Starbucks Pushes Baristas to Vote

The Race for the White House has thus far been quite interesting. I will just say, please be sure to get out and vote. If you work for Starbucks, you’ve likely heard this message from your boss in the past week or so.

Coffee company Starbucks is urging its American employees to register to vote, chairman and CEO Howard Schultz wrote in a letter on Monday.

“For decades we’ve created meaningful connections with our customers and served communities. We’re about to answer these questions once again by addressing a problem that many partners have identified as extremely important: increasing voter registration and participation across America.”

The company will be using TurboVote to make it easy for all U.S. employees to register to vote from both computers and mobile devices. Schultz said that he got the idea from a February forum with employees in Brooklyn when he asked what the company could do to emphasize citizenship.

There were even rumors last year that Schultz was considering a campaign for the White House himself, which he shut down with an August op-ed in the New York Times. However, that doesn’t mean that the CEO is loving the current batch of presidential candidates. Last month, Schultz said that the US presidential election has turned into a “circus” and he has “grave concern” about the country’s future.

This is not the first time Starbucks has promoted voting; they gave customers who said they voted on Election Day in 2008 a free cup of coffee. Here’s a flashback:

Buy a Lady a Drink.

to launch an eye-catching campaign to halt one of the most onerous tasks faced by women in developing nations: the hours-long daily route of hauling water, usually by foot, over long distances.

Obtaining water is a real issue – here in the US and worldwide. The statistics don’t lie: at least 760 million people lack access to safe, secure and clean water. Women and children spend about 140 million hours a day collecting water. And while mobile technology has opened more economic doors, one disturbing fact is that more people worldwide own a cell phone than own a toilet. Stella Artois’ campaign, which enlists Water.org’s founders Matt Damon and Gary White, is a step in raising awareness about this massive problem.

The campaign started with Stella Artois donating $1.2 million to the cause. The company is raising additional funds through the sales of artistic limited-edition beer glasses. Water.org says the purchase of one glass, at $12, is enough to provide one person clean drinking water for five years. As of now the 20,000 put up for sale in the U.S. have completely sold out.

Water.org already has a strong track record of providing market-based solutions to the lack of clean water worldwide. The NGO has focused on microfinance programs that lend assistance to projects such as building private toilets to gaining access to municipal water taps. As of last fall, Water.org has invested US$10.6 million in almost 450,000 loans across nine countries. Considering the fact water scarcity is one of the biggest threats to global economic and political stability, more efforts such as this Stella Artois-Water.org partnership need to be supported.

Check out one of several videos which highlight what women and children endure in securing water for their daily needs below:

 

Nas Lends a Hand (and Diversity) to Tech

A new fund is being created by General Assembly, a private New York City technical school, which has the goal of addressing the lack of minority representation in the tech sphere. Dubbed,”The Opportunity Fund,” it will offer scholarships to women, veterans, African-Americans, and Latinos, all groups who have historically and systematically been denied equal access to the sciences. Nas, who has stepped up his involvement in the tech world in recent months, is joining Google, Microsoft, and Hirepurpose as one of the fund’s backers.

Nas’ QueensBridge Venture Partners project will provide the funds for scholarships to African-Americans and Latinos, while Google will fund women and Microsoft and Hirepurpose will pay for veterans to attend the school.

The New York rapper, with several platinum albums and Grammy nominations under his belt, is gaining cred as a tech investor. QueensBridge Venture Partners has backed start-ups from Dropbox to Meerkat to Lyft. The firm is also backs Walker & Co Brands, of which I am a fan. Here’s more about that company:

 

Viola Davis and the Vaseline Healing Project

I don’t know about you, but one of the things which irks me most is having dry hands, lips or legs and not having anything to help the matter. There have been times when I’ve left the house, gotten to the train and looked down at my ankles and realized that I neglected to lotion them or my lips are super-dry and I reach into my purse to find that my lip-balm was left at home. The horror is so deep that I will head to the nearest CVS to purchase replacements. Not having these items for a day is uncomfortable. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live without them.

