch.org (or see our links page) to help find your best match. Are you breathing? Okay! Yes, you CAN find a way to make a positive ripple! Time = varies. Cost = $0.
If You Have A Set Number Of Hours Per Week
All the “2+ Hours” Ideas and Also…
Bring Special Skills to Bear…
Whatever your special skill or interest, you can put it to use in more long-term ways, teaching a skill, volunteering, mentoring, and so on. There are websites such as volunteermatch.org (or see our links page) to help find your best match, whether mentoring “aged out” foster care teens to become productive adults, volunteering at a soup kitchen or shelter, become a big brother or big sister, or guiding a youth group. Doctors, for example, might volunteer at free clinics or for tattoo removal, but all hands are needed. If you can read this webpage, you can teach someone else, opening up a world of possibilities for them, forever. Cost = $0. Time = varies.
If You Have Variable Weekly Time
You could become a more-or-less regular drop-in volunteer at your favorite aid organization. Cost = $0. Time = whatever you can spare.
If You Have One + Week To Invest
Your helping hands would be welcomed at Habitat for Humanity. One example: although Katrina has faded out of memory, replaced by so many other headlines, volunteers are still needed for rebuilding. Cost = $<varies – perhaps travel/lodging>. Time = 1 week (or longer).
If You Wish To Work At Home
Do you knit or crochet, for example? Can you think of a use? Cost = $20 – $40. Time = 2 weeks, inside in spare time (depending on proficiency).
For Long-Term Commitment
Join a volunteer corps and change the country while you gain experience and more… The many examples range from teaching opportunities to building homes or meeting other community needs in Americorps, where you also receive a per diem, lodging, meals, health benefits, student loan deferment, and nearly $5,000 to pay for school. We’ve listed some of these options for you on our links page! Cost = $0 to POSITIVE INCOME. Time = 1 – 2 years depending on organization.
Local and Long-Term: Stand Up for Safety
Help end violence in your neighborhood with a neighborhood watch program. Cost = $0. Time = ongoing.
Joy is found where your special skills and affinities meet with the world’s deep needs. So, the more you dive in, the more joy you experience, as you shake off the shackles of cynicism and embrace idealism and hope, unashamed… We hope you’ve enjoyed the ideas included above. If you have more ideas for us, why not drop us a line? If you are breathing, then you are needed. Just don’t let the fact that you may be “poor in time resources” stop you. You can help in ways that cost you no time at all!