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What is Crowdsourcing? And how do I find the right site for my campaign?

Crowdsourcing

I talked in a previous post about microfinance loans – a bunch of donors each giving a small gift/investment so that people in need of small loans and those with little to no access to capital can have a chance to borrow money for investment in their ventures. Economists believe this access to capital is better than a handout for building sustainable economies and empowering people to improve their lives.

Another way to raise capital is crowdsourcing or crowdfunding. Crowdsourcing is a campaign via a website, that backers can contribute to in any amount they can afford. Unlike microfinance loans, most crowdsourcing is not paid back, but you do have to offer some kind of freebie for donors at different levels. It is more of a handout or fundraiser than a loan like microfinance, but it often serves the same purpose of bringing a smallish infusion of capital into a project. Here in the U.S. crowdsourcing has been used by individuals (for things like adoption fundraising, medical/funeral expenses, or educational expenses), non-profits, self-publishing/producing of books, music, or movies, and business start-ups. It has even been used for some ridiculous things. Last year there was a guy asking for money to learn how to make potato salad. Sometimes the absurd works out; he made a good deal of money (THOU$AND$!!!). Crowdsourcing for an individual or business has the added complication of dealing with the IRS, but for non-profits it’s simpler because they can accept tax-deductible donations.

There are a number of crowdsourcing websites out there, so if you’re thinking about doing a campaign for something, be sure and do your homework. And prepare yourself for some hard work; you don’t just click a few buttons and watch the cash roll in. You have to manage and advertise the campaign to get people’s attention (and their dollars!), and you have to offer some kind of freebie they actually want.

Inc Magazine had this map to help you find the right crowdsourcing site. My image here is small, but if you click on it you’ll be redirected to their original article and the full-size image.

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Another source for information is Crowdsunite – they offer information on the different crowdsourcing options and allow you to narrow the list and find sites that fit with your needs.

My personal experience with crowdsourcing is pretty limited. At the museum where I work, we had an Indigogo campaign to try and raise funds for an event, but after a week without a bite, we received word that a private donor wanted to fund our project, so we cancelled the campaign. I’ve also donated to a few campaigns by friends who were raising money to adopt and (nerd alert!) to help the guys at RiffTrax fund an MST3K reunion show. But I have seen it make a huge difference for people when it’s done well.

Have you ever raised funds through crowdsourcing? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

End It – Slavery in the 21st Century

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Yesterday, February 25, was Shine a Light on Slavery Day. People around the world sported red Xs on their hands to raise awareness for slavery in the world today. Being a thesis writing day for me, the only person I got to share my X with was my husband, but the facts about modern-day slavery surprised him, so I’m calling it a win. You could say that 100% of the people who asked about my X gained new knowledge and appreciation for the tragedy of modern slavery.

 

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My X hand holding my morning coffee. Ignore the heavenly glow, that’s just what happens when the first sip of coffee touches my soul.

The End It Movement, originator of Shine a Light on Slavery Day, is a conglomerate of non-profit organizations that fight slavery and injustice around the world. They organizations involved are not all familiar to me, but some are (A21 Campaign, International Justice Mission, the Salvation Army, and World Vision, to name a few), and I know those to be really great organizations.

Here are a few facts from the End It Movement’s website:
– There are three types of slavery: Bonded Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking.
– 1 in 5 slaves is a child
– 55% of slaves are women or girls
– More than 27,000,000 (yup, that’s 27 MILLION) people in the world today are enslaved in one of the three ways listed above.
– Slavery occurs in 85% of the countries of the world, INCLUDING the United States
– In 2013, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received reports of human trafficking in ALL 50 states and DC.

What does slavery have to do with hunger?
Everything. People who are unable to secure an adequate food supply are terribly vulnerable because they are desperate. A while back I read an article in the news about a group of women from a poor village in South America who were brought to the US by “recruiters” claiming to be hiring garment workers. Once they arrived, their papers were taken from them, they were routinely beaten, and they were held hostage. Once their captors had broken them down, they began selling the women as prostitutes. Knowing they were illegally in the US and that their captors knew where to find their loved ones back home, the victims felt that they had no option but to comply. The good news in this story is that eventually a police sting operation caught the kidnappers and the women were cared for and then returned to their homes and families. Not everyone is so lucky.

People who have dignified employment and access to the basic food and safe water needed for survival are far less likely to become victims of modern slavery.

So what is the answer to this crisis?
Educate yourself and others. Most Americans have no idea that people are enslaved in the world today, and are even more oblivious to the fact that it is happening in their country and in their state. Check out the End It Movement website the the websites of their partner organizations to learn more about this global tragedy and how you can help end modern slavery.
Buy Fair Trade – we’ve covered this before (the hyperlink will take you to my past article on Fair Trade in case you missed it), but it bears repeating. Many of the people in slavery today are working for pennies in sweat shops. Coerced by threats, violence, sexual assault, etc. they toil away day after day for almost nothing. Our artificially low prices on consumer goods are a direct result of this system. If you want to support dignified and safe employment, make do with what you have, buy used when you can, and buy fair trade when you have to buy new.
– Support initiatives that fight modern slavery. There is pending legislation you can support, charities where you can volunteer or donate, social media campaigns you can promote, and fair trade companies that give these victims new opportunities. Do something.

