Big Tipping…Random Acts of Kindness

A Good Tip

I took my dad out to lunch the other day and decided it was as good a time as any to do my weekly Random Act of Kindness.   I left about a 30% tip and it was not even because my kids had destroyed the restaurant and I felt compelled to pay for the damages.   This was clearly not one of those once in a lifetime tips – it was certainly not a $100 tip on a $10 bill.  But, anything over 20% is generous and in this case that only cost me $3.00 extra dollars.  Totally doable.

So what about it folks?  Have you left a generous tip this week?  I already heard from an unnamed person who tipped a delivery person heftily over the weekend.   Share some more kindness stories here or on Facebook.  They make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Do-Gooder Company Tidbits

I am taking this week off from the Featured Do-Gooder Company series because my family is road tripping to Washington DC to, in the words of my 3 year old, see President O’Mama.  Well, at least see that big white house he lives in.  But, I heard a tidbit about Target teaming up with Feed USA for a product line available this summer.  Each product will be labeled with how many meals will be donated with its purchase.  The line is designed by Lauren Bush Lauren.  Thought it was interesting that Target is using their highly successful designer partnerships to do some good.  I think this is a first for the designer line, but don’t quote me on it.  Click the link below to read more about it.  Enjoy your weekend!

http://abullseyeview.com/feed-target-collection-lauren-bush-lauren-design-collaborator/

Why Nonprofits Should Offer Family Volunteer Opportunities

no children signI have encountered the phrase “No Children Allowed” frequently since starting this blog.  Finding volunteer opportunities for toddlers and preschoolers is no easy task.  Most organizations have minimum age requirements for volunteers and there are very few that will allow young children to come to their facility to volunteer.  Once your children are school age, more opportunities begin to open up, especially opportunities that relate to your children’s activities such as coaching and scout leadership, but these do not necessarily allow for your children to volunteer too.  I am sure the first word most non-profit organizations think when they consider child-friendly volunteer opportunities is Trouble, with a capital T.  The children will just be distraction.  They are not capable of the basic tasks that the organization needs.  It will be quicker to just have our staff or adult volunteers complete the projects.   In many ways, these points are valid.  But, if organizations were to think about the long term benefits of incorporating opportunities for children to volunteer, I think there might be shift towards more abundant “family friendly” opportunities.

The two most important benefits that come to mind are an expanded volunteer pool and building a loyalty among your volunteer corp.  When an organization offers opportunities to families, the volunteer pool automatically expands.  As a stay-at-home mom, I would love to volunteer more often than I do.  But, it is not feasible for me to hire a babysitter to achieve this goal.  Many of my friends were active volunteers prior to having children, but have found it nearly impossible to maintain their volunteer relationships after having children, especially during toddler and preschool years.   I am busy as a stay-at-home mom, but I definitely have time to give, just not much kid-free time.   Family-friendly volunteer opportunities would be an ideal way for me to actively volunteer again.

Children volunteering

Children volunteering (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Additionally, by implementing family-friendly volunteer opportunities, organizations would be introducing a whole new generation to volunteerism and community involvement, which leads to point number two.  Instilling a love of and commitment to service at a young age benefits the non-profits they volunteer with and society as a whole.   I recently read a report by Child Trends on civic engagement among teens.  Their research has shown that volunteerism in adolescence is linked with positive outcomes during teen and adult years.  Teens who volunteer are less likely to become pregnant or use drugs and more likely to be active volunteers and citizens as adults – that’s good news for non-profits!  The research has also shown that children are influenced by the actions of their parents – parents who volunteer are more likely to have children who volunteer.   I think it is fair to say that if you engage younger children in positive activities like volunteering, they, too, will show the same positive outcomes.  And, even if it is not fair, I would love to hear somebody try to argue against the benefits of kids volunteering.