It turns out that for some, not having emollients such as Vaseline is, in fact, a matter of life or death.

In 2014, Samer Jaber and Grace Bandow, both doctors, returned from the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, where tens of thousands of displaced Syrians have settled after escaping merciless violence in their war-torn country, and wrote a joint essay about their experience. In the article,  they revealed that countless refugees they treated needed relief from severe skin problems that could be remedied by simply applying Vaseline.

Vaseline publicly launched an initiative with Direct Relief, an international medical aid organization, to get petroleum jellies and lotions to people displaced by natural disasters or humanitarian crises. Their goal is to heal the skin of 5 million people by 2020.

The brand has already donated 1 million jars of its product worldwide through Direct Relief in 2015 and sponsored dermatological missions to Kenya, the Philippines and Jordan last year. This year, the company plans to return to Jordan, as well as India, Nepal and South Africa.

As part of its Vaseline Healing Project, the company is also putting together virtual relief kits to supplement its jelly and lotion donations. Anyone can contribute to pay for pre-selected items to fill the kits with other modest medical supplies such as thermometers, emergency blankets, soap and gauze.

Vaseline also has implemented a year-long, one-for-one promotion. For every jar of Vaseline jelly or lotion sold, the company will donate two cents, up to a $1 million, to the project.

The brand has also tapped award-winning actress Viola Davis as the spokesperson for the campaign. Check it out:

Hip Hop Unites for Flint Water Crisis.

Someone, please tell me how the most developed country in the world can have a widespread water contamination issue?  A state of emergency has been declared in Flint to alleviate the city’s lead contaminated water crisis, the Detroit Free Press reports. President Barack Obama’s response releases up to $5 million and authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate relief efforts. This action will cover 75 percent of the costs for providing clean water, filters and other items to residents.

This is infuriating. Thank God, individuals are lending a hand to alleviate the crisis. This week, Hip Hop got involved.

Rapper Meek Mill  has stepped up to the plate to help out residents in Flint as they deal with the current widely reported water crisis. The rapper responded to a tweet that basically told him and 50 Cent to cease with a petty back and forth social media beef and help residents. Mill did just that. The rapper stated on Instagram that he’s giving $50,000 to Flint to help its residents. Mill also challenged 50 Cent to do the same.

Other rappers, such as Sean Combs and Big Sean, also took to social media to rally entertainers to help with Flint’s water crisis. And beyond rappers helping, last week Cher donated 180,000 bottles of water to the city.

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The president rejected Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s appeal for a disaster declaration, which would have allocated more federal funds and resources. Under federal law, only catastrophes caused by natural disasters are eligible for a disaster declaration, compared to the lower-level federal emergency declaration.

Unlike a disaster caused by a hurricane, Flint’s water emergency is man-made. In 2014, officials switched the city’s water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River to save money. The more polluted river water, treated at the Flint water treatment plant, turned out to be corrosive to the city’s pipes and caused toxic levels of lead to seep into drinking water. Meanwhile, the governor is under pressure to resign over what has become a scandal. Critics say that state officials knew for months that the water supply was unsafe before Snyder declared a state of emergency and sought help from Washington.

Help the people of Flint. Here’s an excellent article which outlines a number of ways how you can do that.

Ad Love: A Not So Joyous Holiday

The holiday season usually brings forth images of lights, smiles and abundant holiday cheer. Rarely would one consider the reality of domestic violence.

“The Window Project,” which, from Dec. 6-13, appears in the window of the Untitled & Co. store in Toronto’s Fashion District. The project was made for the Ontario Association of Interval & Transition Houses (OAITH), in partnership with the Yellow Brick House.

From a distance, the display looks l, “normal.” A family sits at table in Christmas sweaters, surrounded by  decorations. Moments in, the man’s hand flips upward in a disturbingly recognizable gesture; the woman’s upper body reflexively pulls back.