There are more slaves in the world today than ever before in human history. We cannot hide from this reality or claim that it’s not a problem in our country. Slavery is a problem everywhere, and everyone should know about it and how to at least minimize our role in this global crisis.

Leave a comment and help us all know a little more and do a little more!

Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) 101

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It’s time again to take a look at one of America’s food aid programs. If you’re interested in the other programs I’ve covered in this series, check out the links!

SNAP (Food Stamps)
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
UN World Food Programme (International)
Meals on Wheels (Non-profit, not government program, although they do distribute on behalf of programs that feed the elderly)
Head Start 101
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)

 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – The Declaration of Independence

All men are created equal… It’s a founding principle in America, the core of who we think we are as a nation. But are we really born equal in this country or anywhere in the world? But all over this nation (and around the world) there are those who are born into situations that will stunt and limit them for their whole lives. Poverty, discrimination, and disability impede the unalienable rights of many.

Most of us are familiar with America’s history with the Native American population. As white settlers moved west in the 18th and 19th centuries, they decimated the native populations and forced the survivors onto smaller and smaller reservation lands. For the most part, these reservations were located on land that was no good for farming and without valuable mineral resources. The native cultural practices and languages were discouraged or forcibly changed. Cruely, the Indians were not allowed to be themselves, nor were they accepted even if they did change.

For generations, Native Americans have been behind the curve – perfectly capable but stunted by malnutrition, poor medical care and education on the reservations, and the cycle of poverty and suffering has just kept perpetuating itself. Of course there are exceptions, but when you start with an uphill climb just to get to a level playing field, it’s hard to win.

Many answers have been suggested. One of them is to include Native American reservations in government food distribution programs. The idea, of course, is that access to healthy foods will keep people healthy, and give children the nutritional support that they need to learn and grow. So the American government established a wing of the commodity-distribution program that specifically addresses nutrition on Indian reservations.

Being a commodity distribution program, the people who receive aid from the FDPIR program do not receive money or vouchers, but are given a monthly box of food stuffs from an approved list of foods. The program targets “low-income American Indian and non-Indian households that reside on a reservation, and households living in approved areas near a reservation or in Oklahoma that contain at least one person who is a member of a Federally-recognized tribe.”

To receive aid from this program, one must contact one’s tribal government to apply. Aid is distributed based on financial need, and families have to reapply every 12 months, or 24 months in the case of the elderly or disabled.

 

I hope you have appreciated this series of government program 101 posts. If you know of a program I missed or if you have any questions, please leave a comment!

Book Review – The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

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During the last year, I have gotten involved with helping authors launch their books onto the market. It’s a lot of fun to get chapters and even whole books to sample, and the best part is the wonderful people I have met through this work. One of these women, Anna, has an incredible life story, and I was honored to hear her tell her tale at a retreat this fall.

Anna grew up in a violent polygamist cult. Her father and uncle were leaders of the group, and she grew up surrounded by her mother’s sister-wives and over 50 siblings. Anna escaped the cult as a teenager, and for years she has been healing and telling her dramatic tale. She’s writing a book about her experience, and hopefully I’ll be helping to launch that one very soon!

Through her research, Anna discovered a cousin who grew up in the same compound and who also escaped and wrote her story. That book, The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner, was due to come out soon, so Anna put us to work helping Ruth launch her book. Bloggers in the group were offered first dibs on the advanced copies of the book, but I hesitated. My blog, as you know, is specifically geared toward the cause of global hunger. But Anna shared with me that hunger is actually a big part of their story. So I ordered a copy, waited impatiently for the release day, and devoured it in two days (and it only took that long because I had to work!).

Ruth’s memoir is beautifully written. She paints a vivid picture of her life growing up in a little shack in a cult compound in Mexico. She faced a lot of uncertainty, years of abuse, and devastating losses, yet she looks back and remembers the good times as well as the bad. As evidenced by the powerful title, The Sound of Gravel is rich with sensory language. Ruth’s love for her siblings and her mother radiate off every page.

And Anna was right, hunger is a very present character in Ruth’s story. Several of her siblings suffered mental disabilities probably linked to the malnutrition they faced as babies and young children. Ruth relates the shame she felt using food stamps to buy groceries for her siblings, and the challenges she faced as a child caring for her younger siblings and trying to make them something filling to eat. There are a lot of rice and beans dinners in Ruth’s story, and vivid memories of cornbread and cakes whose rarity made their appearance memorable.

Ruth’s story reminds us that although poverty can be caused by bad choices, it is often the innocent children who suffer the most. Adults can handle periods of scant provisions, but the physical and emotional damage done to a growing child can last a lifetime. If you want to read a beautiful story of one girl’s struggles and overcoming, I highly recommend this book. It reads like a novel while exposing great truths about polygamy, poverty, and the triumph of the human spirit.