From the non-profit perspective it is essential that a true need be met by volunteer activities.  Most non-profits, especially smaller ones, operate pretty leanly and managing volunteers can be challenging if you don’t have a staff person dedicated to it.  I think it is time to start thinking creatively about how to engage families and children in volunteering.  Does your organization provide bag lunches to homeless individuals?  Start a program that encourages children to decorate paper bags in which to serve the lunches.  Are programs for elderly individuals your focus?  Establish an intergenerational program to connect your clientele and local children – have them draw pictures, write letters, or visit your site.   Do you operate an animal shelter?  Allow families to bake homemade dog biscuits for your pooches or craft toys for your cats.    If your group is unsure of how to involve families, consider starting a “Family Board” consisting of parents and children who are interested in working with your organization.  Allow them to come up with ideas to present to your staff.

Childrens Portraits

Childrens Portraits (Photo credit: brandonmulnix)

Children and their families are a largely untapped source of unbridled creativity and endless energy.  Let’s get them involved in changing the world!

potential energy 2

potential energy 2 (Photo credit: DJOtaku)

Random Act of Kindness Weekly Challenge

Leave a Generous Tip:

Tip Jar

Tip Jar (Photo credit: EagerEyes)

The former waitress in me really likes this RAK.  Let me say up front that waiters and waitresses work really hard and, quite frequently, get really short-changed when it comes to the gratuity.  Without a doubt, leaving a generous tip will make their day.  But, the restaurant industry is not the only one in which gratuities are the custom.  Look for tip jars at your favorite coffee shop or ice cream store.  Give your babysitter a little something extra.  Staying in a hotel room over the holiday weekend?  Leave the maid a generous tip.  Chances are, you encounter someone who supplements meager pay with tips on a daily basis.  The list is long: hair stylists, tattoo artists, delivery persons, taxi drivers, manicurist, massage therapists, casino dealers, tour guides, car wash attendants…

So, go ahead people.  Be generous next time you need to leave a tip and see how it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  You may not get to see the smile on the face of the recipient, but believe me, that person will be smiling when he/she discovers what you have done.

Letters To My Mom and a Former Teacher

SONY DSCToday I sat down and wrote letters to 2 people who have been such positive influences in my life, and I realized that I could write so many more.  In that moment, I knew that I was an extraordinarily lucky woman.  My life has been filled with interesting people who have truly cared about me, challenged me to be a better person and stuck by me through thick and thin.   This week’s Act of Kindness Challenge was to send a note of appreciation.   I upped the ante and decided to write two notes and it would not surprise me if I keep on writing.  There are so many people in my life that I appreciate and they need to know it!

I wrote a note to my mom today – she’s such an extraordinary person.  Those of you that know her will agree.  My note to her is personal, but I can very comfortably say in public that if I can be half the mother she is; if I can be half as generous and kind-hearted as she is; if I can handle life’s challenges with as much poise as she does, then I will feel like I have succeeded.SONY DSC

The second person I wrote to was my high school English teacher.  For years I have thought that I should go visit her and tell her what a wonderful teacher she was and how she made a profound impact on my life.   Teachers, good ones, work so hard to connect with their students in a meaningful way and help their students connect with the coursework.   And students, for the most part, are too self-consumed to really recognize the value that teachers have added to their lives. It is never too late to tell a teacher that they were an important part of your life.    I never did make it back to school before she retired, but I was able to find what I believe to be her mailing address and will send my letter tomorrow.  Here’s hoping I found the correct address!SONY DSC

Who do you appreciate in your life?  There is still time to complete this week’s challenge!  Take 10 minutes, write a note and brighten someone’s day.

Featured Do-Gooder Company: REI

Feel Good FridayIt’s Feel Good Friday and this week’s Do-Gooder Company, REI, is all about nature conservation, the environment and outdoor education.  With stores in 33 states, REI is currently one of the nation’s largest purveyors of outdoor sports and activity equipment.  But they are so much more than that too.  They offer learning opportunities through classes at the REI Outdoor School and online through their blog and expert advice series.  Through REI Adventures, you and your family can embark on a guided trip that connects you to the outdoors in some of the world’s most awesome natural environments.  You can also download a Kid’s Adventure Journal from their website as a way to help your kids connect with and enjoy outdoor activities.

REI Store, Bellingham, Washington

REI Store, Bellingham, Washington (Photo credit: Reg Natarajan)

I know, I know.  Their product and program offerings are very cool and hip, but this does not make theme a Do-Gooder Company.  Well, folks, hold onto your hats because their Do-Gooder initiatives are just as exciting.   Built into REI’s corporate values is a commitment to connect people to the outdoors and protect nature through active conservation projects.  REI uses a multi-prong approach to address this social need:  1. Volunteerism  2. Grants and Giving and 3. Sustainable Operations.REI in community

  • Volunteerism:  REI both hosts and promotes volunteer opportunities for employees and the public at large.  In 2012, REI stores promoted more than 750 outdoor volunteer projects in which more than 87,000 people participated.  Moreover, programs supported through REI grants engaged nearly 397,000 people in 2.8 million hours of volunteer work on public lands.
  • Grants and Giving:  Aiming to help conserve natural spaces in order to enhance opportunities for outdoor recreation, REI dedicates 3% of the previous year’s operating profit to it’s annual giving budget.  In 2012, this meant that REI awarded $3.9 million to over 260 nonprofit organizations.  In addition to grants, REI empowers stores to engage with local nonprofits by raising awareness of the organizations among REI customers, providing gear loans and product donations.
  • Sustainable Operations:   REI has adopted a targeted approach to reducing their environmental impact.  For instance, with regard to Greenhouse Gas Emissions, REI aspires to become climate neutral in operations by 2020.  Some of the ways they are working toward this include utilizing solar technology in stores and incentiving the use of public transit by offering a 50% transit subsidy to employees.  Want more details on REI’s other plans in support of Sustainable Operations?   Read about them here.

    REI meetup at Leschi Starbucks for Bike to Wor...

    REI meetup at Leschi Starbucks for Bike to Work Day (Photo credit: jcolman)

My Bottom Line:  REI offers products and programs that encourage individuals to enjoy the outdoors.  At the same time they incorporate socially responsible business, encouraging volunteerism among employees and customers, supports local non-profit efforts to conserve open, natural spaces and is conscious of their impact on the environment as a whole.  Though they don’t claim it, I feel comfortable saying that engagement with the outdoors leads to a healthier lifestyle and ultimately a healthier planet.  In this age of technology, there are many who prefer “screen time” over outdoor activity and REI (and their partners) are working to combat this status quo.  So, in support of their mission, STOP READING MY BLOG, TURN OFF THE COMPUTER AND HEAD OUTSIDE!  Get your family together and go for a hike, a walk, a bike ride.  Climb a rock wall or kayak across a lake.  Engage with nature – you won’t regret it!

Hiking

Hiking (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

Oh, and, when I said “stop reading my blog,” I didn’t mean forever.  Please stop back soon to check out my newest post, but take some time to enjoy the outdoors between visits!

Random Act of Kindness Weekly Challenge

SONY DSC

After posting yesterday about The Random Act of Kindness Foundation, I decided it was time to practice what I preach.   So, every Wednesday, I will post a new Random Act of Kindness (RAK) challenge.  Yes, folks, I am challenging you to perform one RAK per week with me.   The idea is simple.  Every Wednesday, check here on my blog or over on my Facebook page for the weekly challenge.  At some point in the next 7 days, complete the challenge.  Check back in and let us know that you’ve done your RAK for the week.  And then, do it all again the next week.  Do not underestimate the power of kindness.   Performing one little act each week will undoubtedly make the day better for someone else and will make you walk a little taller, smile a little wider and love life a lot more.

So, today’s challenge:

H is for...

H is for… (Photo credit: JD’na)

Send a Note of Appreciation: When is the last time that you took the time to write note or letter to someone you care about?  Life is busy and we frequently take the people we care about or who care about us for granted.  It may be someone close to you – your spouse, parents, sibling or children.  Or it may be someone who played a significant role in your life at some point, but is no longer a part of it.  Regardless of who you choose, it will undoubtedly brighten their day to receive a note from you.  If you have school age children, get them in on this RAK too and open up a conversation about kindness!  You can choose your own medium – email, USPS, and messenger pigeon will all do the job!  That said, if you want to make it really special, send a handwritten note.  Read more about this idea here.