Levels of domestic abuse and suicide spike dramatically over the holiday season, the video claims. Per Yellow Brick House, transitional shelters see a 30 percent average rise in support calls. Window shoppers can stop the abuse, halting the display for 60 seconds at a time, by texting a donation of $5 to OAITH. This money will fund support for women and families impacted in Canada.

This is an excellent idea. All to often we focus on only holiday cheer. While I love a big cup of cheer and will have a few rounds with the best of them, it’s important to take a look at the reason for the season beyond the superficial.

#GivingTuesday: Here to Stay.

In 2012, I wrote my first post on #GivingTuesday. Then, it seemed like a great idea, although it was a tad gimmicky. Fast forward to today where the likes of Rue La La (my addiction) are sending emails regarding their involvement in the national day of giving.

Background: In 2012, the 92nd Street Y in New York City, in partnership with the United Nations Foundation and influencers from the worlds of nonprofits, foundations and business, asked a simple question: Could a day devoted to giving back compete effectively with the likes of Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Four years later, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Giving Tuesday is the perfect embodiment of Americans’ willingness to come together in the spirit of generosity. According to the Giving Tuesday website, since its initiation, there have been more than 30,000 partners across 68 countries participating in the day and a nearly 500 percent increase in online charitable donations on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

In 2013 #GivingTuesday continued to gain momentum, with 10,000 partners in the US and 46 countries around the world. According to data from Blackbaud, the volume of online donations has increased 270% since the Tuesday after Thanksgiving in 2011 (before #GivingTuesday began). Rue

For non-profit organizations, #GivingTuesday should pivot off of the ways in which retailers, such as Rue , promote themselves in preparation for the biggest shopping day of the year. They should:

  • Create a sense of urgency.  A 24-hour window can nudge supporters to make a contribution.
  • Scarcity drives action. If a challenge grant or matching gift has been pledged and is good only through a set deadline, donors will be much more compelled to make donations within that time-frame.‎
  • “Mobilize” your giving.‎ If your giving page is not mobile friendly, even the most well-intentioned prospective donors will lose their enthusiasm if they can’t act immediately.
  • Take a long hard look at your organization’s giving page and make sure that it mirrors the look and feel of your organization’s brand. According to Network for Good, charities that have a resonant brand presence on their giving pages raise an average 138-percent more on Giving Tuesday than those using generic donation pages.

And don’t forget the power of a great story. An organization’s unique story is a must as this separates it from all of the others who are participating.

To support that, this year Giving Tuesday is launching #MyGivingStory, spearheaded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. While six non-profit organizations will receive grants of up to $5,000, #MyGivingStory is more a vehicle for engaging donors on the most personal of levels, encouraging them to share their reasons for becoming involved with and supporting those causes nearest to their hearts. Between now and November 24th, individuals can visit #MyGivingStory on Facebook and submit a story of a time they made a gift to a nonprofit organization they gave to and why. Fifteen organizations that receive the most “Likes” will be reviewed by a panel of judges, who will select the final six winning non-profits.

Thanks for Being Kind.

Kind bars are yummy – there’s no doubt about that. What makes them even yummy-er is that they are tied to acts of being a good person.

Since 2013, every employee at Kind has taken part in a, “secret initiative.” If they spotted a random act of kindness—like a stranger holding the door to a coffee shop, or sharing directions on the subway—they could hand out a little black card. It acknowledged the little moment of humanity, and as a gift, the card was good for a free Kind bar.

As of last week, #kindawesome cards were handed out to anyone by anyone in the world. The system relies on a new digital platform. You spot an act of kindness, then you head to howkindofyou.com. From there, you can send a virtual card via Facebook, email, or Twitter.

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Once redeemed, the good samaritan is mailed both a Kind snack and his or her own, digital #kindawesome card to pass along. The design of the cards copy Kind’s black and four-color packaging. Previously, Kind cards had a pay it forward mandate—”You’ve Been Kinded, Pass It On”—with the expectation that, once you received a card, you’d then do a kind act for someone else. Now, the cards have been rebranded as a reward, instead.

Check out this video for